27th February 2000
President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday fired a broadside in reply to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's letters of February 10 and 21 addressed to her, which we publish below:
Dear Mr. Wickremesinghe,
I am writing in response to some parts of your letters of 10th February and 21st February, where you attempt to allege, in a most confused manner, that I am involved in varying types of crimes, ranging from murder, arson and destruction of property, violation of fundamental rights and the destruction of democracy. In your stated view, the only crimes I seem not to be guilty of is bank robbery, robbing state plantations and lands and of course conspiracy with LTTE terrorists to have my political opponents assassinated by suicide bombers! Perhaps those jobs are already sufficiently well accomplished by others!
First, I wish to state that these allegations are utterly and completely false. I am still trying to discover from where you fished them out. I shall attempt to unravel the confused statements you make and deal with each of these rationally. Before that, I wish to say that I fail to comprehend - try as I may- (a) the reasons for your sudden interest in the matters you raise in your letters, most of which took place many moons ago. (b) why you thought of conjuring up such an interest, only when I invited you and the UNP to participate in the most noble enterprise of seeking an end to the civil war that was initiated by the UNP government and to bring Peace to our Nation. I do not see any connection between the two. Do you?
Or are you and the UNP once again attempting to dodge your responsibility of actively and honestly assisting in the achievement of Peace?
While I leave the final decision of the people of Sri Lanka, all I know is that the enemies of peace and those who believe that terror and subjugation can forever suppress all that is decent and humane in our beloved land must be laughing aloud with delight, at the irresponsibility of some of our 'democratic' leaders!
If I and the members of my government - many of who have suffered the most ignominious treatment at the hands of the UNP government, ranging from murder, illegal arrest and incarceration, destruction of property, rank discrimination reaching to the point of denying our children their basic rights, etc., etc., could summon up sufficient largesse of mind and heart to decide to work with the UNP for the sake of our peoples - all we could do is pray that you be blessed with similar attitudes, even this one time. I shall now deal with your absurd and calculatedly false allegations.
First allegation: that the President and General Secretary of the UNP were unduly and unfairly harassed by the Police in requesting them to provide the Police with important information regarding the attempt to assassinate me on 18th December 1999, I am informed by the special police team investigating the terrorist bomb attacks which occurred on 18th December last, that statements made by the two gentlemen in question, at a press conference held 15 hours. later, on the morning of the 19th December directly relating to the Ja-Ela incident, were found to be of a highly seditious and defamatory nature and containing facts that required immediate investigation. The gentlemen had been very politely requested to report to the CID, at any time of their choice.
I am also sure that you would be aware, given your long years of political experience, that any self-respecting police cannot ignore such statements and actions in the course of an investigation where 25 people were killed and hundreds of other seriously injured and the Head of State of this country almost fatally injured. Therefore I am totally shocked, to say the least that you even dream of advancing the allegation that 'the government has without any fair and justifiable reason, and going against all accepted practice interrogated the President and General Secretary of your party."
The more shocking of all in this story is the fact that the President and the General Secretary of the UNP when asked to give details of the supposed hand grenade attacker who they clearly said was identified to be a resident of Ja-Ela etc., have stated that they were given this information by UNP members and that they cannot remember their names. Isn't it truly tragic, Mr. Wickremesinghe, that senior politicians from whom the country expects responsible behaviour should officially announce to the country and to the whole world, facts about a very serious incident that occurred in the country without the slightest possibility of substantiating their statements. It is even more serious that you as a leader of a major opposition party should then accuse me of conspiracy to arrest etc., the said gentlemen unnecessarily. All I can say here is that you and your party leaders are extremely lucky to have a decent and democratic government like ours at this juncture of our country's history.
Regarding your second allegation that with my knowledge various members of the public have been intimidated, harassed, their properties destroyed and plans set afoot to assassinate some of them. You are directly accusing me of knowledge and complicity in these fantastic actions. I don't think that I need to waste time in trying to even excuse away these allegations. All those who wish to know are frighteningly aware of who did exactly these things, beginning from the 1977 election for 17 long years. The killing and disappearance of 50,000 young people, the burning and destruction of over 10,000 houses of SLFP supporters, the loss of jobs of over 100,000 state sector employees, the loss of employment of a further 30,000 Janawasa youth and last but not least, the massive discriminatory campaign carried on against at least two million Sri Lankan people who were state sector employees or supporters of anti-UNP parties or groups and their families are too well known by every citizen of this country. It is also equally well known that it is my government that ended this reign of terror, perpetrated by the UNP government on the people of this country. Whilst marvelling at your ability to blame the innocent for the sins of your own party, I wonder who "advised" you to attempt this futile exercise. It is not by trying to palm off your sins on those who have borne the responsibility squarely, on their shoulders, but by correcting the wrongs done by your government, that you could even at this late stage build up your image or that of your party. But then, you have not entrusted me with the task of building up your image!
Allegation 3: You make the implication that the incident which allegedly occurred in the house of the singers Chandralekha and Rukantha was probably carried out by some people in the PSD. The police investigations of this incident is continuing even at this moment. I have obtained an interim report from the IGP. The two artistes have in no way, at any moment, stated that they suspect the PSD for this incident. The vehicles in which the attackers are supposed to have travelled to the said house have been found and taken into custody by the police. The police are looking for the owners of these vehicles yet. But the vehicles have no connection to any officer in the PSD.
Allegation 4: You state that the media pointed their finger at one member of the PSD for the murder of one Rohana Kumara, the editor of a tabloid called Satana. The media you talk of is probably the infamous week-end newssheet which act as the unofficial organ of the UNP and probably your brother's TV and radio stations, all of which are now famous for being some of the most lying media institutions in the whole world.
The interim report of the investigation into the incident shows that the mother of Mr. Rohana Kumara has expressed strong suspicion regarding the involvement of a sub-editor of the Satana who she states has an involvement with the wife of the victim. Her statement has been made before a magistrate. The police investigation has elucidated zero information on any involvement of the PSD in this murder.
Allegation 5: That your close and dear friend and party activist, Lasantha Wickrematunga of the Sunday Leader has reported to the police that the self same member of the PSD was responsible for shooting into the compound of Mr. Wickrematunga's house. I am sure you are fully aware that Mr. Wickrematunga recorded his first statement at Mirihana police in June 1998 soon after the incident and the second statement in August, 1998 two months later where he clearly states that he does not know the identity of the persons who were involved in the incident. Strangely he decides to make a statement 15 months after the incident in September, 1999 mentioning the name of the said member of the PSD as a suspect. The story gets curioser here, when one considers the fact that the UNP commenced a campaign of lies (just one month before Mr. Wickrematunga's third statement) with the objective of convincing the country (on the advice of the now famous Mr. Earle and your other image building advisors) that I and my government were doing what the past UNP government did in the 17 years of their infamous rule, particularly in the sphere of spreading political terror and violence.
It is important that the general public be informed even now of the campaign of intimidation and terror that was carried on from the UNP Headquarters by your General Secretary who wrote intimidatory letters to Police officers and by the retired public servants who are in the pay of your party by means of telephone calls they gave in the middle of the night to Secretaries of Ministries and senior public officers, threatening them not to carry out their official duties. These calls were given and the letters sent, at times by name and at others anonymously. I shall never permit any member of my government or official to indulge in this type of hideous and lowly activity. I am aware that this campaign that the UNP started in the two months prior to the Presidential Elections, is still being continued at a lesser intensity by means of threatening telephone calls and letters sent to various citizens. These are then followed with messages sent by the UNP activists, in the media specially, that this is done by the government and particularly by the PSD.
It suffices, to say, Mr. Wickremesinghe, that I have been blessed with some amount of brains and a great deal of political experience. I have honestly watched with horror and deep consternation the policies and actions of the UNP in the last 5 years. As a truly democratic citizen of this country and as a serious politician, I believe deeply that if democracy is to truly flourish and be safeguarded, it is not sufficient to have a democratic government only, but it is imperative that the country be also blessed with a responsible and democratic opposition. At this stage all I can do is hope and pray that it will be a reality in the near future.
With regard to the final allegation you have made, that suspected criminals were arrested in the house of the PSD member that you talk of, I have given instructions to the police to carry out a completely independent investigation and report to me as early as possible. Suffice it here to say, as is my usual practice, I shall take the strictest action against all those who are guilty, no sooner, the police investigation elucidates the true facts of the case.
I suppose by now it would be clear as day-light, to anyone who wishes to see the light, that all six allegations you have made of very serious criminal involvement on my part in diverse incidents that have occurred in the country, are a complete fabrication on your part, except for the last allegation about which I shall refrain from comment until I am in possession of the police report.
It appears now that UNP's major strategy of recovery from the loss of the Presidential election which they stated so confidently that they are definitely winning, is to carry on a smear campaign against me and my government in the fashion you so clearly demonstrate through your three letters to me. I suppose we have to now await the unfolding of this saga where my government and I would be accused by you and various media committed to the UNP that every rape, murder, child abuse, robbery in the country be attributed to either me, or honest members and officials of my government whilst the dishonest and sabotaging officials would become the privileged few to be defended by the UNP media.
Finally, I would like to remind you of a fact that the whole country knows and often blames me about. Various investigations that my government has instituted through the police or special commissions of investigations have clearly identified the culprits of the murder of thousands of youth-culprits, who are leaders of the UNP, or officials and police officers close to the UNP and that my government is only quietly letting the law take action against these culprits. We wilfully did not push the process of law and try to influence them like the last UNP government did for 17 years, only because I and my government have been committed right from the outset to consensual governance, for the purpose of finding a lasting solution to the Tamil question of this country and to establishing ethnic harmony and peace that has eluded the country since 1977.
In this context your attempts to drag me out into fisticuffs with you in public is a sorry attempt to further confound and confuse the resolution of the ethnic question and thereby worsen the tragic destiny of our country.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday on the Budget proposals, said he would use the occasion to state his party's views on the North-East conflict and also its position on the measures taken by the Government.
Addressing the Speaker he said:
This is the last Budget of this Government. Before the end of this year we all will be facing elections to this House. I will make use of this occasion to discuss not merely the Budget.
The Government has succeeded in tying up the economy with the war. The success of the military campaign influence, to a large extent, the outcome of economic performance and the military campaign which is politically directed has failed. I will therefore talk of the North-East conflict and our position regarding the measures taken by the Government.
On December 22, 1999 President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga stated that a political solution was the only way to bring the North-East conflict to an end and called for our support. I responded on behalf of the United National Party. The UNP's stand has been that a political solution acceptable to all sections of society is the only way to have a long lasting peace in Sri Lanka without a division of this country.
In January I took a further step. After much deliberation I wrote a letter to the President on January 19 offering to help the Government to bring their political solution, the draft constitutional proposals of 1997 to Parliament. I also made a statement in Parliament on the same day. The UNP and the PA have differed as to the nature of the political solution.
The PA presented a set of proposals to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the constitution in 1995 on a staggered basis. They stated that these proposals when enacted as a constitution would bring peace and that the LTTE will have no option but to fall in line. The UNP's view was that a political solution required direct negotiations between the government and the LTTE and that the LTTE was unlikely to accept a solution to which they were not a party. After the fall of the Mullaitivu Camp, in January 1997, Mr. Liam Fox, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in UK carried a message from the President to me. It was the need for a bi-partisan agreement to enable the Government to hold discussions with the LTTE.
I agreed to that request and signed the agreement which was in the form of an exchange of letters - letters sent by the President to me and letters sent by me to the President. Those letters were all carried by Hon. Liam Fox. I did so in March 1997 despite the vast electoral frauds of the 1997 local authority elections.
In August 1997 the Government abandoned the Liam Fox Agreement and opted for a military solution - Operation Jayasikurui, which was going to defeat the LTTE in the Wanni. Further, in October 1997, Professor G.L. Peiris announced in the Parliamentary Select Committee of the Government's intention to present a final draft constitution, taking into account the discussions in the Parliamentary Select Committee. The Parliamentary Select Committee authorised the Minister to place before Parliament the draft constitutional proposals of the Government as a part of the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee. The United National Party reserved its right of dissent. Thereafter the draft constitutional proposals were presented to Parliament together with a report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on this matter. The UNP sent its counter proposals to the draft constitutional proposals in the early part of 1998. It was sent in about four or five instalments. The United National Party opposed the draft constitutional proposals for two reasons. We opposed some of the proposals.
As we predicted, the LTTE rejected the draft constitutional proposals of the Government. The Government then stated that once Operation Jayasikurui was successfully completed, the LTTE would have no option but to accept the draft constitutional proposals. But Operation Jayasikurui failed, regrettably, with the loss of a large number of lives of our soldiers. Subsequently, the LTTE captured a larger number of camps in the Wanni area and now control over 2,000 square miles in the Wanni.
The Government was offered many other options for finding a solution not only by the United National Party but also by the other political parties and agencies. They rejected them all saying that the draft constitutional proposals are the only solution even when the means of enforcing it through the successful military operation had failed.
The President said and this was repeated by many Members of the Government: "If Ranil gives us 16 votes to enact these draft constitutional proposals, I will bring peace". That was the refrain for most of 1998 and the whole of 1999. In the Presidential election of 1999, President Kumaratunga requested the voters to give her a mandate to implement the draft constitutional proposals. Even if the UNP objected, if the majority of Members of Parliament agreed to it, it was to be enacted. The United National Party stated its position throughout, especially that we needed a political solution in which all parties concerned were involved. At the Presidential election of 1999, I put forward a step-by-step plan to end the North-East conflict. Thereafter I decided, once the President made the request, on December 22, to cut short all these arguments. Since the Government had come back to its position of a negotiated political settlement, that we should give the Government an option and try, even if it fails, the option presented by the People's Alliance, the draft constitutional proposals. And, if it failed, to call on the PA to support the UNP option.
Since I received no acknowledgment or reply, I sent a second letter on February 10, I received a reply to this letter on Friday, February 18 inviting me and two others to meet the President on Tuesday, February 22 at 9.30 a.m. I was requested to forward my proposals prior to this meeting on Tuesday. On Saturday a set of the new Government proposals was sent to my office. Thereafter, I replied to the President on Monday, February 21 saying that we need more time and we will be sending in our proposals by the end of this week and suggesting a mutually agreed date and a mutually agreed agenda for these discussions. I want to inform the Hon. Speaker and through this House the rest of the country, the decision to assist the Government was taken despite all the harassment and victimization that the UNPers as well as members of other political parties not supporting the Government are undergoing, specially after the Presidential Election of 1999.
Today, on our way to Parliament, we saw one such demonstration by one of the political parties. As far as the UNP was concerned, a number of supporters were killed and many more were injured. Houses were damaged and burnt. Businesses were destroyed. With all these problems we nevertheless thought, that since the Government was again stressing on the need for a negotiated political settlement - even though we thought that it was not going to be a successful political settlement - we should work with the Government and give it a try. But now, having given our support, having written to the President, we have to question the intention of the Government and of the President. We have to question their bona fides. Are you serious? This is a question that the President and the Government has to answer. I do ask this question, Mr. Speaker, with responsibility, for the following reasons.
Firstly, instead of building an environment conducive to co-operation, you have continued to victimize and harass all our supporters. The transfers continue. The breaking of houses continue. The police are prevented from taking action. Mr. Rukantha Gunathilake and Mrs. Chandraleka Perera, two singers who performed on the UNP stage on a commercial basis, had people entering their house. Their property was stolen. Diesel and kerosene were poured on them and their hair was cut. Mrs. Anoja Weerasinghe's house was set on fire for the second time. The Chairman and the General-Secretary of our party were asked to come to the fourth floor of the CID. They were questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act about the bomb blast at the UNP meeting in Ja-Ela where a number or people were killed and even a larger number was injured. The normal custom in these type of matters, the convention is for the police to go to the office or the residence of the party Secretary or of the General Secretary and record their statements. One is a Member of this House and the other is the Leader of the Opposition in the Western Provincial Council. But they are called up and questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act on a matter in which we, the United National Party, were the victims. The question we have to ask is, if you want to continue the conflict with the UNP, can you bring the North-East conflict to an end?
Secondly, I want to refer to the manner in which a response was given to my letters of January 19 and February 10. Except for an acknowledgment of my second letter, the first reply I had from the President was on February 18, a month after I sent the first letter. Then I was requested to send in my proposals within three days. Those three days included a weekend and most of us were out of Colombo on political work. During the weekend our MPs and I travel out of Colombo. The usual practice is to agree on a suitable date. This was not done. There was no agenda. If talks like this are to carry on without breaking down, you need an agenda and a structured process. It is necessary for such a procedure to be followed. Therefore, we wrote to the President, not only suggesting that we should agree on a date but that we should also agree on an agenda. If the Government and the Opposition, or the President and I are to have talks it is only proper that we try and make an effort to ensure that it does not fail. As you have seen the last few meetings had repercussions, which I think took place, partly because they were not structured. This is why I put that down in my letter, suggesting a future date. If we want to, the United National Party can also play politics. It was the Government, which took the stand that they were going to wipe out the LTTE, not the UNP. It is the Government that said that there would not be talks with the LTTE. The Government, which was going to wipe out the LTTE, has now said "We want a political solution" I could have shouted saying that on December 22. I did not do that. It is the Government, which said that they will not have talks with the LTTE, which is now calling for talks with the LTTE. It was the Government, which opposed third-party mediation, which has now spoken to the Government of Norway. If you want co-operation we are prepared to talk. If you want to play politics, we can play politics. But, I did not want to play politics at this time.
When we got to know that the Government had informed the Government of Norway, we did not object to it. This Government said that they are not going to have talks with the LTTE. I openly said that there should be a dialogue with the LTTE. Having said that you will not have talks, it came out that the Government had tried to initiate discussions with the LTTE twice, once through the Secretary- General of the Commonwealth Chief, Anyoku, and the second time through the Government of Norway. I could have made political capital out of it. We have not done that. Now, after the Presidential elections the Government of Norway has resumed discussions, we did not oppose that. We did not shout and say, "Look you are the ones who said that you would not do that." We could have gone to town and we could have held demonstrations. We could have gone to Lipton's Circus and demonstrated. We could have let loose a lot of forces. We did not do that because we think peace is necessary. We supported the initiatives and when the Norwegian Foreign Minister came here, I met him.
Fourthly, the Draft Constitutional Proposals are the final Government draft which was presented to the Parliamentary Select Committee. The Select Committee authorised the Minister to table it in Parliament together with the report of the Select Committee. So this became a part of the Select Committee. It is an annex to the report of the Select Committee. All it required was in the words of the President "sixteen votes from the UNP". But after my letter to the President of January 19, the Government has sought to amend the Draft Constitutional proposals. There are many amendments that have been referred to. I do not want to mention them, but some of the amendments have the effect of changing the nature of the Constitutional proposals. The debate so far has been between Executive Presidency on the French model or a Prime Minister and a Parliamentary system with the PA opting for the Westminster system. It was this Westminster system which was incorporated in the Draft Constitutional proposals. The proposed amendments do not deal with either of these options. It does not retain the Westminster system which is in the 1997 proposals nor does it go back to the Executive Presidency of the 1978 Constitution. It creates a new concept combining the powers of President and Prime Minister in one person. Then it further strengthens the Executive Head by abolishing judicial review. This is a matter now which is receiving attention from lawyers and constitutional experts as well as Members of our party. But I would like to tell one thing to this House.
This concept was last tried out in 1934. When the German President, Field Marshal Von Hindenburg died the then Prime Minister of Germany or Chancellor as he is called combined the two posts in one person. Then he abolished the independence of the judiciary, sent his private army, the SS, to take over Parliament and finally suppressed the independent media. The name of that Chancellor was Adolf Hitler. Since then no democratic country has combined these powers of these two posts in one and the same person. Hon. Speaker, the parallels are ominous here. Not only are you seeking to combine these posts but also attacks on the independence of the judiciary where kissing goes by favour.
The economy is in shambles. Unemployment is on the increase. You are now looking for ways and means of restricting democratic liberties and of interfering with the process of free elections. So I call on this House to reject this sham Budget and to resist all attempts to dilute democracy in Sri Lanka.
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