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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution: Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Broken Pacts & Evasive Proposals > All Party Representative Committee Farce - 2006/2008 > The Political Fraud behind the APRC Farce
The Political Fraud behind the APRC Farce
Sinhala Opposition UNP Supporting
[see also Democracy, Sri Lanka Style]
Documents in possession of the Sunday Leader show how the farce was enacted
After labouring for 63 sessions, over 250 hours and spending millions of tax payers' rupees, the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) and President Mahinda Rajapakse last week delivered an ant in what is nothing short of a massive political fraud perpetrated on both the Sri Lankan people and the international community.
And here's why.
It was President Rajapakse who in his Mahinda Chinthana and thereafter, in appointing the All Party Conference and the APRC that promised a political solution to end the ethnic conflict whilst also pledging to forward the consensus reached to the LTTE as a basis for negotiations.
Having said so and holding out the APRC process as the panacea for all ills plaguing the country on the one hand, the efforts of the committee were systematically sabotaged on the other at the insistence of extremist parties like the JVP and JHU who were directing the administration towards a military solution.
Thus when the APRC on January 8, 2007 submitted what it titled the Main Proposals To Form The Basis Of A Future Constitution wherein the unitary state concept was jettisoned and a federal model advocated, the JVP and JHU breathed fire resulting in the President directing APRC Chairman, Minister Tissa Vitharana to put his document which ran to over 30 pages, in the shredder.
Memorandum of Understanding
Mind you, the APRC proposals came in the backdrop of the Rajapakse led-SLFP having signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNP just three months earlier where it was stated with regard to the ethnic issue, "the cornerstone of the political solution is power-sharing within the country on a basis acceptable to the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities and reflecting the experience of our country over the last few decades."
The reference to the experience of the last few decades was with the specific intention of taking into consideration the proposals submitted in the past including the 13th Amendment, 1995 proposals of the PA and the PA's 2000 Draft and move forward.
The MoU document drafted by G.L. Peiris, then an opposition MP, added,
With this document hailed both locally and internationally as ground breaking, the government moved to capitalise on it at the second round of talks in Geneva too with Chief Negotiator Nimal Siripala De Silva telling LTTE political wing leader S.P. Tamilselvan and the Norwegian facilitator, Minister Erik Solheim, a proposal based on a consensus reached with the UNP will be submitted to the Tigers for discussion.
It is in this same spirit, the APRC also moved forward despite the JVP not participating and the UNP too withdrawing over the delaying tactics adopted by the President, but Minister Vitharana pressed on with the international community too, not only backing the process but even telling Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to support the initiative.
And with international pressure continuing to mount on the government with threats of sanctions also looming large over the human rights situation in the country and the failure of the political process, President Rajapakse assured the diplomatic community a political package evolved through the APRC will be forwarded before end January.
There was to be an added sense of urgency the previous week with Japan's Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi informing the President of the fate awaiting their financial assistance unless a viable political package was submitted speedily for consideration by all parties including the LTTE.
In a joint statement on Monday, 21 January 2008, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UK Premier Gordan Brown too while ruling out a military solution called on the government to put forward a credible devolution package, and inherent in that statement was a call for something more than what is already in the statute books.
Said Akashi on Tuesday, January 15 - "Last evening I had a meeting with His Excellency, the President during which I conveyed the serious concerns of our government and emphasised that the political solution of the problem would be indispensable and in that context, a devolution package on which the Government of Sri Lanka had been exerting considerable efforts must be drafted as soon as possible and be offered to the relevant parties, including the LTTE. His Excellency the President in response expressed his commitment to the political solution of the conflict, stating that the drafting of the devolution package would be completed very soon."
While giving such assurances to the international community, the President also did not want to lose favour with the JVP and JHU and had by this time summoned the APRC representatives and given them a document calling for the implementation of the 13th Amendment with a directive to submit it as their recommendation.
The President at that meeting, the full details of which, including the document, were published in The Sunday Leader of January 13, had said any consensus formula by the APRC will be confined to paper since it will lead to the government's collapse due to the JVP's objections and hence to stick with the 13th Amendment.
That the 13th Amendment was already law and the provincial councils in operation from 1988 barring the north and east were not relevant with the idea being to blow a smokescreen and take the international community for a ride that a new political solution was in fact on offer, and in the process keep the JVP and JHU also on board.
With the stage thus set, President Rajapakse directed Vitharana to do the needful and get the APRC to fast track its report based on his directive, but at that point the Minister was not ready to be party to the subterfuge and decided he will go ahead with his report whilst also submitting a response to the 13th Amendment proposal.
Accordingly, Minister Vitharana convened a meeting of the APRC and submitted a report based on the discussions had upto that point dated January 17, 2008 titled, Action To Be Taken By The President To Implement Sections Of The APRC Proposals Through The Present Constitution.
That document went beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and for example restricted the power of parliament to legislate on subjects and functions in the provincial list in addition to part of the concurrent list as presently enumerated.
For elucidation, it must be mentioned that under the 13th Amendment there were three lists, the reserved list - the subjects which were exclusively for the centre, the provincial list of the provinces and the concurrent list - the subjects which could be given to the province by the centre.
Thus under the heading in bold print titled, Steps Necessary To Permit Maximum Devolution Of Powers To Provinces Under The 13th Amendment, the proposals called for the cabinet of ministers to take the following executive decisions in respect of its legislative power inter alia:
And the document proceeded to spell out powers for the provinces and its subjects which the centre could not take away thereby, making it an advancement of the 13th Amendment in its present form which of course ran counter to what the President wanted the APRC to adopt as per his document which was a dilution of the existing law.
Full implementation of the 13th Amendment even in its present form would include devolving police and land powers to the provinces in addition to restoring the health and education powers but the President wanted even those subjects kept out of the APRC recommendations much to Vitharana's chagrin.
In effect what the President proposed was 13th Amendment minus.
This mood of Vitharana was reflected in the minutes of the 61st meeting of the APRC dated January 17, 2008 held at the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process where JHU representative Udaya Gammanpila locked horns with the Chairman, who at that time stuck to his guns, not succumbing to the President's pressure tactics.
Said Minister Vitharana as per the minutes:
No sooner Minister Vitharana articulated his position JHU's Gammanpila jumped in, insisting there was no agreement to submit two reports and gave the game away on the President wanting the APRC process delayed and wanting a report to his liking submitted.
Not the ideal time
Said Gammanpila inter alia according to the minutes:
With those words Gammanpila exposes not only the fact, the President is not keen on the APRC's proposals given the current political climate but that he wants them delayed, words which are completely the opposite of what was uttered to Akashi by Rajapakse.
Jumped in Sri Lanka Muslim Congress representative Attorney Nizam Kariyappar, taking up the position that calling for the delaying of the report was a negative tactic which cannot be equated to expediting the report which was a positive step.
Said he, according to the minutes:
And as the JHU and SLMC members continued to argue their positions on the issue, Minister Vitharana stepped in and said he intends submitting the APRC's final proposals as well as a response to the President's 13th Amendment proposal by January 23, thus making it clear he will not be pushed around, or so it seemed at the time.
Said Vitharana inter alia according to the minutes -
This move by Vitharana was to upset the game plan of the President and the JHU to confine the APRC document to the 20 year old 13th Amendment in its present form whilst also diluting some of the existing powers, and no sooner the meeting was over Gammanpila met with Rajapakse and explained the state of play.
Furious, the President was to telephone Vitharana and castigate him, asking whether he was attempting to undermine the government and bring it down, knowing very well the JVP will play hell if the APRC produces a final document.
Taken aback Vitharana was to explain that the APRC had almost finished its work and was ready to submit their final report together with a response to the President's proposal, but Rajapakse would have none of it. He told Vitharana to confine his report to the 13th Amendment and drag on the APRC claiming a final report will be given later.
Completely ruffled at the President's tone, Vitharana caved in and agreed to comply and minutes later Gammanpila was briefed on the situation and told to keep the pressure on the APRC Chairman and ensure he falls in line with the government strategy.
And on Sunday, January 20 even as the APRC prepared to meet, Gammanpila made a pre emptive strike by submitting a written response on behalf of the JHU under his signature to Vitharana's draft on interim arrangements, which in part were personal criticism of the Chairman.
"Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) is of the view that the draft proposal prepared by Prof. Tissa Vitharana in his capacity as the Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee in respect of interim arrangements is manipulative and outside the scope decided at the government party leaders meeting on 09.01.2007," the response read. The reference to 2007 of course was a mistake made by the JHU for 2008.
Added the JHU -
The reference to the report Vitharana read out at the party leader's meeting was of course the document the President force-fed him at the meeting and the JHU knowing very well the Minister cannot accuse Rajapakse of so doing publicly was using it as a weapon to beat him before the APRC membership.
By this time, the fight had gone out of Minister Vitharana and when the APRC met, Monday, January 21, he submitted an amended report titled, Action To Be Taken By The President To Fully Implement The 13th Amendment And Other Provisions Of The Present Constitution In The Light Of The APRC Proposal Which Await Presentation.
Please note that as opposed to the January 17 report which said "Action to be taken by the President to implement sections of the APRC proposals through the present constitution," the January 21 document said in the caption, "Action to be taken by the President to fully implement the 13th Amendment and other provisions of the present constitution in the light of the APRC proposals which await presentation."
Thus, it will be seen in contrast to the January 17 proposals and the minutes of January 17 where Vitharana not only proposes a 13th Amendment plus solution but also his intention of submitting that report to the President on January 23; the January 21 report speaks of only implementing the President's call for the 13th Amendment with the APRC Report postponed for the future.
But the moment the January 21 report was tabled, the SLMC, CWC and Chandrasekeran's UPF took objection stating Vitharana was going back on the agreement reached and undertaking given to submit both reports on January 23 to the President.
It was SLMC's Kariyappar who belled the cat stating the caption in the January report was indicative of delaying tactics and that if the intention was to only submit a report based on the President's 13th Amendment proposal, his party would opt out, sentiments the CWC and UPF representatives also expressed.
Request for time
In a bid to deflect criticism, Vitharana said they will finalise the contents of the document and return to the caption but with the minority parties insisting on submitting both reports on January 23 or nothing, a decision was taken to ask the President for further time to submit their reports and fixed the next meeting for the following Monday, January 28.
Interestingly, SLFP representative Minister Wiswa Warnapala himself walked upto Vitharana and said since there was concern over the issue, he too would speak with the President and explain the need for further time to submit the reports, an offer the APRC Chairman welcomed.
By this time, JHU's Gammanpila had made it known to the APRC that even on the 13th Amendment, neither police nor land powers can be devolved until such time the LTTE is militarily defeated, a point the committee took note of though not in full agreement.
Interestingly, the January 21 report, which ran into 13 pages, also spoke of an interim arrangement for the north and east pending the restoration of democratically elected provincial councils to the two provinces, which too was counter to a decision reached the previous day. That decision was to hold elections for the Eastern Provincial Council and have an interim arrangement only for the north and that position too was rectified at the Monday meeting.
But the match was far from over and within minutes of the meeting concluding Gammanpila was to once again inform the President that the committee decided to delay the report over objections to confining the document to only Rajapakse's demand for a 13th Amendment proposal and Rajapakse was to once again call Vitharana and read the riot act.
Insisting that a report confined to the 13th Amendment be submitted to him by January 23, the President said a meeting of the APRC and other party leaders be summoned for the next day, January 22 at Temple Trees.
Loud and clear
"I will do the batting and ensure the report I want is given," Rajapakse said. He was to also speak with CWC Leader Minister Arumugam Thondaman who was away in India and insist that his representative, R. Yogarajan toe the line. To Thondaman, the message was loud and clear and said he will advise Yogarajan accordingly.
Likewise, the SLMC was also spoken to with Gammanpila himself making contact with Kariyappar, Tuesday morning and applying subtle pressure and being minorities, they all decided to call it quits and give into the President's demand to submit a report based only on the 13th Amendment. That too, a 13th Amendment minus some of the powers already in the constitution as opposed to 13th Amendment plus which the APRC was planning to propose as per the January 17 report.
And when the APRC met the President on Tuesday, January 22, also present were TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree, PLOTE Leader D. Sidharthan and a representative of Vartharaja Perumal's EPRLF together with other party leaders supporting the government minus Chandrasekeran.
At this meeting, Vitharana submitted his final report to the President dated January 22, 2008 titled, Action To Be Taken By The President To Fully Implement Relevant Provisions Of The Present Constitution As A Prelude To The APRC Proposals.
Please note once again the caption had undergone a further dilution from even the January 21 caption which spoke of the full implementation of the 13th Amendment and other provisions to the full implementation of 'relevant provisions of the present constitution..'
This amendment was deemed necessary because the President had by this time decided to curtail some of the powers vested in the province under the 13th Amendment such as police and land in addition to health and education, hence the re-wording of the caption.
Still, trying to make the best of a terrible situation, Vitharana in his 13 page report attempted to introduce many provisions of the 13th Amendment as possible and had several headings after the introduction which included, 'Legislative Powers of Provincial Councils and Parliament,' where the provincial subjects and functions were detailed.
Further, under the same heading, he also dealt with 'Reserved subjects and functions,' 'Concurrent subjects and functions' and 'Parliament power to over-ride provincial councils,' in a bid to prevent parliament from usurping the powers of the provincial councils.
The report then dealt at length with the 'Steps necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the provinces under the 13th Amendment,' once again ensuring at least the powers contemplated in 1987 would be given to the provinces.
Next came the 'Special arrangements necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the Northern and Eastern Provinces under the 13th Amendment,' followed by the 'Implementation of the official languages provisions of the constitution' and finally the all important - 'Schedule.'
It is important to note here that in the 13 page report, 10 pages which dealt with content were typed in small print with single spacing. The other three pages were the caption, the parties present and the table of contents.
But even that was far too much for the President and at the meeting got Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to read the report and started chopping off large chunks and with that went out the entire section on 'Legislative powers of provincial councils and parliament' with the five pages dealing with 'Steps necessary to permit maximum devolution of power to provinces under the 13th Amendment' reduced to four short paragraphs devoid of all substance.
Likewise the provisions dealing with the 'Special arrangements necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the Northern and Eastern Provinces under the 13th Amendment' was also emasculated, making a mockery of even the watered down report of Vitharana much to TULF Leader Anandasangaree's astonishment. Even the 'Schedule' was unceremoniously thrown out.
In fact the 10 pages of content in the report typed in small print with single spacing was reduced to a mere four and half pages of double spaced extra large lettering.
It is also not without significance that in the 'introduction' to his diluted January 22 report, Vitharana referred to the APRC being mandated by the President to prepare a set of proposals that would be the basis for a solution to the national question and added, "the outcome would be a basis for any peace talks as well as a completely new constitution."
That part of the introduction was also deleted by the President and the final document read thus, "The outcome would be a basis for appropriate constitutional arrangements." The references to peace talks and a new constitution, it will be seen found no place, thus giving an insight into the President's mindset.
Of course the President by now knew he had convinced all the minority parties to go along with his game plan, if not through conviction, at least due to fear and the icing on the cake was to get Anandasangaree, Sidharthan and the Vartharaja Perumal group's blessings but it was not to be.
Completely bewildered by what was going on, Anandasangaree told the President in 1987 the ethnic problem was a mere ulcer and it was to treat that ulcer the 13th Amendment was introduced whereas 20 years later today, it has become a cancer and the same medicine in a diluted form was being prescribed to cure the killer disease.
Nothing more insists President
Not expecting such a response, the President dismissed Anandasangaree's protest with a wave of his hand stating nothing more can be given at this point of time. Not relenting, Anandasangaree fished out LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan's 'Heroes' Day' message and started reading parts of it, telling the President, an organisation which has pitched its case so high with the Tamil people can never be subdued through the proposals on offer.
With that the issue was closed and the parties supporting the government plus the Muslim Congress were asked to sign the document in its emasculated form and sign they did.
The parties, which subscribed to the farcical document, according to what was given to the diplomats were SLFP, UNP (Defectors), JHU, CWC, SLMC, ACMC, MEP, NUA, UPF, CPSL, EPDP, National Congress of Athaulla, WPF and the LSSP. (The Sunday Leader is in possession of all the reports referred to in this article).
Even on this document a lie was perpetrated stating Mano Ganesan's WPF had subscribed to it, an assertion the party was to deny on the telephone to US Ambassador Robert Blake, Friday.
And it was this drastically amended document Vitharana once again presented to the President as an APRC report in the presence of the media on January 23 and Foreign Minister Bogollagama, the very day presented a copy to Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad and several other ambassadors with a briefing also given the following day, Thursday.
And what the international community thought of the document without being privy to the underhand dealings was best reflected in a statement India issued, on the matter where it welcomed the move as a "first step."
That alone was a message to the government, they have a long way to go in presenting a viable devolution package.
The show of course was far from over and at Wednesday's cabinet meeting, while Minister Vitharana sat in embarrassed silence the President kept up the charade telling the ministers he received the APRC report which had called for the implementation of the 13th Amendment.
Said the President -
Ironically the man who stressed the importance of marketing the proposals to the country was none other than G.L. Peiris who not only fathered the Oslo Communique� to explore a federal solution but the 1995 and 2000 draft proposals of the Chandrika Kumaratunga government which were also federal in content.
At that time, Peiris waxed eloquent why the 13th Amendment was not adequate to address the ethnic issue and the importance of adopting the proposals based on a federal formula.
But on Wednesday, Peiris saw the virtues of a diluted 13th Amendment as the panacea to resolve the ethnic issue and spoke on the importance of marketing it to the people. So be it.
Meet Percival the Village Humbug: - Past returns to haunt Mahinda Rajapakse - Sonali Samarasinghe
13th Amendment was
torn to shreds in 1989 by Mahinda
"I am not Oxford or Cambridge educated," President Mahinda Rajapakse told an Indian journalist last week. At least that much was clear. It was however the rest of the contradictory and confusing interview that left the ganglions of those who watched it still vibrating.
As Rajapakse, like a Scottish elder rebuking the trespasses of a naughty flock from the pulpit, blamed the eviction of the IPKF on late President Ranasinghe Premadasa one will be forgiven for becoming a tad cross eyed.
He heaped praise upon adulation on the Jawans with an easy confidence that could only come with years of verbal cheating on an impressive scale. There was no expected listlessness as he claimed he had always wanted India to mediate in the ethnic conflict.
"This I said before I became a MP," Rajapakse told The Indian Express Editor in Chief, Shekhar Gupta in his now famous Walk The Talk two part interview. The interview was broadcast on NDTV and published in full in The Indian Express.
Why not India
"When I was a minister and when I went to Dehradun, somebody asked me this question, and I said, 'Yes, why not!' But Western countries, and even India, prefer (that) a country like Norway (negotiate)," Percy continued with a smile.
Perhaps Gupta, a veteran journalist who had been following the case from the 1980s knew some history about the subject as well, and this column will bring you up to date by and by, but for the moment, Gupta politely noted, "It's interesting that you say so."
Meanwhile Percival Rajapakse like a minor prophet continued to curse the sins of the people in general and the transgressions of President Premadasa in particular.
He said the people of Sri Lanka should have gratitude for the IPKF who came here and sacrificed their lives. On being asked what the IPKF achieved for Sri Lanka at the time, Rajapakse said that it was a political campaign of Premadasa to get them out and if the IPKF had been allowed to continue for a few months more they could have achieved something substantial - perhaps finish the LTTE or give the Sri Lanka Army a better position.
Gupta couldn't believe that Premadasa, the first son of the soil as it were, the man of the masses, the patriot, could have sabotaged this perfect ending. But nothing escapes the Rajapakse brain despite its lack of an Oxonian training. Rajapakse quickly explained, "The problem was that he (Premadasa) wanted to become the president of this country and wanted the support of some of the extremists, some of the Left parties."
And in what was the most ironical of circumstances, Rajapakse who was asked whether Premadasa had to pander to the JVP and did so just for the cynical pursuit of the presidency, righteously nodded assent adding that Premadasa got them out only on a political issue.
MR and the JVP
Firstly for a President who is so palpably captive, nay pathetically hostage to the political machinations of the JVP, Rajapakse spoke with no blush of shame on his cheek of modesty as he blamed Premadasa for the eviction of the IPKF at the behest of extremist parties as he put it.
One would recall however that at the time, the IPKF was passionately disliked by most and assiduously hated by some largely due to the effective propaganda campaign carried out in the south by the then opposition, namely the SLFP and JVP and Premadasa rightly or wrongly acceded to popular sentiment.
Tongue in cheek
In that interview Rajapakse was to also call the 13th Amendment 'the best solution for the devolution of power' stating that by the eviction of the IPKF Sri Lanka lost a good friend in India. While stating he didn't agree with some aspects of the 1987 accord he agreed that two decades ago Rajiv Gandhi had the wisdom to figure out what Sri Lanka needed in the long term.
Rajiv's vision for Sri Lanka
The man had a vision, he was a great leader, Percival said of Rajiv Gandhi as he praised the 13th Amendment as the best possible solution to the ethnic conflict.
Perhaps it will take Rajapakse and those of his ilk another 20 years to realise that the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement flawed as it was in sections, was a part of a greater vision for the future. But politics often produce tube lights and political tube lights armed with a personal agenda are the worst enemies of the masses.
IPKF abused and betrayed
And so it was that this son of the soil from the village as he likes to call himself, admitted to an Indian Editor two decades on that the IPKF was taken for granted. When the Indian Editor says 'they were abused and betrayed and stabbed in the back,' Rajapakse readily agrees. 'This is what our politicians did,' he says fuming. 'I am different. I'm straight. I'm not Oxford or Cambridge educated, I'm a village boy.'
Of that we have no doubt. But let's take a moment to go back two decades to find out who these ungrateful political rascals were that Rajapakse so angrily talks about that saved the LTTE from total annihilation.
At a particularly heated debate in parliament on May 26, 1989 where President Rajapakse's Sri Lanka Freedom Party legislators vociferously tore the accord to shreds as an agreement that would destroy the country, it was Rajapakse himself who stood out like a tall poppy.
Rajapakse in 1989
One cannot recall whether he had in those days the red shawl wrapped about his shoulders but the man who now says the 13th Amendment is the best method to solve the problem of the minorities, 20 years ago with fire flashing through his eyes said the UNP government was cowing down to the dictates of the Indians. "It is not to solve the problems of the minorities but to dance to the tune of the Indians that the 13th Amendment has been brought," Rajapakse accused.
"The UNP has never wanted to solve the problems of the minorities. When the minorities were sitting in parliament the UNP took steps to get them out. They lost their democratic right to voice their opinions. Then the UNP thought it could send the army to wipe out the Tamils in the north and thereby solve this problem." Yes, believe me or believe me not that too was said by our very own Percival in 1989.
MR goes down same path
Here, there is a breathless irony and one must pause to reflect. Today, Rajapakse and his brother Gotabaya are going down the same path of annihilation. Gen. Sarath Fonseka has vowed to kill 3000 LTTE cadres by August. That is at least 10 per day. Up to date according to official websites 484 have been killed. Hotly disputed figures though these are, Rajapakse will achieve his goal in record time.
Rajapakse as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces has carpet bombed the east and continues to bombard the north using the full strength of the army. Nearly 400,000 IDPs later and with over 6000 dead in two years Rajapakse is engaged in the fiercest civil war since independence.
Having said that, let's get back to his words of May 26, 1989. "At the time the UNP was waging an all out war, there were threats from the Indians and it is because the UNP was afraid of the Indians that they did whatever they wanted. This government (UNP) was willing to dance to the drum beat of the Indians. That is why they brought in this 13th Amendment to the Constitution, not because they sincerely wanted to solve the minority issue."
IPKF solved nothing
"Now the Americans are putting pressure on them. Now the government wants to sell the Trincomalee harbour to someone and find money. That is why the UNP is trying to bring the Indo Lanka Accord and pretend that it will solve the problems of the minorities," he added for good measure.
And the man who just last week praised the IPKF and wanted moreover to build a shrine or monument to them in no lesser place than near parliament in the capital city Jayewardenepura Kotte named after the father of the 1987 accord J.R.Jayewardene had this to say in 1989:
'Your J.R. Jayewardene represented capitalism in this country. That is why he was called Yankee Dicky.today what has happened? It did not stop there. He brought the Indian Army - the IPKF here. Because of that we had problems in the country. They brought the IPKF saying it was to solve the problems in the north and the situation created in the north by the suppression of the northern people, by killing them, by violating their human rights and by killing the Tamils and Muslims, this same situation the government created in the south also."
And now Rajapakse was to read an Amnesty International report in order to substantiate his accusations.
IPKF accused of rape
"In late 1987 there were increasing allegations that members of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) deployed in the north and east as part of the July peace accord were responsible for rape and other acts of brutality against Tamil civilians."
For Rajapakse in those days the word of Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations and members of civil society were gospel. It is only now, that these same organisations - that unhappily for Rajapakse tend to focus on the rights of the people rather than the colour of successive governments - have focused on the abuse and violence perpetrated by the Rajapakse regime, that they have become anathema to him.
Today these international organisations are looked upon by the extremist JVP and its puppet Rajapakse as colonial minded vermin with nothing more on their minds than the proselytisation of the poor and the westernization of the culturally challenged.
But back to the Hansard of May 26, 1989. Here's what Rajapakse states about the IPKF.
"This IPKF that you brought as (Saama Hamudawa) a peace keeping force to the country, to the north and east, they are engaged in raping the innocent women in those areas is what the report says."
At which point another member shouts "Kaama Hamudawa."
And Rajapakse agrees. "Yes they have turned out to be a Kaama Hamudawa instead. An army of lust, not an army of peace. May be they are doing this so that Indian nationals could be born in the north and east of this country. They are killing and raping in the north. And in the south what is happening?......"
Percival Rajapakse does not stop there. His heart now rightly bleeds for the Sinhalese in the north and east. And for this he uses again the Amnesty International report. Mind you, this is the same Amnesty International that his government, his pro-extremist media and his extremists pals the JVP and the JHU have castigated as minority lovers and fundamentalist witch hunters.
Be that as it may quoting generous chunks from the AI report 20 years ago he reads;
"Several armed Tamil groups continued their fight for a separate state, killing military and police officials and also hundreds of unarmed Sinhalese civilians."
Pray notice that when the international rights organisation reports on either Sinhalese deaths or any events of political advantage, Rajapakse is right there behind them.
He laments that 'not only are the women raped now the unarmed Sinhalese in the north are also being killed by Tamil armed groups.'
Devolution won't work
On the devolution of power he says, "What is happening in the south? Who asked for a provincial council in the south? Today MPs have police powers.. We will become like the Indian police. You will politicise the police for your own advantage to take political revenge. By attempting to devolve power all you really want to do is to create private armies and to suppress the common man...We will not allow this devolution of power."
Yes folks, Percival is speaking of the very devolution of power that he says today is 'the best solution for Sri Lanka.'
Seven months later that same year in 1989 Rajapakse was again to speak in parliament about the security situation in the country. This mind you was at the height of the JVP's most horrendous violence that left over 50,000 dead. Note the civil war which has raged on for over 27 years notches up an official figure of only 70,000. At least in that respect the JVP terror era has been the most bloody.
Anyway Mahinda Rajapakse at page 939 of the Hansard of December 4, 1989 states, "When you speak about the Defence Ministry there is something that must be said. Today in order to safeguard our country it has been divided into two and one section has been given over to the Indians. It is only the other section that we protect."
"They have given over to the Indian army and then prepared an accord. Who brought them?" Rajapakse asks defiantly.
At which time A.H.M. Azwer, now a presidential advisor and stout defender of the modern day Chinthanaya interjects 'that is another matter. Now they are going, be happy about that.'
Rajapakse does not give up. "When the Indian army goes I ask will that agreement also be torn up."
The late Ranjan Wijeratne quickly shouts 'no , no.' And good thing too. For it is the brilliance of this 13th Amendment that now rescues this country from the clutches of ethnic strife. It is this brave 'nay, nay' by the late Ranjan Wijeratne that now serves as the basis for the APRC proposals.
What vision they had. And what vision did Rajiv Gandhi possess as pointed out by Rajapakse himself. Alas if only Rajapakse himself had been possessed of this vision 20 years ago perhaps Gotabaya Rajapakse may still be thumping keys in Los Angeles and it may have been Basil not Dicky who would have been Yankee doodling on a pony.
But it was not to be as the strident voice of Percival Rajapakse continued. "Tell us, will you take out the conditions in the Indo Lanka Accord with regard to the Trincomalee oil tanks? Will you take out the part where both India and Sri Lanka will patrol the northern seas? What is your defence policy on this?" he was to ask.
".we are being told that the government will get rid of the armed groups in the north and east. Who made these groups. Who gave them arms? You tell some people the Indians did so...," Rajapakse shouts.
Again the irony of this in the back drop of the Karuna and later Pillayan armed group operating in the east cannot fail to strike hard. Moreso because the Karuna Group was accused of a large number of abductions for extortion, killings, and disappearances not only in the east but also in the south.
And then comes this other confession almost.
'I got weapons'
"I am now speaking of these armed groups in the south. At the last election some politicians received 600 weapons per person. I also have got. But of course we will not use those to kill UNPers. But you are using this to kill SLFPers that is what is wrong.," Rajapakse states.
However it was pointed out to Rajapakse by a UNP member that a number of UNPers were being killed at the time.
But what is most ironic of all is the fact that Rajapakse whose regime has systematically and vigorously resisted the presence of international monitors and has now successfully evicted the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and the Norwegians from the country, in December 1989 while in opposition had this to say.
He thanks the government (UNP) for allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross to be present in the country. He requests the UNP to give permission to the United Nations Working Group of Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the Amnesty International to also come into the country to monitor the situation.
This of course is in sharp contrast to Rajapakse's dim view of any UN monitoring mission or the AI despite the fact his own former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera while in government said there was one abduction taking place every five hours. Despite the fact the list of disappearances daily grew longer and despite the fact the international community including both the White House and Capitol Hill sent letters to President Rajapakse urging him to address at once the escalating human rights violations.
Neither persuasion nor aid cuts could stop the bulldozing Rajapakse even though two decades ago this same man was to entreat the UNP government of that day to allow these international monitors in to the country.
No good terrorists
Last week in the interview to The Indian Express Rajapakse said "Now it's time we stop this. I mean terrorism will have to be dealt with. We can't allow terrorism to capture a country. Terrorism is terrorism. You can't say there are good terrorists and bad terrorists. Like some of the Western countries do."
"Some countries when it comes to some issues still make a distinction. So it is time all countries come together and eradicate terrorism," Rajapakse was to say.
One is entitled to be curious. Rajapakse is the President not only of Sri Lanka but was also of the Palestine - Sri Lanka Friendship Association. Somewhere in Palestine there is a street named after him. Once during a conversation with Anura Bandaranaike, Mahinda was as thrilled as a boy with a toy about the prospect of such an association. We can even go to the country on trips, he told Anura excitedly.
At the time Percival Mahinda was a little behind in his Middle Eastern history and it had quite escaped his notice that Palestine was a nation without a country. Nonetheless one is also entitled to wonder given his stand that all countries must stand together to eradicate terrorism what he truly thinks of those various Palestinian 'terror' groups fighting for a state with Israel.
Remember this too. At the time in 1989 Rajapakse himself admitted that in the Boossa camps and other detention camps there were those who belonged to the UNP as much as there were those who belonged to the SLFP or the JVP.
It is to this statement recorded so clearly in the Hansard of December 4, 1989 at column 942 that Ranjan Wijeratne responds, "that alone proves we are just."
What 13th Amendment?
The 13th Amendment plus one that the President facetiously spoke about in the interview was made the 13th Amendment minus ten in the final APRC proposals force fed to the committee by Rajapakse and his JVP gurus. Yes, the very same JVP gurus who were supposed to have pressurised the late President Premadasa to have evicted the wonderful IPKF in 1990.
Rajapakse was to proudly tell his Indian interviewer last week that he once acted in a movie as a general in the army. It is unlikely however that he will qualify for an Oscar given his most recent performance on NDTV in the backdrop of his past utterings coming to light.