It is disheartening to note many people coming forward to defend National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa who threatened to bomb the Parliament if it adopted a Constitution based on the interim report of the Steering Committee appointed under the Constitutional Assembly that has been entrusted to draft a new Constitution.
The first person to defend Weerawansa was his deputy Parliamentarian Jayantha Samaraweera who unlike Werawansa carefully used the words to say that bombs must fall on the Parliament. Former Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and Parliamentarian Dilum Amunugama also had echoed the NFF leader’s words.
They might have intended to dilute the seriousness of the statement made by their vociferous comrade. But it gives a wrong message to the foolhardy opponents of the current Constitution making process. It encourages bombing of Parliament. However Weerawansa seems to have submitted to the criticisms against his bombshell or realized the seriousness of his provocative remarks, as he had not reacted to those criticisms in his habitual ferocity.
With similar provocative hateful threats being made by those supportive of the Joint Opposition, one would wonder whether it is contagious or a trend within the group. The retired Major General Kamal Gunarathna who is a close ally of the former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had stated in a public gathering that those who attempt to divide the country through the Constitution were traitors. Reminiscing a slogan “Death to traitors” used by the Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya (DJV)/ Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during their insurrection in 1988/89, in order to justify his hate mongering statement, he observed that the traitors should be killed and their coffins should not be allowed to be raised over the knee level when they are taken to the grave, as the DJV had ordered.
The response received to those hate filled remarks from the audience where he made it was a thunderous applause which was in fact awful as it indicated the general intolerance in the society we live in.
The Joint Opposition or any other group or person has the right to oppose the current Constitution making process in general and the interim report of the Steering Committee in particular, on sound grounds or just in line with their power hungry agendas
Another politician working with the Joint Opposition, former Kurunegala Municipal Councilor Abdul Sattar had joined this bandwagon of hate mongering a few days ago. In an interview with the Sunday Lankadeepa of October 22. Sattar had said “at this juncture Muslim politicians must be hanged as Prabhakaran did to his enemies.”
All these politicians and retired military officers are Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists. One would wonder whether the former President and his group were in the same line of thinking as he or his supporters have so far not come out with measures to control the damage done to his group by these provocative and hate mongering statements.
Needless to say the Joint Opposition or any other group or person has the right to oppose the current Constitution making process in general and the interim report of the Steering Committee in particular, on sound grounds or just in line with their power hungry agendas. But the issues should be resolved through an intellectual discourse, rather than promoting violence or any other unethical moves.
Except for Sattar, all others who had advocated violence as a means to resolve political issues have called for the death of their adversaries on the grounds they were attempting to divide the country through devolution of power or a federal form of governance. What they want the public to forget is that almost all major political parties have contributed to power devolution and none of them wants now to abrogate the current provincial council system which is the Sri Lankan version of devolution of power.
The UNP members burnt the copies of it within the Parliament chamber when it was debated, on the grounds that it would pave the way for the division of the country
Besides, the two main parties - the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) - had openly toiled to bring in a federal form of government during their respective past regimes. And every time when the ruling party attempted to introduce some form of power devolution or federal form of governance, the main Opposition had branded it as a conspiracy to divide the country.
The SLFP led People’s Alliance (PA) government headed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga presented a set of proposals which were generally known as the “package” in 1995 under which Sri Lanka was to be a “Union of Regions” rather than to be a unitary State. The “package” was drafted by the then Constitutional Affairs Minister Professor G.L.Peiris in collaboration with Constitutional expert and TULF politician Dr. Neelan Thiruchchelvam. Again the same government presented in the Parliament in October 1997 the government’s proposals submitted to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional reforms headed by Professor Peiris. Again the country had been referred to as a “Union of Regions” in these proposals as well.
President Kumaratunga presented a draft new Constitution in the Parliament on August 3, 2000 based on the “package” and the 1997 proposals. Kumaratunga dared to openly call it a federalist draft Constitution.The draft had even provided for the merger of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces and the establishment of an interim administrative council for the amalgamated unit for ten years, after which a referendum had to be held to decide the continuation of the merger.
The UNP members burnt the copies of it within the Parliament chamber when it was debated, on the grounds that it would pave the way for the division of the country. All those three documents were fathered by Professor G.L.Peiris and the majority members of today’s Joint Opposition, including Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa were to vote for them, had they been put to vote in the Parliament.
In fact, those three documents had gone far beyond the proposals in the interim report which are currently being debated. Is anybody advocating death now for those who attempt to divide the country by way of Constitutional reforms of the view that those who drafted and supported these documents should have been killed?
Then the UNF government under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signed a ceasefire agreement with the LTTE in 2002 and held peace talks with Norwegian mediation. During the third round of the talks held in the Norwegian Capital, Oslo, both sides agreed to explore a solution to the ethnic problem within a federal system. It was the Sri Lankan army that had provided security for the LTTE leaders such as Thamilchelvan and Karuna Amman who had returned to Colombo from Oslo talks.
Interestingly, not a single demonstration was held or at least a poster was put up in any part of the country against the Oslo agreement, in those days. In response to the agreement President Kumaratunga, the then leader of the majority of the current Joint Opposition said that it was she who had first proposed a federal solution in 2000. When the LTTE withdrew from the talks on April 21, 2003, all Opposition parties, including the JVP and the SLFP expressed their concern in a joint statement on April 30, the same year.
Despite the recent Supreme Court ruling that “advocating for a federal form of government within the existing state could not be considered as advocating separatism,” many politicians including those in the Joint Opposition argue in the negative. Therefore, should those who agreed to the federalization of the country and those accepted, it have been killed?
The LTTE presented a proposal for the setting up of an “Interim Self Governing Authority” (ISGA) with an Auditor General, an Election Commission a separate judiciary and a separate budget for the LTTE controlled Northern and Eastern Provinces, in October 2003. Despite it being a clear blueprint for a separate State, the UNF government and its negotiating team headed by Professor Peiris were prepared to resume the stalled peace talks on the basis of that proposal.
The LTTE presented another such blueprint called Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) in the guise of a joint mechanism for tsunami rehabilitation and relief activities in 2005. The first UPFA regime with Mahinda Rajapaksa being the Prime Minister of it signed an agreement with the LTTE based on that proposal. Should all those involved in the ISGA and the P-TOMS be killed?
We are being reminded at this juncture of an open letter sent to LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran during the war by TULF leader V.Anandasangaree who had said in it “If you were to kill all those opposing your views, ultimately only you will be spared in the world.”