Features

Causes of present crisis and JRJ’s contribution to it
by Savimon Urugodawatta

It is heartening to see that Dr. Neville Fernando, who once moved a Motion of No Confidence against the then Leader of Opposition, (A. Amirthalingam) at the behest of his erstwhile leader J. R. Jayewardene, has at last begun to realise the colossal political crimes committed by his former leader, the results of which the country is experiencing today—(The Island of 4th April 2007).

At the time he moved the motion of No Confidence against the Leader of Opposition, he would have not realised that it was the first time in any Parliament that a motion of No Confidence was brought against the Opposition Leader. For, the Opposition Leader is a person who has failed to win the confidence of the people to come to power or share power.

As an addendum to Dr. Neville Fernando’s aforementioned revelations, I wish to briefly state the numerous acts of commission and omission perpetrated by the UNP leaders and other vested interests, since Independence.

After the 1947 Election, which resulted in no party gaining a majority to form a government, D.S. formed a coalition with the Northern Tamil leaders and Muslims. In the 1947 Parliament, there were 7 members representing the estate workers, who were mainly representing left - oriented unions. (Ceylon Workers’ Congress and the Indian Workers’ Congress). What D.S. did was to disenfranchise the whole population of estate workers who enjoyed equal rights with local citizens, without introducing any alternative measures to safeguard their political rights. The Indian and Pakistani Citizenship Act, which was passed by Parliament to bring some sort of relief to the Indian workers, did not bring in adequate relief. And after a few years it died a natural death.

In 1956, both S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and Sir John Kotalawala, the two contenders for premiership, advocated Sinhala Only policy. However, the people had more faith in S. W. R. D. and returned him to power. When S. W. R. D. brought Sinhala Only Act, it had an intrinsic clause to allow the reasonable use of Tamil language for those whose mother tongue was Tamil. But it was very unfortunate that S. W. R. D. had to withdraw the reasonable use of Tamil clause in the face of the fast unto death staged by Dr. F. R. Jayasuriya and K. M. P. Rajaratne, under the portico of Parliament.

The next attempt by S. W. R. D. to accommodate Tamil aspirations was the Bandaranaike–Chelvanayagam Pact, which aimed at the establishment of Regional Councils, to which the Federal party had also agreed. This also had to be shelved in the face of JR’s so-called Pada Yathra to Kandy, which was resisted by a crowd at Balummahara led by S. D. Bandaranaike. Ultimately, S. W. R. D. had to tear off the B – C Pact in the face of opposition by some extremist monks.

Next stage was the Dudley-Chelvanayagam Pact, which was also resisted by extremist elements from both sides. Meanwhile, the Tamil Youth were being encouraged to rise up for their rights. However, under the Sirimavo Bandaranaike regime, nothing serious happened except for a local protest rally held in Trincomalee when communal clashes flared up with the bringing of Chelvanayagam’s ashes to Trincomalee. Madam Bandaranaike was however, able to nip it in the bud with the able assistance and support extended by the then GA Trincomalee, Eric J. de Silva.

Then came 1977, with J. R. appearing as Messiah to solve all problems under the sun and he promised the Tamil community that he would find a just and reasonable solution to the ethnic problem through a Round Table Conference. The Tamil community, having earlier experienced broken promises from both sides, however, placed confidence in JR. He won with a five sixths majority partly due to parting of ways by SLFP and leftist parties, which together had established a firm foundation for the development of the country up to 1976.

However, JR after coming to power reneged on his promise and went on to become a dictatorial leader and turn the country into a lackey of the west, mainly the US, thereby antagonising the neighbouring India and reversing to a western-oriented Foreign Policy. It was at this stage that JR got Dr. Neville Fernando to present a motion of No Confidence against the Leader of the Opposition. This was unique as it had never happened in any other democratic country, Hansard copies of the parliamentary debate dealing with the No Confidence motion were distributed all over the estate areas by Cyril Mathew, thereby bringing forth the second backlash of anti Tamil riots, the first being the anti-Tamil riots that occurred soon after 1977 General Election.

Thereafter, JR brought in the most obnoxious Constitution in the world in February 1977, by using his steam-roller majority and also getting all his party MPs to sign undated letters of resignation. It is appropriate and noteworthy to mention here that JR after becoming the Leader of the party, amended the Party Constitution in such a way that the Leader of the Party got the power to appoint all members of the Executive Committee, thereby, doing away with any semblance of democracy that prevailed in the Party.

The next thing JR did was to introduce the 6th Amendment to the Constitution to expel the Representatives of the Tamil people from Parliament, which they had graced since 1947. When this happened, the Tamil youth though there was no alternative to rebelling against the established government. Several rebel youth organisations sprang up to fight for their rights and ultimately their traditional political leaders had to give in to the youth.

In the 1980s, JR offered District Development Councils to pacify them. However, the DDC elections held in Jaffna were disrupted by UNP political goons, culminating in the burning of the Jaffna Library, an important Centre for academic research in the Asian Region and the burning of 17 ballot boxes. By the way, it should be recalled that it was the Jaffna Library that bought up the full collection of Dr. Senerath Paranavithana’s books, when no one was willing to accept that valuable collection.

It was against this background that JR sent his relative General Weratunga to quell the uprisings in Jaffna. This made matters worse, culminating in the massacre of 13 soldiers in Jaffna. What happened next is too well know to merit repetition. The manner in which those dead bodies were cremated at Kanatta triggered a backlash ably aided and abetted by J S S and President J. R. Jayewardene, who allowed the hooligans and thugs to massacre Tamils and plunder their wealth for over two days continuously. It was only after allowing the goons to ransack the Tamil homes and boutiques for two days that he brought in the emergency powers to quell the anti-Tamil riots. This situation resulted in India sending ships to remove Tamil refugees to safety. India later became the breeding grounds for armed terrorists. Now, why blame India for creating terrorism as it is we who created the conditions for that.

J R violated and went against his own constitution by holding the notorious Referendum on 23rd December, 1982, to extend the term of Parliament by six years on the false pretext of preventing the so–called Naxalites from coming to power. In his heart of hearts he knew that, if elections were held according to his own Constitution, he would never secure an overwhelming majority under the Proportional Representation System. He used the unsigned letters of resignation of his M Ps to coerce them to win the Referendum by hook or by crook. A campaign by the Pevidi Handa Sanvidhanaya against the Referendum was ruthlessly crushed, using Police goons who were later given double promotions by J R, The Report on the Referendum prepared by the Commissioner of Elections but published in a cyclostyled form long afterwards, contain telling evidence as to how it was held. This was J R, who resigned from his seat in 1967 in protest against the extension of Parliament for only two years, which was done with the consent of Parliament.

Now when you look back to see what happened to this resplendent island, you only feel ashamed of what type of leaders we have created. It is only dauntless and forthright statesmanship that we need to get over this long drawn national crisis. People have suffered enough and it is the bounden duty and responsibility of all parties to arrive at a reasonable solution to this national crisis, before any global powers get directly involved in the running of this country, as happened in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

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