Frontline Socialist Party leader Kumar Gunaratnam said his party was encouraging former LTTE members to embrace leftist politics instead of racism.
In an emailed interview with the Daily Mirror, Mr. Gunaratnam who is now in Australia along with his family said his party was formed only two weeks ago, and anybody joining it would have been involved in politics representing different parties and organizations in the party.
“Only two weeks have passed after the formation of the Frontline Socialist Party. There cannot be anyone who did not do any kind of politics until then. Among those joining us, there are members who have done politics in the UNP, the SLFP, the JVP and the LTTE too. They have understood the futility of their past politics,” he said.
Mr. Gunaratnam said his party did not believe that former LTTE members should be left to be engaged in racism forever. “We have a political struggle to win them over to leftist politics. We do that kind of politics,” he said.
He also said that his party would never resort to an armed struggle. “There is no room for an armed struggle for a leftist movement after the collapse of the Soviet union in 1990,” he said.
Excerpts of the interview are as follows.
By Kelum Bandara
Q: There are rumours surrounding your abduction along with Ms. Dimuthu Attigala. Some say it is voluntary disappearance to get public attention and political mileage? What is your response?
A: This action shows the government’s anti-democratic path. We were abducted by an armed gang. Yet, we were released through the police. It is obvious who is staging this drama now. We do not do cheap politics. We have an in depth knowledge about the political challenge lying ahead. We are prepared to face that challenge.
Q: You charged that you were sexually tortured. You have any idea to go before an international forum seeking justice. If so, what will you do first?
A: Rulers wanted to destroy my life. Also, they tried to destroy our politics and moral outlook. I will take up the injustice caused to me with progressive people everywhere in the world. But, I will not go before any court or organization functioning under the capitalist system.
Q: There are allegations about you flouting emigration and immigration laws. Have you come under any investigation here or in Australia where you presently stay?
A: Even under the capitalist law, right to live is guaranteed above anything else. Today’s anti- democratic governance has left that right in jeopardy. You know what is happening in journalism today. Some journalists who fear for life have gone into hiding. Yet, some have been compelled to conceal their identity. This situation is common to you in journalism and to us in politics.
I am ready to appear before any court of law in Sri Lanka or abroad. More than that, I am ready to go before people and explain to them the steps taken by me for my safety. A few years ago, the government used a forged passport for Karuna Amman violating the immigration and emigration laws. The government should be asked to produce him before court. There cannot be one law for the government and another for the opposition.
Q: After you were sent to the CCD in Dematagoda after your abduction, how did the Australian High Commission bring your passport to the place? How did they get hold of it?
A: There were baseless allegations. After my abduction, there were media reports in which the Defence Secretary asked the Australian High Commission to produce passport details of the Australian citizen reportedly missing. Having seen this report, fellow activists of our party handed over my passport to the High Commission. I had left all my travel documents with the party members. There is nothing to hide.
Q: Are you planning to come back to Sri Lanka to organize the activities of your party?
A: We are followers of Marxism and Leninism. We work for the down trodden. We can work for them wherever we are in the world. We are not bothered about their language, country and ethnic identity. Yet, I have a special liking for working in the interest of down trodden people in Sri Lanka. Though capitalist rulers tried to distance me from them through my deportation, they cannot stop me serving these people politically. I will definitely come to work for people in Sri Lanka after bringing about a change in the present anti-democratic trend.
Q: Is it reasonable for you to encourage other youths in Sri Lanka to do politics while your family enjoy a safe life in Australia?
A: Some of my family members live in Australia. They live with the proletariat in Australia. My wife is a paid worker. Compared with Sri Lanka’s totalitarian and undemocratic trend, they enjoy more freedom in Australia. Yet, life is not safe for any one of us under a capitalist system. On the one hand, Sri Lankan youths are provoked into politics by the prevailing situation. It does not happen merely because of a request by a few including me. The ruling class has created a situation here where people are compelled to seek alternative politics.
Q: Please brief us about your role in JVP politics
A: I joined the JVP through its students’ movement. I played an active role in the run up to the 1982 referendum as an activist for the movement in the Kegalle District. After the Advanced Level examination, I entered the Peradeniya University. At the university, I started doing active politics as a full time member of the party. The party was undergoing suppression by the time. I was arrested in 1989. Yet, I managed to save my life. I played a role in revamping the party in 1990 and 1994.
Q: What are the circumstances that led to your defection from the party?
A: We did not defect from the party. It is complex to define what a party is. Simply, a party means its policies, vision and objectives and membership. Certain members of the party deviated from the original policies of the party. Comrade Rohana Wijeweera formed the party against opportunistic trends such as class corporatism and revisionism. Later, some party men compromised these ideals. They acted arbitrarily, disregarding the majority views within the party.
They have retained the name board called ‘JVP’. But, we, along with the majority of members, did a self-criticism of our past actions and resorted to the political struggle based on original policies and ideals under the Frontline Socialist Party with the support of majority. The other section managed to retain the official title of the party under the capitalist law.
Q: It is true that you played a major role in the 1987/1989 armed struggle?
A: There were media reports in this regard. Yet, I, along with other comrades, did politics amid intense suppression. I have not been indicted in any court of law in Sri Lanka. No charge has been proved against me in a court of law. The neo-liberal capitalism introduced by the 1977 UNP government has entered its second phase leaving people at the receiving end. They know there is a public upsurge against it. The government is trying to undermine such public uprisings. These charges are made only to create the background for such suppression.
Q: Also, there are allegations that you were instrumental in carrying attacks targeting a military barrack in Pallekele? How do you refute these allegations?
A: I have to stress again that there are no charges served against me. Such allegations are aimed at bringing disrepute to the Frontline Socialist Party. I was forcefully taken to the Dematagoda police station after my abduction. They recorded statements from me. If there were such allegations, they could have asked me. If I had done anything wrong, they could have produced me before court. Police acted only to deport me.
Q: In today's context, what do you think is the best way to rally people against this government? Do you believe in an armed struggle or middle -east type public upsurge?
A: We believe in educating people politically. We believe in activism of such educated people. There was a time in history when leftist movements resorted to armed struggles. However, in the world context after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1990, the room for such armed struggles has shrunk. Today, leftist movements rarely take up arms. Yet, victory is hardly possible.
There are armed struggles in the world today, and they are backed by the United States or NATO. There is no such opportunity for leftist movements. On the other hand, we have a criticism against what is happening in the middle-east. Though people have taken to the streets for democratic rights, we are critical of reactionary objectives of those who lead such protests.
Q: Also, there were media reports earlier that you were instrumental in expelling Mr. Wimal Weerawansa from the JVP few years ago. Is it true?
A: There were media reports in this respect. I did not have personal issues with anyone when doing politics in the JVP. I had criticism on several occasions. Those were political criticisms based on ideology. In my politics, I have done ideological struggles. Other than that, I have not acted for the expulsion of anyone individually. Yet, I struggled to stop the party from taking to opportunism. I wanted to keep the party on track.
Q: What are the biggest political mistakes made by the JVP?
A: Today, the JVP is Petit-bourgeoisie party. It adopted class corporatism, and formed alliances with capitalist parties. They tried to find shortcuts for power, and were instrumental in forming capitalist regimes to wage war. While shouting anti-imperialist slogans, they became a nationalist movement. Internal democracy eroded within the party. There was factionalism. The JVP failed to address solutions to tragedies confronting Sri Lankan society.
Q: You have any connection with the Tamil parties in Sri Lanka?
A: We have already teamed up with a number of leftist parties and organizations. Among these parties, there are Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim comrades. We have no political contacts with any party specially defined as a Tamil party. We do not like parties specially meant for a particular ethnic group. However, in the future, we are trying to foster ties with a number of parties and organizations for the formation of a leftist political centre. Racist parties will not have any place in that.
Q: Also, we want to know whether any ex LTTE members are actively involved in politics with you.
A: Anybody in Sri Lanka can join our party. Only two weeks have passed after the formation of the Frontline Socialist Party. There cannot be anyone who did not do any kind of politics until then. Among those joining us, there are members who have done politics in the UNP, the SLFP, the JVP and the LTTE too. They have understood the futility of their past politics. We do not believe that ex LTTE members should be engulfed in racism forever. We have a political struggle to win them over to leftist politics. We do that kind of politics.