Several people have come forward to defend National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa who threatened to bomb the Parliament if a new Constitution was adopted on the basis of the interim report submitted by the Constitutional Assembly’s Steering Committee and tabled in Parliament on September 21 by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Keheliya Rambukwella a former media minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime and joint opposition front-liner in the Central Province, Dilum Amunugama had echoed what Weerawansa had said while NFF deputy leader and MP Jayantha Samaraweera defended his boss. He said bombs should fall on the Parliament (not that Parliament should be bombed) if a new Constitution was promulgated on the basis of the above interim report.
They advocate violence and justify it on the basis that the new constitution would pave the way for the division of the country. This has been the Opposition’s argument whenever the incumbent government took measures to introduce a new Constitution or Constitutional Amendments with the intention of finding a political solution to the national question.
Interestingly the two main political parties in the country have bandied similar accusations against each other when they were in the Opposition. The passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the presentation of the famous “package” in 1995, the government’s proposals for the Parliamentary Select Committee on a new Constitution in 1997, the draft Constitution presented in the Parliament in August 2000 and the ceasefire agreement cum peace talks with the LTTE in 2002 were some of such cases in point.
Ironically when one of the parties which while in opposition opposed moves to promulgate a new constitution, would moot the very same proposals when in power. In 2001 United National Party (UNP) continued the Norwegian-mediated peace talks which were initiated by the Chandrika Kumaratunga government and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa continued with the ceasefire agreement and the peace talks which were continued by the UNF government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
All major parties or their leaders, at some point in their political life, have in some way or the other supported federalism which many of them now describe as the first step towards the division of the country. Had some others implemented a policy of eliminating those supporting federalism in the past how many of those leaders would have been spared?
Therefore the allegation by both main parties that the government of the day was attempting to divide or betray the country has been a ploy to incite the people against the government and an indication of the inability of those parties to engage in an intellectual discourse in a civilized manner leading to understanding the others’ point of view rather than being understood. The use and the threat to use violence during a discourse on an important or national issue is an extension of this intolerant and uncultured mindset.
Needless to say the efforts by past governments to resolve the ethnic problem had not always been on the correct path. But that does not morally grant anybody the right to incite people or resort to violence.
The speeches in Parliament are occasionally interrupted by members raising “points of order” but only to be rejected by the Speaker saying they cannot be described as points of order. This again points to the unethical ploys by parliamentarians who are not capable of engaging in an intellectual discourse instead of disrupting the speeches of their opponents out of ignorance on what points of order are.
Sri Lanka boasts of a high rate of literacy in the region. But the current state of affairs increasingly points to the vast disparity between literacy and intellect.