Sri Lanka’s Prejudiced and Petty Rulers

Rifat Halim in LankaWeb, 22 August 2019, in

Three Idiots is a classic Hindi movie that features a group of morons. Sri Lanka has gone one step further by producing three modayas and a blind woman in real life. Future historians would be hard-pressed to explain Sri Lanka’s civil conflict (1983–2009). How could a small section of a microscopic minority terrorise the country for so long? In 1983, Sri Lankan Tamils were barely 10% of the populations and the LTTE (also known as the Tamil Tigers) was a minuscule group

The answer lies in the stupid rivalry of the politicians. Every time the Tigers committed an atrocity, the politicians blamed someone else. They were so transfixed by their petty quarrels that they were blind to the big beast.

Ranasinghe Premadasa

Premadasa’s name will ring long in the country’s memory. He was the only non-Govigama President or Prime Minister. His energy and determination were legendary. He wiped out the JVP, a feat that eluded JR Jayewardene. However, his legacy is forever tainted by his Hilton Honeymoon with the Hitler of Asia – Velupillai Prabhakaran. He not only gave the Tigers the lease of life in 1989, but he armed them against the IPKF.

Former Defence Secretary-General Cyril Ranatunga has written on page 103 of From Peace to War, Insurgency to Terrorism that President Premadasa had decided to give arms to the LTTE”.

When the TULF leader Appapillai Amirthalingam was killed by the LTTE on 13th July 1989, President Premadasa defended the LTTE. He refused to blame his negotiating partner, who was then enjoying his hospitality in Colombo’s Galadari hotel.

On May 1st, 1993, a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed Premadasa. He could only be identified by his watch, which was fitting for such a punctual man.

Ranjan Wijeratne

The white-haired Minister of State for Defence Ranjan Wijeratne was a planter who had immense administrative skills. His crowning achievement was the elimination of the JVP leadership in November 1983 [sic]

Unfortunately, his record with the Tamil Tigers was a collaborationist. Like Premadasa, Wijeratne absolved the Tigers of any responsibility in killing Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran. In fact, he knew that the three assassins had visited the Tamil Tiger delegation in the Galadari Hotel shortly before the killing. When the LTTE Mahathaya admitted that the LTTE killed Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran in October 1989, Ranjan Wijeratne still refused to blame the LTTE.

In March 1991, karma (and the LTTE) caught up with Wijeratne. He became the first politician in the subcontinent to be killed by a car bomb. The white-haired Wijeratne charred body was unrecognizable in his white Mercedez Benz. Several others perished with him. The assassination was blamed on the LTTE, whom he had once defended.

Gamini Dissanayake

Dissanayake was a politician of exceptional charm and charisma. He will be remembered like the ancient Sinhalese Kings for taming the mighty Mahaweli River. He brought Test status to Sri Lanka in 1981. His revulsion towards Premadasa was even stronger than the gushes of the Mahaweli river. After Premadasa sacked him from the Cabinet in March 1991, Dissanayake was intent on discrediting his rival.

When the LTTE killed Major-General Denzil Kobbekaduwe and Major-General Wijaya Wimalaratne in a landmine blast in August 1992, Dissanayake tried to implicate Premadasa. His private secretary Palitha Pelpola engaged a British military consultant to issue a report that the bomb was placed inside the vehicle. The implication was that foul play was at hand.

Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali rebelled against Premadasa’s UNP and formed a breakaway party called the DUNF.

In April 1993, Lalith Athulathmudali was shot dead by the LTTE in an election rally. Dissanayake refused to blame the LTTE and pointed the finger at Premadasa’s government.

A week after Athulathmudali’s death, Premadasa himself perished in a suicide bomb. Dissanayake still refused to blame the LTTE. He said, Premadasa has fallen victim to the same violence that he brought upon the country.” He did not have one word of sympathy for a man with whom he sat in the same Cabinet.

Eventually, Dissanayake has suffered the same fate. In October 1994, Dissanayake (who had rejoined the UNP) and over 50 others were killed by a suicide bomb in an election rally.

Chandrika Kumaratunga

Kumaratunga is the scion of one of Asia’s political dynasties. She endured the assassination of her father in 1959 and her husband in 1988.

Wisdom deserted her despite these tragedies. When Gamini Dissanayake was killed in October 1994, Chandrika Kumaratunga was negotiating with the LTTE. Dissanayake’s killing was on the eve of the second round of talks.  Kumaratunga promptly blamed the blast on the internal politics of the UNP. She was refused to blame her negotiating partner. No action was taken against the perpetrators.

In December 1999, karma visited Kumaratunga. She was grievously injured in an LTTE suicide blast at the Town Hall. The President lost her sight in one eye.

Not only was she blinded in one eye, but she was blind to reason.  In 2005, she signed the P-TOMs with the LTTE. Luckily, the Supreme Court prevented Kumaratunga and her collaborationist ally Ranil Wickremesinghe from the evil designs of the P-TOMs. If it was enacted, it would have funded the LTTE for many years. The long night of suffering of the Tamils would have never ended.

Only one man in the Cabinet opposed the P-TOMs – the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He recognized that only the physical elimination of the LTTE would bring peace.  In May 2009, President Rajapaksa’s forces put a bullet into the head of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Peace has since reigned on the island.

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