Playing with fire a dangerous sport

What does Wimal Weerawansa think he is? He has asked IGP Victor Perera to release JVP MP Jayantha Wijesekera now in remand over an alleged assault on a policeman and robbery of two vehicles belonging to JVP dissidents from the Parliamentary car park. Now that legal proceedings have been instituted against Wijesekera, the law must take its course without any interference. The IGP is right in having turned down the request on the grounds that it is up to the judiciary to decide whether to release Wijesekera or not.

Weerawansa and other JVP dissidents are of the view that Wijesekera has fallen prey to some conspirators in the party on a witch-hunt against the rebel MPs. They had better tell that to the judges and not the IGP! The Somawansa faction baying for Weerawansa’s blood is peddling a cock-and-bull theory. It has claimed in extenuation of the offence it has committed that the vehicles in question belong to the party and not to individual MPs. The vehicles, it argues, are maintained as property of the drivers thereof, who are responsible for their safety and maintenance. Therefore, the Somawansa loyalists argue, they have done nothing wrong by taking them into their custody.

We are intrigued by this kind of skewed logic. All duty free vehicles that MPs have obtained belong to permit holders. And duty free vehicle permits are not transferable, though lawmakers and public officials blatantly abuse that concession. (Former Minister and UNP National Organiser S. B. Dissanayake had the chutzpah to boast in an interview with Max TV recently that he had sold all his duty free car permits. And the late Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle publicly stated that the only way to deal with the abuse of vehicle permits was to legalise their transfer!)

The JVP may have lawmakers within its ranks but it cannot make its own laws! It must abide by the law of the land. The Amarasinghe faction has no authority to commandeer vehicles. The fact that the JVP committed robberies with impunity in the past does not mean it can continue to do so at present. The JVP’s internal arrangements as regards MPs’ vehicles have no legal basis. The law cannot be subjugated to JVP leaders’ whims and fancies.

Who says the government is inefficient and the police are lethargic? See how swiftly they have acted against anti-government activists: No sooner had the vehicles been removed from the parliamentary premises than Wijesekera was taken in. They acted in a similar manner over the late MP Sripathy Sooriarachchi’s double cab. He was arrested and kept in remand for months for alleged misuse of that vehicle. If only they would act equally fast against government politicians as well. Minister Mervyn Silva himself led a raid on the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, where his goons set upon a senior journalist. The police didn’t dare at least question Minister Silva, let alone take any action against him. Nor has the SLFP concluded its inquiry into the allegations against him. Minister Silva got away with a fraud case by owning up to the offence and settling the State costs!

Perhaps, Weerawansa may have thought a government capable of taking Mervyn off the hook would be able to secure Wijesekera’s release as well. A gifted orator he may be but Weerawansa has not read the situation properly. Wijesekera, who is in charge of the JVP’s Eastern PC polls campaign, has been a prized catch for the government striving to prevent a split in its vote. Now that the Somawansa faction has laid bare its fangs through violence against dissidents and alleged vehicle robberies, the government will do its utmost to paint a black picture of the outfit and scare the Easterners into desisting from voting for the JVP.

The government’s attempt to cash in on the JVP’s crisis cannot be countenanced. But, instead of any JVPer taken in over vehicle robberies being released, legal advice must be sought to find whether present-day JVP leaders could be hauled up before courts for the crimes including armed robberies they/their party committed in the past. Since the JVP insists that vehicles of its MPs and their salaries belong to the party, all the plundered gold and cash, too, must have ended up in the party war chest. The JVP robbed billions of rupees from banks, state institutions, businessmen and ordinary people and removed jewellery and gold in gunny bags in the late 1980s. Kilos of jewellery and a lot of money were recovered from Wijeweera’s Ulapane residence after he was captured. It is the responsibility of the State, regardless of the party in power, to recover the plundered wealth and return it to the real owners. The members of the JVP Politburo and Central Committee (1987-89), who have survived the bloody crackdown and are active in the party at present, must be questioned. It is time the victims of JVP violence came forward and demanded that justice be done!

Unfortunately, some Opposition activists including ex-members of the much dreaded DJV death squads which killed thousands of people are trying to conjure up dark forces responsible for the 1987-89 bloodbath, for short term political gain. The SLFP blundered in 1987 by siding with the JVP through movements like the Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya in a bid to abort the 13th Amendment and topple the JRJ government. It was too late by the time it realised its mistake. A section of the present Opposition is making the same blunder. One of the JVP big brains who planned the outfit’s second uprising is reported to have been brought back from overseas to tackle the dissidents. That he is back in business is evident from the vehicle robberies at issue and the recent incidents of violence and intimidation against JVP rebels.

Those satanic forces have their own agenda and it will be a mistake for either the SLFP or the UNP to think they could be handled like the wish-granting genie in Aladin and the Magic Lamp. The late President J. R. Jayewardene, who, seeking to use the JVP to keep his opponents at bay, released Wijeweera et al from prison, let the genie out of the bottle and the country paid dearly for his blunder, which must not be repeated. Playing with fire is a dangerous sport!



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