Are patriotic nationals lost in patriotism
The Patriotic National Movement (PNM)’s public seminar “How will
Norway’s role end”?, was held in Colombo last week. Though, what
was to be presented could have been anticipated, political analysts
were interested to know the future plans of the PNM, particularly, after
the President Rajapaksa led Government decided to proceed with the
negotiations with the LTTE, despite the election rhetoric.
The Seminar was themed as an ‘ Intellectuals’ discussion ‘. There
was, however, no provision for questions leading to a discussion,
except for the three presentations following the introductory remarks.
Therefore, the seminar was more of a one-way train, than an
exchange of views that would otherwise have brought credibility to the
subject taken up at the seminar.
The initial setback was the ‘no show’ of one speaker- Nalin Swaris,
with a last minute change of heart thus, conveying to the organizers
that he prefers to retain his detachment from any organization. There
were a couple of sarcastic remarks on his absence and Swaris has,
only himself to blame, if he had previously consented to attend the
Co-Secretary Vithanarachchi, in his welcome address, cited the ‘ red
carpet welcome’ extended to the LTTE delegation in Norway, after the
peace talks in Geneva. The news of the foreign secretary summoning
the Norwegian Ambassador to express the Government’s displeasure
over this, raises the question why the Government did not protest at
the beginning, with prior knowledge of the LTTE’s planned visit to
Norway. We being lay people, are also keen to know the definition of ‘
red carpet welcome’ and whether, there were red carpets ‘physically
laid out’ for the LTTE.
Also cited by Vithanarachchi was, receiving of the LTTE delegation at
the airport, by the Norwegian Ambassador, when returning to Sri
Lanka. If this was not a problem with the Government, which has
assured the people “peace with honour”, it cannot be wrong with the
people who voted for the ‘Sandanaya’ and Rajapaksa.
Dr Gunadasa Ameraskera elaborated the objectives of the seminar -
exposing the dubious role of the Norwegians, educating the people,
as well as the International community, about the facts of the
Norwegian role, to question the Government on her future plans with
the Norwegians’ role and to use this seminar as the springboard for
an aggressive campaign against the Norwegians, as the PNM believes
that the Government can negotiate with the LTTE, without the
Norwegians or, engage another facilitator. We do not know how far
these objectives are relevant today, after seeing the results of the
local Government Elections.
Dr Raja Gunaratne, the first speaker, made a power-point
presentation. He, initially, described a process in which a conflict
begins, war breaks out, the need for a cease-fire arises, facilitation is
sought, negotiations take place for short term measures and a
permanent solution. When it came to causes of conflict, Dr Gunaratne
quickly moved on to the next phase which I hope was not deliberate.
He explained the “should be characteristics” of a facilitator, which
included impartiality, independence, confidentiality, no conflicting
interest , accountability, public support , respect for domestic law etc.
He brought out several examples to conclude that Norway is not an
impartial facilitator in the Sri Lankan case. Most of the examples given
by him were nothing new. As this column stated previously, the video
tape on the alleged military training given to LTTE delegation, was
once again illustrating a crowd control technique demonstrated by the
Rena Camp officers, which could not substantiate his argument.
Nonetheless, the audience was impressed.
Dr Gunaratne argued that Norway’s role is not only questioned by
average people in Sri Lanka, but also by President Kumaratunga, the
late Kadirgamar, the JVP and the JHU. Hence, there has to be some
truth in the allegations. What we also remember is that those who
were critical of the Norwegians, have, from time to time, toned down
their stances, when reality was faced and this was not mentioned by
the learned university lecturer.
The rest of his speech on the Norwegians, including the King and the
people to be compulsory Lutheran evangelical, is not worthwhile
elaborating, as a Sinhala expatriate, who visits Sri Lanka from Norway,
during the summer vacation, will explain to Dr Gunaratne, what this
clause, in the Norwegian constitution, means to the Norwegian public.
Lawyer S.L. Gunasekera’s presentation carried several harsh
remarks. He blasted the pro LTTE media, which perhaps include
writers like us, who attempt to view the elements of the conflict from a
different viewpoint, some times taking a premise that terrorists can be
placed slightly ahead of scoundrels who swallow public funds, not to
mention that Sri Lanka created history in Asia recently on that score.
Gunasekera called Tamilchelvam “one time a barber in a saloon”.
May well be so, and the lawyer’s grievance is understandable, when
foreign envoys and NGO heads nowadays, have to wait for their turn
to pay obeisance to this one-time-barber. He accused the Norwegians
of curtailing Gormin Dayasiri’s speech on child soldiers. He also said
that the LTTE was trying to set the Government against Karuna.
Kalyananda Godage asked the question – “If not Norway, who else?”
Lawyer Gunasekera ended his speech with a short story of comparing
Sri Lanka to a poor man giving away his wife and daughter for
prostitution. I tend to agree with his last comment, except that
terrorism is only an outcome of causes, which the law books do not
explain, and democratic judiciary systems may not find answers to.
Wimal Weerawansa, apart from being a brilliant orator, had done
some homework to present his analysis on the sequence of events
during the pre and post Presidential election, based on his own
assumptions. He cited that President Rajapaksa did not mention
Norway in his first speech after the election and did not meet with the
Norwegian Ambassador for some time. The President made no
attempt to contact Solheim and then came the series of claymore
mine attacks of the LTTE that compelled the Government to request
the Norwegians to arrange the peace talks.
There is nothing new in this for the people of Sri Lanka. The LTTE
believes in one language, which according to Balasingham, is the only
language that Sri Lankan Governments have read in the past. This is
a crude way of saying this, with no intention of discrediting the State
or the Sinhalese. But, if one interprets Weerawansa’s analysis in that
sense, what he said should be true enough.Among the other things
he said were the Norwegians suspicious attempts to get the LTTE to
speak first, Tamilchelvam to speak on child soldiers in Geneva,
influence the Government to agree to disarm Karuna and manipulate
the events to compel the government delegation to agree on the joint
statement. The audience may have got the impression that the
Government delegation has been extremely stupid and Rajapkasa
had chosen the wrong people. There is no other way of justifying
What is noteworthy in his interpretation of the LTTE’s position on the
Cease-fire Agreement (CFA). i.e.. the LTTE will never withdraw from
the CFA, as it is the only document with which the LTTE can
eventually secede and establish a separate State. He said that the
LTTE may agree to a few amendments but will stay with it, as
international recognition can only be drawn from this agreement. He
reckoned that the LTTE’s threat to walk out from the Geneva talks,
was part of a pre-rehearsed drama with the Norwegians, for which the
Government delegation was more or less trapped. This would be a
future slogan of the JVP, which the LTTE cannot disprove without
terminating the CFA.
Weerawansa’s final words summarized the entire objective of the
seminar. To expel the Norwegians from Sri Lanka, one way or
another, prepare the masses to pay a price now, to pull the country
out of this mess, before having to pay a higher price later. The latter
is none other than starting a war, with a view to militarily defeating the
The writer is no expert to challenge the position of the PNM in toto.
Instead, would like to convey that if war is the ultimate remedy, the
substance of the seminar held in Colombo, is of no relevance and it is
the wrong audience they were talking to. The PNM, on the other hand,
should be addressing the politicians and the bureaucrats, with basic
questions, some of which can be stated if the PNM is unaware of them
or deliberately evading.
How many more Dvoras have to sink with its sailors, before the Navy
chief, if not the former chief, now elevated, develops a strategy to
prevent them. Has any serious study been carried out to ascertain the
fighting morale of the Army?. Can the new SIS predict the LTTE
targets for the next 5 years? Or, could they at least, hold back the
people who are opting to leave intelligence to their substantive ranks.
Can Mr. Vithanarachchi defuse the LTTE’s overseas operations, by
holding a banner down Geneva streets, in cold weather, while the
LTTE was negotiating in a neighboring country at the same time for
four more secondhand trawlers to their fleet. The list is long.
Besides, the social deterioration in the South is so vast to an extent,
where for instance, those who take regular walks around
Independence Square, to reduce excess weight, sometimes ignore
the desperate people who stage ‘fast-unto-death’, on top of the hall!
Having guessed the economic class, represented at this seminar, it is
unfair for the PNM to instigate them to sacrifice their children into the
Tiger’s den, while another segment has its priorities elsewhere.
Just as much as Weerawansa’s theory of having to pay a higher price
later, the LTTE is also realizing that their goals may be achieved,
even without a war. And these are the indications seen by people who
view the developments in the South, with more ‘upeksha’ on ‘Jaathi
Hithaishee’ movements. [DailyMirror]