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Mahinda's cannabis dealers and all that


Meet Percival the village humbug 


Mahinda Rajapakse

Past returns to haunt Ap‚ Mahinda

13th Amendment was torn to shreds in 1989

IPKF was accused of rape, murder and plunder

By Sonali Samarasinghe

"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.

Premadasa betrayed

 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 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.

UNP afraid

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.

Kaama Hamudawa

"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.

Defence policy

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.


Mahinda's cannabis dealers and all that

By Ranjith Jayasundera

President Rajapakse is perfecting the art of fitting the military's foot squarely in his mouth by now insisting that the Lake House roundabout phone booth bombing of January 8 and the Fort Railway Station bomb of January 11 were not the work of the LTTE.

Not a week after his Walk The Talk interview was made public - wherein he disputed Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka's public vow to eliminate the Tigers and secure the Wanni by August 1, by claiming that all military operations being conducted are retaliatory in nature - the President has humiliated the army, who were quick to blame the two bombs on the LTTE even before the conducting of an inquiry.

Bolt from the blue

In a briefing with media last Tuesday, the President's words were "it is clear that these are not LTTE bombs. This is what I believe."

This is however not what the Ministry of Defence believes. On the army website, the Fort Railway bomb is described as an act by "desperate Tiger terrorists trying to disturb normalcy in Colombo by carrying out sabotage acts."

The Lake House telephone booth bomb is described on the army web site as "an LTTE sabotage act to cause fear amongst civilians."

The Government Information Department was to confound the story further by issuing a clarification the next day, Wednesday, January 23.

Amusing 'explanation'

According to the Information Department explanation the President had meant to say: "there was information that certain cannabis (ganja) growers as well as groups controlled by moneyed elements in the area have transactions with the LTTE and that it is possible that they could be interested in overthrowing the government.

"The President's comments were specific to these incidents and he clearly stated that the LTTE was involved, possibly with others, in the violence that took the lives of villagers in the area."

If we are to follow President Rajapakse's thinking, the whole might of the government's defence establishment and its hundreds of checkpoints are apparently powerless to stop a bunch of cannabis dealers from setting off bombs in high security zones, just 500 metres away from both the Air Force Headquarters and President's House, within plain sight of the entrance to the World Trade Centre.

The President has also made it clear that he believes that these "moneyed groups", "business interests" and "cannabis growers" have been in cahoots with the LTTE in coordinating the recent vicious attacks in the Deep South with a view to overthrowing the government.

It is yet to be seen whether the military hierarchy will hush up in embarrassment at this latest Presidential faux pas, or whether they will fall in line and announce a deadline by which to kill a certain number of cannabis growers in order to eliminate terrorism. 


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