Monday, November 23, 2009

INGOs advise ministers, MPs on presidential, parliamentary polls

With President Mahinda Rajapaksa deciding to call an early presidential election ahead of parliamentary polls, a section of the ‘international community’ is pushing for an unprecedented agreement among Tamil speaking politicians, both in and out of Parliament to undermine the incumbent President’s campaign.

Government sources told The Island that a three-day seminar recently concluded in Switzerland was nothing but an effort to explore ways and means of turning politicians, now with the UPFA against the President.

Sources said that on the final day (Saturday Nov 21), the focus was on the presidential and parliamentary polls scheduled for early next year. Sources said that the organisers had sought what the programme schedule called a basic conduct agreement for upcoming elections.

Sources said that the government was concerned about this development, particularly as Switzerland, too, had been involved in the programme. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs had hosted the Sri Lankan participants who had been subsequently addressed by Peter Bowling who had been the Executive Secretary of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka (IWG), Craig Collins (Coordinator of the Global Initiative on Conflict Prevention through Quiet Diplomacy-ICPQD), Sally Holt also of the ICPQD, Judith Large (Richardson Institute for Conflict and Peace Studies, Lancaster University), Zdenka Machnyikova (ICPQD), Rajadurai Manoharan (one of the founding members of the Tamil Information and Research Unit of the Tamil Information Centre and a TULF candidate at the 1989 parliamentary polls), John Packer (advisor to ICPQD) and Vairamuttu Varadakumar (also of the Tamil Information Centre).

Although the seminar was titled Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Reform in Sri Lanka: the role of Tamil-speaking political leaders, the organisers focused on the upcoming polls and how they could reach a consensus among politicians.

Sources said that this was similar to a high profile campaign conducted by INGOs and their local partners in the run up to the last presidential poll in November 2005.

Sources added that the organisers had spent lavishly to arrange the seminar with all participants’ expenses taken care of.

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