Congratulations Eran Wickramaratne and Dr. Harsha De Silva

It does not come as a surprise but the news of the appointment of Eran Wickremaratne and Dr. Harsha De Silva to parliament as national list MPs still makes me happy. Professionals becoming law makers is good for the country. It shows the UNP takes governance seriously than the government that appoints Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharans, as if it seriously lacks individuals with real caliber.

I wish the very best for Eran and Harsha. I am happy to be a companion in the political journey you have begun today.

Brief bios for those few who have not yet heard about them.

Eran Wickramaratne
Dr. Harsha De Silva

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ටී. එම්. ජී. චන්ද්‍රසේකර: මර්වින් සිල්වාගෙන් ගුටි කෑ අහිංසකයාගේ වර්තමාන කතාව

main8pic42007 දෙසැම්බර් මාසයේ දිනෙක, තමන් මෙරට බුදුන්ට පමණක් දෙවැනි මිනිසාය සිතා සිටින මර්වින් සිල්වා නම් මැරයා, තම තග් සහචරයන්ද කැටුව රූපවාහිනි සංස්ථා ගොඩ නැඟිල්ලට කඩා වදින්නේය. ඒ ඉන් පෙර දිනයෙහි ඔහු මාතරදී මංගල සමරවීරයන්ගේ මෑණියන් ගැන කී කුණු කතාවක් රූපවාහිනියෙහි ප්‍රචාරය නොකළැයි කේන්තියෙනි. විනය හා හැදියාව ගැන නිතර පොර ටෝක් දෙන කුරක්කන් රජ්ජුරුවන්ද මුල්පෙළෙහි තියාගෙන, මර්වින් සිල්වා කරන මේ ප්‍රකාශය මේ රටේ රජයේ මාධ්‍යයකින් පවා ප්‍රචාරය නොකළ හැකි අන්දමේ, ඔහුටම අපූරුවට ගැළපෙන වනචර කතාවකි.

මේ ඓතිහාසික රූපවාහිනි ගමනේදී මර්වින් සිල්වා හා ඔහුගේ තගයෝ රූපවාහිණියේ ප්‍රවෘත්ති අධ්‍යක්ෂ ටී. එම් ජී. චන්ද්‍රසේකරට පහර දෙති. මර්වින් සිල්වා, චන්ද්‍රසේකර කමිස කොලරයෙන් ඇදගෙන සභාපතිවරයාගේ කාමරයට ඇද ගෙන යන්නට තැත්කරන මුත් ඒ උත්සාහය අසාර්ථක වේ. මේ අතර තම සගයාට නිරපරාදේ පහර දෙනු දකින රූපවාහිනී සේවකයෝ මර්වින් සිල්වාට අමතක නොවන පාඩමක් උගන්වති. තම ජීවිතයේ ප්‍රථම හා විශාලතම පරාජය මර්වින් සිල්වා ලබන්නේ එදිනය. හිසින් ලේ පෙරාගෙන, රෝස පැහැති තීන්ත නා ඔහු සංස්ථා භූමියෙන් පිට වන්නේ තෙමිච්ච කුකුළකු ලෙසිනි.

මින් සති කිහිපයකට පසු වරින් වර රූපවාහිනී සේවක පිරිසට මැර ප්‍රහාර එල්ල වේ. ඒවා පිටුපස සිටින්නේ කවරකුදැයි කිසිවකුට රහසක් නොවේ. අවසානයේ ජනාධිපතිවරයාගේ මැදිහත් වීමෙන් මේ සිද්ධි මාලාව නතර වේ. අරුමයකි. කිසිදු වරදකරුවෙක් දඬුවම් නොලබති. ඒ කුරක්කන් රජ්ජුරුවන්ගේ විජිතයේ නීතියය.

ඒ අතීත කතාවය.

වර්තමාන කතාව මීට වඩා ශෝචනීයය. මර්වින් සිල්වාගේ මැර ක්‍රියාවට සැබැවින්ම දඬුවම් ලබන්නේ ඒ අවාසනාවන්ත සිද්ධියට මැදි වූ අහිංසකයාමය. සිද්ධිය වන අවස්ථාවේ රූපවාහිනියේ ප්‍රවෘත්ති අධ්‍යක්ෂකගේ පුටුවේ වාඩිවී සිටි ටී. එම්. ජී. චන්ද්‍රසේකර මේ වන විට කාර්ය භාරයක් නැති නිලධරයකුගේ තත්ත්වයට ඇද දමා ඇත. ඔහු Eye චැනලයට මාරුකර යවා ඇති එකම නිලධරයා වේ. එහි ඔහුට කරන්නට යමක් නැත. වරෙක ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ හොඳම ප්‍රවෘත්ති වාර්තාකරුවකු වූ චන්ද්‍රසේකර දැන් උදෑසන වැඩට පැමිණ පොත අස්සන් කොට නැවත සවස පොත අස්සන් කර ගෙදර යයි. ඔහුට වැටුප් ලැබෙතත් කරන්නට වැඩක් නැත.

මෙය ටී. එම්. ජී. චන්ද්‍රසේකරට පමණක් සීමාවූ දඬුවමක් නොවේ. මර්වින් සිල්වා සිද්ධියට සම්බන්ධ හැම කෙනකුටම මෙවන් දඬුවම් මාරු ලබා දී ඇත. ඒ ඔවුන්ගේ හැකියාවට කිසිසේත් නොගැළපෙන අංශ වලටය. මූල්‍ය අංශයේ නිලධරයන් පරිපාලන අංශයට මාරුකර යවා ඇත. ගණකාධිවරයකු පර්යේෂණ අංශයට යවා තිබේ. මේ කිසිම කෙනකුට තම නව පදවි යටතේ රූපවාහිනියට හෝ රටට කළ හැකි සේවාවක් නැත. එක අතකින් එය ඔවුන්ගේ කාලය වැනසීමකි. අනෙක් අතින් රටේ ජාතික ධනය වැනසීමකි.

රටේ මාධ්‍ය සියල්ලක්ම තමන්ගේ පෞද්ගලික දේශපාලන න්‍යාය පත්‍රය ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම උදෙසා නිර්ලජ්ජි ලෙස යොදා ගත යුතුය සිතන මෝඩ නායකයකු යටතේ මේවා සිදුවීම එක අතකින් පුදුමයට කාරණාවක්ද නොවේ. එය මේ කාලකණ්ණි පාලන තන්ත්‍රයේ තවත් අවාසනාවන්ත පැතිකඩක් පමණය.

SRI LANKA-MEDIA-KIDNAP-RESCUE

Velupillai Prabhakaran | වේලුපිල්ලේ පිරබාහරන් | வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன் (1954-2009)

He was a terrorist, no doubt, but Prabhakaran deserves an obituary, even in a language he barely understood.

When Lanka Guardian, edited by Mervyn de Silva then, chose Prabhakaran as the ‘Man of the Decade’ in 1989, there was no dispute. He wasn’t a martyr – Osama Bin Laden too wasn’t when he was considered for TIME’s Man of the Year in 2001 – but Prabhakaran was one individual who changed the destiny of a country. Not that it would have been a Singapore, but at least it could have been a country better known for its tea, than for terrorism.

faces_of_terror

Sinhalese typically saw him as their arch enemy. (Many are eagerly waiting for the good news to start grand celebrations. It can happen any time now.) Feelings of Tamils were mixed. While some showed a passive solidarity, thousands spend hours on net eulogizing their Surya Thevan – The Sun God. “Terrorist to one” they said “…a freedom fighter to another” Only a handful of educated Tamils saw him in his true terrorist outfit. To the rest he was the typical smiling, child-kissing politician. At least few Tamil boys and girls were ready to exchange their lives for a last supper with him.

There was nothing ‘elusive’ about Prabhakaran, as political pundits liked to remind us. Had he shaved his thick moustache, spoken Sinhalese quoting religious texts and worn national dress probably with a shawl, Prabhakaran could have passed for a typical Sothern politician, with his big belly and smile. Lack of education (He was a tenth standard dropout, just like Wimal Weerawansa) might not have been treated a serious flaw. He could have easily been a minister in President Rajapakse’s jumbo cabinet. In fact, his once second in command made it.

celebrating

Little is known about Prabakaran’s early history. This is what Wikipedia says.

Velupillai Prabhakaran was born on November 26, 1954 in the northern coastal town of Velvettithurai. A Hindu by birth, he joined the student group TIP, during the standardization debates. In 1972, Prabhakaran founded an organization named Tamil New Tigers (TNT) which was a successor to many initial organizations that protested against the post colonial political direction of the country that pitted the minority Sri Lankan Tamils against the majority Sinhalese.

In 1975, after becoming heavily involved in the Tamil movement, he carried out his first political murder against the mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiappah, by shooting him at point blank range while he was about to enter the Hindu temple at Ponnaalai. The assassination was in response to the 1974 Tamil conference incident, and the Tamil radicals had blamed Alfred Duraiappah, because he backed the then Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) implicated in the violence as well as for allegedly betraying the Tamil nationalist sentiments in the Jaffna peninsula.

In May 5, 1976, the TNT was renamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers.

Some of these facts are disputed. Contrary to the popular belief, there is a school that believes Alfred Duraiappah was killed by a rival  gang. With nobody to certify, these minor details will now be forever lost.

Prabhakaran’s political origins were closely linked with the splitting up of nation on cultural and linguistic lines in mid 1970s, what was later termed as an ‘ethnic issue’. A radical youth in his early 20s, he was in the ideal position to exploit the increasing gap between Tamil politics and the mainstream. He was more the ‘first among equals’. Uma Maheshvaran, Sabaratnam and even Kuttamani – assassinated by Sinhalese prisoners in the immediate aftermath of 1983 Black July were either his seniors or equals. Instead of condemning, the senior Tamil politicians like Amirthalingam encouraged the growing unrest among youth, certainly to be exploited for their own political objectives. Little did they realize they nurtured a treacherous scorpion, who would one day bite the same hands that fed him. Then it was too late.

Prabhakaran was never guided by any strong political ideology. All he had was shamelessly hijacked SJV Chelvanayakam’s political agenda. His political immaturity never let him change the boundaries of the original map of the mythical Tamil Eelam. It was based on the first colonial segregation of administrative districts (only five then) and included not just present North and East but parts of Puttalum and Polonnaruva districts, where no Tamil inhabitations exist now. Wthere he was too dumb to imagine the majority presenting such a vast geographical area in a plate of silver or that was only a cover for receiving the continuous support of Diaspora Tamils, the younger generations of whom had little idea of the issue is not clear. Now he is dead and gone, we will never know.

Further, Prabhakaran’s mythical state of Tamil Eelam, was a only cut down version of the feudal state Rajapakse is planning to create in South. It was meant to be a monarch, with a royal family and all, not even a twentieth century autocracy. There wouldn’t have been even a trace of modernity. Just like Rajapakse wants to take us few centuries back to the days of King Rajasinghe, Prabhakaran wanted the resurrection of the dynasty of Nallur kings. He certainly wouldn’t have tolerated elections, a parliament or an opposition. Had it ever materialized, it would have been an isolated kingdom, with no Diaspora Tamil ever wanted to return or invest in. In fact, Diaspora Tamils have never tolerated Prabhakaran as their ‘king’ for too long. He was only their instrument against the real or imagined oppression by Sinhalese majority.

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What made Prabhakaran’s larger than life image was his ability to survive for thirty long years against both the Sri Lanka forces and IPKF. Rest of the rebels, including Minister Douglas Devananda laid down their arms and joined mainstream, but not him. In retrospective, Prabhakaran’s survival should not be a surprise. The Government of Sri Lanka never. had a consistent strategy to match his. Successive governments attempted to find an everlasting solution to the ethnic issue, through democratic means rather than focusing their strengths on eliminating Prabhakaran or LTTE, till somebody made it his life mission. Past presidents, three of them from UNP, knew when ethnic issue was solved Prabhakaran would cease to exist. However, none of them, till Ranil Wickremasinghe bravely did, sacrificing his political future at least temporarily, offered a viable solution to the ethnic issue. There was hardly any attempt to win the moderate Tamils. So the opportunity was forever lost with Prabhakaran receiving a walkover. The only Sri Lankan leader who ever politically weakened Prabhakaran was Ranil Wickremasinghe. It is not a surprise he fondled such a grudge against Wickremasinghe.

A myth fondly propagated by the present government is that Mahinda Rajapakse alone defeated LTTE. He didn’t. Jaffna peninsula, the historical stronghold of Tamil rebels was overtaken by security forces in 1996, during Chandrika kumaratunge regime. Killinochchi was only their temporary shelter. LTTE was further weakened during the Ceasefire period as the return to normal life after a long last war made many leave the movement. The restart of economic activities were the main reason for the fast disintegration of the LTTE at the time of the fall of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government. The security forces, under Mahinda Rajapakse regime hit this already weakened set up. So it is unfair for the current government to disregard the indispensable contributions of the former President Chandrika Kumaratunge and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, in making a job lot easier for them. In the dog-eating-dog world of Sri Lanka politics however, it is too much to expect such a gratitude.

Even a bigger myth is that the ethnic issue will vanish with Prabhakaran. Well, he didn’t create it, so why assume his demise would bring end to the hatred between the two communities? Contrary to what President Rajapakse wants us to believe (in vain), the mistrust between the Sinhalese and Tamils will continue. Tamils will never recognize Rajapakse as their leader. So even though the armed struggle is over temporarily the Herculean task of uniting the nation remains to be a task to be completed by a more capable and wiser leader then the present President.

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Back to Prabhakaran. Did he achieve anything worthwhile for his community? The answer is a big NO. Ethnic (Jaffna) Tamils are worse off than they were in 1970s. More than half of the Tamil population has already left for good. Thousands of Tamil families had to live with eternal grief of losing one or more family members. Ethnic Tamils, the largest minority in Sri Lanka then, has now reduced to the pathetic third place after Muslims and Indian Tamils. Jaffna, the second most advanced city in Sri Lanka, with its famous education system, is now far behind. As a community Tamils, at least the unfortunate ones to still remain, have moved ten or twenty years backward. They were termed as terrorists across the world. North and East have become more and more economically dependent on Colombo. At least for the next few years, till a UNP government implements a political solution, they will be remotely controlled from Colombo. All thanks to Prabhakaran.

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Prabhakaran’s life was a book of mistakes – a manual of how not to do things – but even among them there are three big blunders. First was the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Whatever the reasons, with this emotional act, he lost the only possible international ally. (Had India been neutral it would not have been so easy to eliminate LTTE) The second was his decision to kill civilians – irrespective of their ethnicity. Even ethnic (Jaffna) Tamils were not spared in these random killings. The southern equivalent of LTTE, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) never killed civilians and had a section of masses supporting them till the end. Majority of the Sinhalese were not racists and till mass civilian killings began in Colombo and Anuradhapura some were even politically sympathetic to their cause. Killing of innocents changed that forever. The third and the biggest mistake was Prabhakaran’s decision to indirectly support Mahinda Rajapakse in the 2005 Presidential election. If not for the LTTE’s boycott Ranil Wickremasinghe could have been the President and could have brought a more humane and ever lasting solution to the ethnic issue. Now that opportunity is lost forever. A political solution is only a dream under the present regime.

Prabhakaran is no more a hero than Hitler or Pol Pot, but he is a legend that will live on. I am sure for centuries to come mothers use his name to scare little children. I am personally happy to see the ‘king maker’ gone. In future people of this country will elect their leaders, not Prabhakaran.

(Edited photographs are from http://www.defence.lk)

Ajith P. Perera is back: Thank you all who made the FIRST BLOGGER POLITICIAN top in Kalutara District

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I make this blog post after a long interval. I guess my readers understand why. An election campaign is no joke. It absorbs all the time and effort one can afford. For a first timer it is even more arduous. For two months, the number of hours I slept dropped to four.

It was fun though. Especially when you top the district in preferential votes. It was a true victory for a first timer. Enough had been said already, so I need not repeat. I just express my profound thanks to everyone who helped me in achieving that. That includes the hate bloggers, for reason they better understand, created false accusations thinking that would stop me. Jealousy knows no bounds – so I am not surprised.

Yes, UNP did not win any three of the districts. Again I do not intend elaborating. Adequate to say that a political party is a group. When you are a mere cog in a machine little you can do to change a system. I hope now the people of Kalutara district have decided that I should no more be a mere cog. That is why they gave me this power. No predictions now, but I can assure you I am not going to sit there and wait. CHANGE is what you believe in and CHANGE is what you get. In UNP and in country. Trust me.

I have also proved that I blog not for votes, but to voice my opinion. I have always been against the war, against the corruption and the tyranny of the present government. It is not because I am a UNPer, it was because what Kurakkan does is against any civilized norms. I am happy to see the outcome. The voice we made forced Kurakkan uncle avoiding genocide. If not for that and the right international intervention, at least 100,000 innocent Tamil civilians would have been six feet under the ground by now. In a way, we did a favour for Kurakkan uncle. In not, by now his name would have gone to the annals of history along with Pol Pot. I am determined to continue that debate.

I also thank all my well wishers, most of them I know only through online. I am sorry if I missed responding to individual e-mails.

A long journey has just begun. I invite you to join that difficult journey.

Change UNP; Change the Nation

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This is not the type of the post I thought I would make. Politicians don’t SWOT analysis their parties on the net. Barack Obama discusses everything under the sun, but not the Democratic Party issues.

Ajith P. Perera too is very much a part of United National Party. So everyone expects Ajith P. Perera to debug the system before opening his mind in public.

On the other hand, what the heck? This is the age of openness. UNP itself stands on the very pillars of democracy and pluralism. It encourages, not suppresses dissent views. Thus I guess a dosage of straight talk does no harm. Not even at a point Ajith P. Perera is standing for public office. (I am waiting for my number to make the big announcement!)

Added to that some readers, most long term supporters of UNP, have raised genuine concerns about the future of UNP. I have an obligation to answer them.

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Is there anything wrong with UNP?

UNP has not shown a creditable performance in a series of recent elections. This will positively change in the forthcoming Western Provincial Council elections, but I will come to that later. For the moment let us only focus on past performance.

It is easy to provide excuses. SLFP shamelessly abuse public resources in its election campaigns; state media offers virtually no space for opposition while private media is threatened to follow suit; some self-concerned UNPers have already crossed the floor to badmouth their former colleagues. The list is endless.

In spite of all that, we cannot solely blame external factors for our poor performance. The genuine UNP supporters like to see the dawn of another JRJ or Premadasa era. When they see we don’t deliver, they feel annoyed. I do not blame them. We are not perfect. We need to find what’s wrong and address.

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Where we have gone wrong?

The opinions vary.

A large section seems to think that UNP should blindly support Kurakkan uncle’s war agenda to earn its popularity. I vehemently disagree.

Firstly, why UNP, the only political party with a clear stance on the ethnic issue follow others’ formulae? UNP fervently opposes terrorism of any kind, but simultaneously believes the long term solution to ethnic issue can only be political. ‘Military solution’ is an oxymoron. War victories by the current regime will only be meaningful if supplemented with corrective measures to age old Tamil grievances. Otherwise, terrorism will soon raise its ugly head behind another acronym. Elimination of JVP in 1971 in a genocidal manner did not prevent Sinhala youth taking arms two decades later. Why should that change for Tamil youth? As long as breeding grounds exist, procreate the mosquitoes.

Secondly, the extended intentions of war agenda are dangerous and damaging to the nation in the long run. The war is not just to eliminate LTTE (if so, UNP finds no problem backing it) but also a long list that includes human rights of the Tamils in North and East; Tamil political parties first and the entire opposition later; any dissent voices including those of journalists and eventually the very foundation of democracy. All what Kurakkan uncle wants it to create Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe type dictatorship and continue the legacy of feudal rulers.

Sorry, No. Whatever the name, UNP has no intention of blindly supporting such a feudal dictatorship. We stand for democracy and not feudalism.

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The policies of United National Party are crystal clear. They remain largely unchanged from the D. S. Senanayake days and will not change in the foreseeable future. Let me repeat in a nutshell and as I understand.

1. Unity and Equality: United National Party, as its name rightly suggests, is the party of united nationalistic political forces. UNP believes in equality. We do not think one’s ethnicity, race, gender, religion or any other attribute should stand in the way him/her enjoying citizens’ rights and privileges. We believe the country belongs to all Sri Lankans, and not to one ethnic or religious group.

2. Devolution of Power: UNP believes in an undivided (Eksath) Lanka; but not necessarily a system that concentrates power in Colombo. We have seen the flaws of such Colombo-centric governance and introduced Provincial Councils as a solution, which SLFP and JVP initially rejected, but now faithfully follow. We believe in devolving power, not only to Tamils in North but to Sinhalese in Hambanthota as well, instead of accumulating it in the hands of dictators. We believe empowering people not only at regional level but every stratum.

3. Economy: We believe in free markets; liberalization and globalization. We do not espouse unrealistic socialist dreams. We trust the private sector for its abilities. We do not equate suppressing the private sector to nation building. Economy has always thrived under previous UNP governments and there is no doubt it will continue to do so under a future UNP government.

4. Poverty Alleviation: Nobody understands the necessity of poverty alleviation than the UNP. We do not think poverty can be eliminated by redistributing public wealth. UNP had once spearheaded the most effective poverty alleviation program in Sri Lanka, under President Premadasa. What we look for is that. Beat poverty by creating more and more employment opportunities. Let poor stand on their own feet.

5. Employment Generation: UNP strongly believes more and more employment opportunities are the only way towards prosperity. It plans to achieve full employment by developing the private sector and not fattening the already overloaded government structure. To stimulate private sector growth UNP will also give utmost importance to infrastructure building. These may not be the highest priorities in populist agendas but we think in long term and not just the next six years.

I guess all UNP lovers should be proud that in spite of the immense pressure that we still stick to our original principles. We have no intention of changing these policies to enter the populist game.

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If not policies, what can be the problem?

As I understand UNP faces serious organizational issues. That happens not just in political parties, but they are more vulnerable. SLFP underwent a similar period when in opposition. It won only 8 seats in 1977 election under the leadership of Sirima Bandaranaike. It could not come out of that misery for 17 long years. However, under the new popular leadership of Chandrika Bandaranaike, it did not take long for SLFP to regain the lost steam.

The poor performance at the recent Provincial Council elections was nothing but a symptom of poor organization. While working in the Eastern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces I have witnessed this firsthand. I visited many areas untouched till then. Given time limitations, even I could not visit so many areas. We surely need more man power. Strong and committed organisaers at ground level was the need of the hour of UNP at the Provincial Council elections. We could have obviously done much better with a stronger organization.

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So, what is the solution?

Fortunately we see the remedial measures are already on the way and an improvement of the situation. Western Provincial Council will be the Waterloo for SLFP. UNP is geared to easily win all three districts. We have a solid unbeatable organization in most areas. The challenge is only to repeat that victory at the next Provincial council elections, to be followed by the General Election.

What UNP seriously need are true leaders who can make that victory happen. Fortunately we see many dynamic leaders emerging from the Western Province. This phenomenon needs to be replicated in the other parts of the country. That needs Change; stating from the Change in the way we act.

Barack Obama could make that Change within a period of one year. What made the ‘One woman race’ to end with a first American-African in White House was his sheer determination and organization. I see the same happening in the UNP now.

We are ready to Change the nation. Before that we need to Change UNP.

Let us start with the Western Province.