THE POSITIONS OF SOUTHERN POLITICAL PARTIES
The NSSP : What follows is a statement by Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara NSSP Politbureau member and NP (Sunday Observer 1st July).
He described LTTE as a fascist force which would brook no dissent. He further said, "They came to an understanding with this reactionary government. They seem to fit into one another well. But even they had to fall out. Both had the Israelis as their collaborators and well wishers.... ." He blamed the government for arming the LTTE and putting them in power. When the LTTE and the army tried to exercise dual power in the East it had to end up in conflict. It further said, "Our party feel that the LTTE must be defeated by all democratic forces which strive for civilised existence in the North and east.... . We also want the government to be defeated in the South. We make no preference for the government as against the LTTE.... . There is a lot of fury being focussed against the Tamil people by certain elements who are trying to whip up Sinhala passions against the Tamils. It is the duty of the civilised citizens to protect the Tamils at this juncture.
The LTTE must come to an understanding with all Tamil group and Tamil speaking Muslims which must be laid out as a pre-condition for any kind of discussion for a ceasefire."
The NSSP continued to make representations both in Parliament and privately about what was being done to the civilians in the North-East.
The SLFP: The position of SLFP, the leading opposition party and alternative government, has been ambiguous. It supported the government in its bid to crush the LTTE. It voted for the supplementary defence estimate. It also sent a representative on the delegation to explain the conduct of the war to SAARC countries. But when it came to voting for the extension of emergency powers on the 19th July the party abstained. The party has found itself divided, while some members pointed out that having gone so far, to refuse the government the emergency powers to conduct the war, was meaningless. Thus the alternative government found itself without a policy. Other left sources said that at least 40 MPs from the SLFP had expressed a willingness to oppose the government's position.
To trace the reasons for this confusion we go back to a hard hitting speech made by Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaiake, the leader of the opposition, in Parliament on 12th January, attacking the government's human rights record. Mrs. Bandaranaiake is also challenging in court the validity of the presidential elections. Extracts from the speech are quoted from the Island of 13th January: " It is no secret that politically backed para military hit squads continued to abduct and murder youth through the length and breadth of our country. In the guise of combating subversion thousands of SLFP members had been arrested, abducted or murdered by these killer squads. Notwithstanding assurance by the government that these hit squads would be brought to book, so far not a single person of these squads had been brought to trial.
We know for a fact that the majority of security forces and police personnel have had nothing to do with these gruesome gruesome acts. On the contrary they do view dastardly acts with horror, but are constrained due to political patronage enjoyed by the hit squads."
"..... Prior to their deployment these killer groups have been provided with false army identity cards. They are also instructed to contact UNP provincial council members to obtain the names of opposition polling agents and destroy them. Certain lists of persons to be killed had been given to these killer squads. These squads have also been put in contact with the co-ordinating officers of various districts. The co-ordinating officers have been given special orders from a high ranking officer at army headquarters to co-operate with these groups and ask no questions. This is the information that I have received.... ."
This speech shows that the opposition felt very much threatened by the government's actions. Mrs. Bandaranaike as a past prime minister would have had good sources within the security forces who were sympathetic to her. It would have served both Tamil and Sinhalese interests to give the opposition a free hand in challenging the government's record. When the Tigers and the government clashed in June, Mrs. Bandaranaike found herself bowing to a strong sentiment amongst upper, middle and lower-middle class Sinhalese, that the Tamils should be defeated militarily.
`Sunday Times' of 22nd July reported what happened at the meeting of the parliamentary group of the SLFP, to discuss voting on the extension of the emergency on 19th July. Several influential MPs including Nimal Siripala de Silva, Jayaraj Fernandopulle, Richard Pathirana, Ananda Dassanayake, Lakshman Kiriella, S.B. Dissanayake and M.K.D.S. Gunawardena were against the emergency.
The Gampha district MP said the earlier slogan was `kill Tamils' and today under the guise of `kill Tigers', Tamils are being killed. He asked why the SLFP should involve itself in a government LTTE fight?
Mr. Kiriella said that everyday 40 bodies were burning on the road sides in Kandy and voting for the emergency would be condoning these acts as well. He said that the party should not support the emergency because of this.
Mr. S.L. Gunasekara, who spoke in favour of the emergency said the SLFP voted in favour of a massive supplementary estimate (US $125 million) for the defence ministry to buy arms and ammunition. He asked how the party could now vote against giving the security forces, the power to use these weapons. The party leader Mr. Bandaranaike final decided that as there were two points of view on the emergency, the party would abstain.
It is surprising that Mr.s Bandaranaike who well understood the nature of the security forces decided to stand back and pretend that a just and disciplined war was being conducted in the Tamil areas. Having herself said that thousands of her supporters had been arrested, abducted or murdered, she clearly had on her hands a human rights problem affecting a very large section of her constituency. By legitimising the actions of the armed forces in Tamil areas, the SLFP was not only letting down this constituency, but was helping to whitewash one of the ugliest periods of this country's history. By this stand of the SLFP, a large section of the Sinhalese electorate that had been visited with terror, humiliation and destitution was being left orphaned. What will we do when one day their angry young men demand justice and accountability? Do we double the strength of the security forces and increase defence expenditure to 40%? The
SLFP stands in danger of finishing up a vestigial adjunct to the UNP.. The feelings of those who have lost near and dear ones cannot be assuaged by killing Tamils.
The only alternative open to the SLFP was to stand firm on principle on the human rights issue and challenge the government's moral authority and competence to assume responsibility for solving this country's problems. As inexcusable as are the actions of the Tigers, anyone who can accomplish some good must in the first place command moral authority and goodwill. [Top]
Next||previous||Contents of Report4
Home | History
| Briefings | Statements
| Bulletins | Reports
| Special Reports | Publications
Copyright © UTHR 2001