JVP won’t tie-up with UNP
By Rohan Abeywardena
JVPers in general and their leader Somawansa Amerasinghe in
particular appear to be genuinely sincere in their wanting
to bring about urgently needed constitutional reforms, but
their problem is that in trying to do so they have come to a
marriage of convenience with their arch enemy the UNP and
even the compromise candidate they have chosen to back
jointly with the other opposition parties in the UNP
alliance is now proving to be an embarrassment in many ways.
In the circumstances, Amerasinghe in an interview with The
Nation answers many a question posed by us with some
understandable hostility. He closed the interview with an
emphatic no to the question whether they would cooperate
with the UNP at the next general elections. As repeated
suspicions were voiced by him that we will not carry
everything he says, we have as far as possible reproduced
the entire interview.
Q: In the past, you all said that it will only be over
your dead bodies that any international tribunal will be
allowed to try any of our war heroes. Has that position
A: No. Why should it?
Q: Now your Head of International Relations Vijitha
Herath has said that the government had got down a letter
from the UN Human Rights Council and started a new
conspiracy. Throughout the recent past, we have been hounded
by this Council and it was thanks to China, India, Russia
and most of the third world countries that we were rescued
from its hounding. So do you think that the government can
influence and get letters down from a body like that?
A: We must be thankful to the countries that rescued us
and that is true. At the same time the country itself did
Q: Vijitha Herath has specifically said that the
government got down this letter from the Human Rights
Council. It is in today’s newspapers?
A: I have not seen today’s papers. It is ten o’ clock
now, but I have been engaged in other work, so I will have
to read the papers. Then I will come up with an answer if
Comrade Vijitha Herath did make a statement and that is a
correct one based on fact.
Q: If the government can get the Human Rights Council to
act the way it wants then it is a great achievement?
A: What is the relevance of this question?
Q: The Human Rights Council has asked about the statement
made by Gen. Fonseka.
A: What is the statement? You tell me.
Q: There was an exclusive lead story in The Leader
newspaper quoting Fonseka of stating that Defence Secretary
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered the Commander of the 58 Division
to shoot LTTE leaders who came to surrender holding white
A: Sorry that is wrong. I would like to refer Khona’s
statement. Please read that. Khona says it’s a lie. The
paper is not correct. The General also denied the report.
Yesterday Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe has written to the UN that
there is nothing as such and the UN should not worry.
Q: Gen. Fonseka has not totally denied making that
statement. What he now says is that he had heard it from an
embedded journalist. But being a leading presidential
candidate how can he make such irresponsible statements?
A: Has anyone come out with the recording of this
interview. Let us hear what he has said. I asked him what he
has said. He said no one came with flags and no one was
killed so that is the crux of the statement.
Q: It is the editor of the newspaper who conducted the
interview and she stands by her report?
A: Let her come out with the recorded statement. Until
such time we won’t believe her.
Q: By your party’s own account your the late Leader
Rohana Wijeweera was shot and burnt alive while he was
pleading in pain to see his children. Isn’t it grand irony
that now you have arrived at a marriage of convenience with
the same party which ran torture chambers like Batalanda?
A: Do you know that there are people who gave
information to arrest our members. There are people at the
top who are responsible for the death of Comrade
Liyanarachchi, Comrade Wannigama. Why don’t you ask the
government to conduct an inquiry and punish those who are
responsible for all those murders? Today itself let them do
Q: But does that give you the right to pitch camp with
the same people you accuse of committing terrible things to
A: Are you going to publish what I say exactly as I say
it. Give me an assurance you will not distort anything
Q: As long as there is nothing libelous. If you say so
and so is a murderer then we can’t carry that?
A: Why doesn’t the government conduct an inquiry and
punish those responsible.
Q: When you all were in the government why didn’t you
A: We have demanded that so many times from the day he
was killed. You think we are going to forget about all that.
The SLFP is also equally responsible. They did not lullaby
the JVP in 1971. Please publish these things.
Q: At the same time you must admit JVPers did terrible
things, especially to UNPers?
A: They killed our comrades without conducting any
judicial inquiries. It was brought about because the JVP was
denied democracy in this country. That was the start. It was
done by the SLFP and it was done by the UNP.
Q: Isn’t it strange that these international human rights
do-gooders were nowhere to be seen when your comrades were
being burnt on tyre pyres all over the country, but now
today they want justice for the most despicable terrorist
leaders ever known?
A: I will come to ’89 later. In 1971 remember Lord
Averbury came to this country and visited all the political
prisoner camps and voiced his opposition to the Government
of Sri Lanka. That is why Prince Gunasekera was expelled
from the SLFP.
Again there were a number of countries and a number of
embassies here which were concerned about human rights
violations in the country during the 1980s. In fact, British
High Commissioner Gladstone was expelled from this country.
You have forgotten history.
Q: What I am saying is that in the late 1980s. we were
reporting cases of bodies being burnt by road sides almost
on a daily basis, but there was no such international
A: There are changes, I admit. But I haven’t seen you
reporting any violation of human rights. It was Richard de
Zoysa who raised a voice on behalf of the JVP.
Q: Our names may not have appeared but we did our duty as
far as possible. You may not have been in the country.
A: I was in the country. How do you know?
Q: You escaped?
A: I didn’t escape. I avoided being killed. You are
worried about my presence now. All are worried about my
presence that I can understand.
Q: UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has repeatedly said
that he will be the next executive Prime Minister and
previously Sarath Fonseka too said he will hand over reins
A: You are distorting facts. Please correct yourself
Q: Please read last Sunday’s lead story in The Leader
A: I also want to become the executive Prime Minister of
this country. That is everybody’s wish. There are so many
people who would like to be the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
We are not fighting for the establishment of an executive
Prime Minister in this country. This executive system is
enough and enough is enough. Forget about that.
Q: So what are you fighting for?
A: We are fighting for democracy first of all. We are
fighting against family bandyism, nepotism in this country.
We are fighting against corruption. We are fighting against
harassment of political parties. We are fighting against
harassment of media. We are fighting against robbing this
country. Please write all this. Do you agree to write all
Q: You have a right to be heard.
A: Thank you very much.
Q: In the interview given to The Sunday Times last week
you have said that you will convince the media to be
impartial. This is a great utopian idea, but how are you
going to implement it?
A: They will be convinced because we have already
convinced the people of this country to defeat separatism.
No one was worried about separatism. We were the only party
which has been fighting against separatism from the very
beginning from 1975 itself. We stood by that policy and we
Q: We are talking about two different things?
A: That is how we convinced people. So we have the
courage. We have the confidence. We can convince the people
of this country, including the media.
Q: That is a very tall order?
A: Convincing is not an order.
Q: At the last presidential election we saw how the
private media behaved?
A: We have been witnessing how ugly the media has been
behaving in this country. Everything must be changed. We are
going for a change. We are going to enter a new era, where
freedom is felt by the people.
Q: The opposition has said you all will scrap even Press
complaints Commission laws?
A: Who said it?
Q: May be not your party, but someone in the opposition
said so in recent days. Are you going to introduce
legislation to ensure balance even in the private media?
A: Are you going to get an answer from me saying that we
are going to curb media. We are not going to do that.
Q: You sound more conciliatory in your economic outlook
in your interview with The Sunday Times. Even Fonseka has
said he would be for UNP economic policies. So are you
willing to compromise on this front?
A: Please understand what we are going to do. Our
objective is to elect a President who will hold a free and
fair general election before the period of the present
parliament is over. In that election all the parties will
come out with their policies. There will be at least three
platforms. One platform for the UPFA or the SLFP; there is
no other party in that coalition. Then there will be the UNF
platform and the other will be the JVP. The new President
Sarath Fonseka will have his own policies. He can believe in
anything. Why can’t he? He is also an independent man,
independent non party common candidate of the people. Please
understand that. We have never achieved such an opportunity
to select a non-party person. He has his own policies. So
let us have a dialogue. Let the people of this country
accept what they believe.
Q: This is exactly what the people opposing you all are
saying that you all are groping in the dark not really
knowing the candidate you all are promoting. It is being
purely opportunistic. You all are even willing to work with
the devil in order to destroy Rajapaksas?
A: Who is opportunistic? Rajapaksa is opportunistic.
Rajapaksa is the ugliest opportunist created by this
country. Why does he want presidential election now? Then I
will answer that question. That is why today we have to
discuss these things. Why did he decide to hold a
presidential election now, when he has two more years? He
can do wonders. He can do miracles.
Q: Maybe he wants to get both major elections out of the
way before he gets down to solving the ethnic question. You
cannot put it off any longer?
A: Don’t speak on behalf of the Rajapaksas. Do you know
why he is holding the Presidential election? Ask Lakshman
Yapa Abeywardena. He said ‘We are in an advantageous
position because of the victory of the war. We should have
elections when we can win’. So if he waited for another two
years he won’t win. Even now he won’t win. He thought there
won’t be anybody to contest him. We have agreed to have
confidence in the General and he is the best candidate to
Q: Even in England the party in power sometimes calls an
election when it feels opportune?
A: In Sri Lanka it is not. We are not going to follow
everything that British parties are doing. We are not going
to do that. If The Nation wants this country to follow the
British government, British political parties…….
Q: So you all are opposed to the executive PM. Then what
are you trying to bring forth?
A: It is democracy. We are trying to transfer powers to
parliament, the representatives elected by the people. It is
the parliament that will have powers.
Q As Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signed an
illegal peace treaty with the LTTE. Prime Minister Sirimavo
Bandaranaike extended the life of parliament by two years
without an election?
A: We opposed that. There is nothing to talk about the
CFA now. It is over. It was the Rajapaksa government that
continued to hold the CFA after talks with the LTTE in
Geneva. How do you answer that question?
Q: Even before he could get elected the international
media and his local opponents painted him as a hardliner and
a war monger who would worsen the problem, so he tried his
best to give peace a chance?
A: Are you representing Rajapaksa? Let him come out with
what you say. He doesn’t have any vision. He is a man with
no vision whatsoever.
Q: You may have a vision, but the fact remains that in
this country when it comes to elections it is either the UNP
or the SLFP that the people elect to power?
A: How do you know? Until we win anyone can say the JVP
will not win. Then when we win the election you will have to
accept that. Your papers said that the JVP will not raise
its head after 1989. So, we are there as a powerful
political party in this country. Your predictions are not
worthy for the future.
Q: However, sincere you might be, the fact remains that
when it comes to voting, people always prefer either the UNP
or the SLFP?
A: Thank you very much for accepting that we are
sincere. From that itself we will convince people we must
win the election. They will vote for the JVP one fine day in
this country. We have enough confidence in the people. Let
them decide. Not you or your paper.
Q: Reports indicate that parliament will be dissolved
next month. What will happen to your coalition?
A: What is the coalition? What is the coalition? That is
how you all write. There is no coalition. So why are you
using that word.
Q: Will you all cooperate with the UNP at the general
A: No. Enough?
“Nothing wrong in calling a
betrayer a betrayer” -
of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe explaining the gravity
of the repercussions caused following the former Army
Commander’s statement over the government forces said that
the government is not overreacting to the issue but
struggling to safeguard the positive picture it earned
during the past months internationally.
By Gagani Weerakoon
Following are the excerpts from an interview:
Q.UN calling for an explanation from the Sri Lankan
Government over the remarks made by the former Army
Commander has assumed unprecedented significance of all
topical issues. Now that General Fonseka has refuted the
statement and has taken sole responsibility for whatever
real or perceived military excesses committed during the
war, is there any purpose in making a fuss over this issue
any longer in the public domain?
A. The position at the moment is that there are several
statements he has made. On July 10, at Dharmashoka Vidyalaya
he made a statement. Then a few weeks ago he gave an
interview to another Sunday English newspaper. And as his
remarks made to the Sunday Leader became the talking point
of the entire country he convened another press conference
to tell completely a different story. So all these
contradictory statements rose to the point as to where he
stands. Meanwhile, what happened was the UN picking up on
his original statement to the Sunday Leader.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary
Executions Phillip Alston has written the government asking
for explanation. In that letter, he writes that he is
supposed to submit a report to the Human Rights Council when
it meets in March. This is a dangerous situation to Sri
Lanka. We all know that we were on the focus of Human Rights
Council and various other international forums throughout
the humanitarian operation period. Then several countries
attempted to pass a resolution against Sri Lanka.
Fortunately we were able to convince the Council and defeat
the resolution. With this, the tension and focus on Sri
Lanka also died away. Fonseka made this statement when
positive comments were coming from everywhere. Even the UN
was commending us for the steps we took in looking after
IDPs and on our resettlement process. They were even
commending us for granting freedom of movement to the IDPs
from December 1.
Once again Sri Lanka is under the scrutiny of Human Rights
Council and that is not good for the country. Even after all
those clarifications and statements, we see still there is a
finger pointed at the Secretary Defence who worked hard to
achieve peace. He is the superior of the Army Commander and
they worked as a team. So even after telling that he will
take the full responsibility of what happened during
humanitarian operation Fonseka still says that Secretary
Defence issued an illegal order. Then comes the Nation scoop
last week. In an interview with The Nation Maj. General
Shavendra Silva, who was a ground commander at the final
battle, clearly says that no such order was ever issued by
Secretary Defence. So, obviously in such a situation we need
to know what the truth is. As this not only put country’s
image in danger but also the entire Army including then
Vanni Commander - who is now the Army Commander - Lt.
General Jagath Jayasuriya, Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva who is
now a national hero and all those soldiers who Fonseka says
shot at LTTE leaders and their families who came to
surrender. It caught focus again. Alston in his letter quote
Fonseka as saying soldiers shot at not only LTTE leaders but
also their family members with white flags. It gives the
impression that there were violations of international
treaties when carrying out humanitarian operations. We were
able to put a lid on these issues earlier – not by
hoodwinking but by taking each issue and proving them in a
substantial way. But now we are on the focus again. There
are people and movements who are still dedicated in
achieving LTTE objectives in winning a separate state. They
are still committed to these objectives even at
international levels and this is sweet music to their ears
as it comes from the former Army Commander’s mouth. They
must be clapping their hands.
As a presidential candidate he has simply shot off his
mouth and still not being able to clarify himself
constructively. He has unnecessarily compromised the
interests of the country.
If the forces shot at civilians they could have done the
same thing to the four doctors who were giving all sorts of
wrong information to international media. They too came with
white flags. Later on they told media that they had to
exaggerate figures as they were held at gun point by the
LTTE and demanded them to issue such exaggerated figures to
hoodwink international community that there were massive
killings of civilians by the government forces.
Q. Government has said that Gen. Fonseka has already
provided an explanation to UN query and the government is in
the clear. In this context, should the government make a
political issue of this matter? All what the government
spokesmen and politicians say is picked by the international
media. The international community can think that the
government is reacting from a guilty stand. Some government
politicians have said in public that Gen. Fonseka should be
taken to task for revealing war secrets. Is this not an
admission that war crimes have been really committed?
A.I do not think that anyone would think it that way
because there is nothing wrong in calling a betrayer – a
betrayer. This is a great betrayal. This is a time when we
are trying to boost the image of the country and develop the
country. Here we have a former commander who is contesting
to become the next president who goes out and shoot off his
mouth. What is the message he’s trying to convey. When the
rest of the world hears that our military forces shot at
civilians who came to surrender they may see us as a
barbaric country. His statement would only destabilise the
stability we are trying to achieve after 30 years. What
would the people think of a man who is contesting at a
presidential election making such statements -especially a
man who goes around telling it was he who won the war. Not
only government politicians, even ordinary men around the
country today call him a betrayer and denounce his
statement. Maybe there is a different agenda for him to say
such thing. He has up to date failed to deny substantially
what he said to the Sunday Leader and its Editor, by the
way, strongly stands by what she reported. He is now exposed
in many ways and he should reveal what his stand is.
Q. If the government is confident that no war crimes
have been committed by security forces, why should it take
the UN’s attitude seriously?
A. Yes, we have to take it seriously because an official
communication has been sent to the government of Sri Lanka
calling for an explanation. There going to be a report on
this issue which is to be submitted to the HR Council by
special envoy Alston March next year. I have to go there and
face the Council and have to give a convincing statement to
safeguard the membership of the country.
People are talking about this all over the world that
this was said by a former Army Commander and whether the Sri
Lankan soldiers actually did what the General is saying they
did. All sorts of sentiments like -whether they should take
up the issue at the ICC, whether they should take it up at
the Security Council and should they start an international
inquiry into these allegations to find whether there is any
truth are -now can be heard.
None of these problems will occur had this statement not
being issued. So the responsibility of Sri Lanka losing its
credibility should be taken by General Fonseka. I think now
he should set aside his political agenda and come forward
telling the truth. Whether he was carrying out someone
else’s agenda or whether he was being used in such
Q. Have you responded to the UN yet?
A. No, not yet. We are in the process of submitting a
consolidate report to the UN by March.
The State Department report submitted to the US Congress
also simply catalogue number of incidents and in that report
they say that none of the incidents have a legal basis and
that they cannot vouch for the veracity of the incidents
listed in the report. So anyone cannot say that we violated
any of the international laws in a substantial manner.
But when these things come from a former Commander, people
tend to believe this and that is why we should take it
seriously as we have to find ways and means to respond to
Q. Is the government planning on taking any legal
action against General Fonseka?
A. His actions have ultimately compromised the
credibility of our armed forces and have embarrassed the
country. Therefore, there will be some sort of legal action
but I can’t tell you what exactly the legal action would be
at the moment.