By Lionel Bopage –
The issues related to the deportation of Kumar continued to attract attention with the revelation that the Sri Lankan state intelligence forces had been ordered to arrest him as early as February 2012. However, the basis for this order lacked clarity. The FSP was said to be intending to campaign on the rights of the missing civilians and political detainees in the north and east of the island, at a time when the state was in the process of suppressing dissent. The state proclaimed that Kumar was a militant with outstanding charges as he was a prison escapee and was using a fake passport. When Australia sought clarification from the Sri Lankan state regarding Kumar Gunaratnam, the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked the Australian High Commission to prove that Kumar had returned to Sri Lanka. According to the reports, he had said that no Australian national carrying a passport bearing the name Premakumar Gunaratnam had ever come to Sri Lanka as per the records maintained at the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The current episode about Kumar was kindled by his recent arrest. According to several sources of information, Kumar was to contest the presidential election as the common candidate of the Left. FSP publicly stated that Kumar had no legal barrier to enter Sri Lanka, despite rumours to the effect that he had been blacklisted from entering the country. He had entered Sri Lanka as an Australian citizen under the name Noel Mudalige on a 30-day tourist visa, on January 1, 2015, just before the Presidential Election held on January 8. While on tourist visa, he had allegedly engaged in political activities to promote the Presidential candidate of the FSP. The Department of Immigration and Emigration had sought his arrest for visa violations. The Department had summoned him twice to record statements regarding his involvement in local politics. He was to be deported on the grounds that he had violated the Immigration and Emigration regulations. His arrest and deportation was stayed by the Supreme Court after the FSP filed a fundamental rights petition. It was taken up for hearing, but dismissed by the court on February 18. He had been arrested and charged with absconding after overstaying his tourist visa. He is currently kept in extended remand custody, until his case is heard.
There had been speculation in January 2015 itself that Kumar may not obtain an extension to his tourist visa and may have to leave or be deported. He had allegedly violated conditions of his tourist visa by actively engaging in politics during his stay. In January itself, Sri Lankan authorities had been inquiring about the whereabouts of Kumar. At their request, Kumar had called over at the Department of Immigration with his lawyers, where he had been questioned about his conduct in Sri Lanka while on a tourist visa.
Soon after his entry to the country, he gave a press conference at the Lions Club Hall in Rajagiriya, to express his intention to stay in Sri Lanka and engage in politics to support the Presidential election campaign of the FSP. He had also stated that the presidential election had provided some political space that he intends to use. Kumar accused the JVP of having entered into a secret deal with the opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena. He denied that he had arrived after having made a secret deal with the previous Rajapaksa regime to visit Sri Lanka again. Nevertheless, there was widespread suspicions that the previous regime had facilitated Kumar’s visit to Sri Lanka, in order to allege a secret deal between the JVP and the opposition candidate so as to embarrass them.
The JVP leadership had outrightly denied the existence of a member/leader of the JVP by the name of Premkumar Gunaratnam or Kumara Mahaththaya. On the contrary, other sources state that during the 1988-89 period, Kumar had been the area leader of Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV) in Trincomalee, and that he had been the contact person between the JVP and certain left orientated Tamil political groups, mainly the TELO. It is also said that he masterminded the JVP attack on the Pallekele army camp and IPKF camp at Kallar. He had been arrested and held in Bogambara Prison but escaped from prison in December 1988. Kumar had fled Sri Lanka later as the then United National Party government stepped up its terror campaign in which death squads slaughtered 60,000 JVP members and rural youth. He sought asylum in Australia where he later obtained citizenship. Subsequently, Kumar had begun to revive and re-organise the JVP working with other senior JVP leaders.
To be continued