by Dr. Victor Rajakulendran
Her Excellency, Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumarathunga
The President of Sri Lanka
His Excellency, Ranil Wickramasinghe
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
Re: The current power struggle between both of you
I am making this appeal to both of you at a time when your country, which is my country of birth too, is at cross roads. We all know that the future of this country depends on the political move, each one of you is going to make in the coming days and weeks.
Your Excellency the President, you took over the responsibilities of the Defence ministry, Information ministry and the Interior ministry without consulting or even informing the Prime Minister (PM), while the PM was away in Washington to meet President Bush. Then you prorogued the parliament for 2 weeks with the hope of luring enough MPs from Prime Minister's party to your side and form a government of your liking. But you realised quickly that your plan would not work, when the Prime Minister produced to you and the speaker of the house a proclamation signed by at least 129 MPs, pledging support in the parliament to Prime minister's government. Then you floated the idea of forming a government of reconciliation and reconstruction with the participation of all the parties in the parliament. You thought if you succeed in this venture, not only you could dilute the parliamentary power your rival, Prime Minister, holds now, but also it is feasible to get the 2/3 votes needed in parliament to change the constitution. We all know that you badly need a change in the constitution to transfer the executive power from the President to the Prime Minister. This you need badly because you cannot contest for the Executive Presidency more than twice. Therefore if you want to remain in power, you need to change the existing Executive Presidential system to an Executive Prime Ministerial system.
Your Excellency the Prime Minister, you returned from Washington to a hero's welcome by your fellow countrymen. This gave you an assurance that the mandate for peace, people of Sri Lanka gave you at the last general election still remains. Therefore you took a tough stand with the President and told her that you cannot proceed with the peace process unless the three ministries the President took over are handed over to you. You also have rejected the President’s idea of forming a National Government of Reconciliation and Reconstruction.
Your Excellencies, as a result of both of you taking an uncompromising stand on resolving the power struggle between the two of you, the Norwegian facilitators have put on hold their facilitation, until both of you settle the dispute between yourselves. This has plunged your country into an uncertain future, which is going to cost your country a lot. Now under pressure from the international community and especially due to the influence of the Sri Lankan business community, both of you have agreed to work out a way to run the government with consensus between both of your sides on major issues such as the ethnic issue. Both of you have agreed to try this with the help of a committee elected by both of you. However, your Excellency the President, you have now given an ultimatum of December the 15th to reach this innovative way of running the government. Your Excellency the President, although you have not stated what you will do if an agreement is not reached by that time, it is obvious that you will try to dissolve parliament and call for a general elections. This is why you decided to form an alliance with the Marxist party, the JVP now, which is the third major Singhalese party in parliament. You were reluctant to form an alliance with the JVP all this time, because of their controversial economic policies, their anti-European sentiments and their opposition to share power with the Tamils.
Your Excellencies, both of you had got the mandate from the people to find a peaceful solution to the Tamil problem. Your Excellency the President, you received this mandate in 1994 presidential elections. You not only failed to fulfil the aspirations of those elected you but also pursued a “War for Peace” strategy and led a bloody military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which failed miserably.
However, your Excellency the President, you proposed a new constitution in 1995 to change the unitary system of government to devolve powers to the regions as your way of settling the Tamil problem. Your Excellency the Prime Minister, you were in the opposition in parliament then and you opposed it, complaining that the President is trying to give away too much to the Tamils. Now after more blood letting and economic diasters your government is trying to settle things with the LTTE with a Federal system of government. Your Excellency the President, because this proposal is favoured by your rival Prime Minister, you are now opposing it saying that what the LTTE has proposed as an Interim Self-Governing Authority will lead to partitioning of the country.
Your Excellency the President, in your 1995 draft new constitution didn't you propose to give the Regions the powers of taxation? Didn't your proposal allow the Regions to domestic and international borrowing? Didn't it allow for a Regional Police Service headed by a Regional IGP? Didn't it specify that State land and its alienation or disposal was to be a Regional Power? Didn't it talk about a High Court in every Region? If you agree to these, then what is the big concern you are raising now about the LTTE's proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA)? How can you justify ISGA as the cause for your concerns? Don't you see some hypocrisy in the concerns you are raising now about the ISGA?
Your Excellencies, for the last 10 years the political future of Sri Lanka was in the hands of both of you. Both of you have demonstrated very clearly that none of you have come out of the notorious political syndrome that has existed from the time of independence in your country. That is the lack of much needed political bipartisanship, which is needed in handling key issues the country is facing. Not only the bipartisanship was lacking, but also the party in opposition has been always undermining the government's attempt in resolving any major issues, mainly the ethnic issue. Although both of you were childhood playmates, both of you have demonstrated that you are not in anyway inferior to the Senanayakes, Senior Bandaranayakes, Jeyawardane and Premadasa in political bickering.
Your Excellency the President, you have called on all the party leaders to put the country first when you called them to form a Government of Reconciliation and Reconstruction. Are you prepared to set an example to these leaders? Your behaviour during the last few weeks does not seem to demonstrate this.
Your Excellencies, time is running out for your country to make use of this last opportunity to keep your country in one piece. The International Community has done its part and watching both of you for them to decide what to do next. Therefore in the name of that almighty, I appeal to both of you to put an end to the political bickering and put your country first, talk to each other and go into the history as great leaders who changed the course of Sri Lanka's future, rather than as leaders who paved the way for the division of the country.
May that almighty lead you and guide you in the days to come.
Dr. Victor Rajakulendran
Hon. Jan Peterson, State Secretary, Norway
Hon. Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London
Hon. Javier Solana, Secretary General, EU
Mr. Colin L. Powell, Secretary of State, US Department of State, Washington DC
Ms. Yoriko Kavaguchi, Foreign Minister, Japan
Hon. Alexander Downer, Minister Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia
Mr. Yasusi Akashi, Japan Special Peace Envoy to Sri Lanka, Japan
Posted November 26, 2003