Politics
Now look who’s laughing

praba.jpg (17045 bytes)by Namini Wijedasa
Karuna, the LTTE’s eastern commander, thought it funny that the government peace delegation telephoned the premier every ten minutes for instructions. "They do not allow him even to sleep," he snickered at a meeting with Switzerland-based Tamil expatriates in December.

Well... if Friday’s explosion is anything to go by, we know that some people in the LTTE are getting a darn sight TOO much sleep.

The LTTE violated several agreements on Friday. They were caught sneaking weapons and munitions into government-controlled territory, they endangered the lives of international monitors and they failed to inform the navy of intended sea movement.

Here’s the joke: the Norwegian Embassy claimed that the incident was due to a communication failure between the LTTE naval commander and the cadres on board. Commander was asleep, was he?

For every cease-fire violation the LTTE has been committing during the past few months, the leadership has concocted a most delightful explanation. Enchanting, really. They would have us believe that decisions taken at top level are not being observed by lower ranks. One of the reasons for this phenomenon is reportedly a lack of communication.

Take the instance of child recruitment. The LTTE publicly releases trained child cadres through the front door while forcibly enlisting others through the back. When asked about continued recruitment, the LTTE leadership solemnly declares itself dedicated to eradicating the problem. Only issue was, aney, its lower ranks didn’t know about this/didn’t listen/didn’t give a hoot.

This explanation is being offered to every individual with a pair of ears. We must believe, therefore, that members of a highly-regimented and dictatorial organisation as the LTTE are now acting independently of leadership instructions. Basically, there are militants within militants. These ultra-militant characters decide (by themselves) to abduct children, victimise Tamils and Muslims, extort, assault, threaten and intimidate. In other words, they are blatantly, insolently and consistently scorning the leadership.

A singular Sinhala saying comes to mind at this moment. Something about kondey bendapu chinnun... In other words, tell it to the Chinese... er... Norwegians.

God gave people brains. Somebody did, anyway. Thus, the LTTE must not blame people if these brains prevent them from swallowing each and every gobbledegook story that’s dished out.

The LTTE has an organisational structure which has not changed as a result of the peace process. This structure ensures that regional leaders are some of the LTTE’s most trustworthy fighters. Only those who have proven their impeccability both on and off the battlefield are assigned the task of directing the organisation at peripheral levels.

Perfect control

Throughout the hierarchy, there is perfect control. If there isn’t, somebody is turning a blind eye. Or sanctioning it. So, you must forgive the tedious blighters in the south for questioning the relatively un-original explanation that "it’s them, not us".

Look at Karuna. He couldn’t resist bragging in his little lecture that the LTTE are wonderfully systematic. "Even at the peace negotiating table, we take it easy and go about things smoothly," he declared. "We have nothing to be confused about."

Therefore Prabharakan, sweetie, don’t insult the intelligence of ordinary human beings by supplying inane excuses. At least set up a committee to formulate more plausible explanations. Ranil does it.

Committees are like suppositories. They are stuck up your... (you know)... either willingly or unwillingly on the claim that they will bring you relief. Almost instantly, they dissolve. In fact, you don’t even know if they’re there. The relief is short term — and often psychological — but the pain can be alleviated through the administration of yet another suppository. That’s why you get so many committees. Try it Mr. Prabhakaran. It’s a part of democracy.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga delivered a nice, polite speech on Independence Day. Nothing about dying like a kitten, etc. She congratulated the prime minister and his team for positive results achieved but recommended a deep study of the causes for setbacks and failures. She also called for a transparent and democratic approach to the peace process and urged effective and constructive co-habitation between the partners of government.

There was clear indication, however, that she hadn’t (at all) abandoned the idea of intervening if the peace process veered off track.

"I shall exercise every authority given me constitutionally, expend all the strength I may possess, to guarantee and safeguard the sovereignty and unity of the State of Sri Lanka..."

Kumaratunga has consistently emphasised that she reserves the right to step in if she feels the country is in danger. The Independence Day reminder is just another nudge in a series of pinches. Such a move is likely to jeopardise the United National Front’s peace initiative, if not completely destroy it. The LTTE has often expressed concern over the power Kumaratunga wields.

The Tigers need not worry, however. S.B Dissanayake declared last week that Kumaratunga can’t possibly derail the process. And who knows Chandrika better than him, eh?

Referendum

Dissanayake asserted (at a press conference) that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will hold a referendum when the time was right. He predicted that the results of the referendum will hugely favour the government. Asked what would happen if Kumaratunga opposed it, he maintained that she won’t have the chance. "Not with her clothes on, anyway," he chuckled.

Yup, we’ve been missing that lewd Dissanayake wit.

The nowadays-pretty-jobless Dissanayake also declared that he was quite impressed with Kumaratunga’s Independence Day oration. It was only when she read without her notes, he said, that she forgot to apply the brakes.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) started official discussions last week. The two lovers are trying to draft an agreement which will see them either contesting future elections together or forming an alternative government with the support of other parties.

Although unofficial talks have been happening, these were the first formal sessions. Maithripala Sirisena, D.M. Jayaratne, Sarath Amunugama and Nimal Siripala de Silva represented the SLFP while Tilvin de Silva, Wimal Weerawansa and Anura Dissanayake spoke on behalf of the JVP.

Amunugama, while declining to elaborate, said the meeting had been "very cordial".

"Both parties agreed that the time was right for a very broad-based anti-UNP organisation in this country," he explained. They wanted to fight the JVP from inside and outside parliament.

"There are some areas on which both sides agreed immediately," Amunugama continued. "We put aside other issues for future talks. We formulated an agenda."

Looks like Amunugama has been learning diplomatic jargon from the Norwegians. He said a lot without really saying anything.

In other news, a large group of parliamentarians are trying to have the bribery commissioner investigated. They want parliament to set up a select committee for this purpose. Among the members involved are seven parliamentarians who are themselves being investigated by the bribery commission.

In effect, parliamentarians under investigation want their investigator to be investigated. The situation is akin to a suspect calling for the judge to be tried.

Amunugama called the situation a joke. It’s not often that he’s right.


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