TNA’s strategy for NPC elections & CHoGM
Posted on May 18th, 2013

Courtesy The  Island

May 18, 2013, 6:44 pm

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When looking at the UNP’s new list of electoral organisers, we see that General Sarath Fonseka has once again been left high and dry. Two of the three UNP parliamentarians who had pledged their support to Fonseka and were even planning to field a separate list of candidates at the forthcoming Provincial Council elections, have made up with Ranil Wickremesinghe and gone back into the UNP fold. Palitha Thavarapperuma, the Kalutara district parliamentarian has been appointed organiser for Matugama and Palitha Range Bandara who was seen breathing fire on TV against Wickremesinghe has been appointed organizer for Chilaw. What this means is that Sarath Fonseka is left only with Asoka Abeysinghe a UNP parliamentarian from Kurunegala who has not been given an electorate by the UNP. It is clear that Range Bandara and Thavarapperuma have come to an understanding with Wickremesinghe because others who ruffled the party leader’s feathers like Buddhika Pathirana have not got electorates.

What we hear is that Palitha Range Bandara had had a falling out with General Fonseka. General Fonseka had apparently been addressing Range Bandara continuously as “ƒ”¹…”thamun’. After that, Range Bandara had also begun addressing Fonseka as “ƒ”¹…”thamun’.  A man who was going to delink himself from a major political party and cast his lot in with a splinter group would expect to be addressed in a friendlier way than “ƒ”¹…”thamun’. It would be natural for Range Bandara to think if he is only “ƒ”¹…”thamun’ now, he may become “ƒ”¹…”umba’  if Fonseka gets into power.  Since even people like Tiran Alles and Arjuna Ranatunga could not get along with Fonseka for long, perhaps this turn of events was inevitable. The other noteworthy feature in the UNP’s list of organizers is that Ranjith Madduma Bandara has been appointed as the organizer of the Moneragala electorate. At the last parliamentary election, Ranil Wickremasinghe made a formal request from the UNP voters of Moneragala not to vote for Madduma Bandara, but the UNP voters brought him into parliament nevertheless. Some rapprochement seems to have taken place there as well.

Just over a week ago, the main topic of conversation in political circles was Azath Salley. But now, Salley has disappeared from public view and is no more on anybody’s mind. The reason why he has dropped from public view so suddenly and completely is because his colleagues in the joint opposition are unhappy with the way he obtained his release. It was Salley’s lawyer Shiraz Noordeen who had carried out the back room manoeuvres to get Salley released on the basis of an affidavit stating that he never made the inflammatory comments that were attributed to him in the Indian magazine “ƒ”¹…”Junior Vitakan’ and expressing his regrets if anybody in Sri Lanka had been misled by the comments attributed to him.  Even though Noordeen was working to get him released in this manner, Salley had not kept his colleagues in the opposition, mainly people like M.A.Sumanthiran of the TNA, J.C.Weliamuna and Mano Ganesan et al, informed about what was going on. Nobody in the opposition knew anything until Salley was suddenly released by the government.

Sumanthiran et al had in the meantime gone to the Supreme Court to get Salley released and they had been thoroughly miffed that Salley had not kept them informed of what was going on. To them this was a sign that Salley did not trust them.  They had said that Salley should have kept them informed and that they too would have supported any step that Salley took to secure his release because it was he who was suffering in police custody. They were very unhappy that Salley secured his release with a backroom operation which he took good care to conceal from those campaigning on his behalf.  Now those who were raising a hue and cry on his behalf have suddenly dropped Salley, which is why he has disappeared so completely from public view. When Salley was released and he gave a brief statement to the press from his hospital bed, he tried to downplay the affidavit he had given to the government and tried to convey the impression that it was external pressure on the government that got him out.

“ƒ”¹…”Lavariya’ for everybody

He thanked everybody including the press and the foreign embassies and said that it was their campaign that got him released. He never even mentioned the name of his lawyer Shiraz Noordeen who actually got him out. By doing so, Salley may have been trying to assuage the feelings of those who were out campaigning for him, but his colleagues in the opposition didn’t buy that. They feel let down. Be that as it may, the present columnist feels that Salley did the correct thing by not informing his colleagues in the opposition about what Noordeen was trying to do to get him released.  Had the opposition known what was happening, they would have done their level best to scuttle the operation.  What the joint opposition did to the former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayke  is a case in point. The former CJ knew the law, but she did not know politics. Salley on the other hand did not know the law but he knew politics which is why he managed to avoid becoming another Shirani Bandaranayake.

There is also the factor that Shirani Bandaranayake was not in jail, so perhaps she could play heroine for the opposition without any physical discomfort. Salley on the other hand was in CID custody under detention orders and that’s no picnic.  Even though Bandaranayake did not have to undergo any physical discomfort while playing heroine for the opposition she is suffering discomfort now, having to attend hearings before the Bribery Commission.  The most toxic aspect of an opposition campaign is that they paint the hero or heroine pure white with no faults. They say that everything that the government says against them is false. Then the government feels called upon to prove that their allegations are correct and they start coming out with evidence and that gets into the legal system. Then they have to attend hearings in the full glare of publicity. Trying to embarrass a government as a part of an opposition campaign carries the attendant risk of the government seeking to embarrass you as well. 

But by avoiding getting into trouble with the government, Salley has got into trouble with the opposition. So now he’ll have to figure out which is worse. By not getting into trouble with the government Salley has escaped the risk of extended detention in very uncomfortable circumstances and the possibility of long drawn out court proceedings as well. There were many parallels between Salley’s case and Shirani Bandaranayake’s case. In both Bandaranayake’s and Salley’s cases it was the opposition which first called for them to be brought to book over matters concerning finances. In Bandaranayake’s case it was her husband’s involvement in the NSB scandal and in Salley’s case it was on financial misappropriation charges relating to the 2010 Haj pilgrimage. If the opposition had their way at that time, they would have ruined Salley for good.  Four UNP Muslim Provincial Councilors wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa alleging misappropriation of funds in the Haj pilgrimage arrangements for 2010.

They alleged that the fee paid to Saudi authorities for facilities provided to the pilgrims had gone up from 500 Riyal to 1000 Riyal after Azath Salley negotiated the deal and that even though over 6,200 pilgrims had participated in the Haj pilgrimage that year, payment had been made only for 5,000 pilgrims leading to severe inconvenience for the pilgrims. There were other allegations regarding the number of trips that Salley made to Saudi Arabia and also about the money collected from Haj tour operators as registration fees.  The UNP at that time was trying to fix Salley well and good. When Salley was arrested by the government, there was the danger that the government would have used the petition and the evidence sent by these UNP Provincial Councilors against Salley and the UNP would not have been able to deny that they had accused Salley of financial misappropriation. Given the circumstances, Salley had no option but to come to some sort of an understanding with the government to secure his release. In that respect, Noordeen did what was best for his client.

But by putting off his colleagues in the opposition in the process of coming to an accommodation with the government, Salley has precluded the possibility of cashing in on his arrest. Unless his opposition colleagues hail him as a hero, he will not be able to reap any benefit from his misadventure. Right now, with the opposition having dropped him, Salley is worse off than he was before he was arrested.  Last Sunday, the present writer got a call from a Muslim gentleman who wanted to know whether I had joined the Bodu Bala Sena. When I answered in the negative, I was asked why I had recommended that Salley should be made the SLMC spokesman and was told that Salley will destroy the Muslim community more surely than the Bodu Bala Sena and other Sinhala extremist forces all put together. Then this gentleman related a story which he said is well known to political veterans in Colombo Central.

When R.Premadasa was a politician representing Colombo Central, decades ago, a car with a loudspeaker fixed on the roof had gone down the street where the Salley family lived announcing that Premadasa would come canvassing for votes down that street the next day.  Azath Salley’s father who was an ardent supporter of the Communist Party and a close protƒÆ’†’©gƒÆ’†’© of Pieter Keuneman who was then an MP in the multi-member Colombo Central electorate, had then got some “ƒ”¹…”lavariya’ prepared and when Premadasa’s party turned up, they had been served with lavariya as a treat! However nothing untoward had happed to Salley Senior. Premadasa was quite thick skinned about the story that he had sold lavariya for a living as a boy. Anura Bandaranaike never tired of reminding Premadasa of his lavariya selling days but Premadasa always wore the jibe as a badge of honour that a boy who sold lavariya had come so far in life. Be that as it may, the point that this Muslim gentleman was making was that while it is OK being anti-UNP and anti-Premadasa, whether it was really necessary to take that so far as to serve “ƒ”¹…”lavariya’ to Premadasa?

This story of Salley’s father serving lavariya to Premadasa is quite believable because Azath Salley himself did the equivalent of serving lavariya to the Rajapaksas as well in a talk show on TNL. Which is why many people believe that it was that appearance on TNL and not the Junior Vitakan interview that landed Salley in trouble. Salley has in different ways done the equivalent of serving lavariya to Ranil Wickremesinghe and the SLMC high ups as well, which is why he is virtually on his own today. The question that this Muslim gentleman who phoned the present writer raised is that given Salley’s tendency to do the equivalent of serving lavariya to all and sundry, if he becomes SLMC spokesman, he may serve lavariya to the Sinhala public as well. The ordinary Sinhalese does not know Salley the way the leftists and Colombo Muslims and UNPers do and their tolerance for the things he says will not be the same.  To the ordinary Sinhalese, Salley will be just  a another Muslim politician and a belligerent one, with a big mouth at that. The point that this Muslim gentleman was making is that if Salley speaks for the entire Muslim community, he will do in two hours of unrestrained chatter, what the Bodu Bala Sena will not be able to do in twenty years of agitation!

Despite his brush with the government, it is doubtful whether Salley will be able to derive any political benefit from it, firstly because the opposition is disappointed with him because they could not use him for an anti-government campaign over an extended period of time, and secondly, Salley is known to have an inflated sense of his own importance which political leaders find irksome. Once during a discussion regarding nominations for the last Western Provincial Council election, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had asked Salley, how many votes he thinks he will get. To this Sally had said that he will start with 100,000. Then Wickremesinghe had asked him how many votes he thinks he (Wickremesinghe) will get if he contests in Colombo, to which Salley had said that if he (Salley) asks the people to vote for him (Wickremesinghe) they will vote for him! Salley did not get nomination for that election because the UNP’s Colombo Central organizer Mohamed Maharoof wanted Mujibur Rahaman given nominations.

Salley was told to stand down and was told that he would be the UNP’s candidate for the Colombo Mayoralty. As a consolation prize, Salley was also taken into the UNP working committee. If he had got nomination for the Colombo mayoralty, he would have become the first citizen of Colombo. But Salley always had the suspicion that Wickremesinghe would not give him the mayoral nomination, so he defected to the government. After the last local government elections, he had once told A.J.M. Muzammil in the council “You are sitting where I should be sitting” – which of course is true. If not for Salley’s tendency to say what comes to his mind, he would definitely have become UNP Mayor of Colombo but the “ƒ”¹…”lavariya’ serving gene in him has precluded that.  In the meantime, Mujibur Rahaman who was given WPC nominations instead of Salley is going great guns in the UNP. He has now been made joint organizer of Colombo Central of the UNP “”…” a position that should have been Salley’s.

Sumanthiran and the Elections Commissioner  

The holding of the Northern Provincial Councils election has proved to be the government’s biggest dilemma in the short term. A couple of weeks ago, the representatives of political parties met the Commissioner of Elections to discuss the Northern elections. This is where the Commissioner had said that he has not received any notification from the government about the holding of the Northern PC elections. This was reported in the newspapers, but not the other details that transpired at that meeting. The TNA was represented by M.A.Sumanthiran and Suresh Premachandran while the SLMC was represented by Hassan Ali. It was very clear at that meeting what the TNA in particular hoped to get out of the Northern PC elections.  What they wanted was not power in the NPC. They have already got that. They know that a TNA victory in the north is a foregone conclusion.  What they want is an entire anti-Sri Lanka circus centred around the NPC elections and aimed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

The NPC elections are scheduled for September this year. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is to be held in November. The government may be thinking of holding the NPC election before the Commonwealth meeting so as to show off the NPC as another step towards the normalization of the North. But what will actually happen is exactly the opposite. What the TNA is gearing for was plainly to be seen at the last meeting with the Elections Commissioner.  Sumanthiran had been pushing very hard to get the Elections Commissioner to agree to get down elections monitors to cover the NPC elections from the EU and the Commonwealth starting from the point where the dates for the election are announced right up to the time the results are finalized. This is in addition to the EU, Norway and US funded elections monitoring bodies like PAFFREL, CMEV and CAFFE already functioning in this country.  The intention behind getting down foreign observers is obviously to cash in on the fact that Sri Lanka will be subject to much international attention in the coming months because of the impending CHoGM event.

With the spotlight on Sri Lanka the objective would be to get the EU and Commonwealth elections monitors to document and publicize an endless stream of “ƒ”¹…”abuses’. We all know how elections monitoring is done. Even a drunken village yokel shouting on the street becomes an incident noted under Threats/Intimidation. The 24 hour kitchens that some candidates maintain during election time will be categorized under Bribery/Inducements. And indeed to Western observers, some of the things that we take for granted at elections like providing food and liquor to supporters and tipsy party supporters shouting out their loyalties in public will look like inducements and intimidation.  In the West, nobody takes much notice of elections and there are no drunken party stalwarts on the streets and certainly no 24 hour kitchens.  Having shown these “ƒ”¹…”abuses’ to the western observers, the intention obviously is to combine these with some actual incidents that occurred in the North like the attack on the Uthayan newspaper and the breaking up of an opposition protest to paint a picture of complete repression in the North.

So when the delegates arrive for CHoGM and they tour the North, what they will hear is a litany of complaints backed by reports of the EU and the Commonwealth observers. Any advantage that the government may have hoped to gain by being able to show the CHoGM delegates the normalization of life in the north will be drowned out in a blitz of negative propaganda. If the government holds the Northern PC election before CHoGM, they are going to end up with egg on their faces. If however, the NPC election is held AFTER the Commonwealth meeting, the situation will be a little different. Of course if the NPC elections is postponed, the TNA and its allies will complain to the CHoGM delegates that the NPC election has still not been held. The government can preclude even that by announcing the dates for the NPC election just before the Commonwealth meeting. Then the government can tell the delegates that the dates for holding the NPC election have already been fixed and preparations are being made by the Elections Department to hold that election.

The government has everything to gain and nothing to lose by postponing the Northern PC elections till after the Commonwealth meeting. On the other hand, the government will lose much and gain nothing if the NPC elections is held before CHoGM. At that meeting with the Elections Commissioner, a couple of weeks ago, Nishantha Warnasinghe the representative of the JHU had strenuously opposed the brining down of EU and Commonwealth monitors for the NPC election.  He had suggested sarcastically if the TNA suggestion is going to be implemented, it would be better to disband the Elections Department and to get the EU to conduct the election in the North. Another suggestion made by Sumanthiran, aimed at bolstering their propaganda effort aimed at CHoGM was that several hundred thousand residents of the north live in western countries and that they too should be allowed to vote with ballot boxes being placed at Sri Lankan embassies in the West.

When Sumanthiran made this suggestion of sending ballot boxes to Europe for the NPC elections, Suresh Premachandran pointed out that there are still thousands of Sri Lankan refugees living in Tamil Nadu and that a ballot box should be sent there as well.  Then the Muslims had begun talking about the Muslims who were evicted from the North and saying that a ballot box should be sent to Puttalam so that these refugees could vote. Then the JHU had said that a ballot box should be sent to the south for the Sinhalese driven out of Jaffna by the war. The idea of having ballot boxes overseas, was turned down flat by the Elections Commissioner who had said that if they send ballot boxes overseas for the NPC elections they will have to send ballot boxes at every election to the Middle East, Japan, Korea and all other places where Sri Lankans reside in sizable numbers and that this is not a practicable proposition

This talk of overseas Tamils voting at the NPC elections is obviously with a view to showing the Western observers that the TNA hopes to get down for the occasion, that the election was not free and fair. By showing foreigners that overseas Tamils were not allowed to vote, the idea would be to convey the impression that the result was skewed on that account.  Sri Lankans overseas have not voted at any election in the past, but that is beside the point. All western countries provide their citizens living in sizable numbers overseas the right to vote by placing ballot boxes at their embassies and consulates overseas. So not having similar arrangements for northern Tamils living overseas will look like a clear case of abuse, and this will be told to all the CHoGM delegates as well to show how unfair the government has been to the Tamils.  The idea would be to show the world that in the north, many hundreds of thousands of potential voters were not allowed to vote. For this and other reasons given above, it would be very unwise for the government to hold the NPC election before CHoGM.

5 Responses to “TNA’s strategy for NPC elections & CHoGM”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “All western countries provide their citizens living in sizable numbers overseas the right to vote by placing ballot boxes at their embassies and consulates overseas. So not having similar arrangements for northern Tamils living overseas will look like a clear case of abuse, and this will be told to all the CHoGM delegates as well to show how unfair the government has been to the Tamils.”

    Let them do it NOT SL.

    Diaspora Tamils are NOT SLs anyway. Let them vote for TN elections.

  2. David Appuhami Says:

    Latest News
    Asad Salley may soon converted to Buddhism.
    See the message
    A BARA OPPU PUJA for AZATH SALLEY at GANGARAMA temple with participation of RANIL, leader of the opposition, at 5.30 today 19th MAY. Please send a news reporter/ cameraman and cover this event.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    “Asad Salley may soon converted to Buddhism.”

    That is a great insult to Buddhism.

    And he has the perfect partner Run-nil for that!! No surprise there.

    IF he genuinely participate in religious work, GOOD. But if it is to make a mockery of the whole thing, then he is back to NORMAL.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    ARREST, PROSECUTE & IMPRISON these TRAITORS to the Nation.

    The TNA shows its Tiger Spots with IMPUNITY.

    Teach them the ERROR of their WAYS NOW …. before the FAILURE TO PUNISH encourages them into Full Fledged Terrorism AGAIN!

    Have we NOT LEARNED these LESSONS from our RECENT PAST?

    …………….
    Sri Lanka Tamils defy ban on rebel memorial

    May 18, 2013

    COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s main opposition Tamil party Saturday defied a military ban and staged a commemoration of their war dead as the government celebrated the fourth anniversary of defeating Tamil Tiger rebels.

    The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said it staged the remembrance in the northern town of Vavuniya for those who died in the final battle which also killed Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and his entire top leadership.

    “We had a meeting to commemorate all those who died in the conflict,” TNA lawmaker Suresh Premachandran told AFP from Vavuniya, 260 kilometres (162 miles) north of Colombo.

    The event came as Sri Lankan troops held a parades in the capital to mark the victory over Tamil Tiger rebels and an end to 37 years of ethnic bloodshed.

    The state-run Daily News said the Vavuniya meeting was illegal and warned anyone commemorating the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would be jailed.

    Witnesses said the TNA-led ceremony ended peacefully amid a heavy police presence in the area, a front-line town near the former war zone in the island’s north.

    In the capital Colombo, President Mahinda Rajapakse viewed the military parade showcasing heavy weapons used against the Tigers who were known for their ferocious suicide bomb attacks.

    “We will not allow a single inch of the land that you won by the sacrifice of your life to be taken away,” Rajapakse said. “There will be no room for separation.”

    A naval craft taking part in the celebrations capsized and a search was on for an officer who was reported missing after the accident, a military official said, adding that the other four crew members had been rescued.
    The military offensive which crushed the Tigers had triggered allegations of war crimes with rights groups saying that up to 40,000 civilians perished in the last months of fighting alone.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Ballot boxes outside for Sri Lankan Separatists ? Wow ! what a bloomer ! This must be another distraction in the making.

    The western countries do not tolerate Separatists, inside or out. Therefore, it is safe to have ballot boxes outside.

    Sri Lanka Parliament has yet to remove the 13-A which gives ‘panina relawunta innimang bandinawa’ (tying ladders for jumping monkeys) encouragement.

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