August 20, 2020, parliament: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivers his policy statement.
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Lawmaker Gajendrakumar Ponnanbalam, 46, on August 21, in Parliament, alleged that the Tamil community, in the North-East, had been subjected to genocide, Sri Lanka committed war crimes during phase IV of the war and that they wanted international accountability.
Ponnambalam deviated from the Geneva Accountability Resolution, co-sponsored by the previous UNP-SLFP/UPFA coalition, in Oct 2015. That resolution was meant to set up hybrid war crimes courts, comprising local and foreign judges, in terms of a tripartite agreement, involving Sri Lanka, the US and the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Having represented the LTTE mouthpiece, the TNA twice, in Parliament, in 2001 and 2004, Ponnambalam addressed Parliament, last week, as the leader of the Ahila Illankai Tamil Congress (AITC), a constituent of the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF). The TNPF, established in 2010, had never been previously represented in Parliament, though it contested both the 2010 April and 2015 August parliamentary polls. In addition to Ponnanbalam, the TNPF secured one National List slot. Ponnambalam accommodated Selvarasa Gajenthiran, who quit TNA, along with him in 2010, on the National List.
Angajan Ramanathan, elected to Parliament on the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ticket, from the Jaffna electoral district, was in the chair at the time Ponnambalam delivered his explosive statement. Former UPFA National List member Ramanathan is the Deputy Chairman of Committees.
Gajendrakumar dismissed an attempt made by the State Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, to intervene. In fact, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna member Weerasekera was the only one to make an attempt to challenge Ponnambalam, in Parliament, on that day. The former Navy Chief of Staff was not successful. On the previous day, Weerasekera wanted to respond to C.V. Wigneswaran, leader of the Thamizh Makkal Kootani (TMK), though was asked by his party not to, as only party leaders addressed Parliament, during the inaugural session.
GP, Wiggy mount frontal assault
Both Ponnambalam and Wigneswaran represented the R. Sampanthan-led TNA earlier. Ponnambalam quit the TNA, in March 2010, having successfully contested the Jaffna district twice, in 2001 and 2004, with the blessings of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). At that time, TNA nominations, as well as the National List, were subjected to the LTTE’s approval. Former Supreme Court Judge Wigneswaran functioned as the first Chief Minister of the TNA-run Northern Province, during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure as the President.
The TNA stood solidly with the LTTE as it declared Eelam War IV, in August 2006, with simultaneous attacks on the Army, both in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Ponnambalam attacked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement. The lawmaker targeted the following section in particular: “It is equally important to precisely interpret the mandate given by the people. We respect the trust that the people have placed in me and the Prime Minister and the newly elected people’s representatives. We have a clear understanding of the expectations with which the people gave such a powerful mandate to the government. We will leave no room for such expectations to be dashed for any reason. It should always be remembered that the prime responsibility of a people’s representative is to serve the public. We will be sensitive to fulfilling the needs of the people, keeping in mind that all these positions are responsibilities and not privileges.”
Ponnanmalam declared that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mandate (2019 November presidential and 2020 August parliamentary polls) did not extend to the North-East region. Ponnambalam depicted the vote received by all Tamils, including SLFP’s Ramanathan and the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) Douglas Devananda, elected to the new Parliament, as one that overwhelmingly endorsed self-determination of the Tamil speaking people. Ponnambalam justified international intervention on the basis of the Tamil community being deprived of the security it deserved.
Declaring them (Tamil lawmakers) received a mandate for Tamil rights to be recognized, Ponnambalam declared: “two nations exist in this country.”
Int’l intervention justified
“Sovereignty can never be a defence. This country has gone through a war and the whole world says that heinous crimes have been committed and the state is the number one accused party,” Ponnambalam declared, adding “Under no circumstances can any President, or any country, for that matter, try to hide behind the concept of sovereignty, to prevent accountability for heinous crimes. The victims of these heinous crimes stand as Tamils… the major victims stand as Tamils and they have consistently said that genocide has been committed and that they want international accountability.”
When Ponnambalam went on and on repeating war crimes allegations, in Parliament, former Presidents and Commanders-in-Chief, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, as well as war-winning Army Chief Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, were present. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, too, was present.
It would be pertinent to ask lawmaker Ponnambalam whether, as a member of the TNA, he endorsed the party’s decision to vote for the then common presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka at the January 26, 2010 presidential election. Did the TNA decision to join the UNP-led coalition, comprising the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) et al unanimously approved by all constituents of the TNA?
Why North, East endorsed Fonseka?
Now that Ponnambalam reiterated genocide allegations, he owed an explanation why the Tamil community overwhelmingly endorsed Fonseka at the presidential election. Fonseka comfortably won all electoral districts, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, though the South ensured Mahinda Rajapaksa secured a second term, with a staggering 1.8 mn majority. Mahinda Rajapaksa polled 6,015,934 votes (57.88%) whereas Fonseka received 4,173,185 votes (40.15%). Fonseka comfortably won the predominantly Tamil electoral districts of Jaffna, Vanni, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Digamadulla and Nuwara-Eliya.
The 2010 presidential election was held less than a year after the armed forces eradicated the LTTE. Blindly accusing Sri Lanka of war crimes, and genocide, seemed ridiculous, after having voted for the very man who conducted the ground offensive that brought the LTTE to its knees, in May 2009.
Accusing the Sri Lankan state of attacking Tamils, Ponnambalam justified international intervention here. But not so much as even a word about many Tamils, including so many moderates who were butchered by the terrorists in cold blood like internationally respected jurist and TULFer Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam or even a person like TULF Leader Appapillai Amirthalingam for merely ruffling the feathers of the LTTE. Both Ponnambalam and Wigneswaran conveniently forgot how India transformed a low level insurgency, in the North, to an unprecedented terrorist campaign.
Interpreting ‘own citizens’
Ponnambalam advised President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who, during his 20-year service as a frontline combat officer of the Sri Lanka Army, fought Indian-sponsored terrorist groups. “What the President must also realize is that when it comes to international relations, sovereignty comes with a certain baggage, one of the most cornerstone principles on which sovereignty will be compromised is if within the country the state does not protect its own citizens, or, even worse, if, within the country, the state attacks its own citizens,” Ponnambalam declared.
Perhaps, other members of Parliament should remind Ponnambalam that the LTTE, as well as half a dozen other Tamil groups, that consisted of Tamils who waged war on the State. Fighting among Tamil groups claimed the lives of hundreds before they all, except the LTTE, renounced violence, in 1990. Those who had been categorized as ‘own citizens’ also killed over 1,300 Indian servicemen and wounded over 2,500 (Oct 1987-January 1990) and blew up one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Former Indian High Commissioner in Colombo J.N. Dixit, didn’t mince his words when he admitted direct Indian involvement in destabilizing Sri Lanka in ‘Makers of India’s Foreign Policy: Raja Ram Mohun to Yashwant Sinha.’ India paid a terrible price for destabilizing Sri Lanka. Indian-trained Sri Lankan terrorists tried to capture power, in the Maldives, in Nov 1988. The Tamil community cannot absolve itself of the culpability for the mass killings perpetrated in the name of ‘Eelam.’ Where were those elected representatives of the Tamil people when the LTTE used the Vanni population as human shield in its last bastion Mullaitivu?
Perhaps, those propagating war crimes allegations, in Parliament, should peruse Australia-based ex-terrorist Niromi de Soyza’s ‘Tamil Tigress’, first published in 2011, two years after Sri Lankan military finished off the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. S. Attanayake of Kottawa, Pannipitiya, sent the writer ‘Tamil Tigress’ having read the Midweek piece, titled ‘Chargie’s predicament inspires novel, highlights Lanka’s pathetic response to external threats,’ published on March 18, 2020. It was a comment on award-winning author Sena Thoradeniya’s ‘Nimala Mala-Miya Giya Soldaduwekuge Nomiyena Kathawa’ (Immortal Story of a Dead Soldier). Attanayake quite rightly guessed the writer hadn’t read ‘Tamil Tigress’ hence sending it by post soon after the government lifted the ‘Covid lockdown.’
GP’s entry into TNA politics
Qualified as a barrister-at-law, in the UK, in 1997, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam received Sri Lanka qualification as an attorney-at-law, two years later, before entering active politics, in the wake of his father Kumar Ponnambalam’s assassination, in early January 2000.
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s All Ceylon Tamil Congress/Ahila Illankai Tamil Congress. Its roots can be traced to his legendary grandfather G.G. Ponnambalam QC, who was a colossus as a lawyer and politician. ACTC had been among the four parties which formed the TNA, in Oct, 2001, at the behest of the LTTE. Constituents included, in addition to Ahila Illankai Tamil Congress, the TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front) and two former terrorist groups TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization) and the PLOTE (People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam). The TNA functioned as the political wing of the LTTE. The TNA had been subservient to the LTTE to such an extent; it recognized Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamils.
The TNA remained mum when the sole representative quit the negotiating table, in April 2003, to pave the way for the presidential takeover of ministries and, subsequently, the sacking of the UNP government. Kumaratunga called for early general election, in April 2004. The LTTE unleashed violence against those who dared to challenge the TNA in the then temporarily merged North-East region. Thanks to the LTTE intervention, the TNA secured 22 seats. Having won the lion’s share of seats in the North-East region, the TNA-LTTE combine, in Nov 2005, ordered Tamils to boycott the presidential election. The move was meant to ensure UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s defeat. The UNPer lost by 186,000 votes. Those who allege the Rajapaksa Camp bribed the LTTE to disrupt election in the North and East to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s advantage should explain whether the LTTE received money from them. As the TNA announced the polls boycott, on behalf of the LTTE, it owed an explanation to the public. Did the LTTE receive money from the Rajapaksa Camp?
The truth is that the LTTE and the TNA really believed they could take care of Mahinda Rajapaksa far more easily than Wickremesinghe. Having dug its own grave, the LTTE faced a relentless three-year military onslaught, once it initiated a military offensive in the second week of August 2006.
The armed forces eradicated the LTTE, in May 2009. In the following year, the TNA backed the very man who led the campaign against the LTTE at the presidential poll.
Accusations pertaining to war crimes and genocide, in Parliament, should be examined against the backdrop of the TNA losing political clout, following the poor performance at the general election. The TNA parliamentary group now comprises 10 lawmakers. In the last Parliament, the TNA group consisted of 16. The TNA won 16 seats when it contested the general election, for the very first time, in 2001. At the 2004 general election, the LTTE threw its full weight behind the TNA to enable the coalition to win 22 seats, 14 seats in 2010 and 16 in 2015. In spite of the setback suffered by the TNA, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Wigneswaran are likely to go flat out against the government.
In the wake of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa presenting his policy statement, a section of the much-depleted TNA met the Indian High Commissioner. The meeting took place on Friday, August 21. The TNA, in a brief statement issued on the same day, quoted Indian High Commissioner Gopal Bagley as having assured India’s continuing commitments to finding a resolution to the Tamil national question in Sri Lanka. The TNA delegation consisted of R. Sampanthan Mavai Senathirajah, Dharmalingam Siddarthan, Selvam Adaikalanathan and M.A. Sumanthiran. ITAK (Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi) leader Mavai Senathirajah is no longer an MP having been defeated at the August 05 general election.
It would be interesting to see whether Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Wigneswaran received invitations from the Indian High Commission.
Over 100 LTTE cadres in
Let me finish this piece by reminding how the likes of Wigneswaran propagated lies. Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s brother-in-law, Wigneswaran, chided the government over the July1983 violence, while insisting the need to consult India, if the government wanted to do away with the 13th Amendment, introduced in line with the Indo-Lanka Accord. Wigneswaran should know that the July 1983 violence wouldn’t have happened if not for India providing the LTTE expertise to wipe out a mobile military patrol. India sponsored terrorism here to create the conditions required for direct military intervention. The incumbent government should set the record straight, at least now.
Sri Lanka never took tangible measures against those who propagated lies as part of an overall strategy to ruin the country. Some cannot stomach the LTTE’s annihilation, on the Vanni east front, over a decade ago. Wigneswaran is one such person. Wigneswaran, and a section of the Tamil media, in August 2016, accused the military of killing over 100 LTTE combatants, in custody, by poisoning them. The PTI and NDTV were among the international media which reported unsubstantiated allegations.
Accusers placed the number of such deaths at 104. Accusations were made while the U.S. Pacific Command’s ‘Pacific Angel’ exercise was underway, in the Jaffna peninsula.
Wigneswaran brashly declared that the U.S. Air Force’s medical team, in Jaffna, would examine the former rehabilitated LTTE cadres, who, he alleged, had fallen sick because they were injected with poisonous substances, at government detention, or rehabilitation camps.
The then State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene and Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne dismissed the vicious accusations. Wijewardene offered the international community access to rehabilitation facilities. What the Minister didn’t realize was that by August 2016, the vast majority of ex-LTTE combatants had been released.
The US conveniently refrained from making its position clear on Wigneswaran’s claim when the writer raised the issue with the US Embassy in Colombo. There had never been such a claim, before Wigneswaran sought to humiliate Sri Lanka with it. It would be pertinent to mention that one-time LTTE subordinate, the TNA, backed common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, at the 2015 presidential poll, having earlier supported Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the previous poll. On both occasions, the TNA delivered all northern and eastern electoral districts to Fonseka and Sirisena, who contested on the New Democratic Front (NDF) ticket with the ‘Swan’ as its symbol. The TNA did the same for Sajith Premadasa, in the North and the East at the last presidential poll, though the South overwhelmingly defeated the UNPer.
In answer to several questions The Island posed, regarding ex-LTTE cadres being poisoned, the US Embassy said: “Operation Pacific Angel is providing assistance, based on the specific needs of the local communities. Among the nearly 70 members of this multilateral assistance programme – including some medical staff and engineers from Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Maldives, as well as the United States – are over 40 doctors, providing basic medical services: dental procedures; physical therapy; general medical assistance; and optometry. These are the only services being provided.”
The writer asked the US Embassy whether it could confirm that US Pacific Command personnel, conducting medical tests on ex-LTTE cadres, allegedly poisoned by the previous government; whether they would be moved to overseas medical facility for further tests; whether the GoSL had been informed of the development; when did the TNA request the US intervention and whether the US military had conducted similar tests in other countries. For obvious reasons, the US refrained from responding to The Island queries.
The five-day ‘Operation Pacific Angle’ was launched, in Jaffna, by the then US Ambassador in Colombo Atul Keshap.
The New Indian Express quoted Wigneswaran as having said that the US Air Force’s medical team would examine ex-LTTE cadres who had been sick because they were injected with poisonous substances by the Sri Lankan armed military while they were undergoing detention, or rehabilitation. Wigneswaran, according to the New Indian Express, had told the NPC (Northern Provincial Council) that he had mentioned the plight of the former combatants in his conversation with the US Ambassador, Atul Keshap, and asked if the USAF team could examine them and give an independent report.
Wigneswaran’s allegations died a natural death. The TNA, or the US, never discussed the issue publicly. But, such calculated lies caused massive damage.
ICRC on genocide accusation
A leaked cable, dated July 15, 2009, signed by the then Geneva-based US Ambassador, Clint Williamson, cleared the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) of crimes against humanity during the Vanni offensive. The cable addressed to the US State Department, was based on a confidential conversation Ambassador Williamson had with the then ICRC head of operations for South Asia, Jacque de Maio, on July 9, 2009. Ambassador Williamson wrote: “The army was determined not to let the LTTE escape from its shrinking territory, even though this meant the civilians being kept hostage by the LTTE were at an increasing risk. So, de Maio said, while one could safely say that there were ‘serious, widespread violations of international humanitarian law,’ by the Sri Lankan forces, it didn’t amount to genocide. He (Maio) could cite examples of where the army had stopped shelling when the ICRC informed them it was killing civilians. In fact, the army actually could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths. He concluded, however, by asserting that the GoSL failed to recognize its obligation to protect civilians, in spite of its approach resulting in higher military casualties.” Sri Lanka never properly used available information, including Wikileaks revelations, pertaining to Sri Lanka and Lord Naseby’s disclosure to counter lies. The travel ban slapped on Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, as well as Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, by the US is evidence of Sri Lanka’s continuing failure to set the record straight.
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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