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Sunday, 27 February 2011





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JVP’s 180-degree turn on Emergency exposed

The Parliament where the extension of the Emergency is debated every month

This debate on the extension of the State of Emergency is conducted at the instance of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which too participated in the debate brought the same old arguments and as such it is obligatory on us to answer the matters raised by the JVP.

JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the state of emergency is justifiable neither in the interest of the country or its people, on account of the fact that there is no terrorism today, but peace prevails in the country with conditions conducive to civil administration in place. That is the essence of his argument.

He also said that the emergency is in force not in the interest of the people or country, but to benefit the Government. The emergency is also used to gain political mileage, sponsor State terrorism, suppress democracy, deny the people their Constitutional rights, counter public protests against the rising cost of living and burden the people with taxes, the JVP MP said.

The state of emergency was introduced during the 1983 Black July. The emergency was declared only after six days of riots breaking out in the country, which many have forgotten today. That was the reason, that in the first few days of the riots, 479 Tamil lives were lost in the Colombo city alone.


The then President failed to address the nation through the mass media till six days into the riots. It was a free-for-all for the army, police, people and the underworld! It was during such an anarchic situation that a state of emergency was invoked. We in the Opposition exposed this delay in declaring a state of emergency.

Freedom to protest

This state of affairs would not have arisen had the bodies of 13 soldiers been handed back to their relatives for burial. However, as pre-planned, the corpses were deliberately brought to Borella and buried in one place, instigating the Army, police, thugs and the underworld.

The emergency thus declared has continued to date, under six leaders including J.R. Jayewardene, R. Premadasa, D.B. Wijetunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is not an emergency President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself enforced after he was re-elected recently. It is true that the war against terrorism ended on May 19, 2009 and since then one year has lapsed. We are, however, aware that this continued for 30 years conflict caused tensions with India too which the factors that led to this situation under such a complicated scenario will not die down immediately. It is a tinder-box situation which is likely to ignite. Responsibility devolves on the Government in case an incident takes place.

It is because we have information with us on political or other developments taking place locally or internationally that we continue with the emergency with parliamentary section each month. None of us would like the emergency to continue as it is not desirable to us.

We are aware that the emergency takes precedence over the law of the land - the rights of the people. We made the minimum use of the emergency law with no impact on the people even during the conflict.

War against terrorism

Many have forgotten that our Security Forces rescued over 300,000 innocent Tamils including Prabhakaran’s parents during the war against terrorism.

A total of 11,696 LTTEers were arrested and 6,000 have since been released. That is how humanely we treated them. They were not herded and bumped off using emergency powers; neither did we follow what took place in Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen. We do not have a dictatorship or monarchy or a feudal society; nor do we have a country dictated by America’s ‘global village’ or ‘geopolitics’.

Neo-liberal economic policies have been foisted on the Arab World.

Their oil reserves have been exploited through dictatorial, brutal regimes and such resources have been taken to USA. A yawning abyss has been created between the haves and have-nots. Consequently the people in such countries have revolted.

Attempts are, however, being made to change the horse again - to replace one with the other! The people have not won as yet.

I am one of those who voted for the emergency; I have also voted against it. The two Ministers in the front row too had voted against the emergency. I was one of the victims of the emergency.

I was also one of those who were remanded first with the promulgation of the emergency in 1983. The LTTErs and JVPers followed. Our party was prosecuted. We have undergone the tribulations of prison life.

Now they talk like saints! For one month no parliamentarian was allowed to visit me in prison. Even MP Sarath Muttetuwegama from our own party was not allowed to visit us.

Have we ever indulged in such things? The UPFA Government has allowed one and all to visit Sarath Fonseka in prison.

The Cabinet of the J.R. Jayewardene Government including Ranil Wickremesinghe and those front row members of the Opposition did not permit the Member of Parliament of our party to visit me.

Our party leaders including the General Secretary were all imprisoned under the Emergency. Therefore, we never justified emergency laws and we have opposed them right through.

Different situations

Different situations arise in the country at various points of time. Whether there is a Socialist, Capitalist or Democratic society situations will arise necessitating recourse to emergency. Accordingly it happened to us to continue with the emergency for 30 years.

The President and the Cabinet will not hesitate to do away with the emergency, if it is feasible.

We have, however, been relaxing the Emergency provisions gradually. Please go through the Hansards during the past five years to understand what the TNA, UNP and JVP MPs had uttered then and now so that you could realise how fairly we have acted. Officials know how emergency laws have sometimes been issued by governments, however, democratic they are.

During the 1971 youth insurrection we know how the then government dealt with some Army officers when Premawathi Manamperi was killed. There were occasions where Army or Police officers were prosecuted as they had violated emergency regulations. MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the emergency was not used to protect the mediamen.

There could be instances in which certain officials misused emergency regulations. Such incidents should be brought to our notice. Action could also be taken against the offenders and relief could be obtained from the Supreme Court.

The Government has, however, used the emergency in a more possible manner with the least impact on public life. Consequently, there is no need to withdraw emergency laws immediately. It may be today or tomorrow that the need will arise to do away with it.

Democracy and freedom

We held the Presidential election, general election and Provincial Council elections as well. The Local Government election will be held soon. There is democracy and full freedom to hold rallies or demonstrations. None of them was fired at or the participants killed.

Democracy has thrived in the country since 1931. The extension of the state of emergency is debated in Parliament monthly, providing the opportunity for Parliamentarians to expose any misuse of emergency powers by the authorities.

It is grossly unfair that adverse criticisms were levelled against the Attorney General. Any specific allegations against the Attorney General could be made through a substantive motion in Parliament. I believe it is totally unjust to make allegations against officials charged with enforcing the law.

This Parliament had dealt with a Chief Justice and they were exonerated. There were occasions when Parliament had dispersed with the services of judges and such action could be taken whenever necessary. Therefore, there is the need to act with a sense of responsibility.

Did we use the emergency against the 11,000 LTTE suspects who had been detained? They were in fact fed, trained, resettled and provided with employment as well.

Those who supported the emergency in the past speak ill of it today. Those who stressed the importance of the emergency at one time and said that the government was lenient towards the LTTE, today show great love for the Tamil community. There are occasions when the JVP’s past political history takes a 180-degree turn!


During the 1982 Presidential election, Rohana Wijeweera said he was prepared to grant self-determination including secession (to the Tamils), being more leftist than Dr. Colvin R. de Silva or Vasudeva Nanayakkara themselves. Wijeweera received 200,000 votes. After his defeat, in 1984, he joined hands with the Sinhala communalists.

When Lionel Bopage, now domiciled in Australia, resigned from the JVP’s general secretaryship, he showed me his letter of resignation and said that the JVP is a communal party, a “terrorist party’ and an anti-democratic party.

It is time to peruse the Hansard records to find out whether the JVP had changed its stand. There is, of course, no change in our stand whether we are with the government or the Opposition as far as the emergency is concerned.

I do not say the emergency is a good thing. It has, however, been invoked according to its necessity. Accordingly, the President will also use the emergency only till it serve its purpose and would do away with it today or tomorrow when the need ceases.

The above is the speech delivered by Senior Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara during the motion to extend the state of emergency in Parliament on Thursday.

Translated by: K.D.M. Kittanpahuwa



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