Monday, October 18, 2010

When the “South” surrenders with or without “White Flags”

By Kusal Perera | The Sunday Leader

The famously speculative “white flag” case against SF with FJ continuing on the witness box, cross examined by Defence Counsel is now into controversies more on publication than on FJ’s reporting.

What is this case about? This case has SF as the man who commandeered the war, accused and charged for making provocative statements creating unrest and communal problems in the country and inconveniencing the government. “Inconveniencing the government” by talking of “white flags” and surrender of LTTE men who were later clarified by him, as killed on the battleground.

This would certainly not come up for questioning, as the purpose of this case is not to investigate the circumstances of the death of those non combatant LTTE leaders who, it is said have walked up with white flags to surrender.

Though outside the court case, this accusation over “white flag killings” does raise goose pimples in this regime. Media reports have many high profile personnel implicated in negotiating the “surrender”. Two articles, one by Marie Colvin, a British journalist who, some nine years ago in 2001, wrote about the war from behind the front lines in LTTE controlled areas and the other by an investigative reporter, Andrew Buncombe, who wrote to the Independent from Colombo, are very insightful articles, on “white flags and surrender”.

Marie Colvin’s article — ‘Tigers begged me to broker surrender’ — date lined May 24, 2009 in the London Sunday Times, was just five days after the war was declared successfully over, by the President. Buncombe’s article — Tamil leaders ‘killed as they tried to surrender’ — was filed just one day after, on May 20, 2009.

This single quote from Buncombe’s article is most intriguing. “Mr. Kohona produced a text message stored on his phone which he had sent to the NGO at 8.46am on Sunday, 16 hours before the Norwegian minister had his final conversation with the LTTE leaders. The message – in response to a question from the NGO as to whether the two political leaders would be safe if they gave themselves up – read: “Just walk across to the troops, slowly! With a white flag and comply with instructions carefully. The soldiers are nervous about suicide bombers.” The whole article can be accessed from the web at –

This next quote from Marie Colvin’s article is more than intriguing. “I told him (Vijey Nambiar – Ban Ki-moon’s Chief of Staff) the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan President, that Nadesan and Pulidevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”, he said. I asked Nambiar if he should not go north to witness the surrender. He said no, that would not be necessary: the president’s assurances were enough.”

And then Colvin writes, “I was woken at 5 am by a phone call from another Tigers’ contact in Southeast Asia. He had been unable to get through to Nadesan. ‘I think it’s all over,’ he said. ‘I think they’re all dead’.” The whole article, is at –

That for now would suffice, as this case is all about SF’s remarks on the issue and not about Nadesan and Pulidevan with about 300 others, carrying “white flags”.

How the “home made” chutney gets its recipe

Walking to the court house, SF says he would not bow down to “hooligans”. Yet both SF and FJ would have anxious moments as humans, in how the case rolls over each day. Meanwhile the regime is on a another rendezvous. This society is now their ball of clay, to make their own designs from. The next two Bills to come up in the legislature, works around such thumbing and kneading of society.

The government is to use a legal provision to have all PCs ratify the bills, to say there is no opposition to their two draft bills, the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill 2010 and the Local Authorities (Special Provisions) Bill 2010.

There is immediate response in saying the two bills strengthen the processes for counting and polling in order to ensure the integrity of an election. The mixed system of having “ward” base direct representation with FPP elections, is thought of as making the elected representative more accountable to the people. Yet the whole approach and how the Local Authorities (LA) would be brought under the Colombo centred political authority, deflates all such “integrity” and “close to people” representation. Colombo centred power that takes over LAs removes the validity of the voter, how ever free and fair the election could be. It then gives party secretaries the power to decide on mayors / chairmen and vacancies, reducing “voter importance” to naught, again from Colombo.

These two Bills thus taken together, contradicts the existing political consensus on devolution and power sharing, whether “13 Plus” or “Minus” contradicts the President who says he would find his own “home grown” solution in sharing power. It also contradicts the broad consensus arrived at and written into the “Final Report” of the APRC, handed to the President by its Chairman and Minister, Vitharana, who is now wholly dumb on the issue.

There is no provision in the present Constitution as provided for in Article 04 of List I under the “Ninth Schedule” of the 13th Amendment, for a minister in Colombo to decide on dissolutions and administration of Local Government (LG) bodies. This is a devolved subject to the PCs. In fact, it is irrelevant to have even a minister for LG, as PCs take care of all LAs. But in Colombo, they do swear in ministers for subjects like LG and Co-operatives, portfolios they have no reason to have and interfere in work that PCs have to be held responsible for.

This government’s intentions go beyond such interference. It keeps accumulating power in Colombo and in the hands of the Executive, establishing a regime that would finally control all aspects of governance, under a single ruler. One long leap towards such power accumulation was with the new 18th Amendment that did away with the 17th Amendment. All power in appointing all key positions are now with the sole and mighty power of the Executive, who continues with immunity from judicial inquiry. The first layer of governance has thus been usurped and centralised in the hands of the President.

The third tier in governance, the LA’s will now be grabbed with the two Bills lined up for adoption. Giving powers over LAs to a minister contradicting existing law, provides the regime to have all strings in their hands, to be pulled at, when they want. This needs to be seen in the context of the defence budget which has kept increasing after the war from Rs177 bn in 2009 to Rs.214 bn in 2010. Estimates for 2011 show another increase to Rs. 227 bn.

This needs to be seen in the context of the Defence Ministry being given all urban development powers vested with the UDA and land reclamation and development under the SLLR&DC too. The Coast Conservation Department that had traditionally been a subject under the Fisheries Ministry, is also with the President, listed under Ports and Aviation. All LAs would thus be tied to the defence establishment as well.

Where most get carried away, despite this heavy centralisation of power with defence playing a lead role, is the belief that a strengthened electoral process allowing “ward” based representation, would be more voter friendly and would be responsible to the voter. But history proves otherwise. Single ward, single member representation has never been pro development.

Nominations and elections to such wards have always been on caste, religion or ethnicity, exploited by political parties. Elected members were seen around, but never have they been efficient, town and city planners for village, town or urban councils. They eventually turned out as grass root power nodes controlled by Colombo party bosses, in government or in opposition.

So was it with elected MPs to the old electorate. If they had been “voter friendly” as most wish to believe, this political tragedy under different governments since independence, would not have been as nauseating as this. It is with them that rural poverty expanded. It is with them, communal politics turned into a brutal war. It is them who established this 1978 Constitution.

Their independence is tied to power, vested in Colombo. With a regime that can negate all democracy, they’ll be colourfully dressed dancers in a puppet show. Their allegiance will not be with the voter, but with the regime. What responsibility can the voter expect from such members, though from a “ward”, elected from a free and fair election ? It may not be long, for white flags in the South.

© The Sunday Leader

Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2009 - 2014 Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by 2008

Back to TOP