14th March 1999
Mouthing peace alone won't do my friend
Reading last week's column by my unseen friend, Virudhdha Paakshikaya I find that my friend, after a fortnight's absence, has lost touch with reality.
Then, in a feeble attempt to cover his lapses he attempts to get away by complimenting me for what he calls my "forthrightness" in criticising some decisions of my own party.
Thank You, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, but that will not help you cover the nakedness of your own arguments and I will show you why.
At the outset, you try to ridicule our President saying she was not sincere in calling for an All Party Conference to discuss election violence, citing certain statements she made when inviting Ranil Wickremesinghe for the discussion.
From your perspective, Virudhdha Paakshikaya the President was only playing cheap politics in sending the invitation but your leader becomes - in your own words - a statesman and not a politician. But, of course, you dare not dispute a single word of what the President has accused the UNP of in her letter of invitation for the simple reason that those allegations are true!
Here, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, I cannot but resist commenting on your attempt to glorify Mr. Wickremesinghe with the mantle of a statesman. For your information, the dictionary defines a statesman as, "one who takes an important part in governing the state especially with wisdom and broadmindedness." Now, my friend, does Mr. Wickremesinghe fit into that category? Our readers, I'm sure, will know the answer.
From what you say, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, Mr. Wickremesinghe becomes a "statesman" only by virtue of that he "graduated through the ranks" from Junior Minister to Prime Minister whereas you accuse our President of virtually flying home from exile in London and taking over the Presidency.
What you do not say is that in all that time, until he became the Leader of the Opposition, your leader had not spent any time in the opposition benches. And, what that has done is to make him an ineffective Leader of the Opposition rather than making him a "statesman!"
So, remember, my friend, when you next put pen to paper, do not use words such as "statesman" with such carefree discretion. The word statesman conjures visions of the likes of Lincoln, Churchill and Mandela, and I, for one would certainly hesitate to class Mr. Wickremesinghe with them just yet. At present, the only way young Mr.Wickremesinghe could come to be ranked alongside them is at Madame Toussad's at London and he hadn't reached even that state the last time I visited the British capital!
Then, you accuse our leader of not acting on the UNP's request to give the Commissioner of Elections police powers so that he could conduct the election more effectively. You claim the president could have invoked her executive powers to do so.
That simply is not true. You may not know it because UNP presidents stretched the limits of the executive presidency and abused their powers, but presidents just cannot invoke special powers on election commissioner's in an indecent hurry. In fact this was proved beyond any reasonable doubt recently because the President could not get the date of the election changed from April 1 to another date as there was a binding order of the Supreme Court.
So, remember Virudhdha Paakshikaya, your one time President said that the only thing they could not do was to change a man into woman and acted in that manner. Our President fortunately knows that there is a limit to her powers and acts accordingly. That is the difference and that is why she did not rush into your party's request of giving the Election Commissioner more powers.
All this apart, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, I will now deal with what has now become the most crucial issue in the upcoming provincial council elections - the issue of election violence. If memory serves me right, you castigated me in these columns saying that the Wayamba election too ultimately ended not as a referendum of sorts on the policies of our government but an election where the deciding factor was the degree of election violence resorted to by the parties.
I believe I have already said that I condemn the rigging that occurred at Wayamba and that I am ashamed and embarrassed to be a member of a party which was a party to such disgraceful tactics. But, though the rigging may have tilted the scales in our favour, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, don't forget the fact that election violence was not our monopoly.
Your party too resorted to thuggery, intimidation and violence during the six week campaigning period in no small measure. What happened thereafter was that in the aftermath of the allegations of rigging on election day, the media conveniently forgot the intimidatory tactics used by the UNP during the campaign and the UNP was portrayed as the innocent victims.
Well, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, now we know that was not so. The UNP's leader dresses up like a matinee idol and talks like Mahathma Gandhi preaching about launching a non-violent "People's Power" campaign to restore democracy. He vehemently denies forming any kind of army.
But what is the ground reality, Virudhdha Paakshikaya? What happened at the Nawalapitiya-Gampola incidents this week? One of our supporters was killed. One of our leading candidates in the central province, Mahindananda Aluthgamage was seriously injured and may take no further part in campaigning. Is this thuggery and intimidation or "Prachanda Kriya" the word your party stalwarts use so much - by the "PA?
Now, if this incident was sparked off by the rank and file of your party disturbing the peace, it would be less objectionable. But what is alarming is the fact that at least one member of parliament from your party was allegedly involved and so was a candidate tipped to be the next Chief Minister! So much for the Gandhian politics and non- violent campaigns of Ranil Wickremesinghe!
And, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, you had the audacity to tell me last week "Don't rush into thinking that we will take the law into our own hands like your own MP Jinadasa Nandasena has allegedly done."
However, I cannot deny that you did warn me when you said "We will sit up and take appropriate action. We will retaliate in the proper way but then, I made the mistake of thinking that you would resort to your Gandhian politics. What your supporters and candidates have done is not to take the law into your own hands, but to take the law into your own hand grenades, Virudhdha Paakshikaya.
Now, we wait with great expectation to see what your non-violent leader will do, Virudhdha Paakshikaya. Will he follow the examples set by his mentor and illustrious uncle who also talked a lot about Gandhi and non-violence but presided while the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya thugs were unleashed on the July 1980 strikers and the houses of Supreme Court judges were stoned?
Remember, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, when your party made representations to our President about the alleged conduct of our Gampaha district MP Jinadasa Nandasena, he was promptly requested to surrender to Court and he obliged.
Will Mr. Wickremesinghe have the courage to crack the whip on your Parliamentarian and Chief Ministerial candidate and do the same? Or, will he, as usual, dilly-dally and do nothing? At the time of writing this column, my friend, the Police have issued a statement saying that your party stalwarts in the Central Province are wanted for questioning regarding this incident but there has been no surrender.
I think, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, I have by now proved beyond reasonable doubt that election violence is not the monopoly of the SLFP or the PA. It takes two to tango and the UNP is equally culpable. I may even daresay that the UNP is more culpable, for it set the dangerous precedent in election malpractice's and violence in their 17 year rule, perhaps beginning with the 1982 referendum.
I will even concede that some of your own leaders deplore this trend of intimidatory tactics. However, the majority in your party seems to be happy to toe the line of violence and the party leadership seems incompetent to do anything about it. That is how we in the SLFP read the situation, Virudhdha Paakshikaya.
At least in the Western Province I am happy to note that your rising star, Karu Jayasuriya is leading the list. I know him to be an able man and more than that, an honorable man. He does not resort to violence and he does not tolerate violence either. Of course we have pitted against him Susil Premajayantha who has earned for himself the reputation of being a man of efficiency and integrity apart from being modest to a fault and we know he will be the giant killer at this election.
Together, and also with the other party candidates of the Western Province, they have pledged to lead a poll free of violence. The first step has been the removal of posters and you know our party and the government is co-operating with that.
The sad fact though is that this spirit does not prevail in the other provinces where some of your candidates are reputed for their arm- twisting tactics and the incident at Gampola-Nawalapitiya is evidence of this trait. All I can say is that in this respect, we respect Karu, but, most of the others are 'Horu'!
Therefore, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, I challenge you and your leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to prove your lofty ideals of non-violence and noble principles of democracy. Sitting cross legged on stage - apparently rather uneasily too! - for half an hour to perform so- called Satyagraha will not be enough. Prove that you mean what you say by taking action against offenders from your party.
You could have of course withheld nominations for them but it is too late for that now. The least you could do is to state publicly - maybe at your satyagrahas, not to vote for your own candidates who indulge in violence. If you are really sincere about that, you could even name them and ask your voters not to give that all-important manaape to them. Surely, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, these are simple things to do: it is certainly easier than going through the legislative hassle of vesting the Commissioner of Elections with Police powers.
Then, the message will be loud and clear to your candidates and they will automatically refrain from their foul deeds. Now, I know you will say "you first" and I can proudly say that we have already taken corrective action in this regard and I have proof of that.
When our President acted on the complaint against our own MP Jinadasa Nandasena from the President's own Gampaha district, she was sending a powerful message to the rest of her party. It indicated that she would brook no nonsense from anyone, even if those acts had served the party's interests.
That is not all, Virudhdha Paakshikaya. A few days later, the Mayor of Kotte, Chandra Silva surrendered to Courts when it was known that he needed to be questioned regarding certain incidents. Now, you know that Mr. Silva is also the Chief SLFP organizer for the country's administrative capital, Kotte and is Parliamentarian-in-waiting who has access to the powers that be.
Nevertheless, when he was needed for questioning regarding an election-related incident there were no allowances made and he had to surrender. The message is, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, the President will not intervene, nor will her ministers do so and the Police will be allowed to do their job properly.
Now, if I may suggest a parallel, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, this would be similar to arresting Ratnasiri Rajapakse during the Premadasa regime! with apologies to that gentleman, of course, because I'm not in anyway suggesting that he did anything that warranted surrender to courts.
So, Virudhdha Paakshi-kaya, go ahead and translate your words into deeds. Then we and the rest of the country will begin to believe in your preaching about democracy. But, given your past record until such time, we will remain sceptical about your intentions.
But we do know that you are not in a position to do that. And, that is because, first, your party leader is not firmly in command of the middle level organizations within the party which is why you fared so disastrously at Wayamba.
Then, there are the numerous tussles between your own party people. Just to cite one example, what is happening in the Central Province? Keheliya Rambukwella proclaims himself to be the chief ministerial candidate but so does former Chief Minister W.M.P.B. Dissanayake. And, the party leadership has declared neither as the Chief Ministerial aspirant leading to confusion and in-fighting between the two aspirants and their supporters. The bottom line is of course that you will lose the election in the Central province and no amount of grenade throwing can stop that.
Now, I can almost hear you say that we too faced similar situations, especially in the Western Province. Yes, there was a move to promote the popular and charismatic actor turned Deputy Minister Jeevan Kumaratunge as the Chief Minister and I will not deny that the issue was causing dissension within the ranks.
But, what happened then Virudhdha Paaakshikaya? President Kumaratunga intervened and despite Jeevan Kumaratunge being her relation she decided that Susil Premajayantha would be the PA's choice and others were agreeable to abide by her decision.
That, my friend is the difference and that is why we in the blue corner are confident of winning the polls on April 6, come what may, hand grenades and all! I don't think there is much you can do about it at this late stage, Virudhdha Paakshikaya, so all we can do is wish - for the sake of our country - that you would be a better force in the Opposition and would give us a better fight when the time comes for the General and Presidential elections next year.
And, by the way, get started now, my friend because you wouldn't be happy to do it on April 7, when the results have been announced and five more Provincial Councils are in blue hands!
Exerpts from The 1999 Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Commemoration lecture- Comparative Impact Of Political dynasties in South Asia delivered by Anura Bandaranaike on March 8.
"It gives me great pleasure in joining such a distinguished gathering in the historic city of Karachi, at the invitation of The Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institution of Science & Technology.
The formation of the Institute of Science & Technology perpetuates the memory of an outstanding leader not only of Pakistan but also of South Asia. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto born to one of the aristocratic families of Pakistan was indeed a remarkable personality. He studied at Berkley, California, and then at Oxford graduating in International Law. At the age of 30 he became a minister and he arrived at the presidency of his country with painful patience. President Bhutto transformed Pakistan from a brutal dictatorship to a functional democracy.
His commitment to democracy was firmly expressed in what is popularly known as the "Testament of Bhutto", which he wrote sitting in a prison and confined to a lonely cell, awaiting his execution:
"Fundamental and grave issues on Pakistan's future existence will have to be settled by consensus of the newly elected representatives in a free and fair election held without delay."
Twice elected by the people of Pakistan with unprecedented majorities Zulfikar Ali Bhutto stood to his powerful personality and lived a legacy that still endures.
The imprisonment, the torture and the sham trial orchestrated by a brutal dictator, surpassed even the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Undaunted by the years he was jailed and with the imminent possibility that he will be executed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto stated ...
"I did not kill that man. My God is aware of it. I am big enough to admit if I had done it. That admission would have been less of an ordeal and humiliation than this barbarous trial. I am a Moslem. A Moslem's fate is in the hands of God Almighty. I can face him with a clear conscience and tell him that I rebuilt his Islamic state of Pakistan from ashes into a respected nation."
South Asia is indeed a rare and unique region, which cannot be compared with other parts of the world. I say this because of the unique phenomenon of the impact of political dynasties in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on the destinies of their respective nations, since independence 50 years ago - a role they play even to this day.
Let me commence with the experience of my own country, Sri Lanka. We gained Independence in 1948 and two families, the Bandaranaikes and Senanayakes have ruled Sri Lanka for over 35 years. Out of our 50 years of Independence the first Prime Minister of Ceylon, as it was then known, the late D.S.Senana-yake, considered the Father of the Nation ruled from 1948 - 1952 and after his untimely death his son Dudley Senanayake was elected by a massive mandate and subsequently he was elected Prime Minister on four other occasions.
My father, the late S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike, who parted from the ruling UNP and formed the SLFP was swept into power in 1956 with a landslide majority and ruled Ceylon until 1959, when he was cruelly assassinated. Though there were many senior members in the government, the party turned to my mother. Much against her personal wishes, a housewife untrained in the art of politics was forced into the political arena and she became the world's first woman Prime Minister in 1960, some six years before Indira Gandhi was elected Prime Minister of India.
My mother has been Prime Minister from 1960 -1965, 1970 -1977 and from 1994 to the present day. Though she succeeded my father she was never groomed to be his successor unlike the Nehrus of India where the father groomed his daughter Indira and she in turn groomed her son Sanjay and then Rajiv. In Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto never intentionally groomed his daughter Benazir to be his successor. As in Sri Lanka his party turned to Benazir to carry forward the torch that her father lit and she became Pakistan's daughter of destiny. Similarly in Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of a newly independent nation did not groom his daughter to succeed him. As in Sri Lanka and Pakistan the Awami League of Bangladesh turned to his daughter Hasina to lead them and most recently in India, a Congress Party led by colourless personalities since Rajiv's tragic death, turned to his widow Sonia, who like my mother was a reluctant housewife forced by circumstances to shape the destinies of their countries.
When you look at the whole region of South Asia there is a thread that runs through the fabric of it's modern history. As if designed by the hand of God or the hand of destiny in each of these countries it was the cruel hand of murder and assassinations that led many of our generations to take to politics.
In Pakistan after the cold-blooded murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the forces of freedom turned to his daughter Benazir to lead them to democracy and freedom against a cruel and bloody dictatorship. In Bangladesh after the wholesale massacre of the Mujibur Rahman family, Hasina like Benazir had to lead the battle for democracy and freedom once again, against a cruel and brutal dictator.
In that tragic sense our families have all suffered at the hands of assassins and cold-blooded murderers. This has led to the perpetuation of what is popularly known as political dynasties of Southern Asia.
Turning to Pakistan, some may predict that the Bhutto dynasty is over. Nothing is further from the truth. When her father was murdered her opponents voiced similar sentiments as today. But Benazir was elected the first woman Prime Minister of that state not only once but twice and before long certainly for the 3rd time. She represents a unique tradition. With her intelligence, charm, sophistication and political acumen and leadership skills Pakistan's destiny is in safe hands.
I do not think that any family in this region involved in politics has suffered as much as the Bhuttos. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hung after a disgraceful trial. His two sons died under tragic circumstances, Benazir and her mother Begum Nuzrath Bhutto were under house arrest for may years and today case after case have been filed against Benazir, while her husband suffers in jail. A twice elected Prime minister of Pakistan was ousted in constitutional manoeuvres of the worst kind. No government in this region has descended to the level of confiscating a passport of a former Prime Minister.
In a sense the Bandaranaikes, the Nehrus and the Rahmans have also suffered in multifaceted ways. My mother's civic rights were unjustly removed for six long years preventing her from contesting the Presidential elections in 1982 and my sister, the President of Sri Lanka, lost her husband in a brutal assassination 10 years ago.
In India, both Indira and Rajiv were assassinated and Sanjay died of a fatal air crash. Indira was jailed time and again by the Moraji Desai's government, taken to courts on trumped up charges and prevented from sitting in parliament even after she was elected at a by-election. Hasina too had her share of political humiliation. Jailed and placed under house arrest under several dictators she fought back with tenacity and to final victory.
It is true that the names of the Bhuttos, the Nehrus, the Bandaranaikes and the Rahmans of South Asia are a magical force and carries with it a great deal of charisma and national and international acceptance, without a shadow of a doubt. Yet, the magic of the dynasties is not the eternal passport to power. In India, Indira and her son Sanjay suffered an ignominious defeat in their own constituencies in 1977 and were sent to the opposition for the first time in Indian history because the constitution was violated, the opposition arrested and freedom assassinated.
Another curious but tragic comparison of these dynasties is that assassination and murder had been carried out by the very persons these families helped. My father was murdered by a Buddhist monk whom he had personally helped. Prime Minister Bhutto was cruelly imprisoned and murdered by the very man whom he promoted as a chief of the Pakistani Army. Rajiv was murdered by the separatist Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka whom he greatly assisted with the Indo Lanka Agreement in 1987. Sheikh Mujeeb was killed by his own army generals, and President Zia Ul Raman of Bangladesh by his very own army and you Madam Bhutto was manoeuvred out of power illegally by the very man you helped to become President of Pakistan.
In spite of the tragedies suffered by our respective families we have achieved many firsts unprecedented in the history of the world. My father entered the Guinness Book of Records when he polled 94% of the total poll in his own constituency and mind you, it was a free and fair election and not a rigged poll. My mother was the first woman Prime Minister in the world and my mother and I sat together in Parliament which was another first many years before Indira and Rajiv sat in the Loksabha and today another first has been created where the daughter is the President and mother is the Prime Minister.
Many argue that dynastic politics has been the bane of our region. I beg to disagree !. Indeed our respective families have made mistakes, taken wrong decisions and made faulty judgements. After all we are not demi Gods but human beings. For these perceived mistakes we have been punished by the people, which is their right.
Sometimes we ask ourselves whether we have done right. Our follies have cost the lives of members of our families, others like Madam Bhutto and myself have had the fortune to stay alive and sit in opposition whilst others have been imprisoned or exiled.
History will be the final judge and hopefully that judgement will be kind. In spite of these rejections the people of our region have turned back to these same dynasties to lead them, again and again.
In conclusion, I thank the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology for having invited me to address you this afternoon which I consider as an honour. I would like to thank all those who were involved in my visit for their generosity, hospitality and their warm friendship.
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