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 Spotlight

  How the Rajapakses helped themselves


Second Fascist Front -a Fractious Family Affair


Champika Ranawaka, Wimal Weerawansa, Uduwe Dhamaloka Thero
and Ratnasiri Wickeremanayake

Ranawaka took over SU after ousting
Gunasekera by thuggery worthy of the LTTE

East became playground for rival extremists

Too weak to capture power, JHU needed
a deal with a potential winner

Acrimonious exchanges between JHU  and PNM

UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella speaking during the emergency debate in parliament on March 5 spoke of the human rights situation in the country and tabled the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) Special Report No.29.

The report dated February 21 is titled The Second Fascist Front In Sri Lanka - Towards Crushing The Minorities And Disenfranchising The Sinhalese.

The authors of the report are the current recipients of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights.

The Deputy Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dassanayake contacted by The Sunday Leader and asked whether a report that is tabled in parliament and not expunged is covered by privilege responded in the affirmative stating, "If it has been tabled it becomes a public document."

The Sunday Leader today publishes the third part of the report without comment given that it is a document tabled in parliament. The second part was published last Sunday.

Fascism is commonly understood as 'a system of government characterized by strong, often dictatorial control of political and economic affairs, and often by warlike nationalism and brutal suppression of political dissidents and ethnic minorities'

(Wordsmyth English Dictionary). The extremist forces behind the Government may be termed a second fascist front, giving pride of place to the LTTE, which as a functioning organisation showed these characteristics from the early 1980s.

All extremist forces in the Sinhalese South, the JVP, JHU, MEP and sections of the SUP, share much in common in ideas (the inexorable Sinhalese Buddhist character of Sri Lanka and opposition to a federated North-East) and objectives (e.g. Sinhalisation of the East). Particularly the JVP and JHU owe a good deal to the Jathika Chintanaya (National Ideology) movement of the mid-1980s. Formulated by Gunadasa Amarasekera and Nalin de Silva, it gave shape and form to scattered ideas that had motivated Sinhalese exclusivism for many decades. It critiques political institutions and systems (Marxism in particular) imported from the West, sees Sri Lanka as in essence Sinhalese whose genius is to be realised by a unitary state establishing its lost Buddhist ethos.

Like most writings of this ilk, ex-Trotskyite Prof Nalin de Silva's, though arcane, have a mesmeric quality for the young and impressionable, viz.: "The western Judaic Christian culture knows only of one consistency, defined with respect to two valued formal logic

and only Newtonian bodies and mathematical structures respect this logic. Even quantum particles and bodies have no respect for two valued formal logic." (The Island 1 Oct.03)

His obscurantism and intolerance of minorities and their sense of identity is also expressed in the same article: "It is unfortunate that since the Dutch period the demography in the Jaffna peninsula has been changed with the importation of labour for the tobacco cultivation from South India, and since then the western Christian colonialists have been successful in driving a wedge between the Sinhala Buddhists and the imported Tamil Hindus and creating and using a Tamil racism against Sinhalathva in this country." It is history plucked out of thin air and violent in its realisation.

When advocates of ideologies, whether Marxist or Nationalist, are heedless of the core values of humanity, they closet themselves in very narrow interpretations, against the demands of responsible humanity. In canvassing their ideas they ultimately appeal to what is low and base in people. Humanism has no barriers, nor is it a preserve of the West. It is indeed very sad if those who are counted intellectuals among us do no better than breed hatred, intolerance and blindness to 'others', and their feelings, in the name of countering Western ideology.

Kanishka Goonewardena wrote ('National Ideology' in a Buddhist State' Himal, Oct.07): "In spite of obvious historical and cultural differences, there exist some remarkable parallels between the ideological forms and epistemological claims of Jathika Chinthanaya, Hindutva and National Socialism: their emphases on harmony, community and nature; and their critiques of materialism, modernity and socialism... These groups desperately needed a community with which to identify, as well as an enemy to identify against, both of which were powerfully forged in these cases - as the ,fate of Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Muslims and German Jews demonstrate."

With so much in common, why are the Sinhalese extremist forces heavily at odds with each other and in the late 1980s even killed one another? Nalin de Silva sees both the SLFP and JVP as children of Bandaranaike's Sinhala Only revolution of 1956 and as two groups that critically need one another. He was among those greatly pained when the JVP after agreeing to the DPA manifesto on the basis of which to support SLFP leader Mrs. Bandaranaike's presidential candidature in late 1988, went on a violent binge and ensured her defeat and in February 1989 made an attempt on her life. The SLFP had illusions even after the JVP assassinated Mrs. Bandaranaike's son-in-law Vijaya Kumaratunge in early 1988.

Political genealogy is awkward business for those who never repented their legacy of terror and conveniently undergo reincarnation as champions of anti-terror. Champika Ranawaka who is described as Jathika Hela Urumaya's (JHU's) chief ideologue and a right hand man of the President told the Daily Mirror (2 Feb.07) that he left the JVP in 1986 - "When they were taking [a] violent approach I left". By this claim he whitewashed his association in the JVP's terror including the abduction and murder of socialist student leader Daya Pathirana. We quote from 'Politics of the South 2000 - 2005'  by Asanga Welikala and David Rampton:

"Some of the current figures in the current JHU (namely the Venerable Athureliya Rathana Thera, Champika Ranawaka and Udaya Gamampila) were once JVP organizers and were active during the 1980s agitation against the Indo Lanka Accord. At that time Ranawaka and Rathana were both ideologically aligned to Jathika Chintanaya and (as Inter University Students Federation leaders) to the JVP ... However Champika Ranawaka was to play an integral role in the split with the JVP on two issues. First Ranawaka had a dispute with Wijeweera over the JVP's ideological path, declaring Marxism dead and urging the JVP to wholeheartedly embrace nationalism as its central ideological engine - a line Wijeweera refused to countenance. Second, the JVP's refusal to support Mrs. Bandaranaike's candidacy for the 1988 presidential election triggered the final split between the JVP, Jathika Chintanaya and SLFP-aligned unions."

In the 1990s, Ranawaka became active in the National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT), a parent of Sihala Urumaya (SU). S.L. Gunasekera backed by professionals, university dons and retired army officers held the leadership of SU. At the October 2000 parliamentary elections the SU secured a single national list seat, which the faction led by Ranawaka took over after ousting Gunasekera by intimidation and thuggery worthy of the LTTE. However SU was no winner when it came to elections.

The change came in December 2003, when President Kumaratunge had paralysed the UNF (UNP) government of Ranil Wickremesinghe and was obliged to hold elections. Ven. Gangodawila Soma died naturally of a heart attack in St. Petersburg where he went to receive a degree. Sihala Urumaya and Ven. Ellawela Medhananda of its associated monks' organisation JSS started a campaign insinuating that Ven. Soma was killed by a Christian fundamentalist conspiracy. A number of churches were attacked. Seizing the opportunity, the JHU was formed fielding all JSS monks for the April 2004 elections, SU 'donating' itself a vessel in service of the JSS monks. It won nine seats in its short run.

The JHU was a wild card from the start, ensuring the victory of the UNP candidate for speaker against the JVP-backed, SLFP-led government's. It took Ranawaka's long experience as a party infighter to bully, kidnap (once an MP monk who voted for the Government's candidate for speaker who was forced to resign), fight Ven. Dhammaloka's attempts to keep power a monopoly of monks, getting thrown out from his secretary's post by Dhammaloka (who then left the party and campaigned for Ranil Wickremesinghe at the 2005 presidential election), before asserting himself in the party.

On the rival track to the JHU and NMAT, the National Patriotic Movement was preceded by the Organisation to Protect the Motherland (OPM) launched at a meeting in Maradana (Colombo) by Ven. Elle (Alle) Gunawanse on 15th January 2003. This was when Ranil Wickremasinghe was prime minister and had in talks with the LTTE agreed in Oslo to a federal settlement. Gunawanse had earlier been patronised by Gamini Dissanaike and President Premadasa.

Opposition bigwigs attended the meeting to endorse Gunawanse's simple argument that the North-East which Jayewardene merged under Emergency Regulations in 1987, should now (15 years later) be de-merged as the Emergency had lapsed under the ongoing peace process. Leading persons at the meeting were Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera and Nalin de Silva from Jathika Chintanaya and Tilak Karunaratne from the Sihala Urumaya.

The next stage was on 1st October 2003, when Elle Gunawanse as convener of the meeting following a march from Kandy, inaugurated the National Patriotic Movement (PNM). Gunawanse accused Prime Minister Wickremasinghe of trying to divide the country. Among the participants were SLFP parliamentarians including Anura Bandaranaike, Dr. Gunadasa Amerasekara and JVP propaganda secretary and parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawanse. Sihala Urumaya declined to participate.

The hostility within the extremist camp as represented by the PNM and JHU could be seen in their acrimonious exchanges. Jathika Chintanaya's Nalin de Silva opposed the JHU monks contesting the April 2004 elections independently of the SLFP (PA)-JVP alliance as a divisive move. After the JHU upset the Speaker's election, de Silva (Lankaweb 24 Apr.04) accused the JHU of being a plant of the Uijathika (alien) forces: de Silva said the JHU `were financed by Thilanga Samathipala and his brother,

Edirisinghes of Swarnamahal, and were given prominence in media that belongs to Thilanga, [UNP leader] Ranil Wickremesinghe's brother (TNL), Swarnavahini of Edirisinghe and Maharaja's MTV... the monks were put forward by non-national forces only to hoodwink the Buddhists.'

Going back to 7th August 2000, monks who later were closer to the PNM, including Bengamuwe Nalaka, Muruththettuwe Ananda and Maduluwawe Sobitha, were having a protest meeting against Kumaratunge's proposed constitution at Abhayarama Temple in Narahenpita, when a bomb went off injuring some. Reports at that time suggested that supporters of Sihala Urumaya that had not been invited exploded the bomb.

Too weak to capture power, the JHU needed a deal with a potential winner, both naive and pliable. This, the JHU, even as Champika Ranawaka staged his coup within, found in Mahinda Rajapakse and moved quickly in August 2005 to cut short Kumaratunge's presidential term by an appeal to Supreme Court. A solid base of legal authority held the term ended in late 2006 (P. Rajanayagam with citations in Sunday Observer 8 Feb.04).

The Chief Justice who needed new allies obliged the JHU. A pact was quickly made with SUP presidential candidate Rajapakse who ditched the SLFP's twelve-year stand on a federal settlement to the ethnic problem. Ranawaka became Minister of Environment in January 2007. The East tragically became the playground of rival extremists.

  


How the Rajapakses helped themselves


Chamal Rajapakse

As the Airport and Aviation Authority (AAA) celebrates a quarter century, angry unions are coming out with a string of accusations against the present administration ranging from malpractice, extravagance in donations to religious institutions costing millions of rupees to the institution.

Airport workers accuse the administration of shamelessly turning a blind eye to the workers' collective request to reward employees who have served the institution over the past 25 years, a request turned down though opting to happily fork out money for various projects which are of little or no use to the organisation.

The unions allege that the administration has not only been generous with the institution's money but also happily donated money to funeral ceremonies of priests and even bought pirikara for D. A. Rajapakse's commemoration religious ceremonies.

The AAA has made a massive donation of Rs. 1 million for the Kandy Esala Perahera.  The relevant cheque, bearing No.104340 is yet to be encashed, according to authoritative AAA sources.

In remote Walasgala

Interestingly enough from an institution that outrightly rejected a request to reward workers, the AAA has happily spent Rs. 77,622 to conduct the funeral of a Buddhist monk who dwelt in a temple in remote Walasgala. The payments were made through voucher No. 103339 and a cheque bearing No. 918602. To boot, to provide Nescafe at the funeral, a further Rs. 90,400 has been spent. This payment was made through voucher number 102956 and cheque number 918280.

More expenses have been incurred in the name of supporting various religious institutions, some of them well known for their abundance of wealth unlike the smaller religious institutions that require and deserve financial support.

As to why many such institutors belonged to Hambantota is self explanatory, given the fact that the newly appointed Minister of Civil Aviation being Chamal Rajapakse and brother Mahinda Rajapakse not to mention Basil hail from the area.

Naturally, a recent donation to the Hambantota Raja Maha Viharaya amounted to Rs. 200,000.

 The AAA also handsomely donated money to the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya which by no means requires financial aid given its prosperous state, but the link has to be appreciated given the fact that Minister Chamal Rajapakse's son and President's Co-ordinating Secretary, Shasheendra Rajapakse being the Basnayake Nilame of the famous devalaya. The amount provided to the Devalaya was a thumping Rs. 2,000,000 no less.

Funds squandered

Then to the recently concluded Hambantota 'Ruhunu Mela,' the monetary contribution has been another Rs.1, 000,000 signifying that the AAA must be flowing with funds to be simply squandered.

The country by now is quite aware of the progress made with regard to the proposed Weerawila international airport. The foundation stone, ceremonially laid has taken root with a police guard to keep an eye on the plaque unveiled when the project was initiated. Since then, there had been little or no progress, but the AAA in its warm generosity has so far incurred a mammoth Rs. 11,970,675.

For the proposed airport, already as assistant manager (land) has been recruited on a monthly salary of Rs.  50,000

The Rajapakse legacy has not been overlooked in making generous contributions. So naturally, Rs. 260,750 had been spent on pirikara (offerings to monks) alone who attended the D. A. Rajapakse commemoration ceremony.

Further, yet another rich Buddhist place of worship, Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya also received Rs. 1,000,000.

AAA trade union sources confirmed that the institution has donated 20 bicycles to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) at the cost of Rs. 150,000. "We have no problem if places like the SLAF or a deserving organisation like the Lionel Ranwala Foundation is supported by the institution. But these populist decisions are taken by a management that simply refuses to heed our request and reward employees as we turn 25 years old as an institution. That's what we protest against," union leaders claimed.

Interesting expenses

As alleged, the organisation has donated a million rupees to the Lionel Ranwala Foundation for their various programmes. 

Some interesting expenses have been incurred as well, such as the purchase of 10 chain saws for the SLAF to cut down trees and clear areas. The total cost for ten chain saws was Rs. Rs. 630,000 with each costing Rs. 63,000.

In the meantime, the AAA has provided Rs. 835,000 to create a security post for the Katunayake Police Station. "That's a lot of money. And why the AAA has to spend money on the Katunayake police station defies any logic," claim unionists.

Among the other expenses are a donation of Rs. 538,500 made to the Negombo Hospital Rs.1, 538,500 and expenditure amounting to Rs.  7,429,000 for the SLAF to purchase 20 motor bicycles.

"The misadministration takes willful decisions which will not bring a penny to the institution. Denying workers the few things they ask for, the administrators have spent over Rs. 7 million to purchase motor bicycles for the SLAF," they added. 

  


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