Saturday, February 24, 2018

Mannar fishing village protests Sri Lanka Navy's ongoing harassment and intrusion

Home21Feb 2018

Residents of a Mannar fishing village have protested against the Sri Lankan Navy’s ongoing harassment and intrusion into their livelihoods.
The fishing community of Talaimannar expressed their anger at the constant intrusions and hindrances by the Sri Lankan Navy into carrying out their livelihood, particularly with regards to blocking access to an islet (Theedai) and its surrounding waters.
The Talaimannar residents said that they first struggled to regain permission to fish in their traditional areas when the wildlife department attempted to block them off for ‘conservation reasons’.
Having regained permission from the government, they are still being constantly hindered by the Navy, with the situation escalating last week when navy personnel made threats of violence to turn away the fishermen.
The community engaged in a roadblock protest outside Talaimannar police station on Monday, demanding that the Navy be withdrawn from their areas and stop intruding into their livelihoods.

Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka

Excerpts from the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
( February 23, 2018, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 34/1, the present document is an update on progress made in the implementation of resolution 30/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka during the period from March 2017 to January 2018, in particular with regard to the Government’s commitment to put in place transitional justice measures. In the present update, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also looks at the general human rights situation in the country, including with respect to accountability.

Conclusions and recommendations

48. The High Commissioner reiterates his appreciation for the constructive engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with OHCHR and United Nations human rights mechanisms since January 2015. However, as he noted in March 2017, this constructive collaboration must be accompanied by the implementation of key commitments. The fulfilment of the transitional justice commitments made under Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 has been virtually stalled for more than a year. Progress with some confidence-building measures has often been insufficient and inconclusive, and the structures set up to coordinate implementation have not consolidated enough or did not receive sufficient political support to move things
forward.
49. In statements and reports issued since 2015, the High Commissioner, while expressing concern over the lack of progress on accountability and reforms, was encouraged by the positive improvement of the general human rights situation. However, 2017 was marked by intermittent inter-ethnic tensions and attacks on minorities which are unlikely to dissipate completely.
50. While the Government has managed to steer many of these worrying events in a positive direction, this type of violence in a country that has experienced cycles of extreme violence roughly every 10 years is deeply troubling, particularly when accompanied by hate speech, misinformation and agitation through social media and political manipulation.
51. The continuing allegations of torture and surveillance and the lack of sufficient progress in implementing critical confidence-building measures, such as the release of land, the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the solution to the pending cases under the Act, have antagonized key constituencies that could be instrumental to the Government’s reform efforts.
52. The High Commissioner urges the Human Rights Council to continue to play a critical role in encouraging progress in accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. It also calls on Member States to explore other avenues, including the application of universal jurisdiction, that could foster accountability.
Read the full report here;

SLB BRIEFING NOTE: TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE IN SRI LANKA: CURRENT CHALLENGES AND ISSUES

Image: Children of a war affected family in Vanni, Sri Lanka, July 2017; Addressing the issues related to poverty is necessary for a successful TJ process. (c) s.deshapriya.

Transitional justice in Sri Lanka: current challenges and issues.

(Advanced copy of the section on Transitional Justice in SLB No. 13 titled Transitional Justice and Constitutional Reform:  Sri Lanka at the Cross Roads.)

Sri Lanka Brief 23/02/2018


After coming into power in 2015, Sri Lanka’s Unity Government made numerous commitments to implement transitional justice (TJ) and devised a TJ process that consists of an Office of Missing Persons (OMP), a mechanism for reparation, a Truth Commission and a judicial mechanism. In the consensus Resolution A/HRC/30/L.29 adopted at the 30th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Sri Lanka made a commitment to implement a comprehensive TJ process.

The progress of the TJ process has been limited to the OMP. All other mechanisms have not been implemented and the results of the recently concluded Local Government elections indicate some sort of rejection of the TJ process and of the ongoing constitutional reform process. The party led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa dominated the polls in the vast majority of Sinhala Buddhist constituencies in the South by reviving majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, opposing the devolution of power and promoting impunity for war-related human rights violations. This has the potential to reverse the democratic gains Sri Lanka has achieved and derail the TJ process. Therefore, Sri Lanka is at the crossroads between democracy and authoritarianism.

CURRENT CHALLENGES TO THE TJ PROCESS

Return of majoritarian politics

The local government election[1] results show a lack of understanding among the Sinhala Buddhist community of the TJ process and the need for reconciliation and accountability.

In the South, the apparent standstill of the constitutional reform process, the rising cost of living and large-scale corruption are causes of grave dissatisfaction. The leaders of the former regime and de-facto winners of the local government elections have been accused of financial crimes, violations of human rights, as well as criminal offences, and yet, they have never been charged for all these offences. This has resulted in the perception among the public that these allegations are false which now challenges and threatens the TJ and reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.

In the North and East, the prolonged absence of justice for the families of disappeared, the inaction against perpetrators of war-related atrocities, the absence of reparations and the continued discrimination against minorities has caused great disappointment. This resulted in some Tamil political groups to campaign for moving the TJ issues from the UNHRC to the agenda of the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court. Such demands are very unlikely to happen and will only further polarize political opinions in Sri Lanka.

Continued militarization

Resolution A/HRC/30/L.29 envisaged substantial security sector reforms as part of the TJ process, withdrawing security forces in civilian affairs, releasing land held by the military and reducing the military presence in the North and East.

Security forces currently still run hotels, restaurants, kiosks and large farms selling agricultural products at low prices, undermining local farmers and traders. The civilian arm of the military, the Civil Security Department, runs preschools and the military itself is also involved in the Northern educational sector. In addition, security forces still engage in building Buddhist statutes and temples in the Tamil dominated North and despite releasing some land, they still hold large areas of land belonging to the Tamil people. This means that the military presence in the North remains high. For example, in the district of Mullativu the ratio of people to military is 2:1[2] and the GOSL has not contested this data.

Finally, heightened surveillance and increased intimidation of human rights activists have been reported in the North. This situation hinders the TJ process and obstructs trust-building among the Tamil population.

Poor living standards

According to Sri Lanka’s Poverty Head Count Index only 4.1% of the population lives below the poverty line of USD 30/month[3] which as such is an unrealistic figure. Actual poverty, however, is much higher: poor income levels are prevalent across the country but are felt harshly in the North and East where infrastructure is poor and the overall economic development is low. Micro-finance companies exploit poor families in the North and target especially women as lenders, collecting daily and weekly repayments with excessive interest rates up to 300%[4].

Ex-LTTE combatants still face high unemployment rates, social stigma, disabilities due to battle field injuries, poor educational qualifications and poor mental stability. Hence, they still live in poverty with limited means of income generation. For example, many are unable to obtain loans promised by the Government due to the absence and unwillingness of government officers to stand surety and due to other restrictions[5].

Even in the Sinhalese dominated North Central Province, poor income levels and food shortages[6] remain, among others, due to the two-year-long drought. Overall, the Government has failed to implement long-term programs aimed at uplifting the economic conditions, causing major distress among the population. This may have contributed to the local election set-back of the governing coalition and pushed the TJ and reconciliation process out of the public attention.

Complaints over rising living costs and grievances over poverty and poor living conditions surpass the demands for transitional justice and reconciliation.

Resistance by State officials

State officers politically appointed during the previous regime still function within the state machinery and operate along the political party divide, contributing to the continuous politicization of the public service. Bribery and favoritism by state officials remain common at the local level.

Language discrimination against Tamil speaking people remains, manifesting itself, among others, in empty language help desks and Sinhala only sign boards. State officials lack awareness about the TJ process and therefore, resistance to this process flows from state institutions and state officials themselves.

Role of media

Media institutions are politically affiliated and TV News are still the main avenue of information dissemination. In the absence of fair and balanced media and an objective analysis of current affairs, the TJ process is mainly portrayed as an effort to “punish war heroes”. Politically controlled state media has lost credibility and cannot influence public opinion decisively anymore.

Dominant media institutions of all language streams provide one-sided reporting and misinformation, thereby widening the ethnic divide in the country.  A multilingual media institution that can speak and transfer the same message to all language communities alike is missing.

Transitional justice issues are not communicated and explained well to the public. Jargon and unfamiliar terminology prevail across the different language media and render the implementation of TJ process more difficult.

Growing anti-Muslim sentiments

Anti-Muslim sentiments has heightened and multiple violent attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses[7] has continued throughout the year: For example, in May 2017, a mob led by Buddhist monks attacked the Muslim village Selva Nagar, claiming 49 acres of land as a Buddhist archeological site[8]. Another example is a minor road accident in Ginthota (Galle district) in November 2017 which led to a series of anti-Muslim communal attacks[9] at a time when the victims of the anti-Muslim communal violence in Aluthgama (2014) are still waiting for justice and compensation.

Generally, anti-Muslim messaging is rampant on Facebook and Islamophobic myths, particularly referring to attempts of the Muslim community to cause infertility in Sinhalese by using ‘infertility causing additives’ in food[10] and smearing ‘infertility causing substances’ in underwear, are commonly treated as truth. This has led to increasing anti-Muslim sentiments and sparked occasionally further violence.

The Government has failed so far to address this growing anti-Muslim hatred which hampers the TJ and reconciliation process.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Although the government needs to respond to the local government election set-back through focusing on regaining the peoples’ mandate for the originally promised democratic agenda, it should not sideline the TJ process.

  •  Civil society and the international community should find ways and means to safeguard the democratic achievements and ensure a gradual but steady progress towards implementing the TJ process.

  • The Government should operationalise the Office of the Missing Persons without any delay and address ongoing demands of the families of the disappeared.

  • Once operationalized, the OMP should establish reginal offices in the war affected areas, as well as in the Southern districts affected by the 1988 -1990 civil war.

  • The Government should immediately establish the TJ mechanism for reparations in an independent and transparent manner.

  • The international community should commit substantial financial support for reparation disbursements.

  • Security forces should set timeline and thereafter, gradually handover civilian and educational activities in the North and East to the elected local authorities.

  • The Government should launch a comprehensive economic upliftment plan for the poverty stricken, war affected, rural population, regardless of their ethnicity.

  • The Government and the civil society groups should urgently address the growing anti-Muslim sentiments, in collaboration with community leaders of all ethnicities.

  • The Government should devise effective communication strategies to popularize and create a positive awareness of the TJ and reconciliation process.

  • President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe should set timelines and benchmarks to establish all TJ mechanisms.


Abbreviations
OMP            Office of Missing Persons
TJ                 Transitional Justice
UN                United Nations
UNHRC       United Nations Human Rights Council
GOSL           Government of Sri Lanka

 Acknowledgements

Sri Lanka Brief thanks Sri Lanka Advocacy Group, Germany for their continuous support.
Research and writing: Uda Deshapriya

Editors: Sunanda Deshapriya and Michaela Told.

srilankabrief@gmail.comhttp://srilankabrief.org/

[1] One section of SLB No. 13 will focus on the local government election results in relation to the TJ process.

[2] http://adayaalam.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Normalising-the-Abnormal-The-Militarisation-of-Mullaitivu.pdf

[3] The poverty line is calculated at an amount of LKR 4’584/ month (approx. USD 30/month); see Department of Census and Statistics Household Income and Expenditure Survey
(2016). http://www.statistics.gov.lk/poverty/Poverty%20Indicators_2016.pdf

[4] http://www.sundaytimes.lk/171015/business-times/micro-finance-blamed-for-rising-indebtedness-in-north-263653.html

[5]http://www.ceylontoday.lk/print20170401CT20170630.php?id=35460

[6] https://www.yamu.lk/blog/2017s-drought-and-what-it-means-to-sri-lanka

[7]https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/05/sri-lanka-anti-muslim-attacks-rise-buddhist-leader-stokes-tension/#7hKAjVKMVG5UP9tM.97

[8]http://groundviews.org/2017/05/22/escalating-violence-renewed-assaults-on-the-muslim-community/

[9]https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/anti-muslim-assaults-in-gintota/

[10]http://groundviews.org/2017/07/04/disinformation-in-sri-lanka-an-overview/

SRI LANKA 2017/2018

Sri Lanka continued to pursue its 2015 commitments to deliver justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence for alleged crimes under international law, but progress slowed and there was evidence of backsliding. Parliament passed an amended Office on Missing Persons Act, intended to assist families of the disappeared seeking missing relatives. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was not repealed; it was still used to arrest and detain suspects. Torture and other ill-treatment in police custody continued. Threats against religious and ethnic minorities and human rights defenders were reported.

Background

Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture and other serious human rights violations and abuses were committed with impunity before, during and in the aftermath of the armed conflict between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in 2009. Commitments made by Sri Lanka in 2015 – through its co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 – to establish truth, justice and reparation mechanisms and reforms aimed at non-recurrence of these crimes, had not been implemented by the end of the year. Sri Lanka’s constitutional reform process, initiated in 2016, also faltered as lawmakers differed over issues such as the fate of the executive presidency, the place of Buddhism in the new Constitution, and whether economic, social and cultural rights would be included in the Bill of Rights.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The authorities continued to detain Tamils suspected of links to the LTTE under the PTA, which permitted extended administrative detention and shifted the burden of proof to a detainee alleging torture or other ill-treatment. During his visit to Sri Lanka in July, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism stated that over 100 unconvicted prisoners (pre- and post-indictment) remained in detention under the PTA, some of whom had been held for over a decade. Sri Lanka failed to follow through on its 2015 commitment to repeal the PTA and replace it with legislation that complied with international standards.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Reports of torture and other ill-treatment in detention continued. In March, Sri Lanka’s human rights record was examined under the UPR process; the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka said that it had continued to document widespread incidents of violence against detainees, including torture and other ill-treatment, which it described as “routine” and practised throughout the country, mainly by police. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism found that 80% of those arrested under the PTA in late 2016 had complained of torture and other ill-treatment.

Excessive use of force

Impunity persisted for excessive use of force against protesters. Killings by the army of unarmed demonstrators demanding clean water in August 2013 had yet to be prosecuted. In August, a Criminal Investigation Department investigator told the Gampaha Chief Magistrate that all evidence related to the shootings had been “destroyed” by previous investigators.

Enforced disappearances

By the end of the year Sri Lanka had not passed legislation criminalizing enforced disappearance in domestic law, despite ratifying the International Convention against Enforced Disappearance in 2016. A parliamentary debate on a bill criminalizing enforced disappearance scheduled for July was postponed without explanation.
The amended Office on Missing Persons Act was passed by Parliament in June; the amendments limited the Office’s power to seek outside assistance. It was signed by the President on 20 July but had not come into operation by the end of the year. The Office was proposed to help many thousands of families of the disappeared trace missing relatives.
In June, President Sirisena promised families of the disappeared that he would order the release of lists of those who surrendered to, or were detained by, the armed forces during and after the armed conflict that ended in 2009. The lists were not made public by the end of the year.

Impunity

Impunity persisted for alleged crimes under international law committed during the armed conflict. Impunity also remained for many other human rights violations. These included the January 2006 extrajudicial executions of five students in Trincomalee by security personnel and the killing of 17 aid workers with NGO Action Against Hunger in Muttur in August 2006; the December 2011 disappearances of political activists Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan; the 2010 disappearance of dissident cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda; and the 2009 killing of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Human rights defenders

In June, the then Minister of Justice threatened to have human rights lawyer Lakshan Dias disbarred if he did not apologize for speaking publicly about reported attacks against Christians.
Tamil human rights defenders and activist community members, including relatives of the disappeared, continued to report surveillance and harassment by law enforcement officials. Women human rights defenders in the north and east reported that interactions with police were often degrading and sexualized.

Freedoms of expression, assembly and association

Attempts by families to arrange stones as memorials for lost relatives were stopped by security forces. Catholic priest Elil Rajendram was detained and other residents of Mullaitivu were subjected to police harassment following their efforts to hold memorials for family members who died during the armed conflict.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

An expected parliamentary debate on the proposed draft Constitution aimed at ensuring checks on executive power and more equitable ethnic power sharing had not taken place by the end of the year.
Despite repeated promises, Sri Lanka failed to repeal the PTA and to pass legislation criminalizing enforced disappearances.
In December, Sri Lanka ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

Discrimination

Law enforcement officials continued to subject members of the Tamil minority, particularly former members of the LTTE, to ethnic profiling, surveillance and harassment.
Police failed to take action in response to continued threats and physical violence against Christians and Muslims by members of the public and supporters of a hardline Sinhala Buddhist political group.
In March, the UN CEDAW Committee asked Sri Lanka to amend all personal laws to remove discriminatory provisions. The Committee expressed particular concern about the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1951, which failed to specify a minimum age for marriages and permited girls aged under 12 to marry with the permission of a religious adjudicator (Qazi). The Act also restricted women from serving on Qazi Boards, and did not recognize marital rape unless the couple was legally separated; this included statutory rape of a girl under 16 by an adult spouse.

Violence against women and girls

Impunity persisted for various forms of violence against women and girls, including child marriage, domestic violence, human trafficking, rapes by military or law enforcement officers or assaults by private actors. In a rare exception, the trial began on 28 June in Jaffna’s High Court of nine men accused of involvement in the May 2015 gang rape and murder of Sivaloganathan Vidya, an 18-year-old school student, in Punkuduthivu. The trial was still ongoing at the end of the year. The nature of the crime and police mishandling of the case sparked widespread protests in 2015. In July 2017 a serving Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police was arrested for allegedly assisting one of the suspects to evade arrest.

Death penalty

Death sentences were imposed for murder, rape and drug trafficking. No executions have been carried out since 1976. On 4 February, Sri Lankan Independence Day, President Sirisena commuted the sentences of 60 death row prisoners to life imprisonment.

One Year in Kilinochchi

GROUNDVIEWS-02/22/2018
On February 20th, the protest by families of the disappeared in Kilinochchi passed the one year mark. Mothers, wives and fathers have sat by the side of the A9 road, inside the premises of the Kandasamy kovil, asking for answers about their loved ones. This is one of many protests by relatives of the disappeared; others are taking place in Vavuniya, MullaitivuMaruthankerny and Trincomalee.
Over the course of this year, these families have had three meetings with the President, two United Nations Special Rapporteurs have visited Sri Lanka to assess its transitional justice process and there has been some incremental progress around the Office on Missing Persons and the Enforced Disappearances Bill. However, this progress has been marred by setbacks, particularly around the OMP. Overall, these steps have failed to answer these families’ calls for truth and for the fulfilment of the promises made to them by the Government.
This piece lays out a timeline of events around the issue of disappearances that have taken place in the one year – February 19th 2017 to February 20th 2018 -since the protest in Kilinochchi began.
View the full story, compiled using Adobe Spark, here, or scroll below.

The centre, the periphery and the corpse

2018-02-23
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), now in its third or fourth month, is no longer a third force. The numbers, the percentages and the seats won should convince anyone with a modicum of political sense that it has gone beyond being just an alternative party, a feat considering that the JVP has strived hard to transcend the limits of being such an alternative for more than two decades with no notable success. It’s a populist wave we’re seeing here, and like all populist waves the momentum, while intermittent when accounting for the long term, can be spoiled, improved on, or sustained depending on whether the primary tenets of the party are adhered to. Those who voted for the Pohottuwa were, by default and for the most, voting for a Rajapaksa Restoration. Naturally, they were by no means dim enough to think that the LG elections would be enough for such a restoration to occur anytime soon.  

The SLPP won a mandate at the grassroots level, but that mandate does not and will not transcend the larger mandate given by the people on January 8, 2015. These two mandates are now interlocked, and will for a long time be pitted against one another owing to the fact that those elected from the Pohottuwa to the LG bodies will have to depend on, and fight with, those elected from the UNP and the anti-Rajapaksa UPFA in the Central Government for the mobilisation of funds. Those who voted for the SLPP, even those who may not have been aware of this, hence voted not because they wanted Rajapaksa to seize power, but because they wanted to create a mess.  

Whether or not the mess created was enough for them to claim bragging rights (after all, even with that momentum, they still were not able to clinch a majority in the local government bodies) is grist for another debate. What’s important to note here is that the SLPP did not come to power at the grassroots level with the intention of claiming power from the centre. Logically this means that any attempt at claiming power from that centre has to be seen as being antithetical to the larger motives of the Pohottuwa Brigade, since the fact that they don’t have the necessary numbers in parliament implies that for such an attempt to work out, they have to cohabit with a mainstream party; a pro-Rajapaksa SLFP. That will be seen, by the SLPP voter, as a betrayal of his vote. And why? Because cohabitation at this juncture means a betrayal of the principles on which the Pohottuwa Brigade was founded and mobilised.  
The SLPP won a mandate at the grassroots level, but that mandate does not and will not transcend the larger mandate given by the people on January 8, 2015

At the time of writing this article I could conceive three contingencies in the political sphere; the continuation of the Unity Government; an absolute UNP government, with the SLFP and UPFA relegated to the Opposition and a broader alliance between the SLFP-UPFA and the SLPP. It’s interesting to note that none of these contingencies and possibilities bodes well for the President; the continuation of the Unity Government will be seen by his supporters, from the party he leads, as a further excuse to try and oust him from the Chairmanship of that party. A UNP government will only bolster that excuse further and any marriage between the SLFP-UPFA and SLPP would mean, as one website memorably puts it, the “path to self-destruction”, since it enables a Rajapaksa Restoration. Ostensibly the UNP has opted for the first of these, but marriages of expedience don’t last long; we may hence see the second contingency materialising eventually. This is what the Pohottuwa wants.  

So why is the SLPP engaged in power politics to the extent that they are sending us the message that they are ready to cohabit with the UPFA if that’s what it will take to topple the UNP? Has there been enough evidence that the sole cause for this country’s problems and ills, in the past three years, is the UNP? By itself, it is still a party to reckon with, not because it’s a party of angels but because it has shown itself to be a party of rationality (never mind the occasional unfortunate outbursts from its MPs). The Bond Scam was the cause of its shrinkage at the local polls, yes, but even accounting for this one can coherently make the case that the shrinkage of the government (SLFP + UPFA + UNP) had more to do with the SLFP’s wildly erratic behaviour than anything else. Those who were baying for Ranil Wickremesinghe’s blood would have been shocked, not surprisingly, when on Friday he gave probably the coolest, most self-assured news conference one could have expected from him under the circumstances. Nothing has been seriously ruptured, in other words: the President can’t remove the UNP and the UNP can’t remove Ranil.  The SLPP mandate was not, repeat NOT, to topple the present government. Regardless of what veterans of the calibre of Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Dinesh Gunawardena can and will say, the mandate given by the people on January 8, 2015 has not expired by any stretch of the imagination. Two more years exist, two years which the government can continue to play ball with or which the government can efficiently use to deliver on the promises that got them that mandate in the first place. The SLPP’s first move was to establish itself as a veritable alternative, a watchdog if you will, over the abuse and misuse of power at the centre, if at all because no such watchdog existed; not the official opposition under the TNA, or the forever-ranting-against-you-and-me opposition under the JVP. Neither of these parties had what it took to go beyond communalism (TNA) and class-conscious thrust (JVP) that they stand for. A more multifarious, across the board movement was needed at this juncture. This was the Pohottuwa.  

Does that mean that the Rajapaksa Cabal has no real power? Perhaps. Local governments have to depend, as I pointed out, on the central government. But in terms of grassroots mobilisation, in terms of the number of seats won and the mayors and chairmen to be appointed, I think we can safely say that the SLPP is here to stay, for quite some time. The first step towards sustaining the momentum that drove it, is to stick to the manifesto it rode on. That momentum does not enable its members to topple the government, nor does it enable them to cohabit with a section thereof in the hopes of toppling it in the future. What it does enable them to do, though, is to stand apart on its own and watch the mess that the present regime has created, because of its own internal failings and contradictions, continue and if at the 11th hour a saviour is needed, present a Rajapaksa sibling or progeny to come and save the day. Personally speaking, I don’t entertain such illusions with respect to this whole Rajapaksa Restoration campaign, but it’s the most feasible option that the SLPP has as of now.  
To enable that option, to ride into the sunset triumphantly with that option, however, the Podujana Peramuna must abide by the licence that the people gave them. Of the aforementioned three political contingencies, then, the most beneficial to them will have to be Contingency Number One: The continuation of the Unity Government. If their aversion to the UNP (their traditional enemy) transcends their desire to stick to their mandate this way, it can only mean one thing: Mahinda Rajapaksa is so power-hungry, so grasping, that his cabal is ready to commit everything and anything under the sun for the sake of temporary power, be it in the form of a coalition or a caretaker government.  

Reliable sources tell us that Mahinda has refused to be a part of the government. If this is true, it can bode well not just for the SLPP, but also for their enemy. So the UNP has the centre, the Pohottuwa has the periphery, while the SLFP-UPFA has become what Gunadasa Amarasekara said it would eventually become, back in 2015: a “kavandaya”, or a headless corpse.  

The centre, the periphery and the corpse

2018-02-23
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), now in its third or fourth month, is no longer a third force. The numbers, the percentages and the seats won should convince anyone with a modicum of political sense that it has gone beyond being just an alternative party, a feat considering that the JVP has strived hard to transcend the limits of being such an alternative for more than two decades with no notable success. It’s a populist wave we’re seeing here, and like all populist waves the momentum, while intermittent when accounting for the long term, can be spoiled, improved on, or sustained depending on whether the primary tenets of the party are adhered to. Those who voted for the Pohottuwa were, by default and for the most, voting for a Rajapaksa Restoration. Naturally, they were by no means dim enough to think that the LG elections would be enough for such a restoration to occur anytime soon.  

The SLPP won a mandate at the grassroots level, but that mandate does not and will not transcend the larger mandate given by the people on January 8, 2015. These two mandates are now interlocked, and will for a long time be pitted against one another owing to the fact that those elected from the Pohottuwa to the LG bodies will have to depend on, and fight with, those elected from the UNP and the anti-Rajapaksa UPFA in the Central Government for the mobilisation of funds. Those who voted for the SLPP, even those who may not have been aware of this, hence voted not because they wanted Rajapaksa to seize power, but because they wanted to create a mess.  

Whether or not the mess created was enough for them to claim bragging rights (after all, even with that momentum, they still were not able to clinch a majority in the local government bodies) is grist for another debate. What’s important to note here is that the SLPP did not come to power at the grassroots level with the intention of claiming power from the centre. Logically this means that any attempt at claiming power from that centre has to be seen as being antithetical to the larger motives of the Pohottuwa Brigade, since the fact that they don’t have the necessary numbers in parliament implies that for such an attempt to work out, they have to cohabit with a mainstream party; a pro-Rajapaksa SLFP. That will be seen, by the SLPP voter, as a betrayal of his vote. And why? Because cohabitation at this juncture means a betrayal of the principles on which the Pohottuwa Brigade was founded and mobilised.  
The SLPP won a mandate at the grassroots level, but that mandate does not and will not transcend the larger mandate given by the people on January 8, 2015

At the time of writing this article I could conceive three contingencies in the political sphere; the continuation of the Unity Government; an absolute UNP government, with the SLFP and UPFA relegated to the Opposition and a broader alliance between the SLFP-UPFA and the SLPP. It’s interesting to note that none of these contingencies and possibilities bodes well for the President; the continuation of the Unity Government will be seen by his supporters, from the party he leads, as a further excuse to try and oust him from the Chairmanship of that party. A UNP government will only bolster that excuse further and any marriage between the SLFP-UPFA and SLPP would mean, as one website memorably puts it, the “path to self-destruction”, since it enables a Rajapaksa Restoration. Ostensibly the UNP has opted for the first of these, but marriages of expedience don’t last long; we may hence see the second contingency materialising eventually. This is what the Pohottuwa wants.  

So why is the SLPP engaged in power politics to the extent that they are sending us the message that they are ready to cohabit with the UPFA if that’s what it will take to topple the UNP? Has there been enough evidence that the sole cause for this country’s problems and ills, in the past three years, is the UNP? By itself, it is still a party to reckon with, not because it’s a party of angels but because it has shown itself to be a party of rationality (never mind the occasional unfortunate outbursts from its MPs). The Bond Scam was the cause of its shrinkage at the local polls, yes, but even accounting for this one can coherently make the case that the shrinkage of the government (SLFP + UPFA + UNP) had more to do with the SLFP’s wildly erratic behaviour than anything else. Those who were baying for Ranil Wickremesinghe’s blood would have been shocked, not surprisingly, when on Friday he gave probably the coolest, most self-assured news conference one could have expected from him under the circumstances. Nothing has been seriously ruptured, in other words: the President can’t remove the UNP and the UNP can’t remove Ranil.  The SLPP mandate was not, repeat NOT, to topple the present government. Regardless of what veterans of the calibre of Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Dinesh Gunawardena can and will say, the mandate given by the people on January 8, 2015 has not expired by any stretch of the imagination. Two more years exist, two years which the government can continue to play ball with or which the government can efficiently use to deliver on the promises that got them that mandate in the first place. The SLPP’s first move was to establish itself as a veritable alternative, a watchdog if you will, over the abuse and misuse of power at the centre, if at all because no such watchdog existed; not the official opposition under the TNA, or the forever-ranting-against-you-and-me opposition under the JVP. Neither of these parties had what it took to go beyond communalism (TNA) and class-conscious thrust (JVP) that they stand for. A more multifarious, across the board movement was needed at this juncture. This was the Pohottuwa.  

Does that mean that the Rajapaksa Cabal has no real power? Perhaps. Local governments have to depend, as I pointed out, on the central government. But in terms of grassroots mobilisation, in terms of the number of seats won and the mayors and chairmen to be appointed, I think we can safely say that the SLPP is here to stay, for quite some time. The first step towards sustaining the momentum that drove it, is to stick to the manifesto it rode on. That momentum does not enable its members to topple the government, nor does it enable them to cohabit with a section thereof in the hopes of toppling it in the future. What it does enable them to do, though, is to stand apart on its own and watch the mess that the present regime has created, because of its own internal failings and contradictions, continue and if at the 11th hour a saviour is needed, present a Rajapaksa sibling or progeny to come and save the day. Personally speaking, I don’t entertain such illusions with respect to this whole Rajapaksa Restoration campaign, but it’s the most feasible option that the SLPP has as of now.  
To enable that option, to ride into the sunset triumphantly with that option, however, the Podujana Peramuna must abide by the licence that the people gave them. Of the aforementioned three political contingencies, then, the most beneficial to them will have to be Contingency Number One: The continuation of the Unity Government. If their aversion to the UNP (their traditional enemy) transcends their desire to stick to their mandate this way, it can only mean one thing: Mahinda Rajapaksa is so power-hungry, so grasping, that his cabal is ready to commit everything and anything under the sun for the sake of temporary power, be it in the form of a coalition or a caretaker government.  

Reliable sources tell us that Mahinda has refused to be a part of the government. If this is true, it can bode well not just for the SLPP, but also for their enemy. So the UNP has the centre, the Pohottuwa has the periphery, while the SLFP-UPFA has become what Gunadasa Amarasekara said it would eventually become, back in 2015: a “kavandaya”, or a headless corpse.  

Govt. succumbs to pressure from Britain:President fails to prevent recall of military attache

Brig. Priyankara Fernando

by Shamindra Ferdinando- 

The government has, under heavy pressure from the UK, carried out its decision to recall Sri Lanka’s military attache in London, Brig. Prinyankara Fernando, despite a presidential intervention. When the government announced its decision to recall the brigadier, following an incident where he allegedly made a throat slitting gesture in front of a group of British LTTE supporters of Sri Lankan origin, in London, on Feb. 04, President Sirisena, ordered that he be reinstated.

Sources said the UK had called for swift action again the military attache.

The LTTE supporters protested near the Sri Lankan High Commission in London while Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex were in Colombo for Sri Lanka’s 70th Independence Day celebrations.

Sources said that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office had informed the influential Global Tamil Forum (GTF) of immediate measures taken by the UK following the incident.

Brig. Fernando returned on Thursday (Feb. 22) hours after the GTF was informed of the specific measures taken by the British government against over the Feb. 4 incident.

Suren Surendiran, on behalf of the GTF on Feb.10, complained to Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson of the incident. The GTF urged the UK to declare the officer persona non grata.

Responding to the GTF’s plea, the South Asia Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Feb. 22 assured Surendiran that the UK took the incident ‘very seriously’ and Minister for South Asia personally got in touch with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana.

SRI LANKA POLICE COVER UP IN EDITOR LASANTHA WICKREMATHUNGA MURDER EMERGE AFTER KEY ARREST

Image: From to left to right – Lasantha, alleged killer squad leader Handavitharana and their boss Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Sri Lanka Brief22/02/2018

ECONOMYNEXT – The arrest of a retired senior Deputy Inspector-General has revealed how the police scuttled its own investigations to protect military intelligence men who carried out the assassination of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Senior DIG Prasanna Nanayakkara who is currently in remand custody has allegedly instructed his juniors to not only botch the investigation, but also destroy evidence gathered from the crime scene, according to a confession by Senior Superintendent Hemantha Adhikari.

It was Adhikari who led the investigation into Wickrematunge’s assassination in January 2009 under the immediate supervision of DIG Nanayakkara who at the time was in charge of Western Province (south).
Fearing his own arrest, Adhikari, who is currently serving as a security officer of the Dhammika Perera-owned Hayleys Group, made a length statement to the Mount Lavinia magistrate who is inquiring in the murder.

The court has already been told that the military intelligence was involved in the killing and that the then head of military intelligence Kapila Hendavitharana was heading a killer squad and he reported directly to then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Several former Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) officers who are currently serving in the army as well as two retired Inspectors of general are also likely to be arrested shortly, according to sources close to the investigation.

These arrests should have been made in July 2016, but official sources said political interference held up progress.

However, with consensus that the February 10 local council election defeat was due to the government’s failure to arrest high profile killers, there is new urgency in the Wickrematunge case.

A former minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, Mervyn Silva, had publicly accused Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of killing Wickrematunge, a charge he has denied.

Wickrematunge had told colleagues as well as many others that he planned to take “Gota to the cleaners” over an allegedly corrupt deal in purchasing four MIG jet fighters for the air force.

The so-called MIG deal is currently being investigated by the FCID and Lasantha was killed a few days before he was due to disclose details of the transaction at the Mount Lavinia courts.

Investigators have been told that Nanayakkara ordered his men to hand over to him some vital evidence found inside Wickrematunge’s car.

Wickrematunge had noted down the registration numbers of the motorcycles that followed him on the morning of January 8, 2009, the day he was killed. The assassins came on motorcycles.

Police scene of crime officers recorded their observations, senior officers had wanted them removed from the books maintained at the police station. Wickrematunge’s note book had been handed over to DIG Nanayakkara who in turn had passed it on to his superiors.

Eventually, the note book had disappeared after the case was handed over to the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID). A former head of the TID is also likely to be arrested shortly for tampering with evidence, official sources said.

Despite the police top brass making a valiant attempt at the time to conceal evidence, junior police officers had surreptitiously made photo copies of Wickrematunge’s note book as well as their own observations in the Grave Crime Information Book (GCIB) which have since been destroyed as part of the cover up.

These photo copies of the original police entries in the GCIB and a copy of Wickrematunge’s note book are now with the CID after almost nine years and the fresh evidence has given a new impetus to the investigation, according to sources close to the investigation. (COLOMBO, February 22, 2018)Sri Lanka police cover up in Lasantha murder emerge after key arrest

By Our Police Correspondent

Feb 22, 2018 17:02 PM GMT+0530 | 1 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT – The arrest of a retired senior Deputy Inspector-General has revealed how the police scuttled its own investigations to protect military intelligence men who carried out the assassination of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Senior DIG Prasanna Nanayakkara who is currently in remand custody has allegedly instructed his juniors to not only botch the investigation, but also destroy evidence gathered from the crime scene, according to a confession by Senior Superintendent Hemantha Adhikari.

It was Adhikari who led the investigation into Wickrematunge’s assassination in January 2009 under the immediate supervision of DIG Nanayakkara who at the time was in charge of Western Province (south).

Fearing his own arrest, Adhikari, who is currently serving as a security officer of the Dhammika Perera-owned Hayleys Group, made a length statement to the Mount Lavinia magistrate who is inquiring in the murder.

The court has already been told that the military intelligence was involved in the killing and that the then head of military intelligence Kapila Hendavitharana was heading a killer squad and he reported directly to then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Several former Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) officers who are currently serving in the army as well as two retired Inspectors of general are also likely to be arrested shortly, according to sources close to the investigation.

These arrests should have been made in July 2016, but official sources said political interference held up progress.

However, with consensus that the February 10 local council election defeat was due to the government’s failure to arrest high profile killers, there is new urgency in the Wickrematunge case.
A former minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, Mervyn Silva, had publicly accused Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of killing Wickrematunge, a charge he has denied.

Wickrematunge had told colleagues as well as many others that he planned to take “Gota to the cleaners” over an allegedly corrupt deal in purchasing four MIG jet fighters for the air force.

The so-called MIG deal is currently being investigated by the FCID and Lasantha was killed a few days before he was due to disclose details of the transaction at the Mount Lavinia courts.
Investigators have been told that Nanayakkara ordered his men to hand over to him some vital evidence found inside Wickrematunge’s car.

Wickrematunge had noted down the registration numbers of the motorcycles that followed him on the morning of January 8, 2009, the day he was killed. The assassins came on motorcycles.

Police scene of crime officers recorded their observations, senior officers had wanted them removed from the books maintained at the police station. Wickrematunge’s note book had been handed over to DIG Nanayakkara who in turn had passed it on to his superiors.

Eventually, the note book had disappeared after the case was handed over to the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID). A former head of the TID is also likely to be arrested shortly for tampering with evidence, official sources said.

Despite the police top brass making a valiant attempt at the time to conceal evidence, junior police officers had surreptitiously made photo copies of Wickrematunge’s note book as well as their own observations in the Grave Crime Information Book (GCIB) which have since been destroyed as part of the cover up.

These photo copies of the original police entries in the GCIB and a copy of Wickrematunge’s note book are now with the CID after almost nine years and the fresh evidence has given a new impetus to the investigation, according to sources close to the investigation. (COLOMBO, February 22, 2018)

Who Was The Architect Of ‘Rate Asthawarathwaya’?

Mass Usuf
logo‘Rate Asthawarathwaya’ is a Sinhala term. ‘Rate’ means, the country’s. ‘Asthawarathwaya’ means, instability. This is what Sri Lankans experienced the past week with the closure of the local government elections. The dollar equivalent of the rupee shot up to an unprecedented Rupees 155/-.  Hopefully, a short-term volatility caused by the Asthawara (unstable) climate that seems to be easing off gradually. If not, it may portend disastrous consequences to our fragile economy overall – import/exports, loan repayment etc. Sadly, how many of those who are governing us are aware of this?  And, from among those who are aware, how many are truly and sincerely concerned about the good of the country? 
Power brokering for self-survival takes precedence over the country’s survival. Let the country be damned!  No one says so but their behaviour clearly tells us so. Of course, the country would come first for any of these shameless folks if they can score a point over the other. Thus, there is stark selfishness there too.
‘Mona Waida’
Today, every other person in the street is speaking about the instability in the country. There is a growing sense of apprehension given the uncertain political climate that is prevailing. ‘Mona Waida’ (what will happen) is a question to which answers are not coming forth that easily. Earlier citizen Perera was not so much bothered about what was taking place within the confines of Diyawanna Oya or in the air-conditioned offices and residences of the ‘elite’ lot, who call themselves as politicians. Citizen Perera was burdened with enough worries of his own thinking how to make ends meet. This poor fellow is now additionally burdened and is in mortal fear wondering what is in store for him when he wakes up the next morning. The Directors of the drama are directing it and redirecting it and re-redirecting the scenes too very often that Citizen Perera’s mind is befuddled. Thus, the question from the petit bourgeois ‘Mona Waida’. 
From whence did this instability rise is a question the answer to which may be perceived as hydra headed. The epicentre of this tremor was undoubtedly the recent local government election. The catalysts were the pre-election scavenging of rotten flesh by all sides and the post-election greed to savour the unripe fruit by the Pohottuwas and opportunists of the SLFP/UPFA.
Lambasting the UNP
The rumblings on the side of the Pohottuwas in the run up for election day is explainable and can be discounted. After all they are not in government. What was unexpected was the idiosyncratic behaviour of President Sirisena which greatly upset the equilibrium. This situation may be the result of downright lack of foresight on the part of the President.

In the days following the declaration of the local government elections, there was a gradual increase in the President’s rhetoric lambasting the UNP. This was found to be absolutely out of the normal. Everyone in their proper senses knows that if not for the UNP and its meticulous strategy Maithripala would not have become the President. Of course, much credit is due to President Maithripala for his bold decision to come out of the government and contest. As admitted by him, he would have been six feet under had he lost.

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