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 Post subject: Lalith Kotelawala: Man with no history or a political fraud
 Post Posted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 2:30 am 
Lalith Kotelawala is either a man with no history or a political fraud

@Standard Newspapers
Written By:Upali Cooray


In a statement published in the Daily Mirror and other national newspapers Mr. Lalith Kotelawala, has claimed that if Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse, became the President of the country with extremists as allies, they will be a barrier to bring peace to the country. He goes on to assert that through his "Christianity and through the love that it preaches, I have been able to forgive my enemies and the LTTE" even though they caused him injury and damaged to his building.

Image
Mr. Lalith Kotelawala

Thereafter, he makes a number of serious allegations about the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and claims that he has evidence to prove that they were involved in various criminal and other wrongful acts.

He rhetorically asks Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse "If these are your partners, what will happen to us when you are elected President and they come under your patronage.

You talk about peace and that there will be no more war. You can't have peace when you are President, with such people around you". Mr. Kotelawala's message is clear: on his say so, we must accept that the JHU is an extremist organisation and by allying with them, Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse has destroyed all chances of achieving a peaceful political solution to the ethnic conflict.

Peace and extremism

It was in June 1978 that Mr. J.R.Jayewardene sent the army to Jaffna to wage war against "terrorists". After 27 years of a futile and a costly war, many Sri Lankans yearns for a peaceful solution to this conflict. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Sri Lankans would also have little sympathy with "extremists" who want to wreck a peace deal. Therefore issue of peace and the role of extremists is a legitimate subject of discussion and debate.

However, we must be clear about the meaning of these words. What do we mean by peace ? How do we define extremists ? I intend to express my own views on these two key issues. However, before I do that it is important to examine the manner in which Mr. Kotelawala has addressed these issues.

Muddying the waters

I do not think the purpose Mr. Kotelawala's statement was intended to promote a genuine discussion about these issues. I say so because firstly, if Mr. Kotelawala has cogent evidence against the JHU, he should have passed such information to the police and helped them to bring criminal charges against the wrongdoers. Similarly if the JHU has defamed him he should instigate a civil action against them. After all Mr. Kotelawala is not short of a bob or two to hire the best lawyers in town.

Instead he wants to use the media to make serious allegations against the JHU. He cannot expect us to ascertain the veracity of his allegations. Mr. Kotelawela wants us to convict and hang the JHU on his say-so without giving the accused a chance to put his case to the jury. In accordance with rules of natural justice every man must have an opportunity to defend himself against his accusers. But Mr. Kotelawela who claims to be a morally superior being, a compassionate and forgiving Catholic, is inciting us to act as a lynch mob. That is wholly inappropriate.

Secondly, I do not think we need lessons in morality from Catholics. Their history is strewn with acts of genocide, debauchery and plunder. They have been active partners in slave trade and colonial exploitation. Let me just give two examples of the murky role of the Catholic Church. In Latin America the Church actively participated in the genocide of Maya Indians and in Europe the Catholic Church unashamedly supported Nazism and Fascism. Their role in Sri Lanka is not any less ignominious. Some of the most enthusiastic apologists of LTTE atrocities have been Catholic priests. Right at this moment they engaged fund raising to buy arms for the LTTE.

These men hide behind their casocks and condone murder, child abduction and extortion. As a lifelong humanist, I find Mr. Kotelawala's hypocrisy quite offensive. Thirdly, it appears that Mr. Kotelawala's compassion and forgiveness is very selective. He is willing to forgive the LTTE, which engages in the most brutal forms of violence and ethnic cleansing, but he cannot forgive the JHU, which even on his own account, and taking his allegations at its highest, has not done anything so dastardly as the LTTE. This is why I believe that his religious pretensions are a fig leaf to hide his vile political agenda.

Who are the extremists ?

When we talk about extremism we must be clear about the issue in relation to which we characterise a person or group of persons as a moderate or an extremist. I believe Mr. Kotelawla is talking about the ethnic conflict and the need to find a peaceful solution to this problem. That means we must identify the people or organisations that has adopted an extremist position in relation to the Tamil people.

Let us not beat about the bush. The question is a simple one. We can examine recent events and ascertain how we have treated our Tamil brothers and sisters. That would help us to identify which person or group of persons have pursued an extremist policy in relation to the Tamils. Years of experience have taught me that we must judge people not on the basis of what they say but on what they do. That is particularly important when we deal with politicians and businessmen because both groups of people have tendency to say one thing and do another.

From 1977 to 2000

Let us examine our recent past. I can vividly recall the events in August- September 1977. In August 1977 there was minor incident in Jaffna sparked off by a group of a few off-duty policemen in civil clothes seeking to enter the carnival grounds without paying the admission fee. It could have been defused easily. However, the Prime Minister at the time, sought to exploit it in order to brow beat Tamil members of Parliament who were reluctant to join his government.

On the floor of the Parliament he said words to this effect: "I am not saying this, but the Sinhala people are saying this to the Tamils. If you want peace come in peace, if you want war, there will be war". This was uncalled for. Sinhalese people said no such thing. The Prime Minister at the time was seeking to hide behind "Sinhalese people" because he was both a coward and an extremist. These words resulted in renewed violence against Tamils living in the South.

Such extremism did not stop there. It was followed by the burning of the Jaffna Library, one of our most valuable historical assets that contained ancient books including rare books written by Tamil Buddhist scholars. Same year, innocent Tamil workers living in plantation areas were attacked and their line rooms torched by thugs of the ruling party. Those of us who visited the victims of these mindless acts of violence could not understand why these poor and innocent people had been targeted.

They were not involved in the problems in the North U& East. Soon after that, the Tamil United Liberation Front, was effectively excluded from Parliament and Tamil voters were disenfranchised.

However, the worst acts of mob violence against Tamils were unleashed in July 1983. That was no spontaneous outburst of emotion by Sinhalese against Tamils. It was a cold and calculated pogrom. Specific groups of ruling party activists, including government ministers were involved in the meticulous organisation of that pogrom.

None of these shameful acts of violence was organised by the JHU. It was the United National Party and its leaders who were in the forefront of these extremist acts. In the face of widespread revulsion expressed by people home and abroad, Mr. J.R.Jayawardene tried to pin the blame for the 1983 pogrom on the JVP. But everyone who witnessed the violence of 1983 knew full well that it was planned and executed by the UNP.

No apology from Ranil

Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe was a leading minister of the UNP government from 1977 to 1994. To date neither the UNP nor Mr. Wickremasinghe has apologised to the Sri Lankan people for the violence, distress and suffering they caused to our Tamil brothers and sisters during this period. Furthermore, their subsequent conduct has not been any better. Though Mr. Kotelawala may have forgotten it, many of us remember the shameful manner in which the proposals for devolution presented to parliament by Chandrika Bandaranaike was burnt on the floor of the house.

The JHU and the UNP

Who then are the extremists? Even if we consider the catalogue or allegations made against the JHU by Mr. Kotelawala can they be compared even remotely with the appalling and shameful acts of violence that the UNP initiated against the Tamils ? Or has Mr. Kotelawala conveniently forgotten dishonourable past of his friends ?

Thus, if we judge the UNP and the JHU on their record, there can be no doubt that the only extremist party in Sri Lanka is the UNP. We are well aware of JHU's political standpoint. We have the right to disagree with it. But in a democracy we must accept the right of every political organisation to express their views in frank, open and a peaceful manner. Furthermore, over time political positions evolve and recently one of the JHU leaders stated that he had no objection to the Indian model of devolution that Mr. Anandasangaree has been advocating.

We cannot say the same about the UNP. Although at times they pay lip service to a federal solution, we can never be sure of what they stand for. They have never spelt out their position clearly. Peace cannot be achieved by secret backroom deals and opportunist policies. Nor can peace be achieved by appeasing the LTTE for opportunist reasons.

A leader who is resolute, honest and sincere and who commands the respect of the majority of the people alone would be able to achieve peace. Recent statements of some UNP leaders reveal that they were playing Jekyll & Hyde with the LTTE. They were telling the LTTE one thing and at the same time engaging in a secret conspiracy with US and India to smash the LTTE.

I do not think that such a group of people can achieve peace. Ranils's track record shows that he is not a man of peace, he has never apologise for the crimes his party had committed against Tamils and furthermore he has not been frank and open with even the LTTE who helped him to come back to power in 2001.

Track record of defending human rights

I know Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse only because in 1989, as a member of the Committee for Democracy and Justice in Sri Lanka (CDJ), I helped to organise a delegation of members from the European Parliament (MEP's) and European lawyers to visit Sri Lanka. They were sent to investigate the 60,000 odd persons that "disappeared" during the 1988-89 period.

Without the assistance of Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse, Mr. Aimnsley Samarajeeva, Mr. Mangala Samaraweera and others this delegation would never have been able to fulfil the important role they played in curbing the worst excesses of state terrorism. That year, Ms. Christine Oddy, MEP, presented the data that Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse and others so courageously and painstakingly collected to the UN sub-committee on human rights.

Thus, unlike Ranil, Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse has demonstrated his democratic and human rights credentials under extremely difficult conditions. He did so without considering the danger to his own life and liberty. It is highly unlikely that such man could be swayed from his chosen goal of seeking a negotiated solution based on consensus.

I do not expect Mr. Kotelawala to be a part of that process of consensus building because he is not a part of the solution but a part of the problem.

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Written By:Upali Cooray


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