Sri Lanka: The Untold Story, Chapter 49

No confidence in the president

by K T Rajasingham, ‘Asian Times,’ Singapore, 2002

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), though they were isolated and hunted down in India, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, they were the determining force of the political agenda in Sri Lanka.

“As a consequence of these 15 months of war, we have impressed upon the government of Sri Lanka that, they cannot impose military solutions on our problem,” said Velupillai Prabakaran, the leader of the LTTE.

This was in reply to a question posed by Chris Morris of the BBC, on September 1, 1991: “Can you tell me what you have achieved by the last 15 months of war, when thousands of Tamils and thousands of Sinhalese have been killed, what has the LTTE achieved as a result?”

Other questions from the BBC included:
Q: Your critics in Sri Lanka say that despite the formation of your political wing, the LTTE is primarily a ruthless military organization. Can you hope to play any political role in the future?

Prabakaran: We have a political wing; it is a massive political structure, which has been involved in a variety of activities. In particular, the political organization runs our civil administration in the north and east. They are involved in food production, they are involved in relief and rehabilitation work, social services; and the political organization is also looking after the problem of the refugees. In every aspect, in all facets of social life, our political organization is deeply involved. So the accusation that, we don’t have a political structure, and we are simply a military organization, is untrue.

Q: There have been various attempts in the last few months to reopen some form of a dialogue between the government and the LTTE. What do you think are the chances anything along those line succeeding in the coming months?

Prabakaran: We have always been prepared for peaceful negotiations. But, we have always insisted and continue to insist, that there should be talks without conditions.

Q: In a broader sense, in your personal opinion, do you think that there is a chance for Tamils and Sinhalese to co-exist peacefully in the future, within a united Sri Lanka?

Prabakaran: It is up to the Sinhalese people and the Sinhalese politicians to determine whether we can live in this island peacefully as one people. As far as we are concerned, the Sinhalese people should first of all recognize the very basis of the Tamil national question. In other words, the Tamil homeland, the Tamil nationality, and the right of our people to self-determination. If these basic principles are recognized, then there is a possibility for unity between the Tamil and Sinhalese people.

Prabakaran’s war mongering went on unabated, which was equally matched by the flurry of antagonistic epithets unleashed by the armed forces of Ranatunge Premadasa, the President of Sri Lanka.

The President’s integrity and the dedication of his cause to maintain the wholeness of Sri Lanka never came under any degree of suspicion, until such time his own cabinet colleagues alleged to his mental and physical infirmity.

In a notice given to parliament for a vote of no confidence against Premadasa, the signatories averred that, the President was permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office by reason of mental or physical infirmity.

This was a resolution against the Head of the State, signed by more than 127 Members of Parliament, out of whom, a few of the most important signatories were Gamini Dissanayake, a senior member of the United National Party, but he was not a minister in the cabinet at the time of signing the stricture against the President. Then again, there was Lalith Athulathmudali, formerly deputy Minister of Defense and the Minister of National Security during the administration of J R Jayewardene’s tenure of the office as President and he was also the Minister under President Premadasa, until the time of the news of the no confidence motion was made public officially.

In August 1991, the dissident MPs were instrumental in the presentation of a resolution signed by more than half the Members of the National State Assembly (Parliament), to impeach the President, under Article 38 of the constitution. It was handed over to the Speaker, M H Mohamed, who had the discretion of whether or not to entertain it. He was compulsorily required to do so, only if it bore the signatures of two-thirds of the members.

According to the constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, enacted in 1978, and according to Article 32 (2), any Member of Parliament may, by a writing, addressed to the Speaker, give notice of a resolution alleging that the President is permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, by reasons of mental or physical infirmity or that the President has been guilty of:
(i) Intentional violation of the constitution
(ii) Treason
(iii) Bribery
(iv) Misconduct or corruption, involving the abuse of the powers of his office, or
(v) Any offence under any law, involving moral turpitude
and setting out full particulars of the allegation or allegations made and seeking inquiry and report thereon by the Supreme Court. (b) No notice of such resolution shall be entertained by the Speaker or placed on the Order Paper of the Parliament, unless it complies with the provisions of the sub-paragraph (a) and
Such notice of resolution is signed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of Members of Parliament, or such notice is signed by not less than one-half of the whole number of the Members of the Parliament, and the Speaker is satisfied that such allegation or allegations merit inquiry and report by the Supreme Court.

(c) When such resolution is passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of the Members, (including those not present) voting in favor, the allegation or allegations contained in such resolution shall be referred by the Speaker to the Supreme Court for inquiry and report.

(d) The Supreme Court shall, after due inquiry, at which the President shall have the right to appear and to be heard, in person or by attorney-at-law, make a report of its determination to Parliament, together with the reasons therefore.

(e) Where the Supreme Court reports to Parliament that, in its opinion the President is permanently incapable of discharging the function of the high office, by reason of mental or physical infirmity or that, the President has been guilty of any other allegations contained in such resolution, as the case may be, Parliament may by resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of Members (including those not present) voting in its favor remove the President from office.

Out of the total number of 225 members of parliament, the UNP had 135 members and the opposition put together had less than the required numbers needed as stipulated in the constitution to file a no confidence motion to impeach the President. It was told that nearly 47 members of parliament from the ruling United National Party, including G M Premachandra and Lalith Athulathmudali, two cabinet ministers, signed the impeaching motion.

The impeachment motion had further resolutions other than the foremost allegation of his inability to discharge the functions by reason of permanent incapability by reason of mental or physical infirmity. According to the motion, the resolutions stated, that the President has:
1. Violated several provisions of the constitution whereby the powers of parliament and of the cabinet have been undermined;
2. Given direct orders to the secretaries by-passing their ministers;
3. Engaged secretaries to obtain confidential reports on their ministers.
4. Endangered the security of the state by arming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and sending off the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) without considering military aspects.
5. Resorted to unlawful telephone tapping including the telephones of the ministers;
6. Engaged in wasteful expenditure including Gam Udawa celebrations;
7. Established a one-man dictatorship colloquially referred to as “one man show”.

On August 28, Speaker M H Mohamed informed the President that he had decided to entertain the resolution in terms of Article 38(2)(b). It was learnt that the copy of the notice itself was not sent to the President.

When the communication of the Speaker arrived, a cabinet meeting was in progress. Two of those who were subsequently alleged as dissidents, Lalith Athulathmudali, who was Minister of Education and Higher Education and G M Premachandra, who was Minister of Labor and Vocational Training, were present in the cabinet meeting. At the cabinet meeting, a vote of confidence in the President was called for and those ministers present and they unanimously expressed their support for the President, by a show of hands. It was alleged that two petitioners who voted in support of the President did so, without disclosing that they had signed the resolution.

A motion apparently with the “required number of signatures” had been submitted to the Speaker and he had “entertained” it somewhere in late August, 1991, under Art 38 (2) of the constitution. It was known that a lengthy list of charges had been prepared against President Premadasa. Two days later, on August 30, 1991, the President prorogued parliament until late September.

According to the constitution Article 70 (1) the President may, from time to time, by proclamation summons, prorogue and dissolve parliament:
(3) A proclamation proroguing parliament shall fix a date for the next session, not being more than two months after the date of the proclamation. Provided that at any time whole parliament stands prorogued, the President may by proclamation:
(i) Summon parliament for an earlier date not being less than three days from the date of such proclamation, or
(ii) Subject to the provisions of this article, dissolve parliament.

But according to Article 70 (1) ( c ) subject to the provisions of sub-paragraph (d), the President shall not dissolve parliament after the Speaker had entertained a resolution complying with the requirements of sub paragraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph (2) of Article 38, unless:
(i) Such resolution is not passed as required by sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph (2) of Article (38)
(ii) The Supreme Court determines and reports that the President has not become permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office or that the President has not been guilty of any of the other allegations contained in such resolution;
(iii) The consequent resolution for the removal of the President is not passed as required by sub-paragraph (e) of paragraph (2) of Article 38; or
(iv) Parliament by resolution requests the President to dissolve the parliament.

However, the President unheeding of Article 70 (1) (c) chose to prorogue parliament as a blatant measure to meet the challenge posed by the opposition and a section of his own ruling party members to impeach him. It was said that President Premadasa was initially shaken by the impeachment motion, but on the face of it, he was very defiant and prepared himself to face the challenge. With the help of a few able and trustworthy associates, he made moves to outmaneuver the opponents. One of his tactics was to appeal the support of the Muslims and the Tamil parliamentarians. By September 1, the Members of Parliament from the minority ethnicity – Tamils and the Muslims – extended their support to the President.

Meanwhile, according to Rohan Gunaratna, “It is now understood that the RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) operatives in the Indian High Commission, summoned pro-Indian Tamil militant groups with representation in parliament and requested them not to support Premadasa.” – Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka – page 466.

On September 3, nearly 116 members of the Government Parliamentary Group presented to the Speaker of the parliament in writing, dated August 30, 1991, regarding the resolution for the removal of the President stating, inter alia as follows:
“We write to hereby inform you that, we do not support the said resolution. Those of us who have placed our signatures do hereby withdraw and revoke our signatures and consent thereto.” They also proceeded to request the Speaker not to place the resolution on the Order Paper. On September 2, the same members passed a vote confidence in the President. This document also contains a statement that the interested parties had obtained the signatures of certain government and opposition Members of Parliament, through misrepresentation and deceit.

After the prorogation of parliament by the President, which was alleged by the opposition parties as “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional”, there were frantic behind the scenes maneuverings, coercions and threats. An unprecedented mud slinging campaign was unleashed by the government via the post, print and electronic media.

Parliament was summoned on August 24, 1991. President Premadasa addressed parliament and said that he had acted constitutionally.

The following day, the Speaker, M H Mohamed, who was under constant threat and had been intimidated from the very day he entertained the no confidence motion, announced in parliament that, subsequent to written and oral representations made to him, questioning the validity of the signatures to the resolution, he would convey his decision “later”. Two weeks after, on October 8, the Speaker announced to parliament that having inquired into the matter he was of the view that the notice of the resolution did not have the required number of valid signatures and hence he could not proceed with it. Srimavo R D Bandaranaike, then Leader of the Opposition, made a statement questioning the validity of the Speaker’s verdict. She argued that, the explanation of the signatures not being valid constituted a serious breach of privilege. Following this ruling, the key players of this game were “honored” with promotions. The number of ministers, ministers of state and ministers not in the cabinet etc was increased to 96.

Meanwhile, on August 30, a press conference was held at which Lalith Athulathmudali and Premachandra were present. They were asked how it was possible for them to have subscribed to the unanimous expression of confidence in President Premadasa at the previous Wednesday’s cabinet meeting (August 28). Athulathmudali told the pressmen that, they had signed the impeachment motion only after the cabinet meeting and it became clear according to the newspaper reports that, they resigned from the cabinet on only August 30, 1991.

Subsequently, the UNP rebels commenced a public campaign. The dissidents, anticipating disciplinary action against them by the United National Party and subsequent expulsion from the party, on September 5 they instituted action in the District Court of Colombo, for the declaration of an injunction against their expulsion from the party. But on September 6 they were refused relief by the District Court.

Before the petitioners went before the Court of Appeal for relief, the Disciplinary Committee of the UNP met the same evening (September 6) and recommended the expulsion of the rebels from the party. Thereafter, the Working Committee of the UNP met and the resolution for the expulsion of the eight UNP rebels were passed. The UNP dissidents recommended for expulsion were:
1. Lionel Gamini Dissanayake – he held office as a cabinet minister up to March 1991.
2. Gamlath Mohottige Premachandra – was a cabinet minister up to August 28, 1991.
3. Lakshman Pinto Jayatilleke Senivaratne – a minister of state
4. Chandrasekera Gankanda – a project minister
5. Lalith William Athulathmudali – a cabinet minister up to August 28, 1991.
6. Kasadoruge Vincent Perera – Member of Parliament for the district electorate of Kegalle.
7. Samaraweera Weerawanni – Member of Parliament for the district electorate of Badulla
8. Premaratne Gunasekera – Member of Parliament for the district electorate of Colombo.

It must be noted that, all the eight dissidents were Members of Parliament elected on the United National Party list, in the previous parliamentary general elections of February 1989. The resolution of the Working Committee of the UNP recited that, the President was the ex-officio leader of the party; that the eight dissidents were bound by the party constitution and had been elected to parliament on the party list; that in the District Court proceedings they had admitted signing the notice of the resolution for the removal of the President; and then set out grounds of expulsion thus:

“And whereas, the signing of the aforesaid resolution, together with several Members of the Opposition in parliament, is an act of betrayal of the party membership and the confidence placed by the people in the party and its leadership at successive elections.

“And whereas, after the Hon Speaker had informed the President that he had entertained the said notice of resolution under Article 38 (2), Messrs G M Premachandra and Lalith Athulathmudali had in addition deliberately misled and deceived the cabinet of ministers, on the August 28, 1991, into believing that they were ignorant of and were not associated with the notice of the resolution by joining the rest of the members of the cabinet in passing a unanimous vote of confidence in the President by a show of hands individually.

“And whereas, the aforesaid eight members have signed the said notice of resolution, without any prior intimation to the party, or raising or discussing the same within the party organization, or in the government parliamentary group. “And whereas, the said eight members had at the general election of February 1989, sought and obtained nomination on the list of the United National Party and the voters had elected them to parliament on the basis and understanding that they were members and candidates of the United National Party, who accepted the leadership of the party and the executive presidential system of the government, and therefore bound to adhere to the party manifesto and the party constitution and the policies whilst being representatives of the party in parliament.

“And whereas, it has been and continues to be the principles and policy of the United National Party, that the government of the country should consist of an executive president elected by the people and an elected parliament.

“And whereas, the aforesaid members have since the giving of the said notice of resolution to the Speaker, repeatedly announced in public that they are against the elected executive presidential system, had also used as a cover to cause insult to injury to the character, integrity and ability of the leader of the party, in his capacity as president of this country.

“And whereas, the aforesaid acts have all been done by the said eight members, without first raising the said issues within the party organization or the government parliamentary group, as is required by the party constitution and conventions.

“And whereas, the disciplinary committee has on the basis of the aforesaid recommended to the working committee of the party organization that disciplinary action be taken against the eight members for their flagrant conduct in violating the constitution, conventions, policies and procedures of the party.

“And whereas, the working committee having considered the aforesaid conduct and actions of the said eight members and the recommendation of the disciplinary committee has come to the conclusion that, these members have manifestly and flagrantly and in disregard of the party discipline, duties and responsibilities, breached the conditions of membership of the party, acted contrary to the principles and policies of the party, repudiated and violated the constitution and conventions of the party and brought the party and its leadership into disrepute and held it up to the public ridicule.
“The working committee accordingly resolves that the aforesaid eight members be expelled from the membership of the United National Party, with effect from September 6, 1991. The working committee further resolves that the general secretary of the party notifies to the secretary general of parliament and the commissioner of elections of the expulsion of the aforesaid eight members.” According to the constitution of the country, Article 99 (13):
(a) “Where a Member of Parliament ceases, by resignation, expulsion or otherwise, to be a member of a recognized political party or independent group on whose nomination paper (hereinafter referred to as the relevant nomination paper) his name appeared at the time of his becoming such Member of Parliament, his seat shall become vacant upon the expiration of a period of one month from the date of his ceasing to be such member.

“Provided that in the case of expulsion of a Member of Parliament, his seat shall not become vacant of prior to the expiration of the said period of one month, he applies to the Supreme Court by petition in writing, and the Supreme Court upon such application determines that such expulsion was invalid. Such petitions shall be inquired into by three judges of the Supreme Court who shall make their determination within two months of the filing of such petition. Where the Supreme Court determines that the expulsion was valid the vacancy shall occur from the date of such determination.”

Meanwhile, the national executive committee of the UNP endorsed the decision of the party working committee to expel all the eight party dissidents. By letter dated September 1991, each of the dissidents was informed that he had been expelled with effect from September 6, 1991, by a decision of the Working Committee.

Subsequently, the eight petitioners invoked the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under a provision of Article 99 (13) (a) of the constitution. In this case, Dr M C M Kaleel – first respondent, chairman of the UNP; B Srisena Coorey – second respondent, general secretary of the party; K Ganeshalingham – third respondent, general treasurer of the UNP’ the fourth respondent was the United National Party, located at “Sri Kotha”, 400, Kotte Road, Pittakotte, Sri Jayawardenepura, and the fifth respondent was Nihal Senivaratne, the secretary general of parliament.

Each of the petitioners sought the determination of the Supreme Court that his expulsion from the membership of the UNP communicated by the letter dated September 9, 1991, under the hand of the second respondent was invalid.

The petition came up for hearing in the Supreme Court before Justice Fernando J, Justice Kulatunga J and Justice Wadugodapitya J.

The main grounds on which they challenged the expulsion was that none of them had been given notice of the charges against them or an opportunity to state their case prior to the Working Committee decision.

H L De Silva, President’s Counsel (PC), M L M Ameen PC, Neville De J Senivaratne, R K W Goonasekera, E D Wickramanayacke, Ranjan Goonaratne, S L Cunasekera, Gomin Dayasiri, Neil Dias, Ranjith Fernando, Mahendra Amarasekera, Dhamsri Fonseka, T M S Nanayakara, S T Jayanaga, Nigel Hatch, Upul Jayasooriya, Mangala Ranarajah, Nalin Dissanayake, Ian Fernando and H B Madumabanda were the counselors appeared for the eight petitioners. K N Chokshy PC, S C Crosette Thanbiah, Daya Pepola, S J Mohideen, D H N Jamaha, Lalith W Jayawickrema, A L Brito Mutunayagam, Ronald Perera and Lakshman Ranasinghe appeared for the respondents.

SC (Special ) Nos 4-11/91 case decided on December 3, 1991. Justices Fernando, Kulatunga and Wadugodapitiya were in agreement that the conduct of the dissidents was a breach of party discipline entitling the party to expel them. In the words of Justice Fernando, “All political parties seeking mass support need to be cohesive; this requires internal unity and loyalty. To attain their objectives they need to be effective, problems and conflicts have to be internally resolved. These are features common to all groups … Collective responsibility and confidentiality are not artificial rules but practical norms essential for proper functioning.”

Nevertheless the judges were also agreed that the failure to give the dissidents notice of the charges against them and a chance to state their case would normally constitute a breach of the principles of natural justice that, would vitiate the working committee decision. It was argued on behalf of the party that the urgency of the case and the flagrancy of the breach made these requirements redundant. Justice Fernando in his dissenting judgement said that, the expulsion of the petitioners Lionel Gamini Dissanayake, Lakshman Pinto Jayatileke Senivaratne, Chandrasekera Gankanda Kasadoruge Vincent Perera, Samaraweera Weerawanni and Premaratne Gunasekera as invalid.

He further added that, the expulsion of petitioners Gamlath Mohottige Premachandra and Lalith William Athulathmudali was valid. Justice Kulatunge in his judgement said, “I determine that the expulsion of each of the eight petitioners in these applications (Special) Nos 4-11/91 was valid. In the result I dismiss their applications. These proceedings have raised constitutional questions of public or general importance for the resolution of which the parties have contributed. In the circumstances, I make no order as to costs, each party will bear his costs.”

Justice Wadugodapitiya said, “I have had the benefit of reading the judgement of my brothers Mark Fernando J and Kulatunga J. They have narrated in quite some detail, the fact pertaining to these eight applications and the events that led up to the filing of these applications. In both judgments the narration is comprehensive and accurate and I must say that I have nothing to add. “I have also considered very carefully, the reasoning and the conclusions in both judgments and would agree with those of my brother Kulatunga J in the result. I would determine that upon consideration of all material presented before us , the expulsion of the petitioners SC (Special) was valid I accordingly dismiss all eight applications. I make no order as to costs. Each party will bear his own costs.”

By a 2-1 majority (Kulatunga and Wadugodapitiya JJ) the Supreme Court upheld the expulsions. They came to this decision principally on the ground that the expulsions did not take effect until the Supreme Court had given the parties a hearing and hence the procedural defect at the working committee stage could be remedied at the court hearing. They also held that in the circumstances it did not appear that the petitioners had any serious intention of appearing before the working committee to explain their conduct.

Justice Fernando dissented, holding that the circumstances permitted at least a short period of notice to be given so as to afford the petitioners a chance to explain their conduct and also urge mitigation of punishment. Given the fact that parliament was under prorogation, effectively suspending any further steps on the impeachment motion, it may be argued that this was the better view, since the requirement of procedural fairness is a cardinal principle and applies irrespective of the merits of the case. (Fernando J upheld the expulsion of Athulathmudali and Premachandra on the separate grounds that they had deceived the cabinet.)

Despite their divergent views on the facts, all three judges were agreed that, the jurisdiction of the court under Article 99 (13) was neither appellate nor that of a reviewing body, but rather an original jurisdiction permitting it to look into the merits of the case.

Meanwhile, earlier on June 21, 1991, a LTTE bomb wrecked the headquarters of the Joint Operation Command (JOC) in Colombo. The bombing killed 30 and injured over 100 men, women and children, mostly bystanders. After a long search, on July 3, the police approached one Varathan as the LTTE militant responsible, but when he saw the policemen approaching he committed suicide by taking cyanide.

Earlier the indomitable Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa assumed command on July 12, 1990 as General Officer Commanding. He conducted operations against the Tigers on a systematic basis. Phase I of his operations was conducted between July 14, 1990 and September 31, 1990. This operation was carried out solely to protect the lives of army personnel in the war zone. The Phase II of his plan was from October 1, 1990 to March 31, 1991. Unfortunately, according to an army spokesman, the required troops were not made available to the North to carry out operations during this period.

Suddenly, the emphasis in the war changed from the North to the East. Additional troops were made available to the East. This left General Kobbekaduwa to manage with whatever meager resources that were available to protect some of the isolated army camps, besides providing protection to threatened villages by the LTTE. He took action to enlist more men to the Guards Battalion, which was renamed later as the National Guard and carried out an intensive training program for them. Phase III of the overall plan of General Kobbekaduwa fell within April 1, 1991 and October 1991. During this period a few infantry battalion were made available to him from the East. During this period the LTTE surrounded Silavathurai and Kokkupadayan army camps, which were approximately three miles apart, with the intention of overrunning them.

The Sri Lankan troops under General Kobbekaduwa repulsed the challenge and it was subsequently reported that the Tigers lost 488 men in the operation. According to an LTTE transmission overheard by the Sri Lankan army intelligence, 155 dead bodies were left behind by the LTTE. Furthermore, according to army report, 18 soldiers were killed, four reported missing and 20 seriously wounded. During Phase III, numerous operations were launched by the Sri Lankan armed forces against the LTTE in the North. “Operation Tiger Chase” was launched in the Adampan, Parapaikadanthan and Arippu areas in Mannar. According to an army report, 84 LTTE militants and 18 soldiers were killed during the operation. This was followed up with “Operation Brush Up” in Vavuniya, clearing Puvarasankulam on the Vavuniya-Mannar road. In this operation it was reported that 173 Tamil militants and 11 soldiers were killed. Also, Denzil Kobbekaduwa was forced to launch “Operation High Tide” to save the Karainagar naval base. Sri Lankan troops cleared the entire Karativu island, having killed 60 Tigers, while 23 soldiers were killed.

“Operation Wanni Wickrama: I and II” was a major operation launched north of Vavuniya. Military camps were established at Kokilai and Nochchimoddai located north of Vavuniya. Troops advanced up to Omanthai and destroyed a LTTE camp in the jungle. In Wanni Wickrama II troops destroyed LTTE camps in Pandivirichchan, and the Sinna Thampannai areas along the Vavuniya-Mannar road. Denzil Kobbekaduwa in a statement said that during the Wanni Wickrama II operation, 520 Tamil militants and 44 soldiers were killed.

Meanwhile, posters were put up in Colombo and in the south declaring that General Kobbekaduwa would be the next president of Sri Lanka. Again, in 1992, at a May day rally, people carried posters calling on Kobbekaduwa to be a presidential candidate. Thereafter, several Buddhist monks met the General and persuaded him to contest.

Parliamentary opposition parties attempted to build him up as a presidential candidate, should Srimavo Bandaranaike decline to contest.

Meanwhile, in February 1991, an air force officer had told General Kobbekaduwa that a plan had been hatched to kill him and that there was a group in Anuradhapura to carry out the task. Kobbekaduwa’s headquarters were in Anuradhapura. The General had even told his wife about the plan to kill him by some unknown forces.

According to reports, General Kobbekaduwa was very popular among the border villages, where Sinhalese predominated. Newspapers that had given him much publicity suddenly stopped making reference to him or writing about him. It was suspected that Premadasa intimidated the press to do so. It was rumored that President Ranasinghe Premadasa was afraid that the general would enter politics and he foresaw that Kobbekaduwa had all the attributes to be an electoral winner. While the political fortunes of President Premadasa were fluctuating, on November 4 the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SARC) foreign ministers met in Colombo and the summit conference of the heads of states was scheduled for November 7, but was called off when Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao failed to participate.

Subsequently, Colombo accused India of sabotaging the seven-nation SARC summit, but India denied any such intentions and the summit meet was rescheduled for December 21 as a one-day business meeting in which Rao participated. The summit was hosted by the Sri Lankan President.

Next: Chapter 50 – Death of a military hero

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