UNP leader Wickremesinghe with civil society activist Saman Rathnapriya while Ven. Dambara Amila thera and MP A.H.M. Fowzie look on, at a candlelight vigil held at Independence Square in Oct 2019 to mark the failed bid to oust the UNP government in late Oct 2018.
By Shamindra Ferdinando
A stunning SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) victory, at the Aug 5, 2020, general election, dealt a debilitating blow to a high profile civil society project meant to challenge President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The project, undertaken by ‘Freedom: People’s Collective,’ with the backing of some political elements, was aimed at thwarting a bid, by the SLPP, to secure a two-thirds majority at the poll.
The success of the scheme, unveiled on July 8, 2020, at the New Town Hall, largely hinged on the UNP, its breakaway faction SJB (Samagi Jana Balavegaya), the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) and the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) winning well over 75 seats, at the recently- concluded general election.
Two-thirds hadn’t been achieved by any political party/coalition, since the introduction of the Proportional Representation (PR) system, way back in 1989, by the JRJ government. The UNP that had won the previous general election with a 5/6 majority in 1977 held under the first-past-post system, put off the parliamentary poll, scheduled for Aug 1983, by way of a sham national referendum, conducted on Dec 22, 1982. Today, the UNP is left with just a solitary National List seat.
‘Forward, Nor Backward’ at a standstill
The latest civil society project, titled ‘Forward, Not Backward,’ was intended to prevent the SLPP from either doing away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution or amending it.
Newcomer to parliamentary politics, Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, has been placed in charge of the ‘operation’ to bring in required constitutional changes. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s move to place the high profile mission under Sabry caused quite a stir. Some members of the SLPP were much more surprised than the depleted Opposition. Sabry’s appointment should be examined against the backdrop of ‘Freedom: People’s Collective’ appeal to the voting public. Let me reproduce verbatim the appeal made by the civil society grouping. “…the most crucial political responsibility of the voters of our country at the parliamentary election, on the 5th of August, is to make sure that it will not mark the beginning of the end of Sri Lanka’s parliamentary democracy.”
Former SLFP and then UNP heavyweight Mangala Samaraweera was to play a crucial role in the whole operation. The launch of Samaraweera’s campaign coincided with the releasing of results the day following the election. The Island announced Samaraweera’s project on its front page on Aug 6, 2020 (Mangala launches new initiative to rally masses against SLPP, with the strap line, Radical Centre claims to follow centrist path). The story was placed next to the lead story ‘SLPP confident of securing majority.’
Former editor of Ravaya Victor Ivan dealt with Samaraweera’s role, in a news piece carried on June 21, 2020, in the wake of Samaraweera jeopardizing the SJB’s campaign. Having handed over nominations from the SJB for the Matara district, on March 19, 2020, the former minister quit the contest on June 9, 2020.
There had never been any doubt about the SLPP’s victory, though two-thirds seemed impossible. The SLPP however never expected as many as 145 seats, one more than its 2010 achievement, under war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The civil society grouping, too, clearly realized a comfortable victory for the SLPP, though the level of accomplishment quite stunned them. The Opposition grouping, consisting of the UNP, the SJB, the JVP and the TNA – expected to work with the civil society grouping, post-general election – suffered an irreversible setback.
From 106 seats to 01
The UNP was reduced to just one National List MP, the TNA to 10 (one National List slot) and the JVP to three (one National List MP). The civil society project is now in tatters, with the Sajith Premadasa-led SJB very much unlikely to get involved in such an operation. The SJB is likely to follow a policy, quite contrary to that of the UNP, in respect of the civil society.
In the previous parliament, the UNP had 106 seats (13 National List slots), the TNA 16 (two National List slots) and the JVP six (two National List slots). The SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress), the ACMC (All Ceylon Makkal Congress), the JHU (Jathika Hela Urumaya) and the TPA (Tamil Progressive Alliance) were among the 106. Today, all four represented the SJB.
The UNP, now reduced to a solitary lawmaker, is no longer a viable political force. The status quo is unlikely to change for years to come. The heavily depleted TNA, ripped by internal crisis, is unlikely to get involved in the civil society project, though MP elect M.A. Sumanthiran participated at the July 8 launch, at the New Town Hall. President’s Counsel Sumanthiran, too, is struggling on the political front with Raviraj Sasikala, who contested the Jaffna electoral district unsuccessfully, causing quite a stir there. Sasikala is the wife of slain TNA lawmaker
Nadarajah Raviraj. The attorney-at-law was gunned down along with his police bodyguard in Colombo in Nov 2006. The killing was blamed on the then government.
The civil society, too, is struggling to cope up with the situation, against the backdrop of the SLPP securing a near two-thirds majority. The SLPP can easily secure two-thirds with the backing of the sole SLFP MP (Angajan Ramanathan) elected from the Jaffna electoral district, two from the Eelam People’s Democratic Party, led by Douglas Devananda, one from the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) of Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan and one from the National Congress of A L M Athaullah. Pilleyan is still in custody over the assassination of TNA MP Joseph Pararajasingham on Dec 25, 2005, inside a church in Batticaloa, during Christmas mass.
A visit to East
Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Pilleyan, held in the Batticaloa prison, on Oct 27, 2019, a few weeks before the Nov 16, 2019 presidential poll, to reach consensus on an arrangement. The TMVP backed Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the presidential poll. Pilleyan is still in prison having being arrested on Oct 11, 2015. The SLPP is now in a position to repeal the 19th Amendment. However, if the ruling party and those who back it abuse their overwhelming power in the parliament for the benefit of selected individuals, the coalition would have to face serious consequences.
Nothing can be as damaging as manipulating the parliamentary process, regardless of the power enjoyed by the SLPP at the moment. In other words, the SLPP will lose public confidence very quickly, if the government resorted to political trickery, in the aftermath of such an overwhelming victory.
Let me put it this way, the SLPP’s real enemy, or Opposition, would be its own power that can cause quite a rapid deterioration of the government, if abuses are allowed to go unchecked. Therefore, it would be the responsibility of the top SLPP leadership to act responsibly, regardless of its superiority in parliament. Those opposed to the new administration would be eagerly awaiting the top SLPP leadership taking a wrong turn.
The National Joint Committee (NJC) issued a statement on Sunday (16) expressing concern over the new government strategy as regards constitutional changes. The Island carried the NJC statement in its Aug 17 edition.
The civil society, and other interested parties, wouldn’t easily give up their efforts to undermine Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration. The event at the New Town Hall underscored their strategy.
Govt. again faulted over alleged Swiss Embassy abduction
Addressing the gathering, convener of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya, of the Sinhala Department of the Colombo University, was like a mercenary in his attack on the interim administration over three incidents. Wijesooriya raked up the alleged abduction of Swiss Embassy employee, Garnier Banister Francis, within days after Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election, as the President, at the Nov 16, 2019 election. The academic conveniently refrained from making reference to the current status of the high profile judicial inquiry into Garnier’s abduction. Many an eyebrow has been raised over the alleged involvement of journalist Dharisha Bastian in the Swiss case. The case was last heard on July 21, 2020. It will come up again on Sept 8, 2020. Perhaps, if Prof. Wijesooriya has any decency left in him will he explain why Garnier, portrayed by them as an angel nastily dealt by government operatives, ended up being a suspect in making a false accusation, knowingly. All, including the police, seem to have also forgotten renegade Inspector Nishantha Silva’s sordid involvement in the Swiss matter, and the despicable bid made by the Swiss embassy in Colombo to evacuate Garnier in an air ambulance. The former CID officer took refuge, in Switzerland, soon after Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s victory.
Prof. Wijesooriya also blamed the killing of the Chairman of the National Three-Wheeler Federation (NTWF), Sunil Jayawardena, at Mirihana, on June 10, 2020, also on the Rajapaksa government, in addition to the suicide of Rajeewa Jayaweera (64) whose body was found at Independence Square, on June 12, 2020. Prof. Wijesooriya totally ignored Rajeewa’s brother Sanjeewa Jayaweera’s assertion that there was no doubt as regards his brother committing suicide leaving behind a plethora of clear cut evidence.
Prof. Wijesooriya, and several other speakers, at the event, urged the electorate to thwart the SLPP’s plans. Among the speakers was attorney-at-law Javid Yusuf, one of the three civil society representatives at the Constitutional Council, chaired by then Speaker Karunaratne Jayasuriya. One-time Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Riyadh, Yusuf had the guts to stand his ground, in spite of criticism over him taking a political stand. Interestingly, except The Island, no other print, or electronic media, took up this issue.
The unexpected outcome of the August 5 poll has dealt a heavy blow to the civil society grouping, opposed to the Rajapaksas’ way of governance. In addition to the NMSJ, Purawesi Balaya, spearheaded by Gamini Viyangoda, campaigned hard for Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. They played a significant role in the overall political strategy, during that period. It would be pertinent to mention that the yahapalana project went awry from the word go due to sinister objectives, wrong decisions, and lapses, on the part of their political leadership.
Beginning of the end
The yahapalana setup suffered a debilitating setback, in late Feb 2015, within 50 days after the presidential election. The first Treasury bond scam, involving the Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), carried out by Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran, handpicked for the top Central Bank job by Ranil Wickremesinghe began the downfall of that government. Then, the second and much bigger Treasury bond scam was perpetrated, in late March 2016. The then President Sirisena delayed the appointment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) till late January 2017. The civil society largely remained silent on the issue thereby giving away their sinister motives. The P CoI that probed the unprecedented scams comprised Supreme Court Judges Kankani Tantri Chitrasiri, Prasanna Sujeewa Jayawardena and retired deputy Auditor General Velupillai Kandasamy.
In a way, the UNP paid a huge price for strategic miscalculations and mistakes. The UNP would never have suffered an irreversible humiliating defeat, it experienced at the August 5 general election, if not for those wrongful miscalculations on their audaciousness to think that they could get away with anything by pretending to be the clean guys backed by the ‘democratic’ West to the hilt. Thereby, the UNP allowed the unprecedented rapid growth of an Opposition movement, led by twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intervention, in 2016, by way of his own civil society grouping Viyathmaga, initially unsettled some sections in the Opposition grouping. But gradually, the wartime Defence Secretary brought the situation under his control and by early 2019 was in a strong position to secure the Opposition candidature.
A section of the civil society grouping, affiliated with the UNP et al pushed for the then Speaker Karu Jayasuriya nomination as their presidential candidate. They also tried to disqualify SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa by moving court against him claiming highly contentious citizenship issue. They almost succeed. If not for the last minute Supreme Court decision, in Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s favour,
Chamal Rajapaksa would have contested the 2019 presidential poll. The threat was so high; the SLPP had no option but to field Chamal Rajapaksa, in his capacity as a sitting lawmaker.
The NGO cabal played a high profile role in the government strategy. So much so, the government accommodated civil society members, even in the Geneva-led accountability process. Many an eyebrow was raised when Executive Director of the National Peace Council (NPC) Dr. Jehan Perera accompanied the government delegation to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council sessions.
The then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe packed the Consultations Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CRFRM) with prominent civil society activists. Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, functioned as its Secretary. In its report, the CTFRM, headed by Manouri Muttetuwegama, recommended the inclusion of foreign judges in war crimes courts to be established in terms of the 30/1 Geneva Resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, in Oct 2015. The CTFRM included Gamini Viyangoda, Visaka Dharmadasa, Shantha Abhimanasingham, PC, Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru, K.W. Janaranjana, Prof. Daya Somasundaram, Dr. Farzana Haniffa, Prof. Gameela Samarasinha and Mirak Raheem.
The writer in the same breath strongly believes that inclusion of foreign judges, as well as participation of foreign personnel, in the accountability process, is a prerequisite for successful reconciliation process.
However, in addition to those unsubstantiated allegations, on which Geneva adopted accountability resolution, subsequently revealed British wartime dispatches from its Colombo High Commission, too, should be examined. Lord Naseby, in Oct 2017, disclosed the hitherto confidential dispatches which disputed the very basis of the Geneva resolution.
Most of those who had been involved in various civil society initiatives, over the years, worked overtime to thwart the Rajapaksas. Sometimes, they contradicted themselves. Many an eyebrow was raised when some members of the civil society, on behalf of the UNP, demanded that Field Marshal Fonseka be appointed the Law and Order Minister. Among them were Ven. Dambara Amila and Saman Ratnapriya Silva, who was lucky to enter parliament several weeks before the dissolution, on March 2, 2020. They quite conveniently and shamelessly forgot how they and those near and dear to them accused Fonseka’s army of war crimes.
UNP down to 249,435 countrywide votes
Whatever the setbacks, the civil society sustained its project. However, the outcome of the general election, close on the heels of presidential election debacle, ripped apart the UNP. The party’s failure to at least do better than the JVP-led Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB), and the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), in countrywide rankings, reflected the actual ground situation. Reduced to just one National List Member of Parliament, the UNP lacked even a basic strategy to address the crisis. The UNP at least couldn’t quickly reach a consensus on whom to appoint to its National List slot. The move to bring back former Speaker, 80-year- old Karu Jayasuriya, highlighted the absence of a cohesive strategy. The UNP continued its silly games, with some proposing to continue with Wickremesinghe for six months, pending determination on its new Leader.
Would anyone really want to take over the UNP at this moment? Having lost the presidential, by a staggering 1.4 mn votes, the UNP ended up in fifth position at the Aug 5, 2020 general election. The overwhelming SLPP victory is not really an achievement on its own. The UNP did everything possible to inflict the worst ever defeat on itself. The UNP’s destructive strategy seemed quite deliberate and fashioned to cause maximum possible damage. Shall we call it Divine retribution?
The SLPP should understand why the voting public handed it such a massive victory. The SLPP polled 6,853,693 (59.89%), the SJB 2,771,984 (23.98%), JJB 445,958 (3.84 %), ITAK 327,168 (2.82%), UNP 249,435 (2.15%) and Ahila Illankai Thamil Congress 67,786 (0.58%). There were altogether 353 registered political parties, and independent groups, in the fray. The independent group 9 that contested Trincomalee was placed last in terms of the number of votes obtained. It received just 15 votes.
The new government and political parties need to overhaul the entire political system soon. Outside assistance is not required at all. Quite corrupt continuing practice of fielding proxies by way of independent groups and privilege status enjoyed by former lawmakers to contest presidential poll without hindrance should be done away with. The Election Commission should take the lead in this project. Having repeatedly said that unnecessary large number of presidential candidates, as well as extraordinarily high number of contesting parties and independent groups, increased the burden on taxpayers, the EC should take tangible remedial measures. Thirty-five candidates contested the last presidential election. Of them, 15 were former members of parliament.
Over the years, the number of contestants, at presidential elections, gradually increased as all sorts of people joined the fray. Sri Lanka cannot continue to squander public funds on foolish endeavours. The national economy is in such a mess, unless tangible measures are taken to stop waste, corruption and irregularities, there’ll be far reaching consequences. Hence the annihilation of the political Opposition certainly shouldn’t be a reason for the SLPP to be reckless, under any circumstances. Let us hope the SLPP conducts affairs of the State prudently and attend to the grievances of the public without delay.
Perhaps, the SLPP should be cautious that it wouldn’t do anything to warrant a Presidential Commission of Inquiry in the future. That’ll be a challenge as big as securing a two-thirds majority in parliament. Hope all concerned keep in mind that the SLPP fell short of five seats to reach the magical two-thirds majority, and the target had to be achieved with the support of four parties.
Pursuing political agendas at the expense of national security
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Yahapalana President Maithripala Sirisena recently contradicted former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando as regards the latter’s statements before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) probing 2019 April 21 Easter Sunday attacks.
It was, in fact, Sirisena who appointed the P CoI several weeks before the end of his term.
Without realising the possibility of being pulled up for contempt of the PCoI, in a statement issued on Sept 19, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Polonnaruwa District lawmaker, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) rejected Fernando’s damning accusations, pertaining to the former President’s culpability as regards his government’s failure to thwart the deadly attacks.
There had never been an instance of a former President having to contradict a Defence Secretary, he himself appointed.
Fernando, who had been President Sirisena’s Chief of Staff squarely, faulted the President for lapses, as well as a brazen bid to cover up the humiliating failure to prevent nearly simultaneous suicide attacks.
Referring to a meeting, he had with President Sirisena on April 24, 2019, Fernando alleged that the President attempted to bribe disgraced IGP Pujitha Jayasundara.
During Sirisena’s tenure, as the President, he appointed no less than five Secretaries to the Ministry of Defence. That too must be a record for any Sri Lankan President. Hemasiri Fernando had been the fourth to serve as Secretary Defence during the disastrous yahapalana rule, followed by retired Army Commander Shantha Kottegoda, who received the appointment in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. It would be pertinent to mention that President Sirisena held the defence portfolio by special arrangement, though his successor was to be deprived of the privilege in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Having won the 2015 January 8 presidential election, Sirisena named one-time environment and renewable energy Secretary B.M.U.D. Basnayake as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (11.01.2015-08.09.2015). Subsequently, Karunasena Hettiarachchi (09.09.2015-05.07.2015), Kapila Waidyaratne (06.07.2017-30.10.2018), Hemasiri Fernando (30.10.2018-25.04.2019) and Gen. Shantha Kottegoda (24.04.2019-19-11.2019) received appointment as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, amidst the massive turmoil caused by the Easter carnage.
Ex-top cop replaces ‘intel’ veteran
The yahapalana leaders also appointed a retired DIG as the Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) – a special post created by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in late 2006, on the advice of the then Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to oversee all intelligence services, including the SIS (State Intelligence Service).
The Rajapaksas created the post of CNI, by way of a cabinet paper, especially for Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana, in the wake of his retirement. Hendavitharana, who had been deeply involved in clandestine operations against terrorists, knew what was going on in the war zone, elimination of high profile LTTE targets, or overall attempts to intercept LTTE arms shipments on the high seas et al. Even after the successful conclusion of the war, in May 2009, the CNI continued to play a significant role in the previous Rajapaksa government’s security strategy.
An operation, involving the Office of the CNI, and the Navy, to seize an LTTE ship, anchored in a foreign harbour, as well as apprehending Prabhakaran’s successor Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias ‘KP’, in Malaysia, and whisking him back to Colombo, under a web of secrecy, were some of the notable operations undertaken by them.
The yahapalana lot came to power determined to dismantle the security apparatus. The Office of CNI was handed over to the retired DIG Sisira Mendis, an experienced investigator, though he lacked experience in running such a high profile operation. On top of that, the yahapalana administration, on its own, worked overtime to undermine the intelligence services. Even the new CNI lacked swift access to political leadership.
The yahapalana administration was bent on destroying the intelligence outfits. Selected officers were used in the yahapalana administration, much to the dismay of the armed forces. Senior security forces officers were harassed. Among those who had been targeted was the then Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake, who was recalled from overseas where he was taking part in a US-sponsored programme.
The SIS was brought under SSP Nilantha Jayawardena, in the first week of March 2015. The appointment was made by the then IGP N.K. Illangakoon, obviously on the instructions of the yahapalana grandees. Two years later, the National Police Commission cleared Jayawardena to hold the rank of DIG. The SIS Chief received the promotion, just a couple of weeks before the Easter Sunday carnage. In spite of him being implicated in the overall intelligence failure, rightly or wrongly, it did not prevent the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government in having Jayawardena as Senior DIG, in charge of the Eastern Range – a hot bed of Muslim extremism.
The Defence Ministry, during Sirisena’s tenure as the President, simply turned a blind eye to what was going on with the political leadership, working overtime to haul up the war-winning Sri Lankan military before the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. The Geneva betrayal was far worse than the intelligence failure that allowed the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) to mount a coordinated terror campaign, in April 2019. The Defence Ministry conveniently refrained from representing the interests of the armed forces and the police. Instead, the Defence Ministry provided the backing required for the political leadership to proceed, with a despicable operation that finally led to President Sirisena’s government co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against one’s own country. In spite of President Sirisena, publicly blaming it on the UNP, on numerous occasions, he did nothing to reverse the Geneva process. The government failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks shouldn’t be examined in isolation. Instead, the Easter Sunday catastrophe should be studied as part of a comprehensive study on the Yahapalana government’s defence policy/strategy.
Perhaps, the P CoI should scrutinize the overall security failure to recognize what really went wrong on April 21, 2019. Having won the presidential election in January 2015, the UNP, in spite of not having 50 members in parliament, received the premiership. The badly shaken UPFA handed over parliamentary control to the UNP, while President Sirisena took over the SLFP.
The stage was set for the first mega Treasury bond scam, in late Feb 2015, after the dissolution of parliament, in late June 2015, and the general election, two months later. The June 2015 dissolution was meant to save the UNP from a massive embarrassment, in case the parliamentary watchdog committee, COPE, handed over its report on the first Treasury bond scam to parliament. President Sirisena delivered a stunning blow to his own party by declaring that Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t be appointed the Premier, even if they won the 2015 August general election.
The President’s contemptible announcement, almost on the eve of the election, obviously even discouraged some UPFA supporters from casting their vote. The President’s bid was meant to give the UNP an advantage over his own party. The treacherous move could be only compared with Sirisena switching allegiance to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Dec 2014, to bring an end to the Rajapaksa era.
Having won the general election, with rival leader Sirisena’s support, the UNP formed a coalition that betrayed the armed forces, in Geneva, a few weeks later, with the President conveniently looking the other way. The UNP-SLFP coalition should take the responsibility for the Geneva betrayal, though the SLFP always denied having a hand in it. Those who masterminded the Easter Sunday massacre must have taken the political situation into consideration in planning the terror project.
A role for the late Mano
The UNP-SLFP coalition created a special post for overseeing the Geneva operation. The late Mano Tittawella, in his capacity as the Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM), instructed Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, A. L. A. Azeez, in March 2019, to accept resolution 40/1 on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka.
Tittawella received his appointment, on March 29, 2016, around the time the UNP perpetrated the second and much bigger Treasury bond scam.
The UNP-UPFA coalition established the SCRM, under the Prime Minister’s Office in terms of a Cabinet decision, dated Dec 18, 2015.
The Secretary General reported directly to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Knowing Tittawella was carrying out Wickremesinghe’s directives, the President lambasted him publicly, but never challenged Wickremesinghe’s authority, granted by way of a cabinet decision. Addressing a public gathering at Meegahatenna, in late March 2019, President Sirisena accused Azeez of having betrayed the country and its armed forces.
The Oct 01, 2015 resolution had been endorsed by Ambassador Azeez’s predecessor, Ravinatha Aryasinha (our next Ambassador to Washington). Azeez took over the Geneva mission, in April 2018. Aryasinha signed the March 2017 resolution, which gave Sri Lanka two more years to fulfill its Geneva commitments.
Mangala Samaraweera functioned as the Foreign Minister (January 2015 to May 2017), followed by Ravi Karunanayake (May 2017 to August 2017), Tilak Marapana PC (Aug 2017 to Oct 2018), Dr. Sarath Amunugama (Oct 2018 to Dec 2018) and Minister Marapana took over again before the change of government, in Nov 2019.
Both Defence and Foreign Ministries actively contributed to the campaign against the war-winning armed forces. By the time NTJ mounted its deadly operations, the State security apparatus was in chaos. In late January 2019, Defence Secretary Fernando caused quite a controversy when he called for Tamil Diaspora to cooperate with government investigations into alleged war crimes, as well as other high profile cases, such as the disappearance of 11 Tamils, blamed on the Navy. Fernando, an old boy of Nalanda College, called for Tamil Diaspora support at an event organized by the Nalanda College Ranaviru Society to felicitate him. Thereby, the former Volunteer Navy officer reiterated the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government policy as regards the post-war accountability issues though, by then, the yahapalana arrangement was in tatters.
A Defence Secy. before LLRC
Hemasiri Fernando’s accusations, directed at former President Sirisena, reminded the writer of one of Fernando’s predecessors, Austin Fernando, appearing before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), in August 2010. One time top civil servant, Austin Fernando, acknowledged that there hadn’t been proper consultations between the government and the military before the finalization of Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). Testifying before LLRC, headed by one-time Attorney General C.R. de Silva, Austin Fernando claimed in spite of him being the Secretary Ministry of Defence he didn’t enjoy the authority to intervene, though the CFA dealt with national security matters. Fernando also denied having a hand in preparing the CFA. Fernando took up the position that, in spite of serious concerns expressed by the top brass, the UNF government of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe went ahead with the Norwegian hatched project regardless of the consequences.
The writer covered the LLRC throughout its sittings at the Kadirgamar Institute. At one point when Fernando claimed that he hadn’t been involved in drafting the CFA, LLRC Chairman shot back “no Sri Lankan was involved in the process.” Austin Fernando also blamed the Norwegians and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) for failing to implement the CFA properly (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission: Now ex-Defence Secy slams CFA – The Island, August 19, 2010).
The UNP proceeded with the CFA agreement, at the expense of national security, and jeopardising the country’s fate. The government bent backwards to appease the LTTE, following the signing of the CFA. The government, on March 31, 2002, closed down ‘Wanni Sevaya’ which was in operation for the benefit of the armed forces and the police, while allowing the LTTE to import state-of-the-art equipment to expand its radio.
When Security Forces Commander, Jaffna Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka strongly opposed the reduction of high security zones in the north, without the required security guarantees, from the LTTE, the government engaged a retired Indian General to review the ground situation in the Jaffna peninsula. The government move drew widespread condemnation though Wickremesinghe blindly pushed ahead with it, believing the self-appointed international community.
Merril G on security fiasco
The UNP took national security lightly. The party played politics with vital security issues. The handling of matters, related to the CFA et al, was quite knowledgeably discussed by retired Senior DIG Merril Gunaratne, who had also functioned as the Director General of Intelligence during his long police career. Gunaratne’s ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ first launched in 2011, expertly dealt with the perilous way the UNP handled national security matters. The Chapter titled ‘On the Ministry of Defence with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’ described the Premier’s response to security matters. Gunaratne should send a copy of ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ to the P CoI. Perusing Gunaratne’s work would certainly help those interested in knowing the truth or understanding the ground situation at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, as well as the UNP thinking. The writer focused on the Premier and the Secretary Defence.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government refused to take action against extremist Muslim groups for political reasons, between the 2015 and 2019 period, leading to the massive Easter Sunday attacks.
Similarly, Wickremesinghe, at the onset of the CFA, declined to act on information provided by his own intelligence services. Gunaratne explained how the Premier dismissed their assessment as regards the rapid LTTE build-up on the basis of what the Indian Intelligence told him. Gunaratne quoted Wickremesinghe as having told a special security meeting; “even the Indians think the numbers were highly exaggerated.”
Gunaratne criticized Wickremesinghe over leaking of intelligence reports by way of a weekly column in the ‘Sunday Observer’ as well as opening up regular sensitive intelligence meetings, to a foreigner, at the expense of national security. The situation during the periods 2002 to 2003 (UNF) and 2015 to 2019 (yahapalana) administrations, can be easily compared. During the Oslo-run CFA, the UNP was seriously scared of the LTTE quitting the negotiating table. Wickremesinghe believed the success of his political future depended on having the LTTE at the negotiating table, at any cost. The UNP felt comfortable even after the LTTE forced the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi-led Tamil National Alliance to recognize them as the sole representative of Tamils. Although the TULF later pulled out of the coalition, it remained loyal to the LTTE until the group’s annihilation militarily on the Vanni east front.
During the yahapalana fiasco, the UNP, and even President Sirisena, didn’t want to do anything to ruffle the feathers of Muslim political parties, as well as those outside parliament, but wielded immense power. National Congress leader A.L.M. Athaulla’s somewhat controversial assertion that those who had a hand in engineering Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat, at the 2015 presidential, were also responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks, should be carefully examined. Western powers are alleged to have pushed for Rajapaksa’s ouster, in 2015, as part of their efforts to counter the growing Chinese influence in Colombo. Addressing the media last Sunday, lawmaker Athaulla explained how violence, directed at the Muslim community, in June 2014, transformed the Muslim community into an anti-Rajapaksa movement. Perhaps, the post-Easter Sunday situation should be examined, taking into consideration the ‘Mission Impossible’ type internal and external engineering, by hidden forces, that may have contributed to an explosive situation – causing unprecedented chaos, a decade after the conclusion of the war.
Some pointers to consider in selecting an MBA
It is but natural that when there is a glut in the market, that is, when supply of a commodity is much in excess of the demand, the customer will, obviously, have a wider choice to select. At the same time, he will be bemused in the choice of a quality product from the rest. This phenomenon has become true in the case of selecting an MBA course, by young graduates, as…
i. they will not be that clear as to why they do an MBA, as they continue to possess the basic-degree mentality, and / or
ii. they will not know the objectives of doing an MBA, and what qualities a good MBA should have, and, therefore,
iii. they will face a daunting challenge in selecting an MBA that will…
(a) suit their aspirations, and
(b) bring about the desired skills, competencies, attitudinal and behavioural changes in them.
By K. A. I. Kalyanaratne
The Postgraduate Institute of Management
An MBA is an extremely popular Master’s degree programme locally as well, which has a high demand in the country. The attraction to do an MBA comes from two factors, namely:
(a) job limitations for those possessing only a basic degree, and
(b) many a job holder being driven by the aspiration to possess an MBA, inter alia, to go up in his/her career.
How an MBA differs from a basic degree?
They are at two different levels of education. The broad objectives of an undergraduate programme are to provide students an excellent academic experience, and to equip them with the ability to solve a broad range of problems in our rapidly changing technological, economic and social environment. As there’s a wide range of basic degrees, the student can select a particular degree programme if he/she wishes to tread on a specialized field. Moreover, in an undergraduate programme, the candidate has the option of selecting either a general degree, wherein he/she needs to study several subjects, during a specific period of time, or specialize in a single subject. Both these options provide a candidate with relevant knowledge that will make him/her possess a relatively broad perspective of the subjects/subject offered. Further, the basic degree lays the initial foundation for a candidate to proceed further in the selected professional field, in which he/she becomes a master of it. This is precisely the objective of an MBA. A basic degree being an entry point for furtherance of a specialized subject/an area of study, anyone wishing to enter a job at this point would need to undergo job-centred specific training depending on the specialty of the job. It is due to this reason that the government finds it difficult to absorb those with a basic degree into the cadres, sans an attuning-process/ training.
Based on this backdrop, an MBA is more business-centred and career-oriented. One of the most common reasons for doing an MBA is that, for many people, it can lead to the next step in their careers. Sometimes, after working for some period of time, people find that they’ve reached a certain level in their careers, and they need something else to get to management-level positions. An MBA adds the specific business skills higher management positions demand to one’s toolkit, such as leadership or strategic thinking, that will help getting them into the management-level positions.
Basics for an MBA programme
An MBA being a graduate course of study, MBA aspirants must initially have completed his/her studies with an acceptable/recognized bachelor’s degree before being able to enter an MBA programme. Although the bachelor’s degree may not be directly related to the business world, an ideal candidate is one who would possess sufficient executive exposure. As regards executive exposure, institutes of higher learning/universities have their own stipulations regarding the period and the nature of executive exposure. Insistence on this requirement is considered a necessity as executives, having a view of the overall organizational profile and its objectives, are better equipped to arrive at rational decisions. Decisions, in short, are planning and implementation-centred. Realizing the ultimate ‘why’ aspect of an organization is, therefore, a must in any decision-making process. In short, MBA aspirants need to be in that level of maturity to grasp the interconnectivity of the subjects they master in the programme.
MBA – Parameters and Purpose
Further, many an MBA aspirant does not know clearly what an MBA consists of, content-wise, and what purpose it serves. Unlike other postgraduate courses, which provide specialization in a specific field, the Master of Business Administration is interdisciplinary, and it prepares an aspirant for senior management roles by exposing and preparing him to be confident in the midst of all areas of business, including accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, business communication, business ethics and business law. A well structured MBA programme also provides candidates access to an extensive network of contacts that can help them boost their career. The future depends much on organization-wise and people-wise linkages as the future of any enterprise is almost entirely interdependent. The overall purpose of an MBA degree is thus to prepare candidates for managing an organization/enterprise in every way, or in other words, to train qualified executives who have gained an all-pervading vision for business.
MBA and the Level of Learning
When it comes to learning-levels, one would invariably take into consideration the Bloom’s Taxonomy, (origin in 1956 and revised in 2001) which provides a classification for learning outcomes. Herein the basic levels include (i) remembering (ii) understanding and (iii) applying. In these levels the elements of (iv) analysing (v) evaluating and (vi) creating are almost absent. To make it more elaborate, in the three higher levels, the following are emphasized and given more weightage:
Correlating, deconstructing, linking, organizing, appraising, probing, questioning, structuring, integrating, attributing, estimating and explaining.
Arguing, validating testing, criticizing, commenting, debating, detecting, experimenting, measuring, hypothesizing, moderating, predicting, reflecting and reviewing.
constructing, adapting, collaborating, directing, devising, programming, simulating, solving, facilitating, synthesizing, investigating, negotiating and leading.
It could thus be seen that all these three tiers demand a critical, probing as well as a researching approach; an approach that is constantly critical of the ‘status quo’. The automatic conclusion would thus be that an MBA demands a mature and a critical approach. These ingredients are lacking at the lower levels of the Bloom’s taxonomy.
Measurement of Impact: The Level of Transformation
Hence, any well structured MBA programme, designed and conducted/executed, so as to achieve these higher objectives demanded of by the current business world, should be able to transform an aspirant to a fully fledge MBA, at the conclusion of the programme. An MBA programme is, therefore, virtually a process of total transformation of a basic degree holder to an accomplished master of business administration, as per the true meaning of the title. To effectively carryout a process of authentic/true/genuine transformation, the following are musts among a host of other components that compose an MBA programme:
Effective Communication: Communication encapsulates all modes of conveyance of ideas and information. In fact, communication is the glue that binds all sectors of a business. It thus includes both oral and written communication. Additionally, mastering presentation skills is a must for a manager, as more often his functions revolve around coordination and conveyance of facts and information. Human resource management, team and relationship building, transparency, developing trust, linking with stakeholders, presentation of business-related information are a few major tasks that demand effective communication.
Business Communication: A specialized component of communication is an important integral part within overall communication skills in an MBA programme. Being able to communicate up, down and across is essential in any management position. Communications skills are an area employers have often found candidates lacking. Therefore, in an effective MBA programme, business communication is considered as an indispensable skillset. Business communication, in short, is fine-tuning of communication skills to achieve business objectives.
Analytical and Critical Thinking:
All the three stages of higher learning, namely, creating, evaluating and analyzing in the already discussed Bloom’s Taxonomy demand analytical and critical thinking. The basic element that promotes all these skills is the questioning-inquiring-probing mindset. Developing this mindset, which is a critical component, is one of the overall objectives of a well designed and structured MBA programme. In competitive and uncertain business environments, analytical and critical thinking help improve the quality of managerial decisions.
Strategic Thinking and Integration of Functional Areas of Business:
Issues, problems and challenges being the common-denominator in a business, a trained business-mind that thinks of issues strategically, taking into account all related factors, is a must, if one is to add value to the organization. Therefore, mastering strategic thinking skills is essential as they provide the bases for the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities that create competitive advantage.
Organization being closely integrated to the social fabric they cannot function in isolation. This phenomenon demands that an MBA graduate needs to demonstrate knowledge of ethical frameworks for management decision-making and leadership. That’s why business law and business ethics form a part of an MBA course structure. Honesty, integrity, humaneness, value-driven decision-making, intolerance for ethical violations, being just and impartiality and exemplariness are further parameters to gauge a well-rounded MBA graduate.
‘Think globally and act locally’ is an axiom that established seats of higher learning would encourage and promote. It is essential for an MBA student to be aware of the global environment, and factors affecting the global economy and international business and to gain a comprehensive understanding of these in order to arrive at informed decision-making. The current developments that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic amply prove the need to be aware of the global environment.
Some Important Hallmarks of a Reputed Seat of Learning
A good library is considered as the heart of any seat of learning. A reputed seat of learning is supported by a library that is rich enough to support the research of the university faculty and student. The maturity of a seat of learning is also measured by the richness of its publications; richness by way of the volume, variety and depth of its publications as well as their linkages to socio-economic development. Richness of research is also a strong indicator that an institute is in constant pursuit of new knowledge, and not a mere passive reproducer of knowledge. The main teaching arm of an academic institute – the key to its education – is its Faculty. Especially in an MBA degree–business school, the Faculty should invariably be those who are industry-experienced. It is they who introduce the much valued practices and norms of business to the classroom as well as to the respective course-contents. Encouraging innovativeness and promoting entrepreneurship through business-incubators are other important hallmarks of a higher learning institute that is truly concerned with the ultimate product of transforming an MBA aspirant to a truly business-minded person.
The elements of Rigour and Disciplined Culture in Executing an Effective MBA Programme
Transformation being the central theme of an MBA programme, reputed seats of learning are in an on-going process of re-structuring their game-plans, by re-visiting every aspect that has a bearing on the final product, i.e., meeting the needs of the business community through their MBAs. In this endeavour, the element of rigour or rigorous learning experiences help the MBA aspirants to realize expectations that are academically, intellectually and personally challenging. Coupled with rigour is the culture of the organization. In its broadest sense, culture is cultivated behaviour; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behaviour through social learning. All reputed seats of learning maintain a disciplined atmosphere, conforming to procedural and quality systems. Opposite to bureaucracy, cultivated behaviour and set rules and procedures unleash the creativity and nimbleness that is required for growth of both personnel and organizations.
MBA – A Life-changing Programme that Transforms One’s Future
The above revelations would sufficiently convince that a well structured and strategically executed MBA is a life-changing programme that transforms a person through experiential learning. Such a programme will strengthen both, one’s business and leadership skills and his critical and strategic thinking. Moreover, the creative problem-solving abilities, new knowledge, and tools gained through the programme will, for sure, be a key to success in one’s personal and professional transformation. In other words, MBA is a process that re-invents a person to be a full-fledged professional. In reaching these goals, there are no shortcuts or compromises.
The Book’s Hold
By Lynn Ockersz
It’s not at all a bad thing – This mesmeric hold of the book,And the Isle’s doing the right thing,
By allowing itself to be carried away,On the wave of boundless delight,Book Month without fail brings,
Though the durance of such joy is all too brief,But the wish of she who thinks,Is that this magical pull of the book,
Will be a life-long thing,And that those who noisily warm their seats,In the House by the ‘Oya’ of esteem,Would make of reading a sacred undertaking,For, a measure of grey matter is very much in need.
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