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Midweek Review

Elina wanted Premadasa to succeed JRJ



Ranil Wickremesinghe garlanding the DS Senanayake statue, at the UNP’s 72 anniversary, two years ago. The UNP celebrated its 74th anniversary over the weekend without a single elected MP in parliament. Over a month after the general election, the party is yet to decide on the single National List nominee, with a section backing Wickremesinghe for that slot.

– new biography

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The late Elina Jayewardene (EJ), nee Rupasinghe, had strongly pushed for Ranasinghe Premadasa as her husband first executive President JRJ’s successor in the run up to the second presidential poll, in the late 80s, according to ‘Elina Jayewardene’, authored by journalist Sagarika Dissanayake.

The then first lady had insisted that Premadasa should get the opportunity as he was the most suitable person to take over the party, following JRJ’s retirement. This discussion, on the party leadership, had taken place near the Kalutara temple, while they were on their way to Mirissa. JRJ assured EJ of his decision to accept her proposal, as they got down from the vehicle at Mirissa.

The author attributes the revelation to Pradeep Jayewardene, the eldest grandson of JRJ and Elina. The author dealt briefly with EJ taking a stand on two crucial matters, namely JRJ’s decision to sack Rukman Senanayake, and the UNP’s next leader. Though JRJ ignored EJ’s strong protest against Rukman’s sacking, her suggestion, as regards RP, was accepted. EJ had felt Premadasa was the most qualified and she also had opposed any other successor that might reinforce accusations of power being always monopolised by the elite.

Sagarika Dissanayake, who had served the Lake House publication, ‘Silumina’, before being moved to its daily ‘Dinamina’, couldn’t have launched ‘Elina Jayewardene’ at a better time as the UNP struggled to cope up with the worst ever defeat the party suffered in its over 70-year history. The 2020 general election reduced the UNP to a solitary National List slot whereas its parliamentary group, in the last parliament, comprised 106 members.

The failure on the part of the UNP to resolve the leadership issue, even over a month after the last general election, is evidence of the deterioration of once the most powerful political force in the country.


Elina chooses JRJ over SWRD

EJ, the only daughter of one of the richest families in Sri Lanka, at that time, lacked a formal education, though she attracted the attention of young lawyer Junius Richard Jayewardene, as well as S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, subsequently the leaders of the UNP and the SLFP, respectively. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had been able to get to know EJ before JRJ. Dissanayake dealt with how S.W.R.D gave up his love for EJ, after seeing her with JRJ, at the former’s residence, saying: “My congratulations.”

EJ married JRJ on the evening of February 28, 1935 at ‘Breamar’, Ward Place. Winning EJ’s hand hadn’t been easy for Junius Richard Jayewardene (Dicky to his friends) as her family was not so excited about the proposal from his mother Agnes Helen Jayewardene, the wife of the late top lawyer E.W. Jayewardene. Agnes Helen Jayewardene was a sister of press baron D.R. Wijewardene, of Lake House fame.

‘Elina Jayewardene’ is based on interviews with several persons, including Pradeep Jayewardene,  Rukshan Amal Jayewardene (the second grandchild JRJ and Elina), Sharmaine Mendis, first wife of late Ravi Jayewardene (their only son), close relatives, Professor Asvini Fernando and Lakshmi Suneetha Subasinghe, Dr. Sathis Jayasinhe and Nalini Mapitigama. In addition to them, the author had interviewed several female aides, who had been with EJ until the very end. Among them were Galahitiyage Lilawathie, Hettiarachchige Magilin and Lilani de Silva. Pradeep Jayewardene’s younger brother, Amrik, hadn’t been so excited about the brief biography about their late grandmother, hence the author not getting an opportunity to speak with him. The author also quoted from the work of the late senior government servant, Amara Hewamadduma.

The author’s failure to interview JRJ and EJ’s only son, Ravi Jayewardene, is a shortcoming. “RJ was no more when I started working on this,” Sagarika Dissanayake told the writer. RJ passed away on April 3, 2017, at the age of 80.

EJ passed away at a private hospital in Colombo, on Nov 17, 2007, at the age of 95. Her death occurred 11 years after that of JRJ. The author dealt with how EJ’s son, RJ, and his second wife, Penny, interfered with the food provided to the ailing EJ, much to the discomfort of other family members, as well as those looking after her. The author, quoted Hettiarachchige Magalin as having said Pradeep Jayewardene argued with his father after the latter ordered that fish or meat should not be given to the ailing lady. The removal of the nurses, assigned to look after EJ, and a number of other issues, were dealt with, though there is no explanation why Ravi Jayewardene and Penny interfered with the staff looking after EJ. Pradeep Jayewardene didn’t mince his words as he faulted his father for the rapid deterioration of EJ’s health. May be the son didn’t want to prolong his mother’s vegetative state as she was literally unconscious, even before his father’s death, in late 1996.

EJ hadn’t been aware of JRJ’s passing away, for 11 years, as she never really recovered from her illness and never uttered a word during the last five years of her life. EJ had been with JRJ throughout his volatile political career during which he faced the second bloody JVP inspired insurgency, in the 80s, in the wake of the signing of the Indo-Lanka accord.


JRJ’s entry into politics

Having served as a lawyer for seven years, after getting married, in February, 1935, 32-year-old JRJ had entered politics through the Ceylon National Congress (CNC), functioned therein in the capacity of joint Secretary, till 1946. JRJ had served as a lawyer for a period of three years, before his marriage to Elina, after breaking up with two or three early relationships.

His entry into the colonial legislature, the State Council, in 1943, was made possible by his triumph over E.W. Pereira at a by-election for the Kelaniya electorate, following a novel polls campaign where JRJ used relatives and friends to personally visit each and every household in the electorate. JRJ’s campaign headquarters had been at ‘Manelwatte’ property, situated at Bollagala, about three miles away from the Kelaniya temple.

JRJ, however, lost Kelaniya, at the 1956 general election, called by Sir John Kotelawela. Having experienced relentless political turmoil, JRJ led the party to a historic victory, at the 1977 general election, to pave the way for a parliamentary dictatorship that plunged the country into unprecedented crisis. Grandson Pradeep talked lovingly of the period he and his brother spent with their grandparents, between 1956 and 1977, as JRJ struggled as an Opposition member. There was reference to food shortages and the affluent people’s practice of buying rationed essential commodities from the poor, at a much higher price, than they bought at the market.

The author pays a glowing tribute to JRJ for quitting active politics, in 1989, at the zenith of his political power. The author discussed how EJ made available her inexhaustible wealth to assist her husband’s quest for political power and subsequently lavishly spent on those who sought her help. Perhaps, JRJ couldn’t have realized his political ambitions if not for his wife’s financial backing as he struggled to cope up with family commitments, in the wake of his father’s death, at the age of 58. JRJ had nine siblings. EJ, however, never played an active role in JRJ’s political career, whereas Sirimavo Ratwatte, who married S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, became Sri Lanka’s first woman Premier, after the assassination of her husband, in late Sept 1959. She served three terms.

The Jayewardenes had always lived at their private residence, ‘Breamar’, though they could have chosen to live at the President’s House. Incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, too, chooses not to move into the President’s House, or utilize Temple Trees. There had been instances of both the President’s House and Temple Trees being used by the same party, contrary to the accepted norms.

However, the author refrained from at least briefly discussing how JRJ caused political calamity by depriving the people of the parliamentary election, scheduled for 1983. Having won a second six-year presidential term, in Oct 1982, JRJ held a sham national referendum, in Dec 1982, to give an opportunity for the people to extend the life of parliament by six more years. JRJ’s move was meant to maintain a five- sixth steamroller majority in parliament, the UNP won, in 1977, at the expense of democracy. JRJ introduced the Proportional Representation (PR) system at the 1989 general election. Obviously, the UNP believed no party could secure two-thirds, or at least come close to the magical 150 mark, under the PR system, though both Mahinda Rajapaksa (April 2010) and Gotabaya Rajapaksa (August 2020) proved the UNP wrong. Mahinda Rajapaksa won 144 seats whereas Gotabaya secured 145.

Although the author maintains that EJ always intervened, on behalf of the people, and courageously expressed her views on matters of grave political interest, there is no indication of her stand on JRJ’s disastrous decision to put off the general election, scheduled for 1983, by six years. EJ knew of what interested JRJ as she used to read aloud, what she considered, important news items, from the daily newspapers, at the breakfast table.


Children move in to ‘Breamar’

Pradeep (1960) had been only 11 years when his mother left him and his younger brothers, Rukshan (1961) and Amrik (1962), following a long standing dispute with his father. Ravi J had been faulted for the break-up of his marriage to Sharmaine nee Vandakoon. They divorced, in 1969, after being separated for a year.

Among the issues discussed, in brief, in “Elina Jayewardene’ was the arrest of Ravi Jayewardene, over his alleged involvement in the first JVP-led insurgency, in 1971, and his release within 24 hours, after JRJ lambasted the government in parliament over his son’s arrest.

Both Ravi J and Sharmaine had been experts in rifle shooting, as well as trained pilots. The author passionately discusses the developments, leading to the breaking up of their marriage leading to both re-marrying. The children ended-up with their grandparents. The children had been also bothered by their father’s somewhat troubled relationship with their grandmother, whose love for dogs gladdened them.

Their grandfather following Canadian Air Force exercise regime, in the morning, having been a schoolboy boxer and rugby player, and grandmother, walking in the backyard of ‘Breamar’, as it was not safe to walk in public grounds due to threats posed by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, seemed fresh in the minds of the grandchildren. EJ never had female aides and always received no assistance in readying for official functions. The Jayewardenes never kept even the expensive gifts received from foreign leaders and officials.

The author dealt with elder Jayewardenes’ struggle with their three grandchildren. Rukshan recalled how his grandmother slapped him, on more than one occasion, for not being obedient, and grandfather once delivered a thundering slap after JRJ found him arguing with his grandmother. In the wake of the breaking up of Ravi Jayewardene’s marriage, JRJ had built a three-roomed house, next to ‘Breamar’, for the grandchildren. The author provided an excellent description of the life at ‘Breamar’, and its adjoining house, until the health of the former declined with them both hospitalized together, simultaneously. JRJ had prevented EJ visiting him at the hospital as he felt the sight of him being on a hospital bed would dishearten her.

The Chapter, based on what Ravi Jayewardene’s first wife, Sharmaine, said, was truly interesting. That Chapter dealt with Ravi Jayewardene proposing to Sharmaine, her parents rejecting the suggestion, Sharmaine learning Kandyan dancing from Heenbaba Dharmasiri and Niththawela Gunaya at the Sinhala Cultural Institute in Colombo, a chance encounter with EJ and rifle shooting practices at the Negombo Rifle Club, leading to their marriage, in 1959. In spite of the breaking up of their marriage, JRJ and EJ had maintained an extremely cordial relationship with Sharmaine who acknowledged her husband having several other relationships, leading to him leaving their Gregory Road home. The conversation between Sharmaine and JRJ, after the latter realised his son, was not with the family at their newly built house at the Gregory Road, Colombo 7 revealed how JRJ calmly received the breakup of their marriage, though it devastated both JRJ and EJ.


Premadasa assassinated

JRJ and EJ, along with several others, including Pradeep Jayewardene, had been in India, on the day the LTTE assassinated President Ranasinghe Premadasa on May Day 1993. Ironically, JRJ had been there to deliver the keynote address at Rajiv Gandhi’s commemoration. The LTTE assassinated Gandhi on May 21, 1991, in Sriperumbudur, India.

Premadasa had been blown to bits at the time JRJ, having delivered the speech, was returning to his seat. They returned home immediately, after the May Day blast, near Armour Street, claimed the life of JRJ’s successor along with several of his bodyguards. The assassin happened to be a person who had infiltrated President Premadasa’s inner circle for some time.

Premadasa’s assassination paved the way for Ranil Wickremesinghe’s emergence as the UNP leader, though Dingiri Banda Wijetunga took over the presidency in the wake of Premadasa’s assassination. Gamini Dissanayake, the remaining challenger, was assassinated by the LTTE, in Oct 1994 in the run-up to the presidential election, after having briefly got the UNP leadership, not without  a struggle with Ranil. The author quoted Galahitiyage Leelawathie, an aide to EJ, as having alleged Wickremesinghe didn’t help even if EJ asked. Leelawathie alleged Wickremesinghe flatly refused to help her eldest son, receiving admission to D S Senanayake College, when her husband, Arnolis, Jayewardene family’s chief man servant, requested him to do so. Subsequently, Arnolis talked directly to the then DS Principal Alles and got their eldest son admitted. The family got all four boys admitted to DS, one with the help of Minister Nissanka Wijeratne.


Continuing UNP crisis

The UNP is in a deepening crisis, unprecedented in its history. The failure on the part of the party to resolve the leadership issue, over a month after the last general election, is testimony to what has been its indecisive plight, under Ranil, all these years. The UNP is still struggling to cope up with the catastrophic setback against the backdrop of the SLPP’s emergence as the most powerful political force in the country. Having been reduced to just one National List member, in the 225-member parliament, the UNP is in such a mess, with over a half a dozen defeated candidates, and former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, seeking to succeed Wickremesinghe, whereas the latter wants to continue, till the Provincial Council polls. The once invincible UNP, to suffer such a humiliating setback, could be its death knell. JRJ’s eldest grandson, Pradeep, has ended up as a member of the Colombo Municipal Council, while Ranasinghe Premadasa’s son, Sajith, now commands the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), a political outfit, recognized under controversial circumstances, at the expense of the UNP. Premadasa made his move having failed to convince Wickremesinghe to give up the leadership, ahead of the last general election. Wickremesinghe, and those close to him, remained convinced UNPers would remain committed to the elephant symbol, though they exercised their franchise in support of Premadasa, who had the backing of the vast majority of the parliamentary group, in the last parliament. In the absence of proper leadership, the UNP moving directionless as the SJB takes the lead in opposing the controversial 20th Amendment to the Constitution proposed to replace the 19th enacted at the onset of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, in 2015. Will the 20th Amendment prove to be so controversial so as to make it a rallying point for the Opposition, under the SJB’s leadership?

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Midweek Review

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.


Geneva betrayal

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.


Athaulla’s warning

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.

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Midweek Review

Which MBA?



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.

Ethical Leadership:

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.

Global Awareness:

‘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.

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Midweek Review

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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