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Pushing Sri Lanka towards Indian solutions

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According to the news item in The Island under the heading ‘Address Tamils aspirations within united Sri Lanka, and implement 13th Amendment’ on 28th September 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to carry forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution. It further said that PM Modi has offered a grant assistance of US$15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries.

The above advise and the offer of financial assistance remind us how the former Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh, too, insisted on implementing of the 13th Amendment in full, while granting of loans (to payback with interest and within a specified period by the people of Sri Lanka) for the welfare of the people in the North, East and the Upcountry, during a State visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in 2010.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa avoided making any commitment regarding the implementation of the 13th Amendment. Instead, he spoke of the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, and has stated his intention to take care of national reconciliation, as per the mandate he received from the people of Sri Lanka and the relevant constitutional provisions.

While analyzing the outcome of the virtual summit between the two leaders, former Indian diplomat and analyst of international politics M. K. Bhadrakumar (MKB), in one of his article titled ‘Geopolitics of Sri Lankan Tamil Problem’ appeared in Newsclick.in dated 30th September 2020, quite correctly said, “The virtual summit last week reveals that Sri Lankan nationalism continues to militate against Delhi’s intrusive policy. Delhi has baited the Sri Lankan religious establishment with a US$15 million grant for promotion of Buddhist ties, but Colombo will remain vigilant about Indian intentions in cultivating the powerful Buddhist clergy. The modus operandi in the 2014-2015 period to destabilise the incumbent government must be still fresh in memory.”

Former Indian diplomat MKB, having worked in Sri Lanka as a diplomat in the early and mid-1980s when India was actively promoting the Tamil militant groups, use the words ‘intrusive’ and ‘bait’ when identifying the offer of Delhi, probably, knowing very well the hidden agenda of the grant of US$15 million (LKR 2700 million) for promoting Buddhist ties.

The said article describes in detail how and why the external powers orchestrated a regime change in Colombo ousting Rajapaksa who was perceived as “pro-China” in Delhi and Washington. (https://www.newsclick.in /Geopolitics-of-Sri-Lankan-Tamil-Problem)

Let us compare the said Indian financial assistance with the amount of expenditure that the government of Sri Lanka had spent to maintain the Provincial Councils (PC) established under the 13th A. Sri Lanka’s PCs expenditure was reported at 286,031.000 LKR million in 2017. This records an increase from the previous number of 276,147.000 LKR million for 2016. The expenditure averaged 103,769.000 LKR million from Dec 1996 to 2017. The data reached an all-time high of 286,031,000 LKR million in 2017 and a record low of 22,128,000 LKR million in 1996. (https://www.ceicdata.com/en/sri-lanka/provincial-councils-revenue-and-expenditure/provincial-councils-expenditure)

It would be interesting to find out whether there is any benefit to the general public on spending such a large sum of funds, and how many millions of rupees have been saved from the public funds for not activating the PCs during the last two years.

As per the media reports, Northern PC under the Chief Minister Wigneshwaran passed more than 100 resolutions (including one seeking an UN inquiry to investigate the genocide of the Tamil people) inciting racial tension, and several others which are harmful to the country as a whole. During the establishment of Eastern Provincial Council, we witnessed how elections were manipulated by the political parties formed and named on communal basis, and how the positions were claimed purely on a communal basis by the very same groups. Thus segregating people according to communal lines under the name of devolution, reconciliation etc could only strengthen the hands of separatist movements still alive in various parts of the country.

India became the first country, since independence, to interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, in the mid-1980s. There are several write-ups available on how India provided training to Tamil separatists to fight against the Sri Lankan security forces, and how India made the Sri Lankan government somewhat obligatory to ‘invite’ Rajiv Gandhi to sign an Accord in 1987, by invading the Sri Lankan air space for the first time and forcing the government to stop operations against the very same terrorists whom they trained.

Although the Indian government undertook to disarm the terrorists group in return of implementing the constitutional amendment imposed on the Sri Lanka government, Delhi failed miserably to fulfill its obligation as per the agreement. On the other hand, Sri Lankan people had to bear the huge cost of the war against terror and the cost of implementing the constitution amendment, thus imposed under the failed agreement, in addition to the loss of lives since 1987.

Since it is the Sri Lankan Security Forces who ultimately disarmed the terrorists, the moral rights of the Indian government to ask the government of Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment is highly questionable.

Ironically, thousands of innocent civilians who got injured and surviving relatives of further thousands of those who died as a result of the terrorism abetted by India, we Sri Lankan deserve an apology (at least) from the perpetrators for the losses incurred to us due to terrorism. Instead, it is likely that India will continue to interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, not only due to the internal politics of Tamil Nadu, but to satisfy the geopolitical interests as described in the said article titled ‘Geopolitics of Sri Lankan Tamil Problem’.

Full implementation of the 13th or any other Amendments, or the complete overhaul of the entire Constitution of Sri Lanka, is a matter for the Citizens of Sri Lanka and its elected leaders. Continuous insisting of how we should solve our problem and to push Sri Lanka towards Indian solutions is simply a gross violation of our rights as a sovereign country and a clear example of how powerful states are bullying the weak and small states to achieve their own geopolitical interests.

 

SANGADASA AKURUGODA



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Opinion

Save us from our govt.!

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When watching daily news bulletins, on several local TV channels, one could observe two significant matters.

One is how Gotabaya Rajapaksa shamelessly meets foreign diplomats and officers of international organizations, who are well aware of the grave situation of the country, and also the prime reason for it.

Remember, as kids, how we hide from our parents, or teachers, when some small mistake happens – that is because we were ashamed, and afraid of punishment. And ther, too, it would have been only our own mistake, not by the whole family of ours!

Next is how the Police and armed forces are let loose on the men, women and children who have been waiting in queues for hours or days. The authorities are not finding ways to stop queuing or at least maintain some order at those places, but chastise the people, for electing as Basil Rajapaksa had said, a stupid, clueless president and an incompetent government.

The greatest disasters we have faced since Independence are the JVP insurrection, the LTTE war and the tsunami in 2004, and during those times the people were protected by then governments; now Sri Lankans have to struggle against the government, which is steadily throttling them to death.

BUDDHI PERERA

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Opinion

Challenges, and need for an all-party govt.

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Whoever wants to take charge, must first disclose how they are going to set about it. making statements that ‘WE WILL PUT IT INTO ORDER’ is not acceptable. Even SJB, the main Opposition party, hasn’t put forward at least an outline plan as to how they will set about it.

What did the current President promise? What did the current PM promise.? What are their results? Can the country afford more of such vague promises? Three months have gone and still there is no plan from any Party in Parliament. How can any country or institution assist one who has no plan?

Challenges are many and very unpopular decisions have to be made. Resistance from entrenched interests, such as trade Unions, including the GMOA, some corrupt business interests, political interests, mafias, monopolies, etc., has to be countered. Are they prepared to overcome them?

Why go far? Are they prepared to reduce the Parliamentary allocation substantially, and even reduce the number of MPS from 225 to about 150 – on par with countries of similar size, population, GDP, etc.

Parties trying to form a Govt. must first agree amongst them on their Plan, at least on the following:

(i) on their strategy to get Foreign Exchange to purchase limited quantities of fuel for essential services, food, medicines. and fertiliser for the next 6-9 months. Their strategy to increase exports, foreign employment and foreign investment so as to increase Foreign Exchange in the short and medium term. With current conditions it is futile to expect tourists to come to Sri Lanka.

(2) as to how to balance the budget. Are they unitedly prepared to close down or privatize CEB, CPC, AirLanka and Water Board, etc.? Budgetary Allocation for Defence is another, which has to be drastically reduced, the developed countries spend only 2 to 3 % of their GDP on Defence. What does SL do? Out of the Defence allocation, Navy must have the major component for they have to patrol the sea area, which is many times larger than SL land area. SL sea resources are at risk from illegal fishing, human smuggling and illegal dumping, etc.

 (3) Are they prepared to close down unnecessary Ministries, Corporations, and Departments, most of which were created for the benefit of politicians, especially for Ministerial Positions.

(4) Staff levels in Ministries, Departments. Corporations that are to function, have to be drastically reduced, so that they could function efficiently and cost effectively. Reducing staff will also reduce the need for large office spaces, electricity, telephone cost etc.

(5) What are their plans to support and or rehabilitate the staff so retrenched.?

(6) Their plan for distribution of essentials? Rationing?

(9) Can they agree on a small, efficient and capable cabinet? Let not the country have too many Ministers and or Officials telling the country different versions, confusing the people as to which is correct, and that too hoping that at least one will be correct.

(10) How will they source the revenue? Are they prepared to increase the direct tax component to 60% or even 75 % for the present? The majority of the population have been badly affected due to the current crises. Their only crime being they misused their votes. They should not be burdened further with indirect taxes. To reduce their burden indirect taxes have to be the lesser component of the revenue, at least for the present.

(11) Can they do away with duty free cars, and all other special privileges given to some sections of the society. All Laws must be equally applicable to all. Other than the First citizen of the country, all others (be it state employees or Parliamentarians) must be taxed on the same basis as others.

All Parties joining must undertake that they will no longer do politics with these issues, nor will they withdraw from the interim govt when it undertakes unpopular decisions on above issues. They must all commit to swim or sink together.

None of those who served as Ministers in failed Governments, or who were Ministers in MR’s Govts which decided on vanity projects, should not be given Ministerial positions. Same should apply to those Parliamentarians who voted for the 17 ,18,19 and 20th amendments should be excluded, as it shows they neither have principles, nor care for the country. Corrupt and convicts too should be kept out. KNOWLEDGE AND CAPABILITY should be the criteria in the selection of the Ministers. Those who are unable to deliver within 3 months must be made to stand down.

To the party leaders who want to form the government, may I say, first divulge your plan to the country.

Please, do not tell the country that you have a better plan. You can afford to fail but not the country or its people at large!

A. K.RATNARAJAH

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Opinion

Fuel tokens, a big farce

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A file photo of fuel tokens being issued

The Minister of Power and Energy who covers a very responsible Ministry, was selected by the President probably due to his membership of the ‘Viyath Maga’, has undoubtedly proved to be a very inefficient Power and Energy Minister, and a complete failure without any doubt.

He is very capable of giving false hopes always of fuel and gas laden ships arriving on Sri Lanka shores, which have proved to be absolutely wrong. One wonders whether it is a gimmick to keep the fuel and gas starved motorists happy, and avoid the unending queues at fuel stations. This has proved to be a wrong system.

In order to control the daily queues, and knowing there will be no fuel ships for some time, he introduced the fuel token system out of the blues, and with no proper organizational effort. The policy announced regarding the token system, was to enable vehicle drivers to enter the fuel stations on a pre-selected day of the week, allocated to him/her, and dependent on the last digit of the vehicle number plate. This was again to avoid the long queues, according to the Power and Energy Minister.

With the latest innovative fuel token system announced, I visited the petrol station, in close proximity to my home on Monday 27th June, with much hope, and was among the first hundred with the details of my address, profession, NIC Number and contact mobile number. The relevant officer, who recorded the details, informed me that this was a pilot project, from Ratmalana to Moratuwa, and that when the fuel arrives at the petrol station, I will receive an SMS requesting me to report at the petrol station, at the allocated time, once again to avoid queues. But I did not receive the fuel token as it was not available. I was told that there was no necessity to have the token, as I will receive the SMS on my mobile phone.

The following day I received news that the fuel tokens are being issued. When I visited the fuel station, to obtain the token, there were four different long queues, along the road registering three-wheelers, motorcycles, vehicles needing diesel, and cars needing petrol. I met the S LAF officer, registering the cars queued up on the Galle Road, and told him that I am already registered in the book he was entering details and requested the token, which was denied to me. As the queues were there during the next two days, I visited the fuel shed on day four (30th June) when the officer was registering a few people. When my turn came, I showed the serial number and my name registered therein. I was told to wait until the SMS was received. He said that my registration will be cancelled if the token was given at a later date! Then I met the SL Air Force official and explained my position. He then approved the issue of the token. The delay in obtaining the token was nearly 15 minutes. By this incident it was evident that the advice given to Air Force officers to register and issue tokens was not properly given.

I was surprised to receive the token which was a slip of paper, with dimensions only 10cm x 6 cm. Inside it there were printed, Name of the Fuel Station, Type of fuel, Contact Number, Name, NIC Number, Vehicle No, , Date , Time, Signature of authorized Officer and Signature of vehicle Owner. With a microscopic piece of paper, it was with great difficulty that the necessary details were entered.

However, congratulations to the Minister of Power and Energy for drying up all the CEYPETCO FUEL STATIONS in The Island, without fuel for another three weeks or more, without queues, due to lack of fuel. Also causing unending long queues by supporting the LANKA IOC Fuel Stations, to issue your Fuel without Tokens at a higher price.

I politely ask you, Minister Kanchana, is not this another gimmick of yours to handover the CEYPETCO fuel stations to LANKA I O C?

So, we now know the reason for the latest gimmick of the Minister of Power and Energy to issue fuel tokens.

Do you now realise in your conscience, the problems created by you, especially to three-wheeler drivers, who are dependent on a daily living for their families by earning from hires, and now completely out of any earnings to feed their children, to give even a single meal?

Without creating further problems please resign from your post as the Minister of Power and Energy.

Eng. B.R.O FERNANDO

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