Opposition's General Strike a failure:
Maithree at work, while Ranil at street protest
All Opposition political parties, sans the TNA, had successive rounds
of meetings under closed doors for the past several weeks for one common
goal. Though these parties would never come under one umbrella to
contest future elections, they appeared to be united in showing the
Government its strength as the common Opposition.
Though the idea of a common Opposition is only a fantasy as the UNP,
JVP and the other minor parties including that of Sarath Fonseka’s,
would never be united to contest under one banner, they thought they
could at least show some strength if they make a collective trade union
Even the JVP leaders threw aside their political differences in going
to Siri Kotha to have discussions with the leaders of the UNP on the
strike they had planned. The other minor parties in the
K D Lalkantha
Ranil and Maithree
Opposition which find it hard to show a membership even to fill a
three-wheeler, thought that it was the best chance for them to be among
a massive gathering promised to be brought by the UNP and the JVP.
Hence, bankrupt politicians such as Fonseka geared for the ‘big
occasion’. Fonseka had a special reason to do so as he had failed to
attract even a handful of people to his political rallies after his 2010
presidential election defeat.
The sudden waking up from the political fantasy created by Mangala
Samaraweera was too hard for Fonseka to bear. Though known to be a
thick-skinned person, Fonseka found it extremely hard to believe that
the people who had been present in their numbers at his political
rallies had not voted for him. Being an immature politician with only 40
days experience by then, Fonseka thought that all the people present at
political rallies to be prospective voters.
Fonseka made another strategic move to mislead the JVP and UNP. Hence
the joint Opposition took the new electricity tariff hike as their main
slogan at the one-day general strike last Tuesday, they made cardboard
torches as a sign. But the UNP and the JVP realised little that they
were carrying the political symbol of Fonseka’s party, which
incidentally is the torch.
That gave Fonseka some confidence, perhaps assuming that the entire
crowd was his supporters, though it was a nightmare for the JVP and the
UNP, which never thought that the general strike called by them would
turn out to be such a flop.
Tuesday’s countrywide general strike ultimately turned out to be one
of the most unsuccessful ever as the working class rejected it.
The UNP and the JVP bragged that they would inflict a crucial blow on
the Government with the general strike but finally it became by far the
most unsuccessful trade union action ever in the country’s history.
The UNP got down its faithful media institutions give wide pre
publicity for the event. That prompted even moderate people to assume
that the joint Opposition could pose some threat to the Government by
using an attractive slogan such as the new electricity tariff.
Anura Priyadarshana Yapa
The UNP and the JVP leaders flexed their muscle to mislead the
masses, stating that they could shake the Government with a massive
protest. Though the UNP and JVP leaders took to streets with their
limited memberships, their wives reported to their workplaces.
The wife of the Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe - Prof.
Maithree Wickremesinghe ignored the call by her better half and was at
the University of Kelaniya, where she is employed as a senior lecturer
and professor in English.
But Ranil had later claimed that his wife had gone to the university
to meet one of her students only and had refrained from conducting
It was also reported that the JVP trade union win leader K.D.
Lalkantha’s wife, who is a teacher, had also reported for duty at her
school in Anuradhapura.
When the following day’s newspapers highlighted that Ranil’s wife had
ingnored her husband’s call for a general strike, she had later told a
private radio station that she only attended the university but did not
conduct lectures. Had Prof Maithree done so, it is also a breach of code
of conduct for the government servants – keeping away from work
(lecturing) after reporting for duty.
Dr. Maithree arrived at the university in her motor car around 9.30
a.m on Tuesday, the usual commencement time and began lectures at the
English Department of the Social Science and Humanities Faculty.
Apart from university duties, she holds a director post at the Centre
for Gender Studies. It is reported that, she also attended to her duties
at the Centre after her university work despite the ongoing strike
organised by her husband, political parties and Trade Union groups.
The most significant fact is that she had attended to all her duties
when members of the Federation of University Lecturers Association
(FUTA) had announced that they would support the strike and would not be
working. But Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe had ignored all their calls
and attended to her duties as usual.
Her husband and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had urged the
public all through the week to refrain from going to work and to take to
street to be part of their strike. Her decision means she had defied her
husband’s request and attended to her official duties as usual as if
there was no such call to strike made by her husband.
The working class were intelligent enough not to fall prey to the
Opposition’s trap as they were cognizant of the massive relief on
electricity tariff for low income groups, announced by President Mahinda
Rajapaksa on May Day. The Opposition general strike turned out to be a
total disaster as more than 98 percent of the workers reported for work
at all government institutions and most private sector establishments.
The figure was well above the average attendance percentage.
All Government establishments functioned smoothly and to optimum
capacity on Tuesday with essential services such as the Colombo National
Hospital even exceeding the normal daily attendance figures. Both the
SLCTB and private bus operators were in full strength, making a mockery
of the Opposition’s general strike.
Lalkantha cut a pathetic figure and reports said that he had been
several reprimanded by the JVP politburo for failing to attract the full
strength. An inside JVP report had disclosed that a considerable
percentage of even its normal membership had not followed the party’s
instructions to keep away from work.
Poor Lalkantha has now been made a scapegoat for the unsuccessful
trade union action.
Unconfirmed reports said the JVP is now conducting an internal
investigation to find out whether Lankantha’s public statement of the
JVP’s terror acts in 1988/89 had contributed towards the poor response
for the party’s call.
Lalkantha recently made public the JVP’s notorious track record
during the height of its 1988/89 terror.
Lalkantha behaved like a common thug by openly admitting that the JVP
had killed scores of people and indulged in various other crimes during
1988/89 period, the party’s second attempt to capture power through the
Differences deepen within TNA ranks
The differences within the TNA ranks have deepened despite various
efforts to retain all five constituent parties under one umbrella and
obtain registration as a political party.
With the Government announcing last week that the elections to the
Northern Provincial Council will be held in September as scheduled, the
TNA is now in wilderness without knowing what action they should take
with various constituent parties expressing different views.
Despite TELO’s efforts on bringing about a peaceful settlement with
the other three partners and R. Sampanthan-led ITAK, solutions have not
been found for their woes and worries.
The latest issue among the former Tiger-proxy party is on the
formation of the TNA High Command. The ITAK wanted to have the High
Command of the TNA in place even before entering the Memorandum of
Understanding with the other four constituent members of the TNA. The
ITAK has suggested that the TNA High Command should consist of 25
representatives, out of which 10 for the ITAK and one representative for
parliamentarian Appathurai Vinayagamoorthy of All Ceylon Tamil Congress.
It was suggested that the balance 14 representatives will go to EPRLF
(5), TELO (5), TULF (2) and PLOTE (2). However, EPRLF, PLOTE and the
TULF are not happy with the proposals and have indicated strongly that
all the constituent parties must have equal representations. But the
ITAK is not ready to have equal representation in the TNA High Command
to other parties so that Sampaandan would lose the grip.
M.K. Shivajilingham, spokesperson for TELO has said that the TELO
representatives would be meeting the ITAK leadership this weekend to
finalise the proposed MOU among the five constituent parties of the TNA.
TELO representatives have met separately with EPRLF, TULF and PLOTE
leaderships and have explained the importance of entering into a MOU.
Shivajilingham had expressed optimism that the MOU could be signed
before the end of this month.
JHU calls for abrogation of 13th Amendment
Technology Research and Atomic Energy Minister and Jathika Hela
Urumaya (JHU) Leader Patali Champika Ranawaka called on the government
to initiate a comprehensive program to wipe out the idea of Eelam from
Sri Lanka’s social, economic, intellectual and cultural life.
Minister Ranawaka said creating a Tamil Eelam, a separate state in
the North and East had been the dream of slain terrorist leader.
The violent secessionist military campaign started by them to create
a separate Tamil state in the North and East had been defeated by the
government, he said.
“The time has come to initiate comprehensive de-Eelamification
programme in the country,” he pointed out.
Ranawaka was speaking at a press conference at the Mahaweli Centre in
Colombo. The Minister announced his plans to submit an individual member
motion in Parliament to abrogate the 13th Amendment and the Provincial
Council system. JHU Legal advisor and Western Provincial Council
Minister Udaya Gammanpila said the 13th Amendment should be abrogated
because it is in violation of the Constitution and it stands to pose a
threat against the country’s sovereignty and the unitary character of
JHU Leader Ranawaka said members of the Tamil National Alliance have
been refusing to participate in the the proposed Parliamentary Select
Committee by the President to find a political solution to the Tamil
problem because they still espouse the notion of Tamil Eelam. “It is
essential to remove this notion from the country as a counter terrorism
measure by implementing law if necessary.” he said. “After the
liberation of Germany in 1945, the Allied Powers initiated a
denazification program whereby they prohibited NSDAP-party and its
subdivisions. They also dismissed NSDAP party members from executive
positions in industry and office. Nazi laws were abolished and symbols
removed from use,” he said.
“In the case of Libya, after Libya has been liberated from Muammar
Gaddafi’s 42-year rule of government, the Libyan Parliament voted to ban
ex-Gadaffi officials from holding any position in government or even in
a political party. This is to ensure national interest and security,”
explained Ranawaka. He said Visuavanathan Rudrakumaran, a former advisor
to LTTE international Secretariat, who is also known as the driving
force behind an organization called, Transnational Government of Tamil
Eelam (TGTE)has reportedly become a Prime Minister of that government.
“There are senior officials of Western nations that have become
receptive to Rudrakumaran’s action. A process of de-Eelamification helps
ban such activities and their influence on Tamil public in Sri Lanka,”
Udayan trying to divide all communities
Controversial Udayan newspaper published in the North made yet
another attempt to fan the flames of communalism when it published a
story quoting a speech by TNA parliamentarian Selvam Addaikalandana at a
public gathering in Jaffna that the government is to settle 1,500
Sinhala families in Musal in the North.
The manner in which the story was presented betrayed the racist
intent and Udayan’s clear intention to arouse racist feelings of the
Tamils in the North.
Northern Governor Major General G. M. Chandrasiri said that the
government’s policy was to resettle all those who were driven away from
Jaffna at 24 hours’ notice.
He said the Udayan Newspaper had forgotten that 25 years ago, the
LTTE under their ethnic cleansing policy chased all Muslims and
Sinhalese from Jaffna in a matter of 24 hours.
“It is very sad to note that the writer and the Editor have forgotten
history and carry news items that would create divisions between
communities,” he added.
Major General Chandrasiri further said it was well known to all the
Tamil organizations and Media that the government gave priority to the
Tamils in the resettlement programme after the war. But they all should
remember that it is the government’s duty to resettle all communities in
their original places as all the regions are now free of terror, he
“Since peace has dawned in every nook and corner of the country we
should give the opportunity to all those who lost their lands during the
war. All communities irrespective of their ethnicity would be given
their original lands, he said.
“I insist that not even a single Sinhala family have been resettled
from outside. Those resettled are only those who were driven away during
the war, from their lands, he said. This is not a government decision,
since the development in the Northern region has been given priority
after the war, all people who left the region wanted to go to their
original lands. We, the government would only facilitate their
resettlement, he said.
“ What the Udayan is trying is to divide all communities’, he said.
Northern polls on schedule
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reiterated that any amendments to the
Constitution would be made through a decision of the Parliamentary
Select Committee and by no other process.
The government has not taken any decision to amend the 13th Amendment
to the Constitution, Petroleum Industries Minister Anura Priyadharshana
Yapa said last week.
Presiding at the weekly Cabinet press briefing at the Government
Information Department Auditorium on Thursday, Minister Yapa said the
elections to the Northern Provincial Council would be held in September
as decided by the government earlier, and this would not change.
“The North is a part of our country. The Northern Provincial Council
is a similar administrative unit to the Provincials Councils operational
in the country elsewhere right now,” the minister said. He said in an
election one party would win, and automatically, the rest become the
parties that comprise the Opposition.
“We are not concerned who would win the election. We are keen to hold
elections under the provisions of the Constitution,” the minister said.
“We are aware that the Tamil National Alliance is not in favour of
the proposed amendment to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
We assure that whatever change is decided by the Select Committee
will be adhered to by the government.”
Minister Yapa recalled that the Provincial Council system was
introduced to the country as a result of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord
signed by the UNP regime.“Right from the inception, there were a number
political of parties which opposed the introduction of the Provincial
Council system to the country.” He said certain provision included in
the Provincial Council system did not suit a small country such as Sri