21st February 1999
I must agree with my rival, but.....
My unseen friend, Viruddha Paakshikaya last week chose to utilise the valuable space afforded to him by The Sunday Times to denounce election violence but in so doing he (or she) tries to point an accusing finger at us in the SLFP for starting it all, way back in the early seventies.
But in making this claim, Viruddha Paakshikaya contradicts what he says next: that we should end the violence instead of always harking back to the past to find out where it began.
It is not often that I agree with Viruddha Paakshikaya. But on this matter as an SLFPer of the old guard (as distinct from the young turks of the PA) I must agree with my rival - yes. We must together arrive at some consensus to end this senseless blood- letting over some little Provincial Council or Pradeshiya Sabha.
Viruddha Paakshikaya then says that I am "exposing" myself as an old timer in the SLFP. My friend, Viruddha Paakshikaya, I am proud to be an old- timer in the SLFP and there is no risk of "exposure" in that because there is nothing to hide unless of course being an old -timer in the SLFP these days is some sort of an offence.
I say so with some reason today because some of the deeds - or misdeeds - of this government and some of its bureaucrats have been disappointing to say the least. I also say so not because I want to rebel against my own party or score some debating points over Viruddha Paakshikaya, but because my only intention is to offer constructive criticism that would ensure that my party or at least the SLFP would remain in power for many more years to come.
Now, why am I sulking, Viruddha Paakshikaya? It is because unhappy as I am, about what happened at Wayamba, I am now even more unhappy at what is happening in the aftermath of Wayamba.
I find that some of those within our own ranks who advocated a "Win at all cost" line at Wayamba are still waiving the rules and ruling the waves, in the PA. They have been condemned, yes, but they have not been convicted and the chances are that they will never be.
My fear is that they will gain even more prominence as the polls for the five other Provincial Councils get underway.
And what of the moderates within the party? The likes of eminent intellectuals like Lakshman Kadirgamar and G.L. Peiris have maintained a deafening silence over Wayamba. But I also know that their sentiments on this have been ignored on the basis that they are only National List MPs., and that their experience in the hurly burly of electoral politics is virtually zero.
Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya, at the risk of making myself unpopular among my own ranks, I must state that I do not agree with such views, for the simple reason that I believe democracy must prevail.
Then there is another disturbing "incident" - if I may call it that - I must allude to and that is the appointment of Dhammika Kitulegoda as the new Secretary General of Parliament.
I know that even SLFPers privately indicate their disapproval of this decision and I have every reason to agree with them, though I must emphatically state that I have nothing personal for or against him not knowing him in any capacity other than as the former Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission and the new Secretary General of the House.
What I am opposed to here is the violation of Parliamentary tradition - the spirit, the morals, the ethics of his appointment which for all practical purposes though, is a perfectly legal one.
I must record with embarrassment that our government will have to take responsibility for insulting tradition and convention by overlooking the senior-most Deputy Secretary General for the appointment, a good and efficient lady at that!
Ever since independence, this coveted post in public service has been "Passed on' to the senior-most "heir" and that has been the unwritten rule since my good friend Samson Sena Wijesinghe ( Sam to all and sundry) succeeded Ralph Deraniyagala who was our first "Clerk to the House" as the post was then termed.
The genial, soft spoken Nihal Seneviratne followed Sam and his able deputy, Bertram Tittawela succeeded Nihal. They were all men of integrity and repute and neither party dissented over their appointments for they knew these men were above party politics - a quality so vital for a Secretary General of Parliament who must command the confidence of not one but both sides of the House.
Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya, I am sure the fair Lady Deputy Secretary General was more than equal to the task of maintaining these lofty ideals had she been given the top job which is why I cannot understand this stupid attempt to over-ride tradition. This, to me is just like Wayamba - we are doing what we need not do and we are only ruining our reputation in the process, gaining sweet nothing.
After all these self-incriminating "confessions" Viruddha Paakshikaya, I can almost picture you saying "I told you so, didn't I?" but to prevent just that I must remind you that you were no better, when it came to upholding traditions in appointments to posts that were even higher than the Secretary General of Parliament.
We all remember how J.R. Jayewardena catapulted Neville Samarakoon from the unofficial bar to the CJ's chair. Neville, we know now, did an excellent job and in fact embarrassed JR in the end, but that must not hide the fact that senior Judges in the Supreme Court were overlooked when Neville was appointed.
But J.R. was not a man who was once bitten, twice shy. So, later he overlooked R.S.Wanasundera and appointed Parinda Ranasinghe as Chief Justice. With all due respect to the latter who was a fine gentleman in every way, we felt that justice was denied to Justice Wanasundera.
Now Viruddha Paakshikaya, those of us in the SLFP cried foul at that time. We denounced those executive actions then, which is why I as a man of conscience, cannot approve of what is happening now. Then, it is also said, that the lady Deputy Secretary General had to be deprived of her due post at a time when the head of our government is also a lady, but don't you dare argue on that score with the SLFP, Viruddha Paakshikaya.
We have always felt strongly about the equality of the sexes, having produced the world's first woman Prime Minister and our country's first woman Head of State. Even this government has had females in key positions - Srimani Athulathmudali, Nelum Gamage, Soma Kotakadeniya and Dayani de Silva to name a few of them.
And, remember, Viruddha Paakshikaya, it was your party which raised a hue and cry when we blazed a new trail in the judiciary by appointing the first lady Supreme Court Judge, Her Lordship Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. But, as I said earlier, Viruddha Paakshikaya, it is because we are proud of such achievements that I am disturbed by these recent developments.
I know that even respected ministers have voiced their concerns about this departure from tradition,. As far as I am aware, Dhammika Kithulegoda, the new SG, is both an old Royalist as well as being an old boy of Rahula College, Matara but it appears he got the top job because of the latter's old school tie! Old boys of Rahula in fact seem to be in luck's way these days because two of their "distinguished" alumni - Kusumsiri Balapatabendi and Chandrananda de Silva hold responsible positions today. Viruddha Paakshikaya, I am sure you must be now wondering why I am saying all this today. My friend, it is not because I like Mr. Kitulegoda less, it is because I love the SLFP more. And, it is also because I - and many others in the SLFP - are worried that the government would again embarrass itself when it appoints Mr. Kitulegoda's successor at the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).
I know that at the last instance, when the JSC Secretary had to be named, Justice Minister G. L. Peiris would have preferred fellow Thomian Kumar Ekaratne (the fifth senior most District Judge) for the post.That was not to be as the Rahula old school tie held stronger.
Now, most of us fear that Mr. Kitulegoda's successor would not be among even the 25 senior-most District Judges in the country. This, coming two months after our own justice Minister G.L Peiris told the Judges' Association that the PA will never do what the UNP did by appointing the 83rd senior- most judge as JSC Secretary, would be even more embarrassing. That is why I am putting pen to paper about all this, hoping that this criticism will, in the long run, be productive to our government.
But I must not conclude without crossing swords with Viruddha Paakshikaya for, until now I may have sounded as if I was pleading on his behalf!
Make no mistake, Viruddha Paakshikaya, that is certainly not the case. My UNP friend says we have met our 'Waterloo' at Wayamba. That is certainly not so, Viruddha Paakshikaya - what will certainly happen is that the UNP will meet its Waterloo on April first, when the other provincial polls are held. Remember Viruddha Paakshikaya, despite all what I said before, we have a better record of honouring election procedures in contrast to you. Even now, when the Supreme Court ordered that elections be held in the provinces soon, we never objected. Instead, we gave the Elections Commissioner all the possible co-operation.
But remember what your UNP did Viruddha Paaskhikaya when you had a problem over the Kalawana seat? You made a mockery of democracy by holding a by-election while Mr. Abeyratne Pilapitiya continued to sit as MP for Kalawana in Parliament! Now, even you will concede that we do not resort to such tactics, my friend!
Then there is one more charge that I must address before I conclude.' Viruddha Paakshikaya. You have accused our President of "running" away from trouble in the eighties when the SLFP was in the Opposition. You seem to imply that she returned only to share the spoils of victory after the hard work was done by others.
Now, isn't running away from trouble a party tradition of the UNP since the "Good" old days? Didn't Sir John Kotelawala spend much of his retirement in Britain? Didn't R. Premadasa run away to India when he formed his "Purawesi Peramuna"? Didn't Gamini Dissanayake run away to Cambridge? Didn't Sirisena Cooray run away to India? Didn't Mr. Paskaralingam run away to England? As far as we know none of these UNPers had a threat to their life looming over them. But where our President was concerned, her husband had just been murdered and her own life was in danger. So, she 'ran away' so she could live to fight another day. And fight she did, didn't she?
As for the President not getting any Valentine's Day cards from the voters of Wayamba, Viruddha Paakshikaya, if it was a joke it was in bad taste, because the very next day February 15th was the death anniversary of her beloved husband Vijaya. Need I say more, Virudda Paakshikaya?
Every nation has its traitors. Sri Lanka, it appears, has more than its fair share of them.
It is said that Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver. If Judas had been like some Sri Lankans, the Romans would have found it a lot cheaper. A free meal would have done. Today, an NGO-sponsored lunch at the Hilton is all it takes some people to wax eloquent about 'the need to end the war'. Throw in a free air ticket to the west, and 'peace talks' with the Tigers become imperative.
The NGOs are here, of course, to further the cause of Tamil separatism. Some, like International Alert and its offshoot the National Peace Council, were created just for that purpose.
The first priority of these organisations is to prevent the terrorists being wiped out. It is for this reason that they are agitating for an end to the military campaign. And the most effective way to mount this propaganda exercise is to say they're calling for peace. Who, after all, is against peace? Of course, this 'peace' will cost us a piece of our country, if not the whole thing, but that after all is what they want.
It wouldn't do, of course, for foreign-funded organisations to be seen as directly interfering in the affairs of the country. What is needed is a Sri Lankan facade, but this is easily acquired. It's a simple matter to buy a few individuals over: out-of-work academics, retired government officials fallen on hard times, a few members of the clergy, a sprinkling of society ladies (using the last word in a rather loose sense) - and we have an alliance for 'peace'. If some of the more prominent characters have Sinhalese names, it becomes even more effective in propagating the myth that "even the Sinhalese want to make a deal with the Tigers". And we mustn't forget their media backers, who cost even less to buy.
A delegation of these 'peacemakers' recently returned from the northern jungles, after having tea with the terrorists. 'Religious Dignitaries', no less, with the good professor trudging behind. Ageing socialist revolutionary turned 'peacemaker' in his dotage, the professor is rarely far away when 'peace' is at hand.
And what good tidings do they bring to a nation waiting with bated breath?
"The LTTE are ready for negotiations," they announce triumphantly. Will they also be kind enough to inform us when they're again ready for war, we wonder. And another thing apparently the Tigers are rather displeased at being called terrorists.
But what about the bombing of the Dalada Maligawa, the massacre of pilgrims at the Sri Maha Bodhi, the slaughter of Buddhist priests at Arantalawa, the...... "Well," say the 'peacemakers' impatiently, "they apologised. Won't that do?"
'Peace talks' and 'negotiations' have been tried on numerous occasions over the past 20 years. Even 'agreements' have been reached. We have seen the results, as the terrorists resumed the war at a time and place of their choice on each occasion.
Why, then, do these 'peacemakers' keep trying to force the country's political parties into negotiating with the terrorists? As the less gullible people of this country already know, these 'peacemakers' are working for the NGOs. Funds for their activities are provided by these NGOs, who also remunerate these people personally in several ways. It is a simple and lucrative arrangement, for all those involved. What is required at the moment is a clear understanding of the nature of the problem facing the country today. Instead of allowing the terrorists and their sympathisers to mislead us into believing that there is an 'ethnic problem' and that it can be solved through 'negotiations', it must be understood that what does exist is a campaign, of enormous proportions, aimed at the establishment of an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka. Terrorism is only one aspect of this campaign. The only way it can be defeated is by fighting against it in every way that it manifests itself. As far as terrorism is concerned, that means unrelenting military pressure.
Sorry, Sri Lanka, but there are no short-cuts.
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