By Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D.(Michigan State University) Former Government Agent, Matara District
Upul Jayawardena, a columnist states that the Port of Hambantota could be the armageddon for President Rajapaksa in the manner that the leasing out of oil tanks in Trincomalee to the USA in the early Eighties by President Jayawardena did cause India to train and equip the LTTE army, which led to the LTTE insurrection. He surmises that the Port of Hambantota could be a Chinese Sea base.
President RajapaksaÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢s record is that he is in firm control and one need not doubt for a moment as to whether he will be taken for a ride by China or anyone else.
Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India did not like Sri Lanka going over to the orbit of the USA away from the Non-Aligned path that Prime Minister Sirimavo had followed.
The moment I heard that oil tanks were to be leased out and more importantly, some ten square miles of land in Trincomalee was to be leased out to a US company for satellite reconnaissance, I knew that there would be untold trouble for Sri Lanka. While the oil tanks could have provided oil for US ships, satellite reconnaissance meant that the USA was planning to control South Asia. India could no longer remain silent.
India got down Prabhakaran and his rag tag followers and trained them in special army camps in South India. That was not all, they were provided with sophisticated weapons and sent back to destabilize Sri Lanka. India thereby created a terrorist organization that held Sri Lanka at bay for around three decades. At that time Colonel Rajapaksa of Gemunu Watch one of my confidantes in the Army said that the LTTE had weapons that were far superior to what the Army had.
The fact that India was training the LTTE cadres was not known in definite terms and the first proof was in an article by Denzil Peries the Deputy Editor of South, an International Journal. Here there was foolproof photographic evidence. Very strangely Denzil met with his death in 1985. Denzil went for work in the morning, fit as a fiddle and his brother in law, the late Cappie Kannangara, a close friend of mine arrived in Cambridge where he was to speak at a debate on the LTTE question at the University of Cambridge. By noon, Cappie received a telephone call that Denzil had died at a restaurant and hurried away and I had to take his place. Denzil PeriesÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢ death was perhaps an assassination!
President Jayawardena caved into the might of India when under Lalith Athulathmudali, the Sri Lankan Army had cornered the LTTE to the coast of Vadamaratchi. Rajiv Gandhi wanted the Sri Lankan army to be stopped. He flew a few sorties of his fighters in battle array over the City of Colombo and frightened President Jayawardena.. Rajiv Gandhi then forced President Jayawardena to stop battling the LTTE and to accept the 13 th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Deputy Minister Lalith Athulathmudali resigned from his portfolio in protest.
President Jayawardena was so frightened of Rajiv Gandhi that he accepted the 13 th Amendment given by Rajiv Gandhi and got it voted in Parliament to please Rajiv Gandhi. This was clearly an abuse of power.
On can compare President Jayawardena with President Rajapaksa. When the LTTE was cornered at Vadamaratchi, why did President Jayawardena agree to stop battling the LTTE?. He had the absolute ability to tell Rajiv Gandhi to stop bullying Sri Lanka in the manner that President Rajapaksa told all the Superpowers when they wanted him to stop battling the LTTE in May 2009. But President Rajapaksa could not be moved by all the Superpowers including the USA that at first cajoled him and later even threatened him. President Jayawardena abused his power in becoming a poodle to Rajiv Gandhi and even foisting the 13 th Amendment onto the Constitution of Sri Lanka. On the contrary President Rajapaksa stood by the people of the country and maintained the sovereignty of Sri Lanka in not stopping the assault on the LTTE.
The Constitution of a country is the most sacred document and it was marred by the act of President Jayawardena to accept the 13 th Amendment from Rajiv Gandhi and to get it enacted by the Parliamentarians. That was abuse of power.
It is a well know fact that at that time President Jayawardena held undated letters of resignation from all his Members of Parliament other than the Minister of Finance, Ronnie de Mel. President Jayawardena had even incarcerated his Members of Parliament in a Five Star Hotel in the City and he would go there in person and march them to Parliament to make them vote as he pleased. That was also abuse of power.
Comparatively President Rajapaksa never had undated or dated letters of resignation from any Members of Parliament to force them to vote as he pleased.
By forcing the 13 th Amendment India wanted to bifurcate Sri Lanka, and ,with the combined Northern and Eastern Provinces, Trincomalee would be within their grasp. At first India thought of using the LTTE and once Prabhakaran reneged they thought of establishing their own civilian pro Indian force. Actually the Indian Peacekeeping Force was in the process of establishing their own force when President Premadasa wanted them out. Sri Lanka can never trust India.
The 13 th Amendment needs to be thrown into the dustbin. It is not SriLankan; it is Indian- an instance where India interfered with a sovereign country and forced its ruler to accept it. The 13 th Amendment deserves to be taken off the Statute Book.
President Jayawardena did not hold a general election in 1982. Instead he held a referendum and got the life of Parliament extended for six years. That was an abuse of power. Comparatively it is said that some Members of Parliament had approached President Rajapaksa in 2009 and had wanted him to hold a referendum instead of a General Election, but President Rajapaksa, the true democrat he was, had totally refused.
President Rajapaksa did not abuse his power in the manner that President Jayawardena had done.
President Premadasa who succeeded President Jayawardena too sacrificed the interests of Sri Lanka in providing arms and equipment to the LTTE. The then chief of the Army General Attygala as well as Minister Ranjan Wijeratne had tried to convince and stop him but had failed. A massive amount of sophisticated weaponry got into LTTE hands and that included 2000 T 56 automatics, 50,000 grenades and rocket propelled grenades. It is well known that the LTTE used this arsenal against the Sri Lankan forces. That was the time when at the Peacetalks it was agreed that the Police in the East should be handed over to the LTTE and assurances were given of safe passage. Some six hundred and seventy that handed themselves for safe keeping were gunned down. The President kept silent. Arming the enemy amounts to abuse of power.
The Peace Talks held with the LTTE during President PremadasaÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢s time were of a very peculiar kind, in that for every day of the Peace Talks, the LTTE had to be bribed with a million rupees to participate. That too was abuse of power.
President Premadasa is well known for his accomplishments in poverty alleviation, but these instances marr his great record. .
It is a fact that ultimately he was assassinated by the LTTE.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe during his stint in 2001- 2004 too abused his power in selling the sovereignty of Sri Lanka to the LTTE.
The Ceasefire Agreement of 2002 with the LTTE was an Agreement that belittled the sovereignty of Sri Lanka because for the first time it accepted the LTTE as the sole authority of the lands that they had occupied by force.
The Ceasefire Agreement was said to have been drafted by Balasingham, an LTTE leader and forced on Ranil Wickremasinghe by the Norwegians. It was signed by Ranil Wickremasinghe without the knowledge of President Kumaranatunge.
It was known only to a few of his Ministers and never discussed in Parliament or in his Cabinet of Ministers before it was signed.
Dr John Gooneratne, a leading official of the Peace Secretariat had recently stated that the Government of Sri Lanka had wanted four clauses included into the Ceasefire Agreement. The four were: the Ceasefire Agreement would pave the way for a negotiated solution, prohibit the smuggling of arms ammunition and equipment, the areas under the LTTE control would be open for political activity by other political parties prevent forced conscription for children None of these facts were incorporated into the Ceasefire Agreement.
Yet Ranil Wickremasinghe signed the Agreement which was detrimental to Sri Lanka.
He was totally looking after the interests of the LTTE. Can anyone imagine a Prime Minister of Sri Lanka looking after the interests of the LTTE? Ranil Wickremasinghe did not care about sacrificing the sovereignty of Sri Lanka to the LTTE. It was a total abuse of power.
During the Ceasefire Agreement, though the Agreement stipulated that both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan areas should remain as it stood at the date of the Agreement, Ranil Wickremasinghe allowed the LTTE to infiltrate into the entirety of the Trincomalee District. Only the Port of Trincomalee, the Army and Navy Camps were government held territory. At that time a person who took ill at a Nilaveli hotel in the night had to obtain a night pass from the LTTE that controlled the roads to get medical treatment at the Trincomalee Hospital. Nilaveli is only eight miles away from Trincomalee. The Port of Trincomalee was actually surrounded by newly established LTTE Army Camps. Why did the Government not take action to stop the infiltration.
The inaction on the part of Ranil Wickremasinghe in allowing the LTTE to expand their area amounts to abuse of power.
Can anyone even imagine a Prime Minister of Sri Lanka castigating and reprimanding the Navy Chief for gunning down a LTTE gun boat. That was no other than Ranil Wickremasinghe.
It is well known that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe connived with Norway to give the LTTE sophisticated high tec broadcasting and television equipment.Ãƒ”šÃ‚ Ranil Wickremasinghe also allowed the LTTE to fly in weapons via the Katunayake Airport and the weaponry was sent to the LTTE by air, without being checked.
This actually helped the LTTE to build up their arsenal.
Rail WickremasingheÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢s actions show that he is a firm supporter of the LTTE and is an agent of Superpowers like Norway who are all pro LTTE!
President Kumaranatunge had the ability to abrogate the Ceasefire Agreement but she did not take any action. That too amonunts to absue of power.
To hold the reigns of power, to live in pomp and pageantry and not to safeguard the country that one is duty bound to serve amounts to an abuse of power.
President Kumaranatunge eventually took over the Ministry of Defence under her control but did not take any action to get the land occupied by the LTTE in the Trincomalee District back to government control.
Prime Minister Ranil WickremasingheÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢s period is also noted for the instance where The Assistant Superintendent of Police at Kandy in his investigations gave away the activities of the Army Deep Penetration Unit under General Ratwatte.
This army intelligence unit and its function- deep penetration had been kept a total secret. This was thereby totally exposed and Ranil Wickremasinge allowed army secrets to become known to the LTTE. The result was that the LTTE gunned down some 43 sleuths-war heros and neither Prime Minister RanilWickremasinghe nor President Kumaranatune did take any action to stop this It was clearly abuse of power on the part of both the Prime Minister as well as the President.
President Rajapaksa when compared with all the above Presidents and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe has so far acted in the interests of the people and has safeguarded the sovereignty of the country at all times.
President Rajapaksa at the initial stages invited the LTTE for talks, made overtures for a peaceful solution but soon realized that the LTTE was not only not interested but was expanding their Area.
It all came to a head when the LTTE deprived the farmers at Mavil Aru of water for cultivation. This was the turning point and he directed the armed forces to ensure that the LTTE was ousted from the area in order to bring normalcy.
Thereafter he directed the Army to take over the LTTE Army camps that they had unauthorisedly established in the Trincomalee District. Was this an abuse of power? It was essentially a humanitarian act to relieve people- citizens of Sri Lanka from the clutches of the LTTE.
In May 2009, when the Sri Lankan Army had cornered the LTTE to the shores at Mullativu and the President had also drawn a dragnet of naval ships to surround the area, the Superpowers led by the powerful USA, told President Rajapaksa to stop battling and defeating the LTTE. It was later revealed that unknown to the Government of Sri Lanka, the Japanese under the guise of providing Tsunami Aid had even constructed an under-ground water way sufficient for a submarine to get through to the sea, but no one could escape because of the dragnet of naval vessels that guarded the shores. This was a last ditch attempt of the Superpowers to give the LTTEa new leash of life. But President Rajapaksa did not cave in. It would have been an abuse of power if he had caved in like what President Jayawardena did earlier.
Thereafter, President Rajapaksa faced the wrath of the Superpowers who were threatening to take him to the International Court of Justice for War Crimes and Genocide, in the manner that President Milesovich and Karadawich were incarcerated. The former died. in remand and today Karadawich is being charged.
Even today President Rajapaksa is being hounded by the United Nations that have initiated investigations. President Rajapaksa stands undeterred in the face of all these odds, all created by his standing firm and not sacrificing the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.
It is true that the Chinese were used to get the Port of Hambantota constructed. In the Eighties the Victoria Dam on the Mahaweli River was constructed by British companies with British Aid. Today people have even forgotten that the British were involved. It is today a national asset.
The Hambantota District was my home for close upon two years in the Fifties. It was no manÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢s land with very little facilities. During that period my bath was either in the sea or by night at the street tap. Groups of government staff officers hog the street taps at mid night for their bath. That was a time when during the season the air at Weerawila was full of floating cotton. Somehow we gave up planting cotton and I took over all the cotton storage for paddy. Hambantota is our cotton belt and with the development in Hambantota I am certain that Sri Lanka can be self sufficient in cotton .
President Rajapaksa stands out as a personage of firm determination, someone who can be trusted to lead Sri Lanka in the future. It is not my words that speak out: it is his actions that tell us that he can be trusted.
In his address at the United NationÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢s General Assembly yesterday, he stated:
“Mahinda Chintanaya- Vision for the Future, my election manifesto articulates my vision of having sound infrastructure at the national, provincial and rural levels, which is vital for the inclusive growth that will make development meaningful to the entirety of society.”
We all know that he defeated the LTTE menace from our shores and there can be no doubt that he can usher in a realm of prosperity. Sri Lanka, since achieving independence had built up a development infrastructure to serve the people. In detail the Cooperative Wholesale Establishment with its retail shops imported goods in competition with the private sector and sold the goods at cheap rates.
The Marketing Department implemented a Vegetable & Fruit Purchasing Scheme which purchased from producers at prices higher than offered by traders and sold them in the City outlets at low prices. This effectively controlled inflation because the Marketing Department kept a low margin of around 10% to 15% for transport and handling while private traders kept as much as 100%. Later equipped with Cold Storage and a Large Cannery the total produce of pineapples, Red Pumpkin and Ash Pumpkin was purchased and made into jam and juice, making Sri Lanka self sufficient. Paddy was purchased at a premium price from producers and milled at Rice Mills owned by the Government.
This entire development infrastructure was abolished and dismantled by President Jayawardena. That amounts to a crime, because the people suffered. In the case of the Cooperative Wholesale Establishment, it was dismantled by no other than Ranil Wickremasinghe, the one person that complains today that prices are too high. He is today in the realm of amnesia as he has forgotten that he himself caused it.
The task of re- building up this lost development infrastructure has fallen on the shoulders of President Rajapaksa and one can be doubly certain that he will not only rebuild the lost development infrastructure, but also ensure that anything and everything that is required for alleviating poverty, creating jobs and production will be done.
(Full details on how the people suffered due to the abolition of the development infrastructure are found in my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka and Alternative Programmes of Development , published by Godages, Colombo)
Formerly of the Administrative Service of Sri Lanka.
“The Proven Sri Lankan Solution to the Spiralling Cost of Living: The Malady of UNP policies” in Lanka Web, 29/03/2010