Friday, April 30, 2010

Setting up of 'Sri Lanka Sea Police'; a far-sighted decision

(April 30, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lanka Coast Guard Department has decided to set up coast guard units in each fisheries harbor of the island, said the Director of Department Rear Admiral Daya Dharmapriya.

Sri Lanka is an island that has a large sea area in its control. The country's sea is now seven times bigger than the land area and after 2027 Sri Lanka will own a sea area of 25 times of the landmass. The island has made requests to the UN authorities to claim for the sea above the continental shelf of the island and the request will be considered after 2027.

The island communities were seafarers since ancient times. However, the sea around the island was a dangerous place in past three decades since the activities of the Sea Tigers of Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam and the counter-terrorism measures of Sri Lanka Navy. Fishing was also thoroughly restricted for many years before the end of war.

But, in the post-war era Sri Lanka government seems understood the potentials of the island nation to fish prosperity from the sea around the island.

Therefore, the decision to set up a 'Sea Police' can be considered a far-sighted initiative.

The Coast Guard Department will establish main coordinating centers in Colombo, Mirissa in South, Oluwil in Ampara district, Kalpitiya and Mannar in northwestern coast, Trincomalee in the Eastern Province, Point Pedro and Punarin in Jaffna peninsula.

The Coast Guard Department is now equipped with 250 personnel and four crafts. The Director of the Department said that the proposals have been mooted to recruit 2000 more personnel to the coast guard and fast moving crafts also will be acquired.

Recently established Sri Lanka Coast Guard is not an armed force. It is considered as a ‘Sea Police’ that is empowered in prevention of smuggling, piracy, sea pollution and it is also expected to act in lifesaving, protection of property and sea species conservation in the 485000 square kilometer sea area belonged to Sri Lanka.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A corpus for Sri Lankan English

(April 28, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  In linguistics, a corpus (plural corpora) or text corpus is a large and structured set of texts. They are used to do statistical analysis and hypothesis testing, checking occurrences or validating linguistic rules on a specific universe.

Now, a corpus for Sri Lankan English is being compiled under the International Corpus of English project (ICE). The International Corpus of English (ICE) began in 1990 with the primary aim of collecting material for comparative studies of English worldwide. Twenty research teams around the world are preparing electronic corpora of their own national or regional variety of English. Each ICE corpus consists of one million words of spoken and written English produced after 1989. For most participating countries, the ICE project is stimulating the first systematic investigation of the national variety. To ensure compatibility among the component corpora, each team is following a common corpus design, as well as a common scheme for grammatical annotation.

The Sri Lankan component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-SL) is conducted by the university of Giessen in Germany, with the coordination of several Sri Lankan Universities.

As research assistant Tobias Bernaisch mentioned to Daily News, the written component of the ICE-SL is completed and the compilation of the spoken data will start in June.

'ICE-SL project is considered as the first systematic investigation of the Sri Lankan English (SLE). It reflects how SLE is actually being used by the competent speakers of it,' says Daily News adding 'This will be of immense use for investigations on how SLE is really used in various communicative contexts and will help to identify characteristics of SLE.'

A debate is ongoing among Sri Lankan academicians about the legitimacy of SLE as a separate dialect.

Michael Meyler that wrote 'A Dictionary of Sri Lankan English' highlights the need to codify standard Sri Lankan English and draw up a guide for English teachers. 'With the added advantage of taking ownership of the language, and stripping away the colonial baggage which comes with the traditional British model,' he says.

Following is what Wikipedia says about Sri Lankan English.

Sri Lankan English (SLE) is the English language as spoken in Sri Lanka.

The earliest English speakers in present-day Sri Lanka date back to the days of the British Empire, the era of Royal Navy dominance, and the British colonial presence in South Asia.

An SLE consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary and author of the book Knox's Words[1][2] notes that British readers first encountered loan words from Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) in a book published in 1681 entitled An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon in the East Indies. Words from that book became used internationally: the best known is Buddha but others include Anaconda[3], betel leaf, bo tree, puja, rattan, rillow, Vedda, and wanderoo.

SLE became more indigenous in the mid-19th century. In addition to the usual terms for flora and fauna, new idioms, referred to as Ceylonisms, emerged.

Some years after independence in 1948, English ceased being the only official language of Sri Lanka, but it remained in use across the island's ethnic groups. It evolved to incorporate more Sinhalese vocabulary and grammatical conventions such as the use of "no?" as a tag question at the end of a sentence.

In spite of English's long history in Sri Lanka, 21st century Sri Lankans academicians debate about the legitimacy of SLE as a separate dialect.

A significant difference between British English and Sri Lankan English usage is its use of particular tenses. Many educated Sri Lankans would use past perfect tense to talk about things that happened at a fixed time in the recent past instead of past simple. Many Sri Lankans still use words such as frock (to scold) and the question form 'to whom' which are not familiar to modern British English speakers. Another example of typical Sri Lankan English is posing questions by changing the intonation, e.g. "you are hungry?"

There are certain nouns added to English by Sri Lankans and therefore a native English speaker coming to Sri Lanka for the first time would not know what Shorteats (snacks) and string hoppers (a typical Sri Lankan food) mean. If you read a daily newspaper, you may find a number of typical Sri Lankan usages, which may not be accepted in standard British English: such as 'lots of equipments', 'information system', 'education minister'.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Re-'regaining Sri Lanka', LTTE and the JVP

(April 28, Colombo - Lanka PolityTamil nationalist politics appears to moving towards a further distant goal that is apparently building of a Tamil nation in a broader perspective in a global context.

What is the reason for this drastic shift? Do the leaders of the Tamil nationalist movement think they were betrayed by Sri Lankan Tamil polity?

The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea, Mao Tse-Tung said.

Were the slain leaders of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) among people in their last phase of struggle? If they were not, was it a fault of the people? If the answer is yes, who decided the nature of this polity in the last thirty years?

Tamil polity of Sri Lanka is in the most pathetic situation of their history now. No need to mention the harsh conditions they undergo in the present context.

The remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) that are well-secured in the economic and social fortitudes in the green pastures of Western Europe have betrayed them. They are let alone to deal with the Sinhala dominated Colombo government on their own. The 'knowledgeable' expatriate patriots that are called Tamil Diaspora wait and see until the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that won 14 parliamentary seats in the recent elections fail to achieve a negotiated settlement with the Rajapaksa regime. They wait until Rajapaksa regime fails and an anarchy is built up in the state.

TNA may fail not because they are foolish to trust the Sinhala chauvinist rulers. They may fail because of the folly of the Sinhala polity and their leaders that fail to build up trust among the communities that live in the island.

Rajapaksa regime will definitely fail if they will not change and if they will proceed in the ways they are in now. However, they will fail in a different context after exposing the country into a rapid capitalist growth and a social change that follows it.

This is the same change the LTTE and the brethren Sinhala peasant movement People's Liberation Front (JVP) were terrified by the United National Party (UNP) regime during 2001 - 2004. These two forces joined hands in political underneath to defeat the UNP's 'Regaining Sri Lanka' programme that was launched in a neo-liberalist pro-Western context.

Now the same capitalist programme is set forth by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime but in a very anti-democratic and a propagandistic anti-Western outlook.

As same as the UNP targeted to obtain a massive loan of Rs. 4.5 billion from West, the Rajapaksa regime is obtaining massive loans from China and open financial markets chaining generations of Sri Lankans in a massive debt burden. Growth strategy is same, developing infrastructure to attract foreign investment. One visible deviation is the existence of strong state enterprises. But one should not mistake them as public enterprises. They are sheer companies from which the political and official elite profit.

The final solution of the UNP and the Rajapaksa regime for the ethnic problem is the same, i.e., liquidizing the Tamil nationalist armed forces. UNP wanted to do it through a negotiated settlement but the Rajapaksas resorted to ethnic war although the pundits argue the peace achieved through it is not sustainable.

The social change that is to follow the targeted rapid growth is yet to be observed. All in all, the mass movements like the LTTE and the JVP have to go for a serious retrospection and they have to review and make drastic changes in their strategies if they want to re-emerge as deciding factors of the politics of Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Police coming before growth in Sri Lanka

(April 27, Colombo - Lanka PolityTwo news stories that were published in media today can be outlined to show an aspect of the path the Sri Lankan rulers are taking now in the post-war period.

In the first story Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says that the police have been directed to launch an operation to eliminate the crime network that erupted through terrorism and spread island wide.

The first and foremost question that arises is this. Are the authorities targeting only the crime network that erupted through terrorism? What about the crime network that was fed by the politicians to maintain politically motivated terror or sheer state terrorism?

Anyway, when the police actions are initiated the goons will have a difficult time. We can expect more incidents of arrested suspects trying to escape when they have gone to show weapons to be shot dead by police in the middle of the night.

One cannot isolate and safeguard the politically influenced crime network since it is intertwined with the other networks. Many of the rowdies that were riding in jeeps of the vehicles of the election candidates of the ruling party will have to go in hiding. Will their bosses risk their lives to save them? Who knows and who cares to recycle these lumpen waste? They will bring new elements from gutters when they want them again. Until then, it is safe to see them gone with all the secrets they know.

The Defense Secretary said addressing a meeting held yesterday after opening a newly set up Sri Lanka Police Academy in Katana that a wave of crime related to arms, drugs, underworld and ransom taking is spread around the country.

The Defense Secretary further stated that the police had to assist the armed forces during the war in the last three decades and police powers could not be fully implemented in taking actions against the crime network.

Mr. Rajapaksa also said that the police official needed to be trained systematically since most of the present officials were recruited during war and they were trained basically on anti-terrorism actions.

The Police Academy opened yesterday in Katana can facilitate training for 600 officials in one batch. The academy is attached to Kelaniya University.

The rulers need to police the country even before they put the economy properly to the track of growth. They have a good chance now to establish and their own past and present of promoting lawlessness seems haunting and policing seems needed thoroughly right from the beginning.

The second news story is related to private buses. This time the author is not a state actor. He is a leader of a small and mediums scale business forum.

The Chairman of Sri Lanka Private Omnibus Owners’ Association Gemunu Wijerathna says that steps will be taken since May 01 to stop begging and hawking in private buses.

He pointed out that these kinds of actions are illegal in accordance with the license issued by the Sri Lanka Central Transport Authority to the private bus owners. However, they continue since the law enforcement authorities do not act with force. Sometimes, bus employees are threatened by the elements that profit through begging and hawking, Mr. Wijerathna said.

Sri Lanka’s private bus industry is ailing due to many problems. The service is low in standard due to reasons like undisciplined behavior of the bus employees, break of road regulations, poor condition of buses, overloading etc. The bus owners have no solutions to these urgent issues. Instead, they want swift action against a lumpen class that make living from the industry.

The private bus industry is also intertwined with the crime network in many ways. Ransom takers run the bus stands. Thugs run buses. Most of the buses were 'decorated' with the posters of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his general election candidates in the past few months.

Sri Lanka's upper and middle classes look interested in getting rid of the gutter elements that they were engaged in the past. So they need policing against the lumpen elements of the society.

These can be the preliminary actions of a police state. Suppressing of crime network may raise the popularity of the rulers among the middle classes. But the dire need of the government is to police the working classes so that they may not raise the salary issues in future. A 'disciplined' or a silenced working class is the basic need for the government for the rapid economic growth it is targeting in the island.

That is why the police coming before growth.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Upeka Nirmani; Sri Lanka's first woman 'Super Star'

(April 26, Colombo - Lanka PolityMany TV stations of Sri Lanka run various kinds of Super Star programmes. Tens of thousands of ambitious youth take part in them and many of them toil for the TV channels without any kind of payment for around a year. However, the finalists get a good training and an experience in entertainment industry while one or two Super Stars become instant millionaires.

Many of these Super Stars have failed to continue their career as creative artists. But many of them sing other artists' songs appearing as the original singers and earn some money before they disappear into nowhere where they came from.

Upeka Nirmani Silva, the Derana Dream Star of the Season 2 is a highly talented young girl from Negambo. She is the daughter of Chandu de Silva, a singer popular as Jolly Seeya (grandfather).

Her stardom is significant since she is the first young woman in Sri Lanka to crown as a Super Star. In Derana Dream Star Season 1 as well, a brilliant female vocalist was among the finalists. But this girl Nilupuli Dilhara failed to secure her place in the grand finale through short messages of the TV fans. The Super Star was a brilliant guy but the runner-up was no match to Dilahara's talent.

Similar phenomenon took place this year as well. Upeka sang very nicely while Nimesh Chamika performed in his Sinhala rock style brilliantly giving her a good fight. However, Nimesh failed to become the runner-up. The runner-up Udesh Manoj was far back compared to the vocal skills of the other duo.

Udesh marketed his identity as an Army soldier to come this far. He had brought a set of aggressive fans into Sugathadasa Stadium. Even Defense Secretary and President's brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was also in the audience giving a powerful impression to the SMS senders. However, Upeka won the crown. Otherwise, I would have written about militarization of performing art in Sri Lanka.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Giving powers to an unwanted lot; the dilemma of Sri Lanka President

A cartoonist's view on the previous cabinet of Sri Lanka
(April 25, Colombo - Lanka Polity'Epa waheta hodi bedanna wage' is a Sinhala proverb that means serving curry to the husband that the wife is no more in love. Traditional  Sinhala housewife was bound to treat the husband well although she no more liked him. The husband could be either too old or weak since usually there was a wide age gap between husbands and wives in the past. In such circumstances, she showed her resentment either by serving curry insufficiently or overwhelmingly, inconvenient in both cases.

Sri Lanka President also behaves like that housewife when allocating powers to his Ministers. First of all, he helped himself with a huge spoon retaining defense, finance and planning, highways, ports and aviation for himself in addition to media subject a Minister has not been appointed so far. Hair to the throne President's son will be trained to run the country via these ministries. One of the President's brothers Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will act as the actual Minister of Defense.

President's younger brother Basil Rajapaksa has been given a newly created Ministry of Economic Development with wide powers. He will handle work carried out by a number of ministries earlier. The workload will practically stuck him and Namal Rajapaksa can be expected to shift to his role in the President's intermediate circle. Namal will need no title like Senior Presidential Adviser since everybody knows he is the 'future of the country'.

Chamal, the elder brother of the President had to exchange the actually powerful position he held as the Minister of Ports and Aviation to the ceremonious Speaker title that he did not like to assume earlier. The brothers seem unable to settle the issues one to one now and the sisters of the President reportedly had to mediate the issue during a dinner they hosted for the family.

Thus, the President got the family issues solved getting the way cleared for Namal to ascend to power after him.

He seems inclined in giving the other powerful ministries to the individuals that have crossed over to the ruling alliance  from the United National Party or to the leaders of the splinter groups such as National Freedom Front and the Jathika Hela Urumaya because they cannot claim the leadership legitimately. Instead, the seniors of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the major party of the ruling coalition, appear to legitimately challenge the Rajapaksa family authority in state.

SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, a leader with good name, is the major challenge to the Rajapaksas and he has been given the portfolio of Minister of Health. This position was earlier held by SLFP senior Nimal Siripala de Silva whose administration was heavily criticized by state backed media. It is a well-known secret that some of the leaders of the powerful trade unions of the health sector are in the pocket of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sirisena will have to blame his predecessor for the pieces of broken glass that are being recovered regularly from vaccine vials. Recovering the shattered image of the Health Minister is not an easy task for Maithripala Sirisena.

Nimal Siripala de Silva has been given the Irrigation and Water Management, another subject one can face people's protests due to the government's long standing attempts to liberalizing the water resources.

Elderly D.M. Jayarathna was appointed as the Prime Minister, a ceremonious post that has no real value sans been the legitimate successor to the post of President in case of an emergency.

Former Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayaka has been given a new Ministry of State Management and Reforms that appears to cross with the powers of the Ministry of State Administration and Home Affairs that is held by another party stalwart John Senevirathna.

Dilan Perera is another prominent SLFPer that represents Badulla since 1994 but without been appointed into the cabinet. This time as well, he is the deputy of John Senevirathna's ministry.

A notable person that was not given a cabinet portfolio is Reginald Cooray, former Chief Minister of the Western Province.

Most of the above mentioned SLFP leaders have been a challenge to the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa in one or the other way. They have also been loyal to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga, the arch rival predecessor of the present President.

Even Dallus Alahapperuma that is targeting SLFP leadership through the loyalty to the Rajapaksa family has failed to get a senior position in the cabinet. He was prevented from contesting the general election from Mathara district from where he could have gained huge amount of preferential votes. But his nomination via national list tarnished his image and he was given the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Employment, that cannot be considered a powerful position.

Sarath Amunugama and S.B. Disanayaka, two powerful figures of the SLFP in certain times were also not given cabinet portfolios citing an investigation is underway to ascertain their involvement or non-engagement in election malpractices in Nawalapitiya electorate in Kandy districts. But the President cannot keep them in hold for a long time since they can influence the President via the Buddhist monk leaders.

However, a number of other SLFPers like Susil Prema Jayantha, Kumara Welgama and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa that have less potential to rise into the state leadership have been given fairly good positions.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some notable features of Sri Lanka's new cabinet

(April 24, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka President has appointed a new cabinet. As promised, he has pruned the jumbo cabinet at least for the moment. The number of cabinet portfolios have been slashed to 39 and the number of Deputy Ministers are 37.

It can be easily speculated several additions to the panel of Ministers in recent future. Previously there were 51 cabinet Ministers and the final number can be close to it. Several opposition MPs are too eager to strengthen the hands of the President who is desperate for two third majority in the parliament.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa retained several most powerful Ministries under himself. The cabinet portfolios that are in the President's hand are Minister of Defence, Minister of Finance & Planning, Minister of Ports and Aviation and Minister of Highways.

Significantly, a Minister of Media and Information has not been appointed. As a result the subject has automatically come under the purview of the President.

However, Gampaha district MP Mervin Silva has been appointed as the Deputy Minister of Mass Media and Information.

The Deputy Ministers of the Ministries held by the President are as follows:
Chandrasiri Gajadeera – Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning
Rohitha Abeygunawardena - Deputy Minister of Ports and Aviation
Dayashritha Tissera - Deputy Minister of Ports and Aviation
Nirmala Kothalawala - Deputy Minister of Highways

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil Rajapaksa has been appointed into a powerful position of the Minister of Economic Development.

Basil Rajapaksa, identified as a hard worker, a meticulous planner and an astute manager is expected to handle the prospects of economic growth of Sri Lanka in the post-war period.

With the formation of the new Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministries of Nation Building held previously by five non cabinet Ministers have been scrapped. The Ministries for the development of certain Provinces have also been taken under this new Ministry.

The Ministry of Economic Development is so powerful that three Deputy Ministers have been appointed to it. They are Lakshman Yapa Abewardhana, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Muttu Sivalingam.

Several notable persons have been omitted from the cabinet newly appointed by the President.
One of the most prominent absentee is Ceylon Workers’ Congress leader Arumugam Thondaman that held cabinet portfolios in all parliaments since 1994. However, CWC national list MP Muttu Sivalingam sore in as the Deputy Minister of Economic Development.

Former Science and Technology Minister Thissa Vitharana that represents the leftist Lanka Samasamaja Party has also been omitted from the cabinet. Sri Lanka Communist Party has been given one cabinet portfolio and a post of Deputy Minister for D.E.W. Gunasekara and Chandrasiri Gajadheera respectively. Communist Party elected one MP and it was given a national list slot too. Samasamaja Party also won one seat and Vitharana was appointed to parliament via national list. He was the Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee that the President appointed to seek solution for the ethnic problem.

Jathika Hela Urumaya that won two seats was given a national list slot as well but only Champika Ranawaka was given a cabinet post. Many expected Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero would swear in at least as a Deputy Minister.

A number of prominent figures of the ruling coalition that contested from Kandy district have not been given Minister posts citing a disciplinary investigation is underway regarding the election malpractices in Nawalapitiya electorate prompting the Election Commissioner to summon a re-poll. Former cabinet Ministers Keheliya Rambukwella and Sarath Amunugama are among them while S.B. Disanayaka and former non-cabinet Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage that topped the preferential votes in the district and Faizer Mustafa also expected Minister or Deputy Minister positions.

Former non-cabinet Minister Naven Disanayaka, a son of late United National Party stalwart Gamini Disanayaka, was also omitted from the panel of Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

Expect more interesting facts about the new cabinet.

Visit for more details:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sri Lanka's JVP again resorting to anti devolution politics

(April 23, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lanka's prominent left movement People's Liberation Front (JVP) that lost a number of parliamentary seats they held since 2004, seems to resort to anti devolution politics once again to find a path to get out of the stalemate they are stuck in now.

JVP, that sprang out of village Sinhala youth in late 60s and early 70s inherited a mint of anti Tamil Sinhala chauvinism from its beginning and it widely resorted to anti devolution politics in its second uprising in late 1980s.

After the repression in 1989 in which almost the entire leadership was eliminated, JVP re-entered mainstream politics in 1994. Since then, the JVP's political strategies were decided in a fear psychosis vis-a-vis breakaway Sinhala arch nationalist leader Champika Ranawaka. JVP was always in fear that Ranawaka would win the Sinhala radical youth from them and moved in nationalist path in a race with Ranawaka trying to overtake him.

This conflict paved way Mahinda Rajapaksa, a capitalist politician with a background of rural nobility, to rise in power yielding what sown by the nationalists turned radicals. With the nationalist war and the victory of the Rajapaksa-led Sinhala forces, JVP that grudgingly evaded practically supporting the war was alienated from the nationalist state set up in which Champika Ranawaka had fairly consolidated as an individual.

JVP contested the 2010 general election in a coalition with ex-Army Commander and defeated Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka who was jailed by the ruling regime and secured four seats for the party while the coalition won seven seats.

However, the party is no more a king maker in Sri Lankan politics and the leadership is facing a fast deteriorating party support base that is frustrated with the party's failure to achieve tangible gains for them.

At this juncture too, some of the prominent JVP leaders still seem to think that they may find a way out of this trouble via anti devolution politics since the newly mandated government is tended to go for devolution as a solution for the ethnic problem in an understanding with the major Tamil constituent Tamil National Alliance and India.

This can be very well observed in the present content of the JVP's propaganda organs like Lanka Sinhala newspaper and Lanka Truth website. These media try to portray a picture that the government is conspiring with India to set forth a set of proposals to devolve power to Northern and Eastern Provinces to address the long standing demand of the Tamil politicians to strengthen their national identity in politics.

We do not think this is a right moment for a campaign like what JVP led in 1987 against Provincial Councils that were introduced under Indo-Lanka peace accord. After all the Provincial Councils were in practice for more than 20 years. JVP also represented them. The major Tamil force that rejected the Provincial Councils targeting a separate Tamil state is too a non-entity in practical politics in Sri Lanka. Tamil National Alliance is also ready to accept a solution that goes a little distance beyond the Provincial Council system under the present unitary state structure.

Progressive forces of the country should try at this moment to push the government to begin a new dialogue with the minorities that are fighting for identity in politics and to come to a settlement. This will not only benefit the capitalist development but it will also enhance the development of society and polity. Leftists should not worry about what the capitalism achieves through a compromise in national issue. The solution will also pave way for broader unity among downtrodden masses as well superimposing the national divisions that restrict their struggles against evils of capitalism.

by Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Upcountry Tamil politicians of Sri Lanka divide and lose in Badulla

(April 20, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  The election result of Upcountry Badulla district of Sri Lanka proves the fact that the minorities may lose when they are divided.

Upcountry Tamils failed to win a single seat in Badulla district despite they have a considerable population there. This is notable in the context they have secured this seat since a long time and they had two seats in the previous parliament.

In 1994, Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) contested under United National Front (UNF) and both Wadiwel Suresh and M. Sachchiththananthan elected into parliament. Suresh joined the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party first. Later the CWC decided to support the government. Both Upcountry Tamil MPs were given Minister posts. Later Sachchiththananthan quitted quit the CWC and joined United National Party.

In 2010, Suresh contested under ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) while Sachchiththananthan contested under UNF ticket. Both lost.

In 2010, five Upcountry Tamils contested the election from two major coalitions. They are the above two persons and former MP T.V. Sennan and S.Chandramohan representing CWC in the UPFA and A. Velayuthan under UNF.

All five candidates failed to elect while all MPs elected from Badulla district are Sinhalese.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Prime Ministerial musical chair of Sri Lanka

D.M. Jayarathna
(April 19, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  In Sri Lanka's history of executive presidency, always the Prime Minister has become the successor to the post sans single occasion. It was when President D.B. Wijethunga, the successor of slain President R. Premadasa, did not contest for a second term. The Premier under a President who is in his second term has always become the next President. 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is to commence his second term this year. Who will be the Premier of the next parliament in Sri Lanka? Whoever he (probably not 'she' under the present context) is, he will definitely be the next President, we guarantee.

However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is ambitious to change the constitution before the end of his second term and he will try to be the next state head, either President or Premier. He is now training his elder son 24-year-old Namal Rajapaksa to be the hair to the throne. 

In 2004, the major partner of the ruling coalition People's Liberation Front (JVP) wanted to appoint Lakshman Kadirgamar as the Prime Minister. Mahinda Rajapaksa fought vehemently for the post and he won it despite the President Chandrika was not in his favor. If he lost the battle then, there would not be a President Rajapaksa or a Rajapaksa Brothers Company too. 

Likewise, many seniors of the ruling coalition are engaged in a cold war for the post of Prime Minister. The cold war is likely to warm in the coming days. 

President's brother Basil Rajapaksa who has good control of media is manipulating media to set forth his candidacy. Sinhala daily Lankadeepa ran a story this weekend in the front page highlighting Basil Rajapaksa as the best candidate for the Premiership on the basis he can maintain the balance of the ruling coalition. The balance is promptly challenged since he is the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

Meanwhile, a political writer in Sinhala nationalist daily Divaina argued the rightness of appointing Basil as the Prime Minister although he is the brother of the President. One argument is that he is a senior of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party that was active in 1970s and even contested for the Mulkirigala electorate in 1977 general election. However, the fact that he once broke away from the party and joined the United National Party (UNP) before he left the country for permanent residency in US is deliberately shunned by media. No doubt, he is a hard worker and a brilliant manager of power affairs under President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a plus point in his bag. 

But the most suitable contender for the Prime Minister post is non other than the veteran Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena. He is now mustering party support to field him as a contender for the post. 

Elderly SLFP man D.M. Jayarathna is also slated for the post and S.B. Disanayaka that recently crossed over to the SLFP from UNP is backing him probably with hopes for benefits in future. Premiership for Kandy is a racist argument set forth by S.B. Disanayaka. One day, he will argue for the Presidency for Kandy. Latest reports say that the President is likely to appoint D.M. Jayarathna as the Prime Minister until he begins his second term in November. This seems the most cunning move since all those who wish to be the next real Prime Minister will have to be extremely loyal to the leader until a day the President decides to change the post.

You can obsever pro-government media now propagating evils of the management of health sector under ex-Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. This will tarnish any chance for Silva to vie for Premiership although he came to top in the list of preferential votes in Badulla district. 

Amidst these hullabaloos ex-Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayaka might have luck again to be appointed as the Prime Minister. Luckily, his name is in the national list. In 2004, even the name was not in the  national list. 

One can argue that the post of Prime Minister is similar to the post of Minister without portfolio. He will not have powers that even the Speaker of the parliament has. He can be a 'talk master' like Rathnasiri Wickramanayaka. 

But for sure, the Prime Minister of this parliament has the most opportunity to be the next President. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Minister Mervin Silva's illegal ban of liquor in Kelaniya

Mervin Silva following a brawl with the employees of
state-owned national television
(April 18, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Mervin Silva of Kelaniya has banned sale of liquor in his stronghold Kelaniya electorate. He has announced this through public addressing systems. The ex-Minister of Labor has banned not only illicit liquor but also the sales at licensed liquor shops.

Thirty seven liquor outlets in the electorate have now remain closed in fear of Mervin Silva's rogues.

This ex-Minister Mervin Silva is famous for his notoriety. He was reported a close associate of a person called Kudu Lal, a top level drug peddler who had to flee the country amidst government's proclaimed war against underworld. Media reported that the ex-Minister personally escorted Kudu Lal to the plane to prevent him from being abducted.

Silva was at the bottom of the preferential votes list of Colombo district with just around 2000 votes at 2004 general election. But then President Chandrika Bandaranayaka Kumarathunga appointed him to the country's legislature via national list and he was later given the portfolio of non-cabinet Minister of Labor. He is a person who can scent the political winds very well and he shifted allegiance towards Rajapaksa camp at right time.

In 2010 general election, he was given well over 100,000 preferential votes by the voters of Gampaha district. Now, he is slated to a cabinet portfolio despite all his fame for notoriety like intimidating the media persons.

'Mathata Thitha' alias no liquor policy is hyped under Rajapaksa regime. But in 2008 alone the government issued 36 new liquor sales licenses. All propaganda against liquor just caused 2% drop of hard liquor sales in 2008. But beer consumption increased by 15% increasing the overall consumption of alcohol. These are according to the statistics of the Excise Department. But the major liquor trade among the poor masses of Sri Lanka is Moonshine that has less control of state.

In 2008, government earned Rs. 27.44 billion from excise taxes. This is an increase of three billion rupees compared to the previous year. Excise tax is still one of the major source of state revenue.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 general election of Sri Lanka

(April 10, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka's election is almost finished. Thanks to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's henchmen Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Susantha Punchinilame, the results of Kandy and Trincomalee districts and the final result too is delayed. Re-polling for some stations costs millions of rupees to public coffers. Who cares? No wonder the culprits are rewarded with handsome portfolios.

The ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) swept into the parliament with a close to two third majority. But, they will need to buy several opposition MPs to achieve two third that they vie for a change of constitution.

Who will cross over? Monaragala district United National Front (UNF) MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara can be expected to d so since the UNF leadership campaigned to defeat him since he was accused of deforming the UNF nomination list.

The government has promised to slash the cabinet to 35 or 40 heads and half of the Ministers that are re-elected will have to remain as MPs in such situation. Can the government offer portfolios to opposition MPs to buy them in this context. On the other hand, the United National Party (UNP) block in the parliament appears a battle hardened one on which Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe has full control. MPs with dissident history like Gampaha district ex-MP Edward Gunawrdhana have lost seats. Deputy Karu Jayasuriya was overtaken by Wijaya newspaper company's media idol Ruwan Wijewardhana and soap opera actress Upeksha Swarnamali of Paba fame that has less than three months political experience in Gampaha district preferential votes. UNP President Rukman Senanayaka was saved since he shifted himself to the national list.

UNP has again proved that nobody is indispensable for the party. The highly ambitious dissidents like Milinda Moragoda, Rohitha Bogollagama and Mano Wijerathna lost their seats and they now risk their political future, giving a good lesson to those who have betrayal sentiments while UNP has secured around 50 seats amidst most unfavorable political conditions.

After all, Sri lankan polity has granted all that was needed by the ruling regime. The opposition also is too tired of the present electoral system and the executive presidency and they will definitely support a move by the regime to change it if  is not primarily aimed at consolidating power of Mahind Rajapaksa himself. Not only the opposition, the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party stalwarts like Maithripala Sirisena, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dallus Alahapperuma and even President's own brother Basil Rajapaksa will not support it whole heartedly.

Government has also pledged to commit to the development, good governance, alleviation of corruption and poverty. It is not standing on a very comfortable floor. But the prospects are ample if the government can sustain peace and political stability while developing a clear cut economic policy.

The people were lethargic to vote as a whole. Tamils were exceptional and the turnout in Jaffna, the heart of Tamil culture and Sinhala subjugation of it, was just above 20%. Tamils responded poorly to the military backed powerful campaign of the ruling UPFA that is led there by politico paramilitary leader Douglas Devananda. They did not overwhelmingly vote either for the Tamil National Alliance (Illankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi) that set forth a manifesto seeking a solution for the Tamil problem based on federalist principles. Jaffna Tamils outrightly rejected the All Ceylon Tamil Congress that fielded three ex-MPs, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Gajendran and Pathmini Sidamparanathn that were more nationalist and more pro-Liberation Tigers as well in the time they were in the helm in Tamil polity.

The fate was pathetic for the pro-government groups that contested seperately like EPDP led by Devananda that contested for Wanni district, the Tamil United Liberation Front led by Ananda Sangaree, Eastern Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan's Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) that contested for Batticaloa district and other politico paramilitary groups like PLOTE and EPRLF.

In Southern Sri Lanka the movement of the downtrodden rural masses, People's Liberation Front (JVP) and its breakaway pro-government National Freedom Front (JNP) were defeated humiliatingly. 15 pro-government ex-JNP MPs lost seats. They include the ex-JVP presidential candidate and Minister Nandana Gunatilaka who had joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. JNP leader who campaigned individually with the support of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa achieved highest number of preferential votes from Colombo district while Weerakumara Disanayaka was elected from Anuradhapura district.

All the JVP MPs sans Vijitha Herath, Sunil Handunnetti and Ajith Kumara were defeated. Jailed presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka and former cricket captain Arjuna Ranathunga were also elected from the Democratic National Alliance that was led by the JVP. They will have one more national list slot and will have to rise from ashes.

Sinhala Buddhist extremist Jathik Hela Urumaya leaders Champika Ranawaka and Athuraliye Rathana Thero were also elected to the parliament from the ruling coalition.

Upcoountry Tamil Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) leader Arumugam Thondaman was elected from Nuwaraeliya district with his two other collegues that contested from the Upcountry Tamil heartland district.

Colombo Tamils secured representation from Colombo district with the election of Praba Ganeshan, the brother of Mano Ganeshan. Mano is yet to be elected or not from Kandy district.

Sri Lankan Muslims have a sizeable representation in this parliament.

Old left has also won three seats while veteran leftist Vasudewa Nanayakkara was elected from Rathnapura district.

Sri Lankan polity has elected two persons from jail to parliament. They are NDA's Sarath Fonseka and Mathugama UNP organizer Palitha Thewarapperuma.

Many more persons that should have been jailed if there was law in the country have also been elected to 'represent' people.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sri Lanka's fertilizer subsidy; Robbing Martin Ayiya to pay Bandayiya

(April 01, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka Minister of Agricultural Development Agrarian services Maithripala Sirisena said proudly addressing a pres briefing held in Mahaweli Center, Colombo that the government spends Rs. 65 billion annually for the fertilizer subsidy. This subsidy goes mainly to the rice industry.

The Minister said that the government bore a cost of Rs. 26,065 per an acre for fertilizer subsidy since 2005.

Eight paddy cultivation seasons have passed since the initiation of the fertilizer subsidy and the cost for the government for a farmer that owns two and half acres is Rs. 521,300, he said.

The cost for a farmer that owns three acres is Rs. 625,560 while the cost for a farmer that owns five acres in major farmer colonies is Rs. 1,042,600.

Sri Lanka provides a 50 kilo bag of fertilizer at a subsidized price of Rs. 350 for the farmers while the government purchases the same amount of fertilizer at a price well over twenty times the selling price.

Fertilizer subsidy fuels the vote machine of the ruling party in rural areas. However, most of these farmers are not real farmers. A good portion of the subsidy receivers of Sri Lanka are public servants who hire agricultural laborers to work in their cultivations while they manage them at the cost of the government via paid leave.

Sri Lanka's fertilizer subsidy is a specimen for bad concessions. The rice cultivation appears fully dependent on this subsidy and the subsidy needs to be sustained now for the survival of the paddy cultivation.

The whole country pays heavy taxes in the name of these farmers who have been over praised for their task. Criticizing the unproductive nature of subsidizing paddy cultivation in Sri Lanka has become a taboo subject.

However, most of the inputs of Sri Lanka’s rice industry are imports such as machinery, fuel, fertilizer, agro-chemicals and even the gunny sacks. There is no big difference between the garment industry and the paddy cultivation though most do not raise this issue.

Rice prices escalated sharply late last year and early this year. The government had to slash the import taxes for rice to stabilize the prices. Now the harvesting has commenced. Farmers lament about the low price of paddy purchasing prices in the market. They need the government to purchase their product at higher prices.

According to information revealed in Sri Lanka Parliament by the Minister Bandula Gunawardane in November 2008, the government imported 52,800,209 kilos of milk food accounting for 89.1 percent of local demand in 2005, but this amount had seen an increase up to 62,518,062 kilos last year. It was 90 percent of the local requirement.

The country had imported 57 percent of its potato requirement in 2008, and it had been a sharp rise against 33.9 percent imported in 2005. In 2006, the government had imported 37 percent of the country’s potato requirement and 52.6 percent in 2007.

Big onions had recorded an import growth of 71.9 percent in 2008 in terms of local requirement, against 60.4 percent in 2007, 61.9 percent in 2006 and 66.6 percent in 2006.

In contrast to attempts to boost local agriculture, Chillie imports had also registered an increase, as a percentage of the local requirement, from 72 percent in 2007 to 73 percent last year. In 2005, the country had imported only 67 percent of its Chillie requirement and 69 percent in 2006.

White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...