Colombo Telegraph

Public Apology; On JVP National List

By Chrishmal Warnasuriya

Chrishmal Warnasuriya

My fellow Sri Lankans;

As most of you are aware, my name appeared second amongst the 29 professionals and academics that made up the JVP National List (not listed alphabetically, but presumably in the order of priority that the Party would ultimately fill the number allocated) at the recently concluded General Election, where the Commissioner has since returned two seats to be filled by the Party; which I understand now have been allocated to Mr. Sarathchandra Mayadunne whose name appeared before mine, and Mr. Sunil Handunnethti, who contested Matara but failed to secure a seat. Firstly, let me offer my heartiest congratulations to the two of them on their selection by the Party Secretary. Let me also correct the statement made by Mr. Tilvin Silva, which was aired a short while ago that this party decision was fully endorsed and accepted by those of us on the National List; I can categorically state that this is a false and inaccurate statement and that there was no such consent expressed by me, and, in fact, I objected to this change of stance by the party for the several reasons alluded to below.

Whilst this is addressed to all of you in general, I particularly direct this at those of you who gave me a patient hearing during this campaign, whether over the media or at rallies, including those friends, relatives, and their “connections” at places of work etc., who relied on my statements and utterances and proceeded to exercise your invaluable sovereign power and franchise based on my assurances; to you I tender an unconditional and unequivocal apology! I am sorry that I could not answer your several telephone calls, messages etc but I do implore in utmost earnest, that you suffer me this last patient hearing to my explanation and find within yourself occasion to forgive me, as all those statements were based on bona fide belief that they were true and accurate at the time.

I had never intended to engage in active politics and was relatively content with my practice; however, since my return to the island in 2007, several socio-political demands compelled me to engage in mainly attempts to attain good governance and the rule of law with several political parties and activists. After a while my engagements in some of these public agitations with the JVP reached beyond a direct professional involvement actuated by the demands of the issues, the culmination of which was around the end of last year, when the then President Rajapaksa declared his intention to contest a third term. As I got involved in the challenge to this Presidency by the JVP professionally, I was also requested by the JVP to mount the political platform and engage in several public agitations. It was at this time that I intimated to the party that as until then there had been no such direct engagement in politics by me, if I were to take this step; then I will have to continue on a political journey with them only, as I was not in the habit of switching allegiances once a decision was made. The party’s response was that they too, had been observing my contributions and if I were willing they will nominate me as a National List candidate at the next parliamentary election. Thereafter, together with the massive public support that the campaign managed to attract, the citizens of this country won that historic victory of 8th January 2015 for which I am truly grateful for whatever little part I was able to play in the making of that history.

There was no further discussion of “politics” thereafter with the JVP but there were other Parties who discussed the matter in general, possibly to gauge my reaction; but there was no firm committment given to any other by me. Thereafter, around a week and a half before the closing date for nominations of this General Election, the JVP met me at my Chambers and repeated their earlier invite to contest the election as a candidate on their National List. I specifically recall inquiring from them at the time as to where in the order of priority I will be placed on their list, and it was after having seen the list, where my name was placed second, that I ventured to actively engage in the campaign. I subjected the party policy to a detailed study, took time to update myself on party literature and it was thereafter that I addressed several public rallies and made appearances on TV and social media activities; at all times defending and promoting the JVP and its “Accord of the Conscience.” A pivotal point of our campaign was the composition of our National List and I expressedly recall defending the JVP’s formulation of this list on at least three TV interviews and criticizing the lists of other parties for including defeated candidates etc; this was a primary assurance that we placed before the People at this election, that our National List had been carefully prepared to include academics and professionals from outside of the Party, who would not otherwise engage in routine “competitive politics” but whose contributions were considered as important in the Legislature. I defended this policy to the hilt in complete bona fide belief that this was a principle of the party and that the JVP would be principled enough to abide by such discipline.

Upon the declaration of results, where the Commissioner returned as elected four members who contested and two slots in the National List, I received a text message from Mr. Vijitha Herath as to whether we could meet in the afternoon on the 19th of August. Having scheduled the meeting, we met in my Chambers and held a detailed discussion on the party’s return of elected candidates that were much less than the number we had expected, and I recall making particular reference to Messrs. K.D. Lal Kantha, Bimal Rathnayake, Samantha Viddyarathna, Sunil Handunneththi, Wasantha Samarasinghe and Nalin Hewage inter alia, stating my view that they were all equally fit and capable to be in the Legislature; as to why they had not been elected and why the Party had fallen short of expectations was an immediate concern which must be discussed as a matter of priority.

At this juncture, Mr. Herath informed me that Mr. Mayadunne had indicated an agreement to volunteer his position on the National List for Mr. Handunneththi to stand in his place and queried whether I would be similarly inclined to forego my second position in favour of Mr. Bimal Rathnayake. My categorical and unequivocal response to this was based on our above assurance to the public, as to how we defended our National List and therefore, it would be breaching that public assurance if we were to now act differently. I recall specifically stating that compromising our stand on the National List would erode public confidence in our statements, which was not the way to go forward if we were serious of forming a government in 2020. We thereafter concluded the meeting on this understanding. The next occasion I heard from Mr. Herath was this morning when I received a text message claiming that the party had discussed the matter and were keen on nominating Mr. Handunneththi to Parliament I replied and reiterated that if Mr. Mayadunne had volunteered for such an arrangement I could not comment on that; however, I was opposed to any such arrangement as a matter of principle. I was, therefore, reasonably perturbed when I was directed to a press-statement by Mr. Tilvin Silva stating that I had agreed with this arrangement; I categorically reiterate my denial and wish that all members of the electronic and print media who reported this news item in that manner would kindly correct that news and afford adequate, equal, and similar space and/or airtime and prominence to my correction.

Finally, I reiterate my apology to all of you who relied on my statements and cast a vote in our favour and/or defended the policy that I promoted. I am sorry that I am unable to represent your voice in the Legislature as assured, which I hope you will understand are due to circumstances beyond my control. I thank all of you for reposing your confidence and reliance on my word. I also thank those persons who assisted the Party and the campaign in various ways, either by opening up your homes and hearts to us or by way of material contributions because of my involvement; and for the latter I can assure you that there are accurate records maintained for all of it, which I can make available should you so require. I also thank the several members of the print and electronic media who carried my message to the masses and politely request you, as indeed everyone of the general public, not to lose faith in the mission that Social Justice can be attained – we can make a better country and we will do it one day.

As for my immediate future, professionally, I shall return to Court and seek refuge in its blanket of knowing-comfort and will also retire to the peace and affection of my family, to whom I also apologize for dragging them through the mud of this political campaign and for the neglect of my time; and of course seek shelter with those close friends who I know will insulate me from “the political world” to which, perhaps, I do not belong.

Jaya!!!

CW

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