Minister GL Pieris Preaches
to Gagged Audience in Sydney
By special correspondent in Sydney
At a meeting to address to the expatriate community in Sydney held
at the Macquarie University in Sydney on Sunday evening, Sri Lanka's
Constitutional Affairs Minister and Leader of the team negotiating peace
with the terrorist group LTTE spoke to a large gathering mainly expatriates
on the the topic 'Sri Lanka Eyes Peace'.
The meeting was jointly sponsored and organised by the Sri Lanka Association
in New South Wales and four other Australian academic and research bodies
as the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the Macquarie
The meeing clashed schedules of the the much awaited cultural show
of Mr Nisshanka Diddeniya of Maname and Sinhabahu fame with the renowned
dancer Channa Wijewardena and the sermon of budhist monk Ajahn Brahmavanso
of Perth in Sydney , and thereby audience Prof GL Pieris' talk constituted
a high proportion of tiger lobby groups who had taken vantage positions
in the lecture theatre. Pieris was cheered away and dissentors shouted
down when the audience attempted to query the answers. Pieris lapped
up the popularity he enjoyed at the meeting.
When questioned on the sacrifice of a third of the land and two thirds
of the coast to terrorists Pieris said 'if we go on like this that's
what will happen, if we don't give power then we lose the land' to a
cheering crowd sympathisers.
On questioned on why 74% sinhalese have not been represented on the
peace talks as against the 8% muslims who has a representative Pieris
pontificated 'in that case we have to segment further to give the castes
also a place Karawe, Durawe and the catholics etc' .
Pieris said asymmetrical devolution would be needed and that essential
areas like Finance and Defence needed to be kept at the centre but did
not say anything of the future of the land and resources. He brought
laughter to the audience when he said that the provincial council system
that was imposed on the country by President JR Jayawardena works all
over the land excepting where it was really needed. He stopped short
of further comparison.
On arrival at the hall for this much awaited event the Sri Lanka community
were surprised to find that no verbal questions were allowed and only
questions written on transparencies were accepted. With unfamiliarity
of the use of transparencies some had written questions on the blank
paper backing of the transparency or had easy no access to transparencies,
once the lecture commenced.
At the question time after the 50 minutes of the talk office bearers
of the Sri Lanka Association Ananda Amaranath and Hema Perera picked
the audience questions and passed the ones they thought it fit to the
minister. Pieris himself eagerly sought after the questions that were
presented to him prior to the meeting by certain persons 'asked what
sort of support the expatriate community could provide to the process'.
Outside the hall a large group of protestors shouted slogans and demonstrated
against Pieris for the concessions being allowed to terrorists in the
At the meeting Pieris said he maintained that the talking must go on
however at some point the people will feel frustrated if no progress
is made. He said he has close contact throughout with the LTTE spokesman
Dr Anton Balasingham and that Mr Velupillai Prabhakaran is involved
in the process as the formal discussions talke place from time to time
in Thailand and later in Oslo.
When questioned why the Sri Lankan flag was not allowed to be hoisted
at the Thai venue Pieris said the flag is not the issue and such an
event is not important. The talks were the important matter and the
talking and formal and in informal goodwill gestures need to continue.
Not a single question of the prominant activist Asoka Subhawickrema
was taken up in the 45 minutes of answering done by Pieris. Pieris further
went on to say that it is important to consult the expatriate community
and the need of being close to their sentiments, however the questioning
of the pressing issues were hindered by the barrier caused by of the
gagging of the audience. The audience had to listen to whatever debatable
answers were provided and no useful academic interaction or political
Many Sri Lankans who had made changes to their work and personal schedules,
travelled from far and sacrificed for the event expressed outrage of
the changes made without notice by the organisers. Pieris' meeting of
the expatriate community was given high expectations which provided
a large crowd of nearly 400 persons but turned out to be another stage
managed of his minders and the event petering out to be a damp squib.