By Kumar David –
Maduluwave Sobitha hamudurovo has told it like it is in an interview with E. Jayasuriyan in the Sunday Thinakural (Tamil) of 2 February, print edition page 5, website www.thinakkural.lk. This is a volcano but the Sinhala and English press have still not picked it up (Tuesday 4 February). But no ways will anyone get away with self-censorship; it will come out. I will summarise the interview in a moment, but let me touch on two other points first.
Only a charlatan or a dunce would still believe that that there is even a remote possibility of this regime undertaking a genuine investigation of civilian deaths, disappearances and accountability issues – SL State and LTTE – during the civil-war and preceding it. Therefore it is welcome and appropriate, that in a body blow to President Mahinda Rajapakse, the Northern Provincial Council “unanimously” adopted a resolution targeted at the UNHRC demanding “an international investigation to uncover war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out against the Tamil people. . . the people do not have faith in any domestic investigations into past massacres or ongoing human rights violations”. In the absence of any truthful follow up what else are the mother’s of the disappeared and people of the North expected to do? Twiddle their thumbs and pretend nothing happened?
The NPC stand follows the TNA’s landslide victory in the September 2013 PC elections, which elections a reluctant Mahinda Rajapkse, kicking and screaming, could no longer prevent. Indian and pre-CHOGM pressure forced his hand, he had no choice; this was no gesture by a great democrat. (Self-serving ex-diplomats should stop making everyone laugh!) The NPC now represents the formal elected voice of the Tamil people and the UNHRC must accept and act on this. Let us not have another case of the world remaining silent; an international investigation is a must.
The Northern PC gives voice to the oppressed
The hypocrisy of an assortment of newspaper columnists, ex-diplomats well known for feathering their nests, and the bellicose Sinhala press, all decrying the NPC must be rebutted. The bottom line of this cacophony is simple; the Sinhala-Buddhist people or at least the chauvinist faction thereof, the regime, and the military are livid. Devolution and future concessions to the Tamils will be cut-off; the NPC should be dissolved on some pretext; these traitors must be clapped in irons. What does the ranting add up to? “We will not investigate war-crimes allegations, shut-up about it irrespective of whether it happened or not, and if you dare squeal to the outside world we will smash your face. We will not investigate, and we will smash you if you complain”. That’s the bottom line of what’s being said.
The NPC can cower in terror and keep its mouth shut like a battered woman who dare not complain of domestic violence for fear of repeated assaulted, or can stand up and demand justice. The victim is entitled to a public inquiry by an agency not beholden to the alleged perpetrator if all hope of redress within the existing institutional framework has disappeared. If so it is time to go public before the whole world. Frankly, only charlatans and knaves still say there is hope of fair investigation and redress within Sri Lanka’s prevailing institutional framework.
Some of my do-gooder liberal friends, UNPers, and even some leftists are worried that if the Tamils go open and demand an investigation it will strengthen Mahinda Rajapakse’s Sinhala nationalist appeal; his popularity will soar; why the hell don’t the bloody Tamils shut-up and bear up? I had just such a debate with two avowedly leftists, non-racist and self-proclaimed Marxists last Sunday (2 Feb). I say, if the demand for justice by a minority raises the hackles of chauvinism and makes an ogre even stronger, well so be it. Lanka will have to live through this hellish experience; it cannot be ducked.
Hamuduruwo takes a stand
Sobitha Hamuduruwo has taken a stand. In the afore mentioned interview he said. Yes I will to stand as a Single-Issue (SI) presidential candidate, but if the former Chief Justice or former President is interested, no problem, I am happy to step aside. I will serve for six months only within which time I will abolish the Executive Presidency (EP) and institute a parliamentary system by constitutional changes. The roots of bribery, corruption, nepotism and bad governance lie in the EP system.
Then he went on to add a stunner. “Sri Lanka is a part of the international community, we have to abide by international norms, and if there is a call for an international investigation of events in the country I have no problem in agreeing. If we have nothing to hide then we can go before an international investigation and vindicate ourselves”.
Hamuduruwo has thrown open a stunning challenge. He has said yes I am willing to stand for election as a common candidate on a single-issue platform, secondly he has said, yes sure if they want an investigation let them have it. Both the Rajapakse regime and other presidential hopefuls are probably throwing apoplectic fits right now. However, we must wait for confirmation of the interview, or at least a non-denial, before drawing these conclusions definitively.
The LSSP breaks new ground
The Central Committee of the LSSP at its 25 January meeting made a bold move. The CC called for abolition EP and demanded it be done before the next presidential elections. Party leader Professor Tissa Vitarane and left-leaning Dr Jayampathy Wickremeratne urged adoption of the resolution. The LSSP may not be a strong party now but the decision will impact the Communist Party which will follow suit (Aththa gave it banner headlines). The country’s biggest left party, the JVP, consistently fought to abolish EP and the clear headed and reliable Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD, what fine initials!), the new leader, will not deviate from this principled stand. Sarath Fonseka and his Democratic Party (DP) take the same position, and Ranil and the UNP, thankfully and finally, have endorsed it.
The TNA and the Tamils prevaricated for years because they hoped EP would give them some protection from parliamentary majoritarianism, but the bitter experiences of JR and Mahinda have ended the illusion. Who remains holding a fig-leaf to cover the naked autocracy of EP? Technically, not even the SLFP; its election manifestos have declared abolition of EP to be a central task since the 1980s. Chandrika promised twice, and defaulted; Mahinda promised twice and lied. The only organisms in this benighted nation partisan to EP inhabit the innards of the Rajapakse cabal.
I raised the option of a common opposition presidential candidate on a SI ticket about a year ago, but interest subsided when the two strongest options demurred. Maduluwawe Sobitha has now taken a stand, but what about Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK)? Last week there was a small flutter. Answering questions after a meeting, she was drawn into presidency talk and this is what she said. “I do not have such an aspiration . . . but I believe that anything can change . . . I cannot say for sure what will happen”. Hmm, interesting; let us take leave it at that and turn to another angle.
If I were given a magic wand to choose, who would I anoint as the common candidate on a SI ticket? I would be sitting on the horns of a dilemma like the rest of you who want to see the back of Rajapakse. It is widely agreed that CBK and Hamudurowo are the most-likely-to-win options; forget Fonseka. So the next step is to look at plusses and minuses.
There just two criteria. Who is the better vote puller? Who is more trustworthy on the SI issue? Let me insert a quick reminder of the Single-Issue concept. A candidate presents himself/herself asking for just one mandate. Win the presidency; take steps to abolish EP, (dissolve the incumbent parliament if it is obstructs the mandate and hold fresh elections); write a constitution creating a parliamentary system; then get out, go home, and enjoy the tranquillity of the pansala, or a wine and cheese at Rosemead Place. Hence there only two tasks facing the common opposition candidate; (a) WIN, (b) ABOLISH EP.
This is precisely where the dilemma originates. CBK is said to be the stronger vote puller, that is she will win easier because she will split the SLFP and take with her not only a majority of the old guard but also much of the SLFP base vote. Added to joint opposition backing – UNP, Fonseka (?), and all the minorities – this is a no-brainer winner. I have not mentioned the JVP as no one can say what it will do at the last minute. On the other hand, folks trust Hamudurowo, not CBK, to fulfil promises. CBK’s drawback is that she is untrustworthy and undisciplined. Fonseka may be a spoiler; he is debarred from contesting, but have no doubt, Rajapakse will grant an amnesty so that he can run as a third option to split the opposition. If the DP outpolls the UNP in the Western and Southern PCs, this is indeed a fly in the ointment; otherwise Fonseka’s delusions will peter out. The foolish General rejected a UNP offer to make Anoma Chief Ministerial candidate on a UNP-DP joint ticket for the WPC. Too much marching and thumping in jackboots liquefies the brain.
In her first term CBK showed not a sliver of interest in abolishing EP, though even if she tried it would have been easier to find a polar bear in the Kalahari than enough UNPers to deliver a two-thirds majority. In her second-term, in year 2000, initially she tried to smuggle in a provision enabling her to hang on till completion of her term before abolition took effect. When the UNP said ‘no’, she climbed down and agreed to abandon the swindle; by then, Ranil had changed his mind and said “no deal”. The coot thought he could win a presidential election; or maybe an ass that learns only the hard way!
As things stand now my magic wand is pointing at Hamuduruwo.