By Kumar David –
Sunil Handunneththi, former MP and JVP Politburo member, has been held in high esteem my many people including yours faithfully for the sterling work he did as COPE Chairman and because he is reputed to be a person of high personal integrity. Handunneththi values the long historical relationship between India and Lanka (see also# below) but an interview he gave Sirimantha Ratnasekera, Sunday Island of 16 Jan, casts a pall over his political credibility. The topic was the (Sri Lankan) government’s alleged plan to allow “India to capture the Trinco oil tank farm and to take forward its (India’s) expansionist intentions”. I do not know whether India, China, Timbuctoo, domestic capitalists or the man on the Moon is best suited to restore the Trinco oil facilities because I have not studied the matter. So, I will let that comment pass. It is what he said next that has provoked my ire and betrays Handunneththi’s pathological relapse into political amnesia.“The government has been compelled to sign this agreement. It is Déjà vu of the Indo-Lanka agreement which was pushed down the throat of Lanka on July 29, 1987. India got the JR Jayewardene government to sign the agreement by coercion. They dropped ‘parippu’ here, violating our air space. They sent an army of 150,000 while Sri Lanka’s army had only 72,000 cadre strength. This time they have used economic means for coercion”.
It seems Handunneththi prefers not to mention the other half of this story. The shameful outburst of Sinhala extremism fomented by the JVP against the Indo-Lanka Accord, murder of Vijaya Kumaratunga, the NSSP’s Chandrawimala and others, bombs thrown at numerous NSSP meetings and rallies by other groups supporting the Accord, and the anti-Tamil racism it instigated in the country. This indeed was the forerunner to the JVP’s suicidal lunacy in 1989.
It has appeared for a while, I have been following Anura Kumara’s statements, that the JVP was reassessing its reactionary positions on the national question. It appeared that it was close to saying sorry to the Tamil people for associating with state forces that brutalised and murdered Tamil civilians during the civil war. The same forces pulverised the JVP cadre in 1989-90. The JVP has long suffered from the delusion that if it bums extremism and sucks-up to the military, sadhu-sadu that will open the road to power.
Handunneththi throws into doubt whether the JVP is doing any serious rethinking. Are Anura and Sunil playing at ‘good-cop bad-cop’? ‘You fool the minorities and the liberals machang; I’ll rebuild our credibility among Sinhala-Buddhist extremist voters’. Or is there a tussle within the leadership about party policy on the national question? Whichever, it is of concern for all who for the last few years hoped that the JVP-NPP was the way out of the filthy sewer that the Sri Lankan political scene had degenerated into.
# [The deep relationship between India and Sri Lanka may motivate readers to link to an on-line lecture sponsored by the National Trust of Sri Lankan on Thursday 27 January at 6.00 pm by renowned historian Prof. Romila Thapar, Professor of Ancient History at JNU, Delhi. Link to lecture: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85174934993.]