Pragmatism is apparently being fast instilled into the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). Sometimes the ideas expressed by the JHUs since lately on sensitive issues such as the alleged war crimes by the security forces and the prospects of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) winning the Northern Provincial Council are interesting and in a way amazing.
The degree of pragmatism and maturity that is being manifested in recent stance taken by the JHU leaders on some of the important national issues, one might even doubt as to whether they would call some of the other political parties racist.
Can one imagine the JHU to call for investigations on the human rights violations/ war crimes during the final days of the war against the LTTE? Yes, it has in deed done, in spite of it having defended the security forces and the government tooth and nail from accusations of war crimes and opposed any international investigation on war crimes.Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, who is also the public face of the JHU, in his weekly column “Doramandalawa” in the Sunday Lankadeepa on June 26 had dared to say this despite the fact that JHU is a constituent party of the ruling coalition. “We do not know whether the scenes in the Channel 4 video film were authentic. However, one cannot rule out that unlawful killings, abductions, torture, and rape took place in the course of the anti-terrorism struggle. The policy that we have to follow in this regard is the one that was pursued following the Premawathie Manamperi murder during the 1971 insurrection and the one following the killing of students in Trincomalee. That is to penalize the perpetrators.”
Another JHU stalwart and Western Provincial Council Minister Udaya Prabath Gammanpila, one of the very few decent politicians in the country also have spoken out on another sensitive issue, the role of the TNA in the Northern Province. He had insisted in his column “Pradeepaya” in the Daily Lankadeepa on June 30 that the Northern Provincial Council election must be free, no matter who would win. He says:
“No one can oppose the constitution of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) as councils have been constituted in all Provinces including in the East. Government must ensure not only the institution of the Northern Provincial Council but also free and fare election for that council.
“Although Tamil leaders claim that making Sinhala language the only official language in the country led to the armed uprising in the north, I differ from them. Taking to arms by the Tamil youth was justified before the nonviolent Hindu people by the vote grab at the District Development Council (DDC) election that included the burning down of the Jaffna library. Hence, whoever the winner would be at the forthcoming NPC election it has to be absolutely fair.
“Some leaders of the government believe that the election for the NPC must be held after a situation favourable to the government is created. However, there are advantages in the TNA winning the NPC. The TNA currently plays only a role of criticism. But if it wins the NPC its leaders would find how difficult it is to fulfill what they call for while enjoying the luxuries in Colombo.
“The TNA has currently gained popularity among the Tamil people by highlighting what the government has failed to do in the north, while forgetting the vast amount of work the government has already done in the province. If they take over the administration of the NPC their criticisms would cease while they would have to bear the brunt of Tamil people’s criticism as well as the international pressure.”
One may not agree with Minister Gammanpila on the root cause of the ethnic problem, since by the time the first and last DDC election was held in May 1981 many Tamil armed groups had emerged. But all would agree that the violence in Jaffna during that election was one among several factors that accelerated the pace of the violence into a civil war.
Ironically, the UNP government led by President JR Jayawardene that attempted to find in the DDC set-up a solution to the ethnic problem, by way of offering the Tamil people a sense of ownership in governance sent thugs to plunder the election victory. The goons even torched one of South Asias best libraries then, the Jaffna Library. It sent an adverse message internationally as well as locally, especially among the Tamil people. What followed was history.Hence, Gammanpila’s contention on the northern Provincial Council is logical and realistic. However, it is equally or more realistic that the leaders of the ruling coalition would not listen to him in this respect.