Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Mahinda – the Man and his Mission

By M. Nadarajan

Unlike most politicians who stand for election to the highest position in the land, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who claims a political life of over 35 years, issued the Mahinda Chintana (translated as thoughts) instead of a Manifesto. His thoughts or his musings was unusually long, running into over thirty pages.

Before one votes for a person one would like to know what type of a man he is. Rajapakse became the Prime Minister virtually by default. When the SLFP –JVP coalition, the UPFA, which was formed against the wishes of President Chandrika, narrowly won the general elections of 2004, the question of who should be the Prime minister came up. The previous SLFP Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, had lost his seat and was not even nominated in the National list. He was eventually nominated in the National list after a pliant nominee resigned. Anura Bandaranaike (aka the Clown Prince), the President’s brother, wanted the job, but the coalition partner, the Marxist JVP wanted the position to go to the pseudo-Tamil, the late Mr. Laxman Kadir Gama. The JVP did not like Mahinda since he was a southerner and competes for the same votes as they do. There was opposition to Kadir Gama’s nomination and Mahinda got the job by default.

Chandrika did not even go the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the SLFP, of which she was President, and the JVP. When a journalist asked her views on the MOU, she said she was opposed to it and remarked that the JVP would get in and cause the downfall of the SLFP. When asked why then they signed the MOU, she said “You should ask that from the Central Committee (of the SLFP).” Mahinda was appointed Prime Minister partly to spite the JVP, and partly to spite the young Turks, including Chandrika's own brother, who supported the MOU. She did not get along too well with her Prime Minister. Eventually the JVP left the coalition and sat in the opposition.

Chandrika tried to stay on as President till the end of 2006 under the premise of having taken a secret oath administered by the Chief Justice without the general public knowing about it! Eventually the same Chief Justice gave a decision in a case filed by the National Bhikku Party (the JHU) that the term of office of President expires at the end of 2005. (Yes, in Sri Lanka the Buddhist priests contest parliamentary seats and a few of them have won). This caught the President unawares. She did not have time to maneuver.

Chandrika, as President of her party, the SLFP, as well as President of the Central Committee, nominated Mahinda as the Party’s candidate for the position of President and her brother Anura as the Prime Ministerial candidate should Mahinda win. She extracted three main promises from Mahinda, in addition to consenting to Anura being Prime Minister. The first was to follow the policies of the SLFP. The second was to go ahead with the so-called P-TOMS agreement signed between the government and the LTTE establishing a mechanism, pressured by the International Community, to jointly work on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of tsunami-affected areas in the rebel-held areas. The third was to continue the peace process and attempt to solve the ethnic problem on the basis of federalism. Mahinda agreed to all of them. Mahinda himself submitted the P-TOMS agreement in Parliament for approval, and was not opposed to the Peace Process started by the previous government under Prime Minister Ranil and approved by Chandrika. In 2003 Mahinda had supported a federal solution to the Ethnic problem.

At this point it is well worth pointing out something about the JVP. This Marxist anti-US party, which was also initially anti-Indian, carried out two insurgencies, once in 1971 and again in 1989. The insurgencies were put down with the help of Indian armed forces. The JVP killed numerous members of the families of the armed forces, and others at will.

The JVP was so anti-Indian that they killed traders selling goods of Indian origin. It is estimated that during both insurgencies over 60,000 persons were killed. The JVP's leader, Rohana Wijayaweera, was eventually captured and killed. It should be mentioned here that, in the case of this insurgency, the governments of the day did not resort to indiscriminate carpet bombing, shelling villages from the land and sea, destroying schools, residences, hospitals, and schools in the areas occupied by the insurgents, unlike what they have done in the fight against the Tamil LTTE.

The JVP also killed Vijaya Kumaratunga, the husband of President Chandrika. Rohana Wijeweera’s brother-in-law, who is still a member of the JVP overseas, recently issued a statement that he had evidence that Somawansa Amarasinghe, now in exile in the UK, (but currently illegally in Sri Lanka) and Wimal Weerawamsa , MP and Propaganda Secretary of the JVP in Sri Lanka, were the two persons who went to kill Kumaratunga and that it was Weerawamsa who pulled the trigger. Dr.Kumar Rupasinghe, at one time an official of Amnesty International, has filed action in the Sri Lankan courts that Amarasinghe was guilty of various crimes including robbing banks, robbing jewelry, killings, etc.

The JVP also have been very extreme chauvinistic Sinhalese Buddhists, and against any compromise with the Tamils.

When the President was in New York recently, Mahinda met with the JVP, with all its attributes, and agreed to sign a MOU with them, based on over twenty items brought up by the JVP, most of which were contrary to the policies of the SLFP. This was despite his prior agreement with the President at the time he was proposed as the presidential candidate. Can you trust such a man?

In addition, Mahinda also negotiated with the JHU. Mahinda, who started, as the SLFP Presidential candidate, is now the UPFA candidate.

The President reminded Mahinda of his promises to her and nominated herself as the Chairperson of the Central Committee, which was to write the manifesto that was to reflect SLFP policies. Mahinda went ahead with signing a MOU with the JVP and got himself nominated as the Chairman of the Committee formed to write the Manifesto. He issued a “manifesto” approved by the Central Committee. He did not call it the SLFP manifesto, but the " Mahinda Chinthanaya."

Chandrika was only sent a copy of the “Chintanaya” after its approval. She was furious and castigated Mahinda in a letter. She found that there had been a “Palace Coup” and most of her erstwhile supporters had deserted her. Anura, who was the SLFP candidate for Prime Minister nominated by the Central Committee, began to have worries and wanted Mahinda to give him a written undertaking that he would still be the Prime Ministerial candidate should Mahinda win. This was not done. There are already rumors that Amarasinghe or Weerawansa of the JVP would be chosen by Mahinda as Prime Minister.

There is a controversy as to whether Chandrika approved the Chintanaya. The spokesperson for the cabinet, Samaraweera, has said that Chandrika had approved it, and that fact was broadcast. Chandrika says that neither she nor the SLFP officially endorsed it. She asked Samaraweera to issue a correction, which he has refused to do. The General Secretary of the SLFP has not replied to questioning from Chandrika. She has found that the rats are deserting the lame duck president who has only a few more days in her job. She addresses election meetings only if the JVP is not present. Anura also addresses, but attends only if his sister is present. Both feel that the JVP will ‘swallow’ the SLFP. They do not discuss the policies of Mahinda nor his “Chintanaya,” only asking the people to support Mahinda.

Everyone knows that manifestos of most Sri Lankan politicians are thrown on the dust heap once they are elected. Promises relating to economic matters are made, knowing fully well that they cannot be implemented. People have got used to that. But on life and death type matters like peace and war, people expect to hear what the contestants have to say.

Mahinda has announced that 25 parties and groups support him. He says that he will establish a united approach to the peace talks. He will be a genius if he could get that many parties to agree on anything. Thinking he could do so shows how naïve he is.

The Chintanaya prepared under pressure of the JVP and the JHU contains several matters totally opposed to SLFP policies. When newsmen questioned Mahinda about this, he said that he had signed the agreements to get more votes, but what he does later is left to him. Even if he thought so, is he so daft as to mention that in public? Would the other parties or groups trust him? Would the public trust such a man?

Mahinda and people of his ilk keep repeating that territorial integrity and sovereignty will be lost if a federal type of government is installed. Is this ignorance or intellectual prostitution? Have India or the USA, or Canada (and a host of other countries) who have federal types of governments lost their territorial integrity, or sovereignty? If separation takes place, certainly territorial integrity and sovereignty is lost.

Separation was demanded by the Tamils as a last resort after what happened from 1948 to 1976. Tamils said at the 1985 Thimpu talks that, if the aspirations of the Tamil people are met, there is no need for separation. The aspirations have been spelt out and repeated many times since then.

The Chintanaya has the following statements on non-economic, but vitally important matters. I give them with my comments on each of them.

1. Preserve the unitary nature of the government. This is a No No!! After the amount of deception, discrimination, pogroms, torture, rapes, deaths (nearly 100,000, of which at least 75,000 are Tamils), and destruction, it would be naive to expect that Tamils would agree to a unitary type of government. What has happened in Sri Lanka is state terror amounting to genocide against which the LTTE is fighting. What could not be solved over a period of 57 years is not going to be solved now.

Chandrika has said that 75 % of the people are for a federal type of government. Both the major parties, the SLFP and the UNP, are agreeable to a federal type of government. The LTTE has also indicated that they are prepared to explore a federal type of government with internal self-determination. If Mahinda insists on a unitary government, he might as well forget about a solution. The LTTE is prepared to give up its demand for separation and compromise. How will the government compromise?

2.Amend the Peace agreement. Mahinda probably means the CFA. It is said that it takes two to Tango. Both sides have to agree to any amendment. It cannot be done unilaterally.

3.Review the monitoring mechanism. The same remarks as in 2 above apply.

4.Primary negotiations with all political parties, religious and civil society and associations. Also with parties not represented in Parliament. This process to be completed and a consensus obtained within three months. Does Mahinda know what he is in for? With a claim of 35 years in politics, does he not foresee the problems involved in getting such a motley crowd to arrive at a consensus on a problem that has not been solved in over 57 years? During his speeches he has said that he is prepared to meet Prabaharan, the leader of the LTTE. What has he to offer? The cat is out of the bag already. Can anybody trust such a knave?

5. Norway should be removed from the position of facilitator. After what has been happening ever since independence we need a facilitator who should be acceptable to both sides. There is so much of lack of trust between the two parties

6.Does not want international involvement. Yet, in another place he says that closer relationships will be established with the USA, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan.

7. Does not accept the concept of Tamil homelands. Wants India to be more involved in the Peace process. Does he not know that India was once involved and was responsible for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which has not been fully implemented? The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord referred to the Tamil homelands as the historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people. It also provided for an Interim Administration in which the LTTE was to have majority representation.

8. Does not accept the concept of self- determination. The UN Covenants provide for the self-determination of a people or a nation which meet certain conditions, all of which the Tamils have.

9. The LTTE must accept the final settlement and enter the democratic mainstream. How can anyone accept the final solution without knowing what it is? If the final solution is acceptable, I am sure Tamils will enter the mainstream.

10.The LTTE must disarm. This will not happen unless the final settlement is reached, the constitution changed, and laws to give effect to the changes are implemented. Quite often the laws are in place, but are not implemented. The armed forces should vacate the Tamil homelands and station only amounts similar to what the government had before 1956. It may be necessary for international guarantee of the borders of the Tamil State.

11 The P-TOMS agreement signed with the LTTE to carry out rehabilitation of the areas affected by the tsunami under the control of the LTTE, which was done some international pressure, and which he himself presented in Parliament will be abrogated. This agreement was done as a confidence-building measure between the government and the LTTE and its abrogation will be a setback to the peace process.

Mahinda has said that he would support an Indian-type of devolution. He does not understand that India has a federal type of government composed of linguistic states. It is a secular country where a person from a community which has only 2 % of the population is the Prime Minister. The flaws in the Indian Constitution are that the Governors of the States are appointed and dismissed by the Central government, and Sec.356 of the Constitution, which gives power to the Center to dismiss the duly elected Chief ministers of a states.

Mahinda and people of his ilk think that federalism is division of the country. . India is not divided. Any citizen of India can live in any state, in any part of the country. India is the country with the second largest Muslim population in the world, with Indonesia being the largest.

A long time ago I suggested to a very broad-minded and erudite Sinhalese friend of mine that the solution to the problem is federalism. He disagreed. He said, “ I am as much a nationalist Sinhalese as much as you are a nationalist Tamil. I have my country and you have your Eelam. There is no question of your taking it or someone giving it to you. You already have it. If we separate amicably as Singapore and Malaysia did, or Czechoslovakia was split into two republics, the two countries, Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam, can have a Friendship Pact, and you can visit me in Colombo and I can visit you in Jaffna! The two countries can have their own official Languages, Flags and National Anthems. Our two countries can be complimentary to each other in many ways”.