More on Vijayakala’s "LTTE cravings"



Vijayakala Maheswaran

Responding to this writer’s opinion piece titled ‘Inaction on Vijayakala’s LTTE cravings’ (Sunday Island July 22, 2018), Merril Gunaratne, in his ‘A response to Vijayakala’s LTTE cravings’ (Sunday Island, July 29, 2018) has touched on two critical aspects related to the issue.

Firstly, the inability on the part of the government to "translate into reality, the broad contours of the concessionary package previously assured to the Tamil community."

Secondly, the wisdom of prosecuting Vijayakala on the basis, such a trial held in Jaffna "would be exploited as a platform to advance extremism and rally those with proclivities behind the accused."

Any right-thinking person would endorse the first aspect. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa did nothing to implement recommendations made by LLRC, a homegrown initiative. Neither did the Yahapalana government. It abandoned the Paranagama Commission and opted to co-sponsor the UNHRC 30/1 and now finds itself in a quagmire. Yet another reason would be the expectations of the Tamil community,raised by Yahapalana leaders for electoral gains before Presidential and Parliamentary elections without careful analysis of what would amount to possible and impossible deliverables resulting in the lament, "we believed in President Sirisena, but he has done nothing."

At the outset, it must be stated, Vijayakala is no ordinary person. She is a Member of Parliament, one of three branches of the Republic, the Executive, and Judiciary being the other two. Accordingly, what she and the other 224 elected and nominated MPS who have sworn allegiance to Constitution say and do must essentially be treated differently from what is said and done by ordinary citizens.

Before elaborating on the second aspect, it must be stated that Vijayakala has a history. According to Constitutional lawyer Manohara de Silva PC, she compared President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickramasinghe with terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran during a government function in the Northern Province. In December 2017, she claimed 200,000 Tamils had been massacred along with Prabhakaran. She was neither called to explain her utterances nor disciplined. That perhaps could be the main reason for her increased insolence, intransigence or whatever word that is best suited.

Continuously ignoring such conduct by a sitting MP on the grounds of providing a platform for Tamil extremists serves neither National Interests nor National Security. It will also erode the government’s writ.

It is correct to state, "there have hardly been any opportunities for LTTE sympathizers to engage in propaganda on a widespread scale overtly." However, can the same be said of the Northern Province? A call for the revival of LTTE in the Northern Province or elsewhere was unthinkable till 2015, yet we have now reached a stage, a call has been made by no less than a sitting MP of the ruling party.

The original article shed light to similar acts of recalcitrance and insolence by other actors not based on prosecuting all those involved but to merely highlight, the government has exercised tolerance in the past and the dangers of tolerance being mistaken for weakness. Hence the call to halt such acts by elected officials on the state payroll. Continuously ignoring such actions sends all the wrong signals. What is required is the selective prosecution of appropriate cases and to make sure those in charge of prosecution has the wherewithal to sufficiently counter propaganda by LTTE sympathizers. It must be different from the failures of successive governments in the propaganda war during the conflict and after.

In the event of prosecution on the grounds of sedition, given the gravity of the offense, there is no reason for the case to be heard in Jaffna. The case against former Catalonian President Puigdemont and his associates on charges of sedition and rebellion among other reasons was held in Madrid in Spanish and not in Catalonia’s regional capital Barcelona in Catalan, a whole separate language with co-official language status. Similarly, the Disproportionate Assets case against former Chief Minister Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu was moved from Madras to Karnataka High Court as the Indian Supreme Court decreed the trial would not be conducted in free and fair manner if held in Tamil Nadu.

The bone of contention is Vijayakala not being suspended from Parliament till such time the Attorney General gives his verdict if an indictable offense has been committed. After all, did not Prime Minister Wickramasinghe direct the suspension of Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, Defense Attaché at the High Commission in London in less than 24 hours for making an inappropriate gesture at LTTE sympathizers without any investigation? Can the Brigadier’s gesture, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered more severe than Vijayakala’s call to bring back the LTTE?

Gunaratnehas quite rightly highlighted the fact, the July 02 episode should have been deliberated by the National Security Council, and a consensus reached after deliberating how best to deal with the issue at hand. The lack of evidence of such an initiative and the government’s inaction since July 02 is a clear indication of its inability to meaningfully handle such matters.

Reference has been made to the death sentence of late Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi’s three assassins not being implemented due to Delhi being influenced by ‘realpolitik’ and possible backlash and turmoil in Tamil Nadu. The appeal lodged in 2000 was rejected by the Indian President in 2011 and execution scheduled for September 9, 2011. The Madras High Court intervened and stayed their execution for eight weeks based on their plea for mercy.The Supreme Court in 2014 commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment on ground of the inordinate delay of 11 years in deciding their appeal.The court decision came in the wake of a ruling which banned the execution of mentally ill persons, especially those who turned mentally ill due to long solitary incarceration while awaiting execution. The Tamil Nadu government decision to grant clemency and release the convicts was overturned by the Supreme Court based on objections from the Center. Indian Attorney General Vahanvati stated, "This is not a fit case of commutation." Rajiv’s son and Congress President Rahul Gandhi is on record stating " I am personally against the death penalty, but this is not about my father. If a Prime Minister’s killers are being released, what kind of justice should the common man expect?" In the backdrop of such opposition, it could be surmised, a Supreme Court decision rather than ‘realpolitik’ saved the three assassins from the gallows.

In an opinion poll conducted by Hindustan Times, 64% opposed and 33% favored the release of the three assassins (two Sri Lankan and one Indian).

Realpolitik is bound to weigh in whenever Tamil Nadu attempts to pardon the assassins.

Rajeewa Jayaweera

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