By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
UNP Member of Parliament and former State Minister for Child Affairs Vijayakala Maheswaran (VM) dropped her bombshell on July 03, during the ‘Janapathi Nila Mehewara’ gathering in Jaffna, in the presence of the Foreign Minister, Internal Affairs Minister and NPC Chief Minister.
On July 05, this writer in an opinion piece titled ‘Vijayakala and LTTE: What is govt’s position’ urged President Sirisena’s government and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe’s United National Party to state their positions on VM’s assertions and if she would be held accountable if found to be wanting.
Following a meeting held behind closed doors with Prime Minister Wickramasinghe, she announced her resignation from her post of State Minister.
Speaker of the Parliament announced, he had written to the Attorney General seeking legal advice.
Based on a complaint filed by Sihala Ravaya, the Colombo Chief Magistrate ordered the media to submit unedited recordings of the speech made by VM for translation.
Party Leader and Prime Minister Wickramasinghe appointed a four-member committee of UNP ministers to study the statement and submit a report.
Nothing has been heard of thereafter.
President Sirisena has maintained a stoic silence on the issue.
Meanwhile, VM continues to be an MP and enjoy all perks and privileges.
Given the gravity of the issue, it behooves the Speaker and Leader of UNP to provide reasons for not suspending her from the position of MP and Party Membership respectively, pending the Attorney General’s opinion, the verdict from the Magistrate’s Court and recommendations of the UNP committee.
Suspension from duties pending an investigation for offenses deemed severe is customary in both public and private sectors. It does not seem to be the case with politicians even when purported offense relates to sedition.
Not a single member in the audience who applauded and cheered VM had the presence of mind to ascertain where she and her three children lived till May 2009, how her family escaped conscription by LTTE and if her children had regular schooling. An honest response would have brought to light; initially in Wellawatte followed in a house worth around Rs 20 million down Gregory’s Road in Colombo 7, living in comfort and safety in Colombo and children attending the Colombo International School (CIS).
17-year-old school girl Sivaloganathan Vidya was gang-raped and murdered on her way to school on May 13, 2015. The Trial-at-Bar case ordered by the Attorney General was concluded on September 27, 2017, with seven of nine accused being found guilty and handed the death penalty. Jaffna High Court Judge Manikkavasagarn Illancheliyan stated, one of the principal accused ‘Swiss Kumar‘ had confirmed in court, VM had saved him from residents of Velani who had captured and tied him up. Upon securing his release, she made no effort to produce him before a court of law or hand him over to the Police. Swiss Kumar was one of the seven accused found guilty and sentenced to death.
What would be VM’s explanation for her efforts to intervene and have a key suspect in the rape and murder of a 17-year-old school girl released in May 2015 and her call to revive the LTTE in the aftermath of the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in July 2018?
VM is indeed a typical politician with ulterior motives. She has mastered the art of playing to the gallery. Whereas she does have specific legitimate concerns for which answers are required from both the Central and Provincial governments, her call for the revival of LTTE is seditious and calls for a public retraction or prosecution.
Since VM’s call for the revival of LTTE on July 03, there have been numerous essays in the print media including several from prominent commentators. Whereas some argue for punitive action, others advocate caution on grounds prosecution would not help reconciliation.
The contention of ‘nays’ has merit if this incident is taken in isolation and a one-off case.
A regular columnist in a Sunday publication recently wrote “threatening those who campaign for secession with imprisonment is undemocratic and an impediment to freedom of expression. Such laws should be repealed. Should two million voters in Catalonia in October 2017 (90%) and 1.6 million in Scotland (45%) in September 2014 be put behind bars?”
Putting two million Catalonians behind bars is as impractical as placing behind bars, over half a million Tamil persons who lived outside the North and East, for the duration of the conflict. However, it must be borne in mind, the Catalan independence referendum was declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional court and proponents of the cessation referendum led by Catalonian President Puigdemont, charged with sedition, rebellion, misuse of public funds and perjury are living in exile today, unable to set foot inside Spain or else facing treason charges.
A former Snr. DIG and Chief of Intelligence in a well thought out opinion piece wrote, based on Realpolitik, “There may be prudence in giving priority to considerations which may safeguard the national interest, as against taking legal action for the contravention of the law.”
However, the ‘yeas,’ to which group this writer belongs, see matters differently.
In the name of reconciliation or Realpolitik, several past incidents have been overlooked by the center. Some such instances are; Despite LTTE being a banned organization, celebrating the birthday of Prabhakaran as well as Mahaveer Naal commemoration in the North. Refusal by NPC Education Minister Kandiah Sarveswaran of the EPRLF to hoist the national flag during a function at a school ceremony in Vavuniya. The quasi-endorsement of this act by NPC Chief Minister. Proposing and tabling by NPC Chief Minister of a Tamil genocide resolution and enactment with an overwhelming majority in the council. The celebration of Black Tiger Day on July 05 in Jaffna and Killinochchi Districts and the painting of LTTE logo and Eelam map on roads and walls.
Such acts hitherto perpetrated by elected officials in the periphery has now arrived in the parliament. “Aiyo, who said that lie. What I said was that we did not have any problems those days” (stated by VM to Ranjan Ramanayake) notwithstanding, given her position as an MP, what was said must be established beyond doubt speedily and necessary action taken forthwith. Any action taken must also act as a deterrent to prospective offenders.
Unlike Sri Lanka, Germany today is a five-star democracy. Suffice to state, even an act such as throwing the Nazi salute could result in a six months prison sentence.
In the USA, no Congressman, Senator, Governor or state legislator refusing to hoist the Stars and Stripes will be permitted to remain in office. Public opinion will not allow it.
The Sri Lankan state erred big time in permitting the JVP to commemorate their dead cadre. Notwithstanding people’s right to remember their dead ones, such events should be without labels such as JVP, LTTE, Black Tiger, etc. and sans banners, flags, cutouts, pandals, and photographs of dead LTTE cadre in uniform.
Germans may commemorate their war dead. Photographs of dead family members in Wehrmacht (German regular army) uniform may be displayed. However, display of photos of deceased family members in Schutzstaffel or SS uniform (Paramilitary organization of the Nazi party) or any other Nazi symbols is prohibited.
It is time to call a halt to anti-state and unlawful activities and act decisively against elected state officials on state payroll who commit such acts.