19th October 1997

People have short memories

By Mudliyar

Then: Mr. Athulathmudali welcoming Mr. Premadasa
Some of the most influ- ential theorists of drama today would contend that in the beginning theatre was not the word but the ritual. The Sri Lanka theatre is fighting to get out from the ritual, and the hibernation that it has plunged into when producers felt that the theatregoing public cannot be alienated from the ritual. So instead of the word the so called avant-garde sought to invigorate drama by going backward where ritual predominated.

The recitation of 'manthras' and 'solokas' to the Sun God and the Moon God, and the main female actress going in a frenzy round in a circle, projecting her posterior to the salacious audience, became the most admired theatre of the day. The word was forgotten. The ritual became supreme. But in order to inspire the theatre and direct it to more logical spheres, where sanity would prevail over song and dance, the word has to gain its place.

One might ponder what relevance this would have to a column which is written about the Hulftsdorp Hill, where fees have overtaken the power of the ritual and the word. I wish to record my appreciation of a man called Namel Weeramuni, who had returned after having obtained a post graduate degree on theatre and whose desire for the upliftment of the theatre has not diminished. Namel Weeramuni is an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and has been one of the best known Sri Lankan solicitors in the United Kingdom. He has come back after a very lucrative career in London and the experience he gained in the USA, to reinforce our faith in the theatre and in the word. In order to achieve this he produced two plays, Anton Chekov's 'Bear' and Pathirajah's 'The Lame and the Blind'. Namel translated Pathirajah's 'The Lame and the Blind into English and the two plays were staged at the Lionel Wendt. His effort was commendable, and his wife, Malini, who hails from a legal family, and whose father was a District Judge excelled in the two female roles. My heart warms when I encounter lawyers who are interested in other facets of life than making money. The late Nimal Senanayake, Justice Percy Collin Thome, and the father of Sinhala theatre, John de Silva, were lawyers who had contributed immensely to the development of the theatre.

During our lifetime there emerges from nowhere a hero to brighten our lives. From the time we have come to know politicians, all of them, or most of them were heaped with contempt and ridicule and abused by the voter when they were alive. Though most of them attain sainthood after their death, or due to the manner in which they die, when they were living the very people who strived to canonize them would be in the forefront to denigrate them for all the faults and mistakes that they have committed. There are other politicians who get elected and whose presence only fill the numbers and who do not make any contribution at all and are forgotten even when they are in power.

They have no spirit or enthusiasm to draw the attention of the public. Among those present we rarely come across a politician who has by sheer hard work won the admiration of all. When this politician is a lawyer and a product of the Hulftsdorp Hill, it becomes extremely important for me to record it. Lakshman Kadiragamar has done so much for this Government and for the country than no other Foreign Minister had for the last so many years. He was mainly responsible in persuading the United States to ban activities of the LTTE in the States. To the lasting credit of Mr. Kadiragamar, and to the most pleasant and charismatic ways in which he pleads his case, the Judges who were hostile to him would melt, and he would be in a position to mould them to suit his case. The greatest achievement of the Government to my reckoning is not the capture of Jaffna or hoisting the National Flag in Jaffna, but successfully pleading the cause of the Government that the LTTE is the most barbarous terrorist organization in the world.

The LTTE believes in perpetrating the most heinous crimes, the capture and killing of civilians, neither do they have any feeling towards children whom they use as cannon fodder in the ongoing war. When the BBC announced that the LTTE is the most ruthless and powerful terrorist organization in the world, very few people believed it.

The LTTE intelligence was able to plant their faithfuls in the State machinery, they were able to muster the support of Senators and Congressmen in the US, for the cause of their so called liberation struggle. The Tigers were able to have seminars in the United States and encourage a large number of people to support the cause of the LTTE who, according to their propaganda, were fighting a ruthless barbarous Sri Lankan Army. When it suited them, they brought in religious fervor by saying that most of the fighters in the LTTE were Christians and were fighting an army with a Buddhist majority. They were giving examples of Christian missionary work that educated the Tamils and made them compete with the most elitist schools in Colombo.

The various Christian charity organizations supported the LTTE openly, and their funding was channeled through a network in Paris, UK and also it had ramifications in Canada and was filtering down to the States. So . Lakshman Kadirgamar's endeavor to get the States to ban the LTTE is the first step toward obtaining the same sanctions from the other countries in the world. It was very interesting to note that diverse organizations like the Ekeeiya Sanvidanaya and the Premadasa Centre issued statements applauding Mr. Kadiragamar's stand in obtaining this ban.

The Premadasa Centre issued a statement which quite brazenly accused the Commission of white washing the LTTE and trying to accuse President Ranasinghe Premadasa of the murder of Lalith Athulathmudali and General Denzil Kobbekaduwa. It says that the Commission had made an effort to exonerate the LTTE of this dastardly crime, when exemplary efforts are being made by Lakshman Kadirgamar, our foreign minister, to convince the foreign Governments that the LTTE is a terrorist organization.

After the declaration by the US Government including the LTTE with other terrorist organizations, there was intense speculation at Hulftsdorp Hill. It was opined by someone who had just returned from London after a long stay in cold climes, that the LTTE ban would push the LTTE to the wall. He was able to cover his possible fidelities to the LTTE by his extremely soft and soothing language, which he had developed in his struggle in the UK to establish a practice. Englishmen are able to deceive others of their real feelings by the art of using the English language, which makes the others feel quite comfortable. Of the worst novel which they would condemn if they have to seriously do so, they would, in order to soothe the nerves of the writer especially if he is from the Asian region say that it is an 'interesting' book'.

Similarly the new friend was expressing his alarm that the LTTE would do some dastardly acts as a reaction to the US Government branding the LTTE as a terrorist organization. This he said as if the LTTE for the last so many years have not done any act which would easily make them a terrorist organization. It was only last year when the ban on the LTTE was not operative, that the large sums of money collected by NGO's in Canada and European countries were transfered to the LTTE. This was done through official channels as European governments readily accepted the liberation struggle of the LTTE and they without any compunction blasted the Central Bank building. This clearly shows why the package if it is even approved would never deter the LTTE from fighting the Government nor would it , I think alienate the Tamil people from the LTTE.

Within 24 hours of this announcement, the Kataragama Bus Depot was attacked and a large number of buses were burnt. This time there was a marked difference. The LTTE did not come with the idea of destroying human life. In fact they could have shot every person at random and killed many persons who were inside the bus depot. This time the aim was destruction of property. And on the poya day the LTTE struck again. From the accounts that are being filtered, the LTTE has tried to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. In fact our sister paper Lankadipa reported that the lorry carrying the bomb had a megaphone and had announced with the aid of a tape recorder in crude Sinhalese that the lorry carried explosives and not to stop it. Even from the account of the people who were there, and even at Lake House, the gunmen could have held the employees as hostages and demanded their escape lest they would kill their hostages. Nothing of the sort happened. It is clear that Prabhakaran only wanted to attack the economic hub of Sri Lanka and destroy the buildings and prevent any foreign investments.

Immediately after the bomb exploded and the carnage was shown through the CNN and other international media the LTTE headquarters in Paris denied any involvement in the attack. Now may I ask you as an intelligent reader whether any other organization could be held responsible for such a dastardly act. But when the Kataragama Bus Depot was attacked there were rumors spread that it was not the LTTE but the UNP that was behind the attack. Some spoke with vigor that some attackers were wearing green and others said that one of them spoke in Sinhala. This was sufficient for those who slavishly believe that everything evil is UNP. They would quite happily and willingly accept the propaganda dished out by the Government that even the most proven crime is not committed by the LTTE but by the UNP. When it suits them they would place much reliance on the denial of the LTTE and affirm that the LTTE had no reason to deny if they were directly involved in the crime.

The people who believe in these myths have extremely short memories. Otherwise they would remember how the LTTE issued a statement on the massacre of the Sinhala settlers at Dollar Farm. The LTTE planned the massacre with such consummate skill that they vedio-graphed the brutality and the barbarity with which the LTTE attacked Sinhala women and children, and they used the very same video footage at international conferences and seminars to show as proof of the barbarity of the Sinhala Army. The international fund raising campaign managers were able to convince most philanthropists to donate substantial financial assistance to the liberation struggle of the LTTE. The LTTE denies any terrorist activity other than confrontations with the Sri Lankan security forces as it would show that any other mayhem or crime would show that the LTTE is a terrorist organization. Soon after the killing of Lalith Athulathmudali the LTTE was very prompt. They issued a statement from London and faxed it to the residence of Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali denying any involvement in the gruesome murder. But when Denzil Kobbekaduwa was killed the LTTE supremo is reported to have decorated the commanders who successfully carried out the mission of placing a landmine at Araly point.

LTTE never denied this allegation but the commission appointed by the Government exonerated the LTTE of both these crimes and accused R. Premadasa our former President, being the prime suspect. Mrs. Athulathmudali, at whose instance the Commission was appointed, issued a statement indicating that she did not accept the fact that her husband was killed by the late Ranasinghe Premadasa. She must have been aware of the evidence that was collected by the investigators attached to the Commission from the people around Sucharitha. According to them, if there was one matter which shook Premadasa, it was not the impeachment motion brought against him by Lalith Athulathmudali, but the killing of Lalith Athulathmudali. He believed that this was a plot to damage his political future and even lose the faith the electorate had very faithfully placed in him at the previous election. Mr. Sirisena Cooray has sent a statement on the findings of the Lalith Athulathmudali Commission where the Commission recommended that Mr. Cooray's civic rights be denied for his refusal to attend the Commission.

He has stated 'the Supreme Court to its lasting credit has condemned in no uncertain terms the violation of the fundamental rights of citizens in recent landmark judgment delivered in releasing me from State custody. The Court in no uncertain terms condemned my detention by the State machinery as being insupportable and wholly wrong' Once the report is printed in Sessional Papers of Parliament and the recommendations Gazetted, the Supreme Court could well be flooded with applications not only to quash the findings of the Commission but expunge from the record any derogatory remarks if there is any made against citizens of this country.

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