JVP’s 180-degree turn on Emergency exposed
The Parliament where the extension of the Emergency is debated
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
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 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
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