Sinhala opposition to Sri Lanka peace effort mounts

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 15 January 2003, 15:32 GMT]
Opposition to Sri Lanka’s peace process gathered further momentum as a new Sinhala nationalist organisation comprising powerful opposition politicians and Buddhist monks wowed Wednesday to agitate for separating the northeast into two provinces. Agitation by Sinhala nationalists to de-merge the northeast would be another spanner in the works for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s effort to negotiate peace with the Liberation Tigers to end two decades of armed conflict that has ravaged the island.

Sinhala nationalists protest.
Former Sri Lankan PM and People’s Alliance MP, Mr. Ratnasiri Wicramanayaka addressing the inauguration.
For more than five decades, Tamils have been demanding regional autonomy for the island’s northeast as a single geographical unit. The Liberation Tigers said last month they are stepping down from their demand for a separate state to consider a federal system of autonomy for the northeast province, which the Tamils say is their traditional homeland.

Opposition leader, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksha MP, former Prime Minister, Mr. Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka MP, the leader of the Sinhala nationalist Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena, the Governor of the Wedstern Province, Mr. Alavi Moulana, and the doyen modern Sinhala nationalist ideology (Jathika Chintanaya), Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, were among the large gathering at the inauguration of the ‘Organisation to Protect the Motherland’ (OPM) in Maradana, near downtown Colombo Wednesday.

Sinhala nationalists protest.
Opposition leader Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksha in conversation with Ven. Elle Gunawansa at the inauguration of the OPM.
Speaking at the function, chief convenor of the OPM, the powerful and politically influential Buddhist monk, Ven. Elle Gunawansa, said that the main objective of the organisation would be to campaign for the de-merger of the Northeastern Province. He said that the Northern and Eastern Provinces were merged under the Emergency Regulations in 1987 and that the merger is no longer valid because the Emergency has lapsed.

Ven. Elle Gunawanse said that Mr. Douglas Devananda, the leader of the paramilitary group, the EPDP, an ally of President Chandrika Kumaratunga had expressed his support for the OPM’s objective. The priest said that Mr. Devananda could not attend the inauguration as he was abroad.

Ven. Elle Gunawansa was a confidante of former Sri Lankan President Ranasingha Premadasa. His temple in Colombo draws powerful Sinhala politicians, businessmen and political power brokers.

Addressing the meeting former Prime Minister, Mr. Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, said the most important matter at this time is to stop the permanent merger of the northeast. “We have all joined together for that purpose”, he said.

The influential ex-general secretary of the United National Party, Mr. Sirisena Cooray, the leader of the Sihala Urumaya, Mr. Tilak Karunaratna, the Sinhala nationalist thinker and columnist, Dr. Nalin de Silva, the leader of the ultra nationalist Sinhala Bhoomiputra Party, Harischandra Wijetunga and a large cross section of opposition MPs were also present at the inauguration.

Sinhala nationalists protest.
( L-R) Leader of the Sinhala Bhoomiputra Party, Mr. Harischandra Wijetunga, lighting traditional oil lamp at the inauguration of the Organisation to Protect the Motherland (OPM) Wednesday.

 

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