hatever the citizenship he is currently holding, Frontline Socialist Party’s polit-bureau member Kumar Gunaratnam is a Sri Lankan by birth. However, he was arrested on November 4 while at his ancestral home in Anguruwella, Kegalla for overstaying his 30-day tourist visa as an Australian citizen. According to the Immigration and Emigration Department, he is liable for deportation to Australia.
On April 7, 2012 he was abducted by some unknown people in a white van at Kiribathgoda and two days later was dumped near the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) head office at Dematagoda after the Australian High Commission intervened on his behalf. He was deported immediately to Australia.
Interestingly, former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said recently that it was the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which provided information on Gunaratnam prior to his abduction. This claim was flatly rejected by JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake who in turn pointed out that with this allegation the former Defence Secretary had wittingly or unwittingly accepted the culpability for Kumar’s abduction.
On the two occasions that Kumar was detained, the FSP -- the ultra-leftist breakaway group of the JVP -- wasted hundreds of thousands of rupees on posters demanding Kumar’s release and highlighting his right to engage in politics in Sri Lanka.
Despite the legality of his latest arrest, the FSP’s demand that Kumar be allowed to engage in politics has to be accepted as reasonable, given the circumstances that led to him to leave Sri Lanka and obtain Australian citizenship. In fact he and his brother Ranjitham, who was killed during the 1988/1989 JVP insurrection, were known to have been involved in JVP politics since the 1980s and had even been frontline soldiers of the DJV, the armed wing of the JVP at the time. JVP’s disowning him has to be understood against the background of its denial of involvement in the insurrection.
According to media reports, Kumar had been compelled to leave the country under the alias Noel Mudalige for his personal safety, like many Tamils and Sinhalese did during the past three decades. According to these media reports he had never severed his political links with the JVP or later with the FSP. Hence, it is clear that Kumar had been active in Sri Lankan politics for nearly 30 years.
It is also known that he had not left Sri Lanka to obtain Australian citizenship in his pursuance of greener pastures, but rather because of his politics which he continued even from Australia. Therefore he has the moral right to engage in politics in this country so long as it’s not terrorism.
However, legally he is not a Sri Lankan citizen and as such does not have the legal right to engage in Sri Lankan politics. Knowing this fact, the FSP has been unnecessarily making a fuss about his right to engage in politics to create a political issue. Moral rights do not always coincide with one’s legal rights while a majority of the people are unconcerned whether Kumar should engage in politics.
Therefore, what Kumar and FSP are doing is creating artificial revolutionary circumstances just to engage in underground politics. The FSP must first dialogue with the relevant authorities and obtain Sri Lankan citizenship for Kumar at a time when the leaders of the new government had invited those who had fled the country during the past decades to return.
Authorities cannot reject such requests because they are aware of the circumstances that led to his fleeing the country and neither is he considered a security threat. If Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP -- the man who took over the reins of the dreaded LTTE to continue the ethnic bloodbath in the country after its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed -- could run children’s homes in Sri Lanka after his arrest, Kumar Gunaratnam should have the moral as well as the legal right to engage in democratic politics in the country. The lifting of the ban on eight Tamil diaspora organizations and 267 individuals last week has vindicated Kumar’s case.