ü Part of the government coalition reads the Riot Act to the President for raising fuel prices beyond the means of ordinary people
ü President throws toys out of the cot with dissatisfaction with the way the country’s External Affairs Ministry, The Central Bank are run and has reacted like a volcano with regards to the recent behaviour of the TNA, particularly with it’s leader
ü Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been tasked to neutralise the vociferous Tamil Diaspora
ü Fonseka release is put on ice
Economic mismanagement and corruption which have largely driven Sri Lanka to the verge of collapse and submission. The Sri Lankan currency, rupee had been formally devalued in the budget speech delivered by the President at the end of last year. The rupee has since depreciated even when the Central Bank has tried its best to artificially maintain the rupees’ value. IMF has flatly refused to let the final tranche of the facility be drawn due to lack of fiscal discipline, balance of payment crisis and out of control in public expenditure. Although various senior government ministers and the governor of central bank have articulated that Sri Lanka may not need the final tranche payment from the IMF, yet the President travelled to Pakistan to sign a credit facility for US $200m at a much higher interest rate. In his private conversations with the President and Prime Minister of Singapore a few days ago again the President has tried to persuade Singapore to help financially to avert a now unpredictable economic disaster.
The energy and fuel price hikes which have significantly impacted day to day life of ordinary Sri Lankans, corporations small and large and the government departments themselves are creating havoc in the streets of Sri Lanka. Strikes, protests, demonstrations are building up. Opposition parties however weak they may seem to have been building bridges ignoring their differences with the view to create more hardship and splits within the coalition government.
Rajapaksa brothers seemingly unaware of the dissatisfaction of the people have been given a shock awakening by street protestors largely in the west of the country. The defence secretary who has by his knee jerk reactions created several impediments for the President and his authority internationally has been at it yet again. Just as he tried his military muscle in the Katunayake free-trade zone protests last year when the government tried to force legislation to curb pensions of private and public servants, the forces under orders from the brother Rajapaksa, have fired and killed yet another demonstrator last week.
Fearing a serious revolt, Presidential secretariat has been tasked to fix one on one meetings with coalition leaders with the President in the next few days. Rajapaksa clan has also intensified their own groupings over family dinners and lunches to consult on current situation. The regular morning briefings on military matters during the war, has been re-introduced. President has cautioned his brother not to use brutal force and to be careful when giving orders.
On return from Singapore learning that Mr R Sampanthan, the TNA leader has tried to commit him in writing of certain principles and conditions in a draft consensus document prepared on the Indian high commissioner’s insistence, President has screamed down the corridor in Sinhala ‘'mey naakiya aruta vadah kappetti’’ meaning this old man is worse than Prabakaran. He was also very angry in the plane to Singapore after hearing about the press conference where the Assistant Secretary of State Blake agreeing with the TNA on what sequence the negotiations should go and when the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be consulted upon. President was heard shouting that ‘’une hithanava athi ma me bayavennava kiyala... Matte kenthi giyoth monavavennava kiyella dhanenna, mae naaki yaa’’ meaning this old man doesn’t know ‘what the consequences will be if he made me very angry!
When President was advised of an urgent meeting request made by the Central Bank governor back in mid January, President has asked his private secretary ‘’now what has gone wrong?” When the President was advised of the dire situation of the foreign currency reserves, the sliding rupee, the ever crashing stock market and the suggested fiscal disciplines and price hikes that will have to be implemented with immediate effect, he has stood up and called in the permanent secretary to get the governor in at once. He was furious for keeping him in the dark until the situation has gone beyond repair. Brother Basil Rajapaksa was also summoned to the afternoon meeting.
When the call went from the President’s office to the Central Bank, the governor was at lunch with a few overseas delegates at the Hilton poolside restaurant. The president has over-heard the telephone conversation and gathered what was happening and has shouted, ‘’areyatte nikkang enda kiyanda arre suthinthekka salakannathuva’’ meaning asking him to just come right now without flirting with those white ladies.
Central bank governor was told in uncertain terms that he would be fired if he didn’t bring the situation under control. Presidential secretaries have been tasked to appraise Basil Rajapaksa with names of potential replacement candidates as soon as the governor left the room.
This whole episode was the reason for Presidential speech on Independence Day celebrations in Anuradhapura where the President warned the Sri Lankans that not all is well with the country’s finances and that Sri Lankans may have to go through some pain in the short to medium term. What he seems to have meant is the fuel price hike, currency devaluation and their consequences.
In the external affairs briefing that happened over breakfast in Singapore a few days ago, External Affairs Minister has updated the President of his recent visits to the African continent and the forthcoming trips to the same. External Affairs Minister is to make a last attempt final trip next week to the southern states of Africa including Angola, Botswana, Mauritius and South Africa before the UNHRC commences in Geneva where a resolution forcing Sri Lanka to act on the recommendations made by the LLRC and setting up of an independent process to investigate the alleged war crimes committed during the end of the war now seems inevitable. G L Pieris is also due to visit Nigeria on his way to Geneva. President has joked with Mr Pieris ‘I am hearing that you are now tired travelling to all these countries in such a short span of time and that you are missing home cooking – is that true Professor?’’ he has asked for which Mr Pieris has smiled. There are whispers in government circles and certainly in the External Affairs corridors that in the forthcoming reshuffle Prof Pieris will be replaced by a career diplomat.
Former high commissioner to the UK Ms. Shenuka Seniveratne has shown a particular interest in becoming a politician recently. Ms. Seniveratne has told one of her old school friends and a regular visitor to the High Commission in London that the President has asked her to join SLFP and that he would want a career diplomat to take up the External Affairs and fix the mess it’s in. In the short term G L Pieris may even be replaced by the infamous Bogolagama.
Brothers have decided to take a stern position against the US threats and ordered G L Pieris not to go to Washington in March as requested by Mrs Clinton. Sri Lanka’s envoy in DC has been asked to convey the message to the State Department that General Fonseka’s release has to be postponed due to the prevailing difficult security and political situation in the island. Rajapaksa doesn’t want to be seen to be cracking under US’s and India’s pressure.
At a recent briefing, President has asked his Bother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to personally take charge of the operation to crack down on the Tamil Diaspora. In turn the Defence Secretary has appointed his confidant Major General Kapila Hendawitharana the Director-General of Military Intelligence to personally oversee this project code named ‘Guvaanthotupole’. This smooth operator has instructed envoys and undercover military intelligence staff at key cities like London, Washington, Toronto, Oslo, Paris and Canberra to make friends with key members of the Tamil Diaspora community. Some have been even invited for one to one chats with the country’s high commissioner. Free fact finding trips to Sri Lanka have been organised for some of these individuals. Young female staff have been hired, generally from the Sinhala Diaspora community to present a more pleasant setting at meetings and government sponsored events. Fake evidences in form of doctored photos and video have been released through Tamil agents. Non Sri Lankans have been hired to pretend as undercover journalists and researchers to infiltrate the Diaspora organisations. New websites have been opened and anti government propaganda have been created to bring confidence amongst the Diaspora.
53 key individuals from various Tamil organisations worldwide have been identified as main targets. This list includes people men, women and youth varying in professions and some are students. All 53 individuals are being monitored in each country and regular updates are gathered and analysed at Panagoda Army Camp, where the project ‘Guvaanthotupole’ HQ is currently located. Target is to neutralise at least two thirds of these 53 members by end of 2012.