By Shamindra Ferdinando
The margin of the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) victory, at the Aug 5, 2020 general election, stunned the ruling coalition. The best possible result the SLPP expected was around 130 seats, including National List slots. SLPP Chairman and its top National List nominee, Prof. G.L. Peiris, about aproximately 30 minutes after polling commenced, countrywide, told the writer they expected around 130 seats.
About two weeks earlier, the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) and Attorney-at-law Udaya Gammanpila, too, privately acknowledged they could secure around 130 seats.
Experienced campaigner and turncoat, S.B. Dissanayake, also of the SLPP, placed the number of seats, anticipated, a little less than 130 seats. But, they all predicted a very comfortable victory for the SLPP, though two-thirds seemed quite unrealistic.
The Aug 5 result proved a two-thirds majority was achievable, under the Proportional Representation (PR) system, though so-called experts thought otherwise. However, the margin of victory surprised even the three-and-half-year old SLPP, as well as the tattered UNP, established over 70 years ago.
For the first time, in our political history, a party (that ruled the country on several occasions) ended up without a single elected lawmaker. The UNP managed to secure one National List seat. The JVP did much better than the UNP by securing three seats, including one National List slot, but it was a comedown when compared to its previous performance at the August 2015 general election.
General Secretary of the UNP, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, on Friday (7), blamed their worst defeat ever on their ‘own actions’ and those of others. The latter was definitely a reference to former UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa causing a split.
It would be pertinent to examine what Kariyawasam meant by ‘own actions’ in his pathetic attempt to explain the debilitating setback the once proud party suffered. The EC decision not to count preference votes, received by candidates of political parties that didn’t receive seats, saved them from further humiliation. If not, the paltry number of votes received by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayake, National Organizer Navin Dissanayake, as well as financier Daya Gamage, would have become public, adding to the humiliating defeat.
The emergence of the SLPP, at the expense of the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party), should be studied, taking into consideration the deliberate wrongdoings, blunders, lapses, treachery and utterly irrational policies followed by the yahapalana administration, consisting of the UNP and a section of the SLFP-led UPFA.
Before we discuss why the voting public handed over such a massive mandate to the SLPP, it would be pertinent to mention that those who served the ruinous yahapalana coalition ended-up in four groups. The largest group formed (1) the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), (2) remained in permanently damaged UNP, (3) what was left of the SLFP and (4) those who returned to the Rajapaksa Camp, having served Maithripala Sirisena for some time.
Having publicly alleged that he would have ended up six feet under if Mahinda Rajapaksa had won the 2015 January presidential election, Maithripala Sirisena, too, returned to the Rajapaksa Camp to avoid being politically eliminated. If Sirisena’s SLFP contested the recently concluded general election, on its own, it, too, could have suffered the same fate that befell the UNP. The SLFP obviously avoided the disgraceful defeat by contesting under the flower bud symbol.
The SLFP, on its own, winning a seat in the Jaffna peninsula, is an exception. The SLFP contested the electoral districts of Jaffna and Kalutara. Final result of the Kalutara district reflected the ground situation, in 18 districts, where the SLPP recorded landslide victories. The SLFP polled 10,979 votes (1.57%), in the Kalutara district, and was placed 5th, whereas the SLPP obtained a staggering 448,699 votes (64.88%). The SLFP survived a political massacre by accepting the SLPP’s terms. The SLPP, quite rightly, dismissed the SLFP’s efforts to contest both the presidential and parliamentary polls, under a common symbol. Polonnaruwa district candidate Sirisena, in spite of being verbally abused and humiliated by fellow district SLPP candidate Roshan Ranasinghe, as well as Gampaha District SLPP leader Prasanna Ranatunga, polled the highest number of preferential votes from the Polonnaruwa District. Sirisena polled 111,137 preference votes, whereas Roshan Ranasinghe obtained 90,615. The SLFP, due to consensus with brazen SLPP, even at biased terms, has managed to save face.
The UNP suffered an irreparable setback, at the third parliamentary poll, since the conclusion of the war, in May 2009. The UNP’s loss, at the 2010 general election, was understandable. The then SLFP-led UPFA obtained 144 seats, including 17 National List slots, whereas the UNP secured 60. The UPFA taking the parliamentary election was a foregone conclusion in the wake of Mahinda Rajapaksa defeating General Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 January presidential election. But, the UNP obtained a respectable 60-member group and, five years later, used it to spearhead a high profile project to bring down Mahinda Rajapaksa.
But, the UNP, at the general election just concluded, has been reduced to just 1 National List MP. The UNP General Secretary should explain what he really meant by ‘own actions’ contributing to its downfall. Let me examine what these ‘own actions’ were as the SLPP triumph transformed the political landscape.
The SLPP can easily secure two-thirds with the backing of the SLFP (one elected from Jaffna) and three other Tamil and Muslim parties. Perhaps, it would be much better to amend the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, in consultation with the SJB (54 MPs), TNA (10), Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB/3) and the UNP (1) than exploiting the overwhelming majority to its advantage.
Sri Lanka is in such a political-economic mess, the SLPP should act responsibly. The formidable political power shouldn’t pursue abusive policies against the backdrop of annihilation of the Opposition. It would be a grave mistake on its part to tinker with the Constitution for its benefit. Perhaps, a consensus can be reached soon, on an amendment, to allow the President to hold the Defence portfolio.
Treasury bond scams
Having ousted Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the 2015 January presidential poll, a cocky UNP leadership brought in Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor of the Central Bank, in January 2015. Wickremesinghe simply ignored Sirisena’s concerns as regards the appointment. Under heavy pressure, Sirisena handed over Mahendran’s letter of appointment. The Singaporean moved into the Governor’s Office, on January 26, 2016. The then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake made the recommendation in this regard. The first Treasury bond scam was perpetrated just four weeks later.
Kariyawasam’s reference to ‘own actions’ without doubt include the 2015 Treasury bond scam and the second perpetrated 13 months later, after the 2015 general election. The government was so cocky, it not only once but twice perpetrated massive Treasury bond scams at the expense of the national economy. In spite of the then yahapalana partner, the SLFP, making a big noise about Treasury bond scams, Sirisena’s party solidly stood by the UNP. Sirisena went to the extent of dissolving parliament, on the night of June 26, 2015, to prevent the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) presenting its report on the first Treasury bond scam to parliament. Sirisena exposed himself by delaying the appointment of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) to probe the Treasury bond scams, till January 2017; over seven months after Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy succeeded the Singaporean.
The top UNP leadership caused the party downfall by its ‘own actions.’ The SLFP, too, contributed to the rapid deterioration of the yahapalana government by playing ball with the UNP. Having allowed the UNP to ruin the yahapalana arrangement, Sirisena resorted to a constitutional coup, in late Oct 2018, to take back control of the government. Sirisena failed miserably.
The new government now faced a huge challenge in bringing the Treasury bond scams case to a successful conclusion. Ranil Wickremesinghe and Ravi Karunanayake embroiled in Treasury bond cases are no longer lawmakers. Wickremesinghe and Karunanayake, having first entered parliament in 1977 and 1994 (National List), respectively, served as members of parliament successively until last week. Wickremesinghe and Karunanayake now face the bleak prospect of facing a long drawn out case.
Between the February 2015 and March 2016 Treasury bond scams, the UNP betrayed the country, at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Sirisena did absolutely nothing but to publicly criticize the Geneva betrayal. The President, in spite of being the Commander-in-Chief and the Defence Minister, answerable to the people, stayed with the UNP decision. In a bid to deceive the public, the yahapalana lot replaced the then Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, who directed the then Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador, Ravinatha Aryasinha, to co-sponsor the controversial resolution, with Ravi Karunanayake, in May 2017. In spite of on and off public criticism, Sirisena, and those SLFPers who received ministerial portfolios, remained with the UNP. Karunanayake, embroiled in the Treasury bond scam controversy, continued with Samaraweera’s Geneva project. When Karunanayake was compelled to resign in the second week of August 2017, over shocking revelations before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, Wickremesinghe brought back Tilak Marapana to the cabinet. One-time Attorney General Marapana, PC, took over the Foreign Ministry. Marapana, too, faithfully continued with the Geneva project. The Geneva betrayal was part of the UNP’s agreement with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the US. Sumanthiran revealed the existence of a treacherous agreement, in June 2016, when he addressed a gathering in the US. Sumanthiran declared that he negotiated with the US and Sirisena’s government, on the Geneva resolution, and the inclusion of foreign judges in war crimes courts.
Lord Naseby, in Oct 2017, gave Sri Lanka a golden opportunity to counter war crimes allegations. Based on secret dispatches from the UK High Commission, in Colombo, in 2009 (January to May), Lord Naseby successfully countered the primary allegation, regarding the massacre of 40,000 Tamil civilians on the Vanni east front. The UNP turned a blind eye to Lord Naseby’s revelations. Yahapalana partner, the SLFP, too, followed the same policy. When the writer inquired about how the government intended to use Lord Naseby’s revelations for Sri Lanka’s defence, at the post-cabinet media briefing, co-cabinet spokesman Dayasiri Jayasekera reacted angrily, though he quickly calmed down. An irate Jayasekera accused the writer of raising unnecessary issues with a view to causing problems. Jayasekera revealed that up to the time the question was posed to him, the cabinet hadn’t at least discussed the matter. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, as well as the SLFP spokesman Mahinda Sanarasinghe, at separate media briefings, in response to questions posed by the writer, admitted that the cabinet didn’t discuss the Geneva matter.
The Foreign Ministry’s thinking reflected the despicable UNP policy towards the armed forces. The initial Foreign Ministry response, to Lord Naseby’s Oct 2017 bid to save Sri Lanka, revealed its role in a high profile anti-Sri Lanka project. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response to a query posed by the writer to the then spokesperson. However, the Foreign Ministry cannot be faulted for following the instructions given by the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister, at that time.
The SLFP cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for the Geneva betrayal. Today, those SLFPers, who had fully cooperated with the UNP (2015 August –Oct 2018), are in parliament, on the SLPP ticket. They survived by contesting the Aug 5 parliamentary election on the SLPP ticket. If not, the SLFP, too, would have ended up with perhaps one National List MP, like its partner in ‘crime’ the UNP.
In the wake of the Geneva betrayal, several countries imposed travel restrictions on senior military commanders. Field Marshal Fonseka, Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage and Army Chief Shavendra Silva are among those who were slapped with travel bans.
Now, it would be the responsibility of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government to set the record straight. The UNP and the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi-led TNA, responsible for the Geneva betrayal, suffered serious setbacks at the general election. Having campaigned for 20 seats, the one-time LTTE mouth piece was reduced to 10 seats, including one National List slot. In the last parliament, the TNA had 16 lawmakers, including two National List slots. Obviously, the Tamil electorate snubbed the TNA by causing the ITAK leader Mavai Senathirajah’s defeat. The TNA, too, plunged into crisis with a section of the former LTTE proxy demanding that Senathirajah be appointed to parliament through the National List whereas the TNA, at the behest of Sampanthan, named Chairman of Ampara Navindaveli Pradeshiya Sabha Thawarasa Kalaiarasan as their National List member.
Prez-PM failure in 2019
The Treasury bond scams (February 2015 and March 2016) and the Geneva treachery (Oct 2015) was followed by the indefensible failure to thwart the April 2019 Easter Sunday carnage. In this case, too, both the UNP and Sirisena failed the country very badly. The revelations, made before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), in 2019, and the on-going Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI), proved beyond doubt the culpability of both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for the Easter Sunday carnage. In spite of knowing the imminent threat, posed by Thowheed Jamaat, Sirsena went on a pilgrimage to neighbouring India. Sirisena, wife, Jayanthi Pushpa Kumari, and other members of their family, offered prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara. Sirisena took part in the ‘Suprabhatha’ ritual and offered prayers to the presiding deity of Lord Venkateswara. From there, the Sirisenas flew to Singapore. They were on holiday when Thowheed Jamaat carried out the near simultaneous attacks. Sirisena got caught lying to the PSC regarding the delay on his part in returning to Colombo in the aftermath of the attack. The PSC, in its report released to the public in Oct 2019, revealed how Sirisena shunned two earlier Sri Lankan flights to return in the early hours of the following day on a Singapore Airlines flight.
The SLPP will have to deal with media furore when the P CoI releases its report later this year. Sirisena, who held the Defence and Law and order portfolios at the time of the attack, in addition to being the Commander-in-Chief, cannot absolve himself of the responsibility for the unprecedented security failure.
H’tota deal and FTA with Singapore
Sirisena authorized the 99-year-lease on Hambantota port, in lieu of what Sri Lanka owed China, as well as the controversial Free Trade Agreement with Singapore (FTA) during his tainted presidency. On behalf of Sri Lanka, Sirisena’s nominee, Ports and Shipping Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, signed the agreement with China. Sri Lanka and China finalized the Hambantota port deal, in late July 2017, and the FTA with Singapore, in January 2018. Malik Samarawickrema signed the agreement on Sri Lanka’s behalf. It was finalized after six rounds of talks. Both Sirisena and Samarasinghe re-entered parliament on the SLPP ticket. Samarasinghe even took SLPP membership in the run-up to the general election. Samarawickrema, who was accommodated on the UNP National List in the previous parliament, quit parliamentary politics.
The SLFP has conveniently forgotten that it held the post of Deputy Speaker in Parliament till May 25, 2018. Thilanga Sumathipala served as the Deputy Speaker and the Chairperson of Committees of parliament. Sumathipala was replaced by Ananda Kumarasiri, who later headed the PSC that probed the Easter Sunday carnage. The Supreme Court has been moved by seven parties, including the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), against the FTA with Singapore. The SC last heard the case in the second week of July, 2020. It will be taken up again on Nov 03, 2020. A committee, appointed by the government after the last presidential election to review the FTA with Singapore, is yet to release its final report.
Having promised to review the Hambantota deal, the incumbent administration subsequently dropped the idea after China, in no uncertain terms, objected to that move. Those who represented the previous parliament and those who elected to new parliament should keep in mind there is no difference in the 99-year-lease on Hambantota port and the outright sale of such a valuable asset.
ACSA et al
Sri Lanka first entered ACSA (Access and Cross Servicing Agreement) in March 2007. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, signed ACSA on Sri Lanka’s behalf for a period of 10 years. Sirisena, in his capacity as the President, authorized signing a far more comprehensive ACSA, in August 2017. Sirisena’s government also discussed SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with the US, in addition to finalizing the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) Compact.
When the writer raised the issue with Wickremesinghe at the final government media briefing, at Temple Trees, two weeks before the Nov 16, 2019 presidential election, the Premier, without hesitation, declared it would be signed. Now, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government will have to decide on the controversial agreement. The government is obviously in a dilemma. Having secured a near two-thirds majority, the SLPP cannot, under any circumstances, accept the agreement in its present form against the backdrop of Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan’s damning report, in Sinhala, on it. Perhaps, copies should be made available to all members of the new parliament.
Sri Lanka shouldn’t accept SOFA, under any circumstances. Instead, Sri Lanka should guarantee that it wouldn’t engage in /allow foreign activity inimical to regional or world powers. The new government cannot be unaware how the majority community reacted to the UNP’s response to ACSA, SOFA and MCC. The SLPP campaign, against US agreements, gave Gotabaya Rajapaksa a tremendous boost at the presidential poll, as well as the recently concluded general election.
Paddy at Mattala airport
Having ousted Mahinda Rajapaksa, in January 2015, and then won the 2015 August general election, the UNP brazenly stored paddy at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA). Wickremesinghe repeatedly called Sri Lanka’s second international airport a white elephant. Storing paddy at MRIA was nothing but political suicide. It was meant to humiliate the war-winning President and his administration.
Storing paddy at MAIA is as bad as betraying the war-winning armed forces in Geneva. Five years later, the majority community, through overwhelming votes at the presidential and parliamentary polls, sent the UNP home. Sajith Premadasa and his group survived by contesting under a different symbol. Whoever secures UNP’s solitary National List slot, one UNP lawmaker in parliament would be a grim reminder to those who destroyed the once great party.
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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