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Big or small, miracles needed for all

[DailyMirror, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 06:56 No Comment]

My dear Mahinda Aiya,

Ayubowan, vanakkam, assalamu alaikkum and congratulations as you soar to public popularity peaks not achieved by any previous head of state or government.

As for the next presidential election, the confusion and danger signals appear to have been cleared, with sources in the presidential office indicating that you might choose January 14 next year as the date for the presidential election. Reports indicate that general elections may be held a few months after that with the ruling UPFA confident of a two-thirds majority, though the PR system in the 1978 Constitution was intended to ensure that no party would be able to obtain a two-thirds majority let alone a  five-sixths majority such as JR Jayewardene got in 1977.

The devolution package, political proposals to address the just grievances and aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people are likely to come after the General Elections because of the major conflicts in the government today on this issue. But the government is known to be under heavy pressure from India and the Western powers to act fast in implementing the devolution proposals and there are questions as to the extent to which it can withstand such pressure.

At one extreme the JHU, the NFF and some others are insisting that the full implication of the 13th Amendment with more powers for the Provincial Councils would eventually lead to a federal state if not the separate state that the LTTE fought for. These parties insist that the Mahinda Chinthana – the major policy statement of the Rajapaksa administration — promised a unitary state with no devolution of power to the provinces.

But the All Party Representative Committee Chairman and Minister Tissa Vitharana is pushing ahead with his task of working out a devolution package, though the process appears to be caught up in conflict within conflict, contradiction within contradiction and confusion within confusion. Several Ministers including those who crossed over from the UNP and the Tamil ministers are known to be supporting him. Last Friday one of these ministers Dilan Perera, in a Sirisa TV interview spoke out strongly for the implementation of the 13th Amendment. He said that until a reasonable political solution was found for the grievances of the Tamil-speaking people, the current climate of peace would not be stable.

More significantly Minister Perera attacked Sinhala Buddhist extremist parties whom he described as pseudo patriots. The minister said that such extremists and pseudo patriots who came to the forefront after 1956 were largely responsible for the creation of the Tiger monster and Velupillai Prabhakaran. This led to a horrible 30-year war in which more than 100,000 people were killed, the country suffered hundreds of billions of rupees in damages and the country’s development process was pushed back by decades.

The outspoken Minister warned that if the extremists blocked a reasonable political solution they would be responsible for the creation of a monster more destructive than the LTTE. In an apparent reaction to his comments, NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, on Sunday urged the President to silence such ministers who supported devolution. Mr. Weerawansa’s tough comments came a few days after two members of his party took oaths as ministers raising the world record total to the Nelsonian 111, and questions as to whether an eye for an eye policy would make all blind, as Mahatma Gandhi warned. The NFF’s Nandana Gunathileke, the JVP’s 1999 presidential candidate was appointed as Minister of Tourism in place of Milinda Moragoda. The NFF’s Piyasiri Wijenayake – now on bail in a case involving the killing of a JVP member during the Western Provincial election campaign – was appointed as Minister of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage. Opposition critics and independent analysts raise questions whether the appointment of a murder case suspect as a cabinet minister might be seen as part of the criminalization of politics or the politicization of crime.

Even more controversial was the transfer of Mr. Moragoda from the tourism portfolio, and his appointment as Minister of Justice and Legal Reforms. Sources close to the centres of power say the President has been unhappy or disturbed over Mr. Moragoda’s performance in the tourism ministry and wanted to demote him as minister without portfolio. The breaking point came with a controversy over Mr. Moragoda’s choice of a logo for next year’s full scale tourist promotion programme.

Political observers say it was Mr. Moragoda who, in 2006, orchestrated the crossover of 18 UNP frontliners to be cabinet ministers in the Rajapaksa administration. They say some of these UNP seniors intervened and pleaded with the President to give Mr. Moragoda a better portfolio. But what he got raised hell, if not a hailstorm, especially in Hulftsdorp.

Last month the Supreme Court gave a headline hitting judgment relating to the privitatsation of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation. It ruled that the deal was shockingly fraudulent and ordered that the SLIC be handed back to the government immediately.

The man who pushed through this privatization deal during the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration was Milinda Moragoda, and the Supreme Court made serious indictments on him. Later the petitioners Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Nihal Amerasekera, filed another petition in the Supreme Court asking that the Police Chief and the head of the CID be directed to probe the role and take action against, those involved in the SLIC privatization fraud. One of them is Mr. Moragoda.

Now as Minister of Justice he is responsible for the work of the Attorney General’s department which will give directive to the CID if ordered to do so by the Court.  With Milinda Moragoda in a muddle ,in the aftermath of a controversy over his “small miracle logo” for Sri Lanka Tourism, the country might need to see a big miracle from the Lord of miracles to win the war for peace which might be more arduous than the battles in war.

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