Percival the village humbug
returns to haunt Ap‚ Mahinda
Amendment was torn to shreds in 1989
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"They have given over to
the Indian army and then prepared an accord.
Who brought them?" Rajapakse asks
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
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...,"
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
'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.
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
The Government Information
Department was to confound the story further
by issuing a clarification the next day,
Wednesday, January 23.
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
"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
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.
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