Sunday, January 31, 2010

Loosely structured stories of conspiracy in Sri Lanka

(January 31, Colombo - Lanka PolityThe opinion builders linked to Sri Lanka government is lacking common sense as seen in many of the stories propagated by them. 

This was seen in the story of arms deals of the former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka and in the bribery drama of government coalition MP Muzammil. 

However, the story of Fonseka exposing Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on war crime charges was better written by Fredrica Janz, an experienced journalist.

Latest example is the story of opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka hatching a conspiracy to overthrow the government. 

We are not experts in these subjects but any person with common sense can raise doubts. Following are the patches of this loosely structured story. 

  • Why didn't Fonseka do this when he could do it more easily as the victorious commander-in-chief of the Army?
  • What is the relation between booking rooms in a star hotel and the conspiracy? 
  • What happened to the 400 army deserters that were in the hotel rooms?
  • What happened to their weapons said stacked in a hotel room?
  • How did they escape with weapons while an Army contingent had surrounded the hotel? 
  • The President said that there was a conspiracy to kill him and his family. Why the hell is the said perpetrator is still free?

Many more questions can be raised. This script is still being built up unfortunately by unsound writers. 

Apparently, the government is applying severe pressure on the war veteran in democratic politics to make him decide to flee the country. 

Victor finishes the defeated in savagery. In democracy, the loser also must have a chance to compromise or to continue the fight. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Newspaper sealed in Sri Lanka

(January 30, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lanka government under the President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was swept to the office for the second term with an overwhelming majority sealed an opposition newspaper office today.

Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said to have taken a court order to enter the newspaper office, sealed the office and a journalist attached to the newspaper meanwhile said that CID officials at the scene had said to Daily Mirror that the premises were being sealed off because an article published by the newspaper posed a threat to national security.

Lanka Truth, a sister website of Lanka newspaper said that the officials said they took the steps on powers they have been bestowed with under Prevention of Terrorism Act.

President's brother and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said to The Divaina Sinhala newspaper yesterday that an article published in Lanka insulted him.

The editor of the newspaper Chandana Sirimalwatta was arrested by CID yesterday when he reported to give a statement on the request of the CID.

Journalists expelled, arrested, disappeared and media institutions sealed in post-election Sri Lanka

(January 30, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lanka government has taken strict measures to control media. Press offices have been rounded, sealed, raided and one journalist is disappeared since January 24. Prageeth Ekneligoda, a freelance journalist and cartoonist disappeared and his whereabouts are yet to be known.

A body that floated in the Kelani River today was later identified as one of a disabled man who committed suicide. The family and friends of Ekneligoda were alarmed of the news but breathed a temporary sigh of relief later.

Lanka-e-News, a pro-opposition website was rounded by a group yesterday and the staff found was illegally sealed by this morning.

CID raided the office of the 'Lanka' Sinhala weekly today and the editor of the newspaper Chandana Sirimalwatta that went to the CID was detained for grilling regarding an article published in his newspaper. Defense secretary and President's brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said to Divaina Sinhala newspaper that an article in the latest issue of Lanka newspaper insulted him.

In the latest development, the government cancelled visa of a Swiss Public Radio journalist that angered Minister Susil Prema Jayantha, the secretary of the ruling coalition at a press conference questioning about the election malpractices.

The German language journalist Ms. Karin Wenger, 30, who is based in the Indian capital, New Delhi, said on Friday that the Sri Lankan immigration service had cancelled her accreditation since February 01, which was originally valid until February 17. A spokesman for the radio said no reasons had been given for the expulsion.

Photos: Lanka editor Chandana Sirimalwatta (above), Prageeth Ekneligoda (below)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Is Sri Lanka ruling party divided over executive presidency?

(January 29, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka ruling party appears divided regarding abolition of executive presidency. The non-cabinet Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abewardhana, a dissident of the opposition United National Party wants the support of the opposition to abolish the executive presidency. But the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party secretary and Minister of Agriculture Maithripala Sirisena, a contender for the post of Prime Minister in a future government says that abolition of the executive presidency is non issue following the ruling party victory in the presidential.

The Sri Lankan government is government is prepared for a constitutional amendment, if the opposition extends assistance, Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said.

Addressing a media briefing in Colombo today, the Minister said the government seeks the support of the opposition to change the constitution and requested the opposition to express their willingness to the government's proposal within the next week.

If the opposition does not agree, the government is prepared to dissolve the parliament and to seek a two thirds majority for a constitutional revision, he said.

One of the main constructional reforms demanded by the opposition is to abolish the executive presidency which requires two-third majority in the parliament. The other major issues are the current gargantuan cabinet, solution to the ethnic conflict and the appointment of commissions implemented by the 17th amendment. (

SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, MP, yesterday said that the abolition of the Executive Presidency could no longer be an issue as the people had overwhelmingly rejected the joint Opposition’s vow to do away with the executive powers.

Responding to The Island query, at the first post-presidential poll press conference at the BMICH, the Agriculture Minister said that clipping the presidential wings had been the main campaign slogan of the UNP-JVP combine though they turned a blind eye to its appeal.

He said that in light of the extraordinary victory achieved by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Tuesday’s poll, the abolition of the executive presidency could not be a panacea for all ills as claimed by the UNP-JVP combine. It was a mandate to continue with the existing presidential system of governance.

Sirisena, who is widely believed to be one of the ruling party politicians, who had been high on the LTTE hit list, emphasised that the war effort would have failed if the ‘enemy’ destabilised the country by manipulating the Parliament. Minister Sirisena said that he did not want to ridicule Parliament though it was no secret what was going on for some time.

He said that the President had effectively used executive powers to resist foreign intervention in support of the LTTE. (

abolishing of the executive presidency was the major slogan of the opposition president candidate Sarath Fonseka who was defeated by a wide margin according to official presidential results.

Idiaminization and de-democratization in Sri Lanka

(January 29, Colombo - Lanka PolityThe post-war Sri Lanka has moved into a post-presidential Sri Lanka. Main stream media is highly defensive in reporting and some pro-opposition media outlets are facing severe challenges. 'Lanka-e-News' website was illegally sealed by a group yesterday, said the staff that went there to report to duty. Criminal Investigation Department visited the office of 'Lanka' newspaper run by People's Liberation Front (JVP) and the editor is asked to report for recording a statement regarding an article related to Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka has sought asylum in foreign soil while claiming the government has blacklisted his passport. The government says he plotted to assassinate the ruling family. The plot described by the Director General of the Media Center for National Security seems very naive. Booking hotel rooms and arresting of several Army personnel said to be deserters do not provide gullible evidence. However, no legal action is taken. Why? 'I don't know why?' a famous Sinhala song says. 

State media continues vilifying the opposition candidate. A term that can be coined to introduce this campaign is 'idiaminization' i.e. portraying Fonseka as Idi Amin. But this Idi Amin won the confidence of at least 40% of those who voted at the presidential. 

We used the phrase 'at least' since Fonseka claims victory alleging government subtly manipulated the result. The major media in Sri Lanka today is gossip and a wide spread opinion is observed regarding rigging the election based on rumors spread island wide. The opposition leaders too repeat the gossip and no concrete fact is produced to prove the allegation so far. No authority either local or international is ready to admit the allegation that is not backed by concrete evidence. 

Anyway, people will lose confidence regarding elections and democracy if the politicians allow the rumor to consolidate. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sarath Fonseka letter to Sri Lanka Elections Commission

(January 27, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Excerpts of a letter by Gen Sarath Fonseka to Sri Lanka's Elections Commission, following his defeat in the presidential poll. The letter has been translated from Sinhala.

Dear commissioner of elections. Before and after handing over the nomination papers, President Rajapaksa's election campaign has made great use of state resources.
Further, there have been threats, intimidation and accusations levelled against me. Many of my supporters were intimidated.

The government engaged in a campaign abusing state media and state resources to accuse me of being a foreign agent and a traitor.
Further, 10 security force personnel provided to me as a result of serious threats to my life were withdrawn.


They were allowed to stay until after the election after your intervention. However, after the results were announced, this morning they were called back to the army police unit.

When they left to report at the army police, under the orders of the head of the army police unit, they were arrested in front of the hotel I am staying in, handcuffed and ordered to kneel down on the street.
I have also received information that the government is planning to arrest me.

The army personnel who are stationed in front of the hotel also tried a few times to forcefully enter the hotel.
I humbly request you to order the inspector general of police and other appropriate authorities to take appropriate security measures to protect my life and to protect my freedom of movement

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Conservative Sri Lankan polity vote to be grateful instead of change

(January 27, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa is in the path of a massive victory in the presidential for his re-election. Pre-election malpractices like misuse of public property and the election day violence and blockade of Tamil votes also seem not affecting the end result.

Minority communities have voted against Mahinda Rajapaksa. But the majority Sinhala community voted him overwhelmingly.

Common opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka could not attract voters despite his pledges to alleviate corruption, to introduce good governance, rule of law and democracy. People eventually voted for the appeal of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be grateful for defeating the Tamil's violent liberation war.

People completely disregarded the allegations against the Rajapaksa regime over mass scale corruption, nepotism, waste, high cost of living, taxes etc.

It is not clear what will happen to the expectations of the minority communities for a political solution for the long standing ethnic issue.

The hotel the opposition common candidate Sarath Fonseka and his supporters stay is surrounded by pro-Rajapaksa troops. Rajapaksa regime has vowed to sue against him on various charges including treachery.

Sri Lanka Presidential; opposition candidate likely to be arrested

(January 27, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Soon after the first result of the presidential of Sri Lanka was out, the following news was posted in a local website.

A large group of Army personnel encircled Trans Asia Hotel a short while ago and are carrying out checking on the foreign and local guests in the hotel, say reports.

According to reports the raid is being carried out assuming apolitical Common Candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka is residing here.

As a result of the raid the guests in the hotel have been subjected to great inconvenience say sources.

Another pro-Fonseka website reported that the raid is carried out by a group led by a Major of the Army Special Forces. The troops have arrived the scene in two trucks and three motorcycles.

Our sources say that Sarath Fonseka and his supporters are staying in this hotel. 

In the postal votes results released so far Rajapaksa is ahead. Postal votes are cast by public servants and security forces members who are on election duty.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The result of the presidential of Sri Lanka needs to be rejected

(January 26, Colombo - Lanka Polity) It is a dire need to reject the result of the 2010 presidential of Sri Lanka irrespective of whomever the winner. 
Polls rigging and violence can be less in Sinhala dominated areas. The ruling party lacked support for polls rigging at the grassroots level. There were people to vote to Rajapaksa but few were ready to engage in violence before a probable loss.  
However, the government which was launching a racist campaign for the President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the final week was unashamed to block transport to the Northern Province internally displaced persons to travel to their villages to cast their vote. There was a rumor earlier that most of the buses permitted to ply on the newly opened A-9 highway either belonged to a senior government official with political patronage or paying ransom to him. Anyhow, the buses pledged for the IDPs to travel to Jaffna have been mysteriously disappeared, says opposition member of parliament Vijitha Herath. The MP was even detained by police for few hours as he attempted to address the voter grievances and solve the transport issue. Many more frauds of this sort can be expected to be reported in the coming hours. 
However, real rigging took place prior to the election. The President and his campaigners were daring to break all election regulations and to manipulate almost all the public property for Mahinda Rajapaksa's campaign. This went on to the extent that the Election Commissioner also had to annul the mandate of the competent authority he appointed to monitor state media. Ministry secretaries and other department heads disregarded more than 100 circulars issued by the election Commissioner. The poor public official eventually lamented about the situation and said he would resign following the presidential poll. 
Amidst this situation too, the election is so tense that opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka has a chance to win. Although, Mahinda Rajapaksa wins the election, he needs to achieve at least 60% of votes to proclaim it a real victory since he manipulated all state his powers to block the opposition.
This election is not a fair one in any sense. We, as democratic citizens of this country need to reject its result irrespective of whatever the result. We need to fight for free and fair elections. Elections of this sort must be rejected. The perpetrators of the malpractices must be brought to books and their civil rights should be suspended.

We will get a substantial vote to fight both reactionary camps - Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne

(January 26, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Common Left Candidate Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne of the Left Front contesting under the Table symbol in his Election Day address said that he is confident of obtaining a substantial vote that will enable to mobilize against both camps.

In a video address Dr. Vickramabahu said that the combined votes Tamil Presidential Candidate MK Shivajilingam who represents Tamil Liberation along with him who represent the left and the proletariat will get a vote for a “progressive liberationist force prepared to fight back”.

He emphasized the need to build a force that will fight against global capital and Sinhala chauvinism represented by Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka.

“If we can mobilize a progressive liberationist force prepared to fight back, it will enable us to play a big role in the coming period regardless of whoever becomes the president,” he said.

Dr. Bahu explained how both Rajapaksa and Fonseka are reactionaries fighting to be agents of global capital in Sri Lanka with the aid of Sinhala chauvinism.

While pro capital politicians like Rohitha Bogollagama together with Sinhala supremacist JHU and Wimal Weerawansa are fortifying the Rajapaksa camp, Dr. Vickramabahu pointed out that the Sinhala extremist JVP along with Buddhist monk politician Dambara Amila Thero have joined Ranil Wickramasinghe who tows the western agenda to reinforce the Fonseka camp.

“We need to fight both camps that are equally reactionary,” said Bahu.

In order to do so, Dr. Bahu emphasized the need of voting on the 26th of January presidential election for him and Shivajilingam to combine both Tamil liberationist and left wing forces in the fight for democracy, self rule and self determination.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What a President are we going to re-elect in Sri Lanka?

(January 25, Colombo - Lanka Polity) January 22nd dawned with the news of a bomb explosion in the house of Sri Lanka opposition activist Tiran Alles. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ally Wimal Weerawansa was quick to say that it was a conspiracy of the opposition to beg for sympathy votes. But yesterday Alles spoke to media and said he wanted to make an exposure since there is a threat to his life.

Alles said he witnessed President's brother Basil Rajapaksa who is an appointed MP and an adviser of the President now giving Rs. 180 million in cash to a leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) in his presence under the guidance of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The grant was an appreciation for the LTTE to lead a boycott of Tamil votes in the 2005 Presidential. Mahinda Rajapaksa, backed strongly by Sinhala chauvinist elements was able to deprive the victory of the opposition candidate Ranil Wickramasinghe thanks to this boycott that prevented Tamils expressing their conscience. LTTE reportedly bought boats with these funds and later used them to kill many Navy personnel and to transport deadly weapons.

Alles, who was a close ally of Mahinda Rajapaksa during his 2005 Presidential campaign defected from the ruling alliance later and he had to face terrorism charges later. He says he revealed all what he knew to the Terrorist Investigation Department of Police to be recorded by them. Embarrassed police later released him without framing charges.

The President was saved of being sued for breach of trust regarding tsunami aids received from abroad thanks to the official impunity of the Presidency under Sri Lankan law. His governance is ill-famous for corruption from top to bottom and his extended family is alleged of amassing huge wealth through corrupt deals.

However, the President is a hero among many Sri Lankans that belong to the majority Sinhala community due to the war victory against Tamil nationalist liberation movement. He, together with his brother Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, present opposition presidential candidate ex-Commander of Army Sarath Fonseka and other service commanders led the state forces supported by the public to totally annihilate the Liberation Tigers.

But Rajapaksa failed to lead the reconciliation process in post-war Sri Lanka. No political process was initiated. However, his regime was in an illusion that they are to rule the country for many years ahead until the long lasting democracy produced a powerful contender for his post. The nation was on the verge of the patience regarding corruption, bad governance, dictatorial rule and anarchy.

The 2010 presidential is the tensest political battle in the history and it is also earmarked as the most corrupt one. The President was shameless to manipulate each and every public property for his propaganda campaign and the opposition was deprived of all opportunities he could block. However, the tide is so high against the President and he is likely to lose the post irrespective of how corrupt the election is.

Sri Lanka needs a leader that can lead the post-war reconciliation. The President needs to fight corruption and to introduce good governance, democracy and rule of law. The President must restart the political process to seek permanent solutions for the woes of the minority communities.

Opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka has pledged a good life. He is also a man with a questionable past. However, he has been able to muster the support of many who need a change in the system. However, we have to wait to see if the vote will express the sentiments for a change. 

(Photo: Emil Kanthan, the LTTE leader that obtained money from Basil Rajapaksa, according to Tiran Alles, posing with President's son Namal Rajapaksa)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A frame for non-partisan intervention for a State Cultural Policy and institutional process directed to the well being of the people

- Dr. Sunil Wijesiriwardena
This draft may be seen as an extension to the longstanding discourses initiated by us through the Vibhavi – Centre for alternative culture in 90s, and later through Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts, and as a response to discourses initiated within last 4-5 years by organizations such as November Movement and Heritage Initiative, as well as by leading artistes and scholars like Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, Parakrama Niriella, Prof. Sivathamby, Prasanna Vithanage, Lakshman Gunasekara, Nirmal Ranjith devasiri and recent progressive interventions to the public discourse by prominent artistes and cultural critics such as Chandragupta Thenuwara, Jagath Weerasinghe, Dharmasena Pathiraja, Rajitha Dissanayake , Saumya Liyanage , Gamini Viyangoda, Piyal Kariyawasam, Kaushalya Pranandu, Chandana Aluthge, Priyantha Kaluarachchi, Namal Jayasinge, K.Gnanadas and many other younger artistes and cultural activits.

*Speaking generally and considering the fact that culture has been universally claimed as constituting a fundamental and inalienable sphere in the total human development , and,

*Speaking specifically and considering the fact that our country is presently engulfed in a serious crisis of civilization, recovery from which can only be achieved through renaissance and empowerment of the society which must draw the essential strength from the development and transformation of its cultural-spiritual life;

We draw attention to the following facts regarding the cultural affairs of the country in relation to the state.
The Problems we see
It is our observation,

  1. i) that no vision , objectives , hence and overall policy has been formulated for the last sixty years for a proper and adequate participation by the State in the cultural field,

  2. ii) that successive governments of all hues have displayed an incredible insensitivity and apathy towards this area,

  3. iii) that since its inception the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has operated within a very narrow perspective and framework of activity in terms of subject area,

  4. iv) while its operation from the very inception also has been very problematic, as it failed in meeting basic criteria of social justice and social harmony, has been an added factor behind major post-colonial social conflicts rather than a support for conflict transformation, hence social well-being,

  5. v) specially this situation can be seen both as facet of failure of post-colonial Nation Building project and one of its underlying factors,

  6. vi) and that politicians in power have constantly and continuously misused the state cultural institutions for their individual and party interests,

  7. vii) and specially that the total cultural life of people has been permitted to be exposed to the wanton mercies of the unregulated forces of the liberal market , blocking the possibilities of development and empowerment of a socially responsible citizen and collective life of people in explicit and implicit ways,

  8. viii) This situation is seen created by,

ultimate destruction of whatever traces left from the Public Broadcasting tradition in the country, mainly by giving state media away to the mercies of commercial capital and partisan power politics,
paving way for total commercialization of the cultural production area of country, as no policy has been formulated and no institution has been set up to guarantee availability of any public funds in this sector, and
last but not least , by de-linking the vision and objectives of education with needs of social well-being, nation building and ethnic harmony and in overall, with the need of fashioning a modern citizenry with necessary spiritual -cultural development.

In the aforesaid problematic background, the character of the State cultural Policies and the nature of activities of State cultural institutions which are maintained by public funds are determinants in the correction of the above unsatisfactory state of affairs, and for the development of a cultural processes throughout the country , that should be directed at the end of the day to the welfare of the people.
The conclusion to be drawn from the above said factors is that an important part of basic human needs in relation to general well-being of people , collective identities and freedom, and , if to look at from a rights based approach, an equally important area of fundamental rights of the citizens of this country, are being continuously violated. It is also then clear that although the State of Sri Lanka has been a signatory to the Geneva International Covenant and to many other such international agreements related to the Right to Culture and Cultural Rights, it has not up to now acted with least resolve to fulfill its obligations

What we propose

We propose that all the central and regional governing bodies should take this area as a crucial area related to the development of the country; it is needless to say that a special responsibility devolves on the government in power; First of all the status of the Cultural Ministry has to be upgraded making it a centrally important agency in the government affairs , making sure that it will be led by a person with due intellectual abilities and personal integrity . It also should be equipped with adequate human and intellectual resources and economic strength.
Addressing governing bodies we also wish to resolutely emphasize that speedy steps should be taken to device institutional processes based on a comprehensive policy frame, and planned and correct strategies designed to ensure the cultural-spiritual welfare of the people while taking into account the contemporary national and international politico-economic context, its problems and challenges.
Special emphasis should be made to transform cultural dimensions of social violence that encompass many areas of social life. Related to this it also should be emphatically noted that there is an array of harmful cultural practices prevailing in the country, to which not only policy makers, but even the majority of the educated public is blind. One can see such practices, which are harmful to the wellbeing of individuals and the society as a whole, within social relationships linked to deep structures like gender, cast and generation. Needless to repeat that the State has been totally blind to the reality of cultural diversity of the country, hence state functions and national celebrations conducted by the State usually seen as spaces that marginalize or exclude certain sections of Sri Lankan people.
First of all the government should formulate a State Policy frame in collaboration with concerned professional cultural bodies and cultural workers. We give here some important guidelines for such a policy development .

  1. Issue; Lack of vision , comprehensive cultural policy and monitoring mechanism; In Developing an overarching comprehensive policy on culture, in terms of goals , focus should be directed to two inter-related issues;

v Total human development (as against prevailing narrow and socially harmful concepts of ‘development’) and,
v Building of Sri Lankan Nation.
It seems, this task could be achieved only by establishing a multi-sectoral cultural taskforce comprised of experts, relevant stake holders including civil society representation with close coordination and cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Ministry Mass media, Ministry of Cultural affairs.

  1. Further, in the formulation of a National Cultural Policy and the determination of the strategies of its implementation , the diversity of urban-rural , Gender and Generation , as well as of Ethnic and other cultural groups and the diversity of their cultural needs should be taken into account. Special emphasis should be made here on the need in rebuilding and renewal of the cultural institutions and spaces destroyed by the war. Critical knowledge about problems attendant on and opportunities provided by the current globalization processes should be considered absolutely necessary. In essence the protection of the general rights of citizenry to cultural achievements of the country ( Right to the culture), as well as the specific cultural rights of communities and as a part thereof, the right to artistic achievements and the right to access and enjoyment of the best achievements of artistic endeavor should be ensured and opportunities provided to all citizens of Sri Lanka as a fulfillment of the responsibility of the democratic state.

  1. Issue; Lack of adequate institutional process to develop infrastructure supporting artistes and arts , including arts education;. In order to elevate and uplift from its present sorry state , The Arts Council which, among the many State cultural institutions , should be the foremost , in its capacity and potential to fulfill the country’s requirements pertaining to development of diverse arts fields ; it is absolutely necessary to strengthen its mandate and structures , broaden its scope of work and most importantly restore and safeguard its autonomy. If this is to happen , it will be essential to pursue a positive course of action both democratic and transparent at every level of its life.

  1. Further to the Issue No.3; Lack of public funds to support the arts and culture, and relevant infrastructure and specifically to meet the needs of country’s arts production. Under this most important issue, pursuing important goals such as Cultural enrichment, promoting inter-cultural harmony and developing socially relevant arts production and securing wellbeing of artists it is compulsory to set up a public agency for fundraising and establish a National Cultural Endowment for the arts. This agency could be an autonomous body or may function under the Arts Council as it is practiced in some of the commonwealth countries. While fulfilling this task , it is also important to fight against the feudal patronage practices by politicians who are used to buy out artistes for their ends by giving ‘privileges’ to a selected few. Thus the unethical , closed and unsystematic disbursement of financial and other forms of aid and assistance to artistes by the Cultural Ministry /or by other government sources should be abolished. Instead, as recommended here , a systematic plan and transparent method for financial and other forms of assistance should be instituted for the benefit of artistes, art institutions and communities. It should be emphasized that State has an obligation to ensure adequate flow of public funds to the area of arts production.

We do not at this point delve in to the existing area of cultural industry dependent solely on the commercial capital. We believe that once the foundation for healthy , socially responsible arts and cultural production is laid, and powerful cultural processes are underway, the commercial area cultural production and its market would automatically undergo transformation which would be beneficial to the arts and artistes.

  1. Issue; Politicization of institutions dealing with arts and culture; The cultural institutions run by the State and their activities should not be subjugated to the ends of power politics, but fulfilling the State’s obligation to ensure full-fledged activity on their part , the maximum State assistance should be made available to them. In doing so, the proportional importance of the cultural component in the total development process should be taken into account in the allocation of funds by the State. Two important institutions that have been greatly suffered by this problematic situation are Film Corporation and Tower Hall Foundation.

With an aim to free the Tower Hall Foundation from narrow political control and for making it an institution which is amenable enough to entertain the variety and promoting the excellence of the dramatic and theater arts, The Tower Hall Theater Foundation act should be amended and adapted to suit the times and needs of the nation.
With regard to Film Corporation and cinema field , there have been reasonably good surveys done and reports with recommendations drafted, ( for instance Prof. A.J. Gunawardena report) if to chart a more relevant to the existing needs enlightened course

  1. Issue; Inequitable access to achievement of culture; With the aim of converting to practical reality the protection of the right to culture of every citizen , no matter where s/he resides, cultural action should be arranged in the provinces under the guidance of Arts Council or whatever autonomous institute of national standing is established in its place. For this purpose , the Cultural Centres which are presently inactivated or idling due to lack of funds, proper planning and direction should be renewed and be made nucleus of cultural action in the provinces. Their activities should be planned and conducted with close collaboration of the artistes , intellectuals and other cultural workers of the localities, there by establishing People’s Cultural Forums as a major player in the provincial and national cultural action. However we recommend here to set up a central Coordination and Training Centre that would serve the needs of the network of provincial Cultural Centers under the Arts Council. It would also probably be a wise step to establish a network of mini-theaters (that would function both as mini cinema halls and theater stages) at provinces , managed possibly by provincial councils or independent community bodies, that would serve as an income generating projects for given community.

  2. Issue; Non-inclusion of major elements of Sri Lankan culture in State functions, institutional processes, and celebrations ; In Recognition of the diversity and pluralism of Sri Lankan culture , and hence with the aim to support an inclusive process of building Sri Lankan nation , it is clear the problematic exclusivist signs prevalent in State functions, institutional processes, and celebrations have to be erased. Solution here is to amend protocol/procedures for State functions, institutional processes, and celebrations to include the diverse nature of the Sri Lankan cultures.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Alarming Abuse of State Media Ahead of Sri Lanka Elections

(January 23, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is greatly concerned that state-owned media in Sri Lanka has acted with extreme partisanship in the run-up to the country’s presidential election on January 26.

This contravenes a ruling from the country’s highest judiciary and is in defiance of the directives of the Commissioner for Elections.

The IFJ learns with alarm that the Commissioner for Elections has cancelled the mandate of the “Competent Authority” designated to monitor compliance with basic norms of fairness in all state-controlled media institutions during the election process.

He has also announced his intention to resign after the election, following widespread defiance of his rulings by government agencies.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s principal opponent, Sarath Fonseka, asked the Supreme Court early this month to order state-owned media to follow basic norms of fair coverage. The direction was issued but has been unheeded.

At the same time, there have been increasing reports of violence breaking out in the course of the election campaign, with media personnel targeted by both sides.

“With polling day just four days away, it may be too late for state-owned media to correct the biases in a manner that would make a meaningful difference,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

“But we do expect the President to explicitly disavow the blatant partisanship that the state-owned media has exhibited and to distance himself from the violence that has been inflicted on media personnel.”

The IFJ’s recently released report of a press freedom mission to Sri Lanka recommends among other things that specific norms on fair and non-partisan coverage for the presidential elections be implemented well before polling day.

Sri Lanka’s five main professional bodies of journalists also petitioned the Government to enforce such a code of conduct well before the election.

“The IFJ regrets that these perfectly reasonable democratic demands have gone unheeded,” White said.

“Unfortunately, the conduct of state agencies provides little room for a mood of truth and reconciliation to prevail after the elections are concluded.”

To read Key Challenges for Media after War’s end: Report of the International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka, click here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The phase of extreme violence begun in presidential campaign of Sri Lanka

(January 22, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The much anticipated most violent phase of Sri Lanka's Presidential began this morning with the spread of the news of bombing the house of opposition activist Tiran Alles situated in close proximity to the Colombo city limits. Alles was unhurt although his house and the vehicle were badly damaged.

Alles is a wealthy businessman and an activist of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (People's Wing) led by break away ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera. He is the son of the respected founder principal of D.S. Senanayaka College. He contributed the presidential campaign of Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005 before he lost favor and subjectd to repression. He was kept in custody under terrorism charges. Mawbima, a popular Sinhala newspaper run by him was forced to close by Rajapaksa.

Couple of days ago, government campaigner Vimal Weerawansa spoke of an opposition ploy to get themselves bombed to win the sympathy votes. With this statement, many anticipated the begining of the extremely violent phase of the presidential in which President Mahinda Rajapaksa is facing the risk of losing to his ex-Army chief Sarath Fonseka.

The battle is so severe that the government is using almost all public property in addition to violence to prevent the defeat. In the past week, the government ordered the public schools to hold parents' meetings and the people's representatives of the ruling coalition adressed the parents and asked to vote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa blatantly violating the election regulations.

The government is shamelessly manipulating public media and other assets in support of one candidate and the breaking of law is fathomless as the President's brother Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Navy junior officer President's son Yoshitha Rajapaksa who are public servants that have no rights for politics are also adressing propoganda meetings of Rajapaksa.

Most of the actions of the government  display the fear of losing. An opinion poll conducted by pro-government lecturer of Mass Communication in Kelaniya University Dr. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa pointed to the loss of popularity of President Mahinda Rajapaksa by 13% within two weeks. In the first opinion poll publicised by state media on January 08, Rajapaksa was likely to win the presidential with 73% of votes. The result of the latest poll was that only 60% said that the next President should be Mahinda Rajapaksa for the well being of the country.

Our observation is that Rajapaksa still has a chance to win but not with such unbelievable majority. But he should have obtained at least 60% of the votes to proclaim victory in a presidential that is most corrupt in the history due to the illegal and unethical state support to one candidate.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Police repression directed against Left Front

(January 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Comrade Manikasothi, the electoral agent in Jaffna for Common Left Candidate Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne has been arrested by police while distributing the election manifesto of the Left Front.

Com. Vickramabahu says that this is a clear demonstration of police repression directed against Left Front, whereas both candidates Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka are allowed to carry on their publicity without hindrance.

This is the second time during the run up to the election where a representative of Dr. Vickramabahu was arrested by police in Jaffna.

Earlier, Dr Vickramabahu's representative Dharmasiri Lankapeli, the only Sinhala speaker addressing the gathering at LTTE leader V Prabhakaran's father's funeral was also arrested and later released due to local and international pressure.

The full statement by Comrade Vickramabahu on Thursday is given below

My election agent comrade Manikasothi was taken into custody by the Chunnakam police station for distributing my election manifesto.

The police Officer In Charge has given the lame excuse that the leaflet has not indicated the printer though Manikasothi has clearly indicated his name and address in the leaflet. Subsequently he was taken to jaffna hospital unnecessarily .

The JMO has refused to inspect as there was no complaint of assault or any other ailment. Then he was then taken to courts.

This is another example of police repression directed at us .

Both Mahinda and Sarath distribute leaflets freely as they want.

State media turned into presidential propaganda outlets

(January 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Flouting a 15 January supreme court ruling, state-owned TV stations Rupavahini and ITN continue to openly favour President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign to win another term in the presidential election to be held on 26 January with a total of 21 candidates taking part.

Detailed monitoring by Reporters Without Borders has established that 98.5 per cent of the news and current affairs air-time on these two stations on 18 and 19 January was given over to the president and his supporters. This violates the constitution, above all its seventh amendment and article 104 (b) empowering the electoral commission.

“Alarmed by Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy, President Rajapaksa and his followers are using and abusing all of the state’s resources to get the president reelected,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The TV propaganda is deafening and the figures we are releasing today are worthy of the Burmese or North Korean regimes.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We urge the supreme court and the electoral commission to use all the powers at their disposal to force Rupavahini and ITN to come to reason. This glaring media imbalance shows that the incumbent is benefiting from an advantage that is unacceptable in a democratic election.”

The Reporters Without Borders monitoring on 18 and 19 January found that, of a total of 472 minutes and 5 seconds of news and current affairs air-time on Rupavahini and ITN, Gen. Fonseka and the other opposition candidates were granted only 7 minutes and 50 seconds, or 1.6 per cent, while the president, his government and his party were granted 465 minutes and 25 seconds, in other words, nearly eight hours of air-time in just two days.

On ITN, one had to wait until the 7 p.m. Sinhalese-language news programme for coverage of opposition activity (Gen. Fonseka for 30 seconds, the UNP for 40 seconds and the JVP for 45 seconds), while President Rajapaksa got 3 minutes on the 9 a.m. programme, 2 minutes on the 10 a.m. programme, 4 minutes 45 seconds on the noon programme and 4 minutes 20 seconds on the Tamil-language programme at 6 p.m.
Rupavahini is giving the government an overwhelming air-time advantage. In the 8 p.m. Sinhalese-language news programme on 18 January, for example, the government got 8 minutes and 30 seconds and the president got 7 minutes and 10 seconds, while Gen. Fonseka, the UNP and the JVP got a combined total of just one minute. And it is deplorable that the twenty or so other candidates are totally ignored by the state media.

Granting so much time to propaganda on behalf of the incumbent is not new. On 11 January, for example, Rupavahini carried a live broadcast of President Rajapaksa’s election programme launch that lasted one hour and 15 minutes.

Even if some privately-owned media are campaigning openly for the opposition or are giving more space to the activities of all the candidates, the extremely biased coverage on the main TV stations is having an undeniable impact on the campaign. Meanwhile, Sirasa TV, a privately-owned station based in Colombo, has not resumed its independent style of coverage since it was attacked by gunmen in January 2009.

The coverage imbalance is being accompanied by a smear campaign against Gen. Fonseka, the former army commander, in certain pro-government media, prompting him to write to eight newspapers requesting apologies for articles he regards as libellous. And the website of the defence ministry, which is headed by the president’s brother, is openly campaigning against him.

Control of the state media has become crucial to the election campaign. The Commissioner of Elections has issued several reminders about the rules requiring balanced coverage and tried to introduce a Competent Authority to monitor the TV stations, but the president’s office resisted. The supreme court’s ruling has also been ignored.

The president and his allies have abused other state resources in the course of the campaign. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, for example, forced all mobile phone operators to send SMS messages signed by President Rajapaksa to all their clients, while soldiers have been seen putting up the president’s election posters.

Cases of intimidation and violence against the media have also increased. Thakshila Dilrukshi, a journalist with the BBC’s Sinhalese-language service, was hospitalised after being attacked by supporters of a minister in the central city of Polonnaruwa on 13 January. Her equipment and personal effects were stolen during the assault, which occurred after she covered a clash between Rajapaksa and Fonseka followers.

The Colombo-based Sunday Leader, outspoken weekly, was raided the same day by police bearing a warrant who claimed to have been tipped off about the printing of "defamatory" posters.

Freelance journalist Jude Samantha was assaulted while covering clashes between government and opposition supporters on 16 January in Madurankuliya, in the western district of Puttalam.

Reporters Without Borders issued an appeal for calm in early December, after the first incidents:,35277.html

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is the opposition presidential candidate of Sri Lanka a crony or an unrejectable to West?

(January 19, Colombo - Lanka Polity) We re-publish this AFP report that was posted from Washinton since it is an insight into the diplomatic mindset of the US-led Western block. Sinhala nationalists backing Mahinda are trying to manipulate this story to portray Sarath Fonseka as a cronie of West to muster support to Mahinda Rajapaksa who appears as an anti-Western hero that is close to the states like China, Burma, Iran and Libya etc.

Sri Lanka vote raises hopes in Washington
WASHINGTON — Sri Lanka's upcoming election is raising hopes in the United States for better relations after a chilly spell if the island turns the page on a bloody war that brought international opprobrium.
The January 26 election comes months after troops killed the top leadership of the Tamil Tigers, ending their ruthless decades-long separatist campaign but also triggering accusations of human rights abuses.
Asked if the election could change relations with Washington, a senior US official said: "It already has changed the dynamic in a positive way."
"A lot of the progress we've seen in the last two months or so is contributable at least in part to the election," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Sri Lanka has recently moved on key international concerns including releasing thousands of Tamil civilians who had been held for months in rudimentary displacement camps.
The US official was upbeat about pledges made by Fonseka including greater media freedom and independent commissions to oversee the judiciary and other key institutions.
"I'm hesitant to make predictions about the future, because candidates promise all sorts of things and then they don't deliver, but certainly General Fonseka has been making some good pronunciations," he said.
But the United States has strongly denied allegations made by one ruling party legislator that it is funding the opposition.
Some Sri Lanka watchers in the West -- and especially the Tamil diaspora, which has been instrumental in pressing for a harder line on Sri Lanka -- are deeply ambivalent about Fonseka.
Fonseka, who holds a US green card, escaped questioning by US authorities about possible war crimes during a November visit after Sri Lanka summoned the US ambassador to protest.
"Fonseka would not be the US's first choice as president but if he wins it would at least open the door for a better US relationship," said Robert Oberst, a Sri Lanka expert at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
"His whole association with the military is what tarnishes him in part. If there were war crimes committed, he obviously knew about them and was involved," Oberst said.
Sri Lanka increasingly distanced itself from the West as it came under fire for its human rights record. It has built ties with China and Iran and last year hosted Myanmar's reclusive military leader Than Shwe.
But Asoka Bandarage, an associate professor at Georgetown University and author of the book, "The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka," doubted the former British colony would turn to Western rivals except out of economic necessity.
"I don't think that even ardent Sinhala nationalists would want Sri Lanka cut off from Western influence and that longstanding connection," she said.
The US official also believed Sri Lanka saw good US ties as a "long-term interest," noting that Western nations were the key market for its exports such as garments and tea.
Tamil diaspora activists have also seized on the economic dimension, launching a campaign urging a Western boycott of the island's products.
In one racy video under the slogan "No Blood for Panties," a muscle-ripped man undresses an impassioned young woman only to lose the mood when he discovers her underwear is made in Sri Lanka.
"There is really no fundamental choice between General Fonseka and Rajapakse because both were instrumental in launching this military offensive against the Tamil community," said Tasha Manoranjan, whose group, People for Equality and Relief in Sri Lanka, is running the boycott campaign.
"I think the day after the election there will no longer be any concern for the Tamil people," she said.
Yet some in the Tamil diaspora, where Mahinda Rajapakse is a loathed figure, are willing to give Fonseka at least a chance.
"The Tamil diaspora wants Mahinda to be defeated," said David Poopalapillai, national spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress.
"The climate would change and the rays of hope would come. It would bring some change in the country in the political climate," he said.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Systematic erosion of democracy and democratic institutions and the emergence of a semi-authoritarian system

(January 18, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The Lawyers for Democracy (LfD) says that it has witnessed a systematic erosion of democracy and democratic institutions and the emergence of a semi-authoritarian system of government due to the concentration of all political powers of the State in the hands of the executive President under the present Constitution, who exercises such power arbitrarily and without accountability, usurping the powers of Parliament and the cabinet of ministers, which has resulted in the,
i. Subversion of the democratic rights of the people of Sri Lanka with impunity, by the assassination, abduction, assault and directing threats to the lives of media persons who refuse to tow their political line;
ii. Branding lawyers who represent individuals, associations and organizations representing dissenting views and trade union leaders, and other individual dissenters in society as ‘traitors,’
iii. Undermining of the cause of justice, and due process of the law and procedure by politicizing the quasi-judicial office of the Attorney-General, the Police Department, public administration, state controlled media institutions and also by attempting to influence the independence of the judiciary,
iv. Violation of the Constitution, with impunity using the parliamentary majority procured and sustained by un-democratic means,
v. Corruption, Waste and misappropriation of public funds, by-passing the legal provisions undermining the sovereignty of the people,
vi. Violation of the basic rights and fundamental freedoms of the free citizens who have been displaced by the armed conflict ( including children, women the disabled and the sick) by detaining them in camps depriving them of their basic minimum needs, and generally,
vii. Violation all tenets and norms of democracy and good governance namely, accountability, transparency and the rule of law.

LfD further states, "Since all appeals and requests made to the incumbent President by various organisations and concerned individuals in this regard have been treated with contempt our organisation is of the view that no purpose will be served by re-agitating the same to him.

"We therefore call upon, all other serious aspirants for the post of the President of Sri Lanka in the forthcoming election to give a resolute undertaking to the people of Sri Lanka that they will take and implement all necessary measures to immediately implementing the existing provisions of the Constitution including the 17th Amendment and then:,

i. Take steps to change/amend the Constitution of Sri Lanka in such a way, that the person holding the post of the head of the executive will, either is elected by the Parliament or answerable to the Parliament duly elected by the people’
ii. To guarantee to the people of Sri Lanka that such changed/amended Constitution of the country shall contain provisions protecting the rule of law which includes the separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and the accountability and transparency of all organs of government,

"We urge the people of Sri Lanka to elect a person who gives a clear assurance and an undertaking to fulfill the above aspirations of all the people of Sri Lanka."

Lawyers for Democracy is an organization of lawyers with island wide geographical representation committed for the establishment of, democracy, the rule of law and good governance, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in their fullness in the Republic of Sri Lanka. Following Attorneys-at-Law are the conveners of the LfD.

Lal Wijenayake
Chandra Kumarage
V. Sumanthiran
Sudath Nethesinghe
L. Jothikumar
Ranjit Wijekoon
Sujeewa Lal Dahanayake
Sudarshana Gunawardana

Sunday, January 17, 2010

25,000 irrigation systems dilapidated despite rhetoric of Sri Lankan rulers regarding boost in agri sector

(January 17, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Twenty five thousand small sized irrigation systems of Sri Lanka are in dilapidated state, a study conducted by the Ministry of Irrigation  and Water Management has disclosed.

These irrigation systems include water reservoirs, bunds and canals etc. Most of them have been used by people for centuries.

Most of the dilapidated irrigation systems are under the management of the Provincial Councils. They are vital mainly for the cultivation of rice, the major staple food of Sri Lankans.

The nationalist government of Sri Lanka has launched a programme under the theme 'Let us grow and develop the country' to boost the production of food and to curb the imports. The President and the Ministers were seen in paddy fields for several minutes of photo shoots in the hyped propaganda. However the outcome of this programme is questionable as the import of essential food items escalated sharply while the programme is underway in full throttle.

In November 2008, the Minister of Trade, Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Cooperative Development Bandula Gunawardhana said to the parliament that Sri Lanka imported 90% of its milk powder needs while justifying the high import taxes stating they are for the upliftment of the local milk farmer.

The import of food items like potato, onion, chillie and sugar have increased rapidly under the present government, the Minister said. For instance, in 2005 Sri Lanka imported 89.6 of its sugar consumption. In 2008, the imports rose to 92.7%.

At the moment, Sri Lanka is facing a severe rice shortage and the prices in the markets are unbearable to most of the people in the low income groups.

However, Sri Lanka government boasts of providing fertilizer subsidy to the farmers, the only remarkable service rendered by the government levying high taxes from the people.

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