By Gagani Weerakoon
Barely two weeks into Oddusudan Police arresting two suspects with a pressure mine, two remote control devices and some other weapons, a uniform, a flag, bombs and several military types of equipment belonging to the LTTE while they were being transported in a three-wheeler at Peraru Junction, Oddusudan, Mullaitivu, an ill-timed, misjudged gallery talk by State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran took Sri Lankan politics by storm.
Maheswaran, speaking to a gathering at a State event, the Janapathi Nila Mehewara, in Jaffna on 2 July, which was attended by Ministers Vajira Abeywardena and Tilak Marapana, had stated that the aim was to rebuild the LTTE and that they should remerge and be strengthened in the North and the East if the residents of those areas wished to remain alive, free of fear and suspicion and for their children to return home safely after attending school. She spoke in reference to the situation that had arisen in some areas as exemplified by the recent sexual abuse and murder of a six-year-old girl.
“All of you know how our people lived before 2009-05-19. When comparing with today’s situation, it seems the LTTE should be revived. If our children and women are to come home safely, an LTTE administration is again necessary. What this Government has done for the last three years is only returning the lands which were acquired. We thank the Government for that. But beyond that the Government has done nothing.
“The claim that the Government carried out development activities in the North is a lie. We respect the leadership. I am also a Minister of the Government. But when nothing is done for the people of the North, our patience has reached the limit.
“Of course the war was concluded. But what has the Government done to those who became widows due to the war? Nothing has been done to the youths who completed their University studies. There are 30,000 widows in the North and 12,000 LTTE cadres in the rehabilitation camps. What is the government doing for them?
“What has it given them? The Cabinet Paper to help them was cast aside. Was it because they aren’t human beings? They took up arms to fight for their rights. Is it because of that you say they are not human beings? Today the drug scourge is on the rise in Jaffna. After the war was over the political leaders are transporting drugs to Jaffna. That is why drug addiction has shot up in Jaffna.
“The President must work like a President .We worked for him. Yet Ministry portfolios have been given to those who worked against him. Is that right? Is it fair? That is the same thing which was done even to the North. I am ashamed to speak these out. In these areas the job vacancies have been filled by youths of the South,” was the gist of the speech she made in Jaffna as was published.
Questions arose in Parliament as to what steps should be taken over Maheswaran’s controversial statement. Several Parliamentarians raised their concern regarding the statement and some of them noted that her statement violated the provisions of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
According to the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, under Article 157A(1) regarding the prohibition of violating the country’s territorial integrity and Article 161(d)(iv), that a citizen taking the oath cannot, “directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the (country’s) territory.”
Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake, whilst saying that the United National Party (UNP) should take disciplinary action against Maheswaran, over her recent controversial statement regarding the LTTE, added that she should revoke that statement.
He added that Maheswaran`s solution, for the problem of increasing drug addiction and child rape in the Jaffna Peninsula, was stupid.
“At a recent function which was held in Jaffna, she pointed out that the reason for the increased instances of child abuse was the absence of the LTTE and suggested that the solution should be the regeneration of the LTTE. What a stupid assumption! Drugs and rape are a global issue. Even in the South, people are facing such issues. Combating drugs is an issue related to the Police Narcotics Bureau,” he explained.
The Deputy Minister also noted that challenging the sovereign nature of the country by boasting about a terrorist organization constituted a punishable offence.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party Youth Front (SLFPYF) also condemned the statement made by Maheswaran.
Addressing a press conference at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Headquarters, SLFPYF Chairman Shantha Bandara said that according to the Constitution, all Parliamentarians have a duty to protect the unity and the sovereignty of the country, and that Maheswaran had violated the Constitution through the statement she made in support of the LTTE.
He insisted that the Speaker, along with other responsible institutions, should take action against Maheswaran over her statement.
Bandara also noted that this was a petty attempt by Maheswaran to gain the votes of those who wanted to resurrect the LTTE.
Expressing their agitation over the controversial statement, made by Maheswaran on 2 July, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) urged both, the Speaker and the Government, to take necessary action against her, according to the law for violating the parliamentary oath.
The JVP, calling a media briefing after the brawl which erupted in the Parliament chamber over Maheswaran’s remarks, said that she has no right as a parliamentarian to make such claims, regarding racist and fascist organisations such as the LTTE.
Maheswaran should seek forgiveness from the entire nation for seeking the LTTE’s return, JVP Propaganda Secretary and Vijitha Herath, MP asserted.
“As MPs, we are bound by an oath that we would never support the dividing of this country directly or indirectly. Now, Maheswaran has violated that oath by calling on the LTTE to return. This is very disgusting and a violation of the Constitution, as well. Therefore, we urge both the Speaker and the Government to take necessary action against her according to the Law,” he said.
Speaking about the brawl that erupted concerning Maheswaran’s claim, Herath said that because that claim is too serious, it is normal for the MPs to react to it in various
If the Government had given a response to Maheswaran’s claim on the same day she made it, such a brawl would not have taken place, he added.
Meanwhile, Convener of the Truth Seekers organisation, Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta handed over a complaint against Maheswaran’s statement in support of the LTTE, to the Police Headquarters.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe in Parliament said that State Minister Maheswaran would be given a chance to explain herself over the controversial statement she made that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) should return to ensure the freedom of the people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, adding that action on the matter would be taken after her explanation.
Making a special statement, on behalf of both, the Government and the United National Party (UNP), the Premier added that the Government had looked into the controversial statement made by Maheswaran as soon as they were informed about it.
“The UNP Political Committee immediately met to discuss the matter. Maheswaran would be given an opportunity to explain herself. Necessary action would be taken after listening her,” he added.
Wickremesinghe further said that both the Tri-Forces and the general public protected the sovereignty of this country with their lives. “Many leaders of the UNP, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Tamil parties were killed during the war. The Parliament was attacked, as well. We remember all of that, and we will always secure the sovereignty of this country. The LTTE is already banned. There is no need of reviving it,” he said.
The Premier also mentioned the disturbance created by the Opposition over Maheswaran’s statement on 3 July. He alleged that the Joint Opposition made such a commotion in order to cover up the revelations made by the recent New York Times’ article on the Hambantota Port.
“They behaved like that when the Speaker had already taken necessary steps as the Head of this Parliament. There should be strict action taken against their behaviour,” he said.
Maheswaran on Thursday resigned from her portfolio in the wake of the controversy, surrounding a recent public statement made by her in connection to the revival of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Prime Minister’s Office, when contacted, confirmed that they had received the resignation letter, of which a copy has also been forwarded to the President as well by the MP.
Maheswaran also admitted that her recent remark was contradictory to her oath taken as a Parliamentarian.
“I admit that my comment was contradictory to the oath I took as an MP. The LTTE is a banned organization,” she told media.
Her resignation was following a meeting held with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on Wednesday. PM Wickremesinghe and his staff were already tired by trying to track down MP Maheswaran throughout Tuesday (3) as her statement was being criticized from all corners.
PM Wickremesinghe reprimanded her over the ‘stupid’ statement made about revival of a terrorist organization which was already banned and thus demanded her resignation from the ministerial portfolio. Maheswaran who was in tears by the time asked whether the Party would drop inquiry against her if she resigned from the post but got a negative response from the PM.
The United National Party backbenchers made a call to the Party leadership to sack Maheswaran from the UNP.
Addressing a media briefing at the Parliamentary complex, after the uproar sparked in the Chamber concerning Maheswaran’s statement, UNP Parliamentarian Heshan Withanage said that the Party leadership must take swift action over the matter.
“Seeing a State Minister making such a statement left all of us shocked. We call on the UNP Leadership to take immediate action against her. It is unacceptable that an MP, let alone a Government State Minister, made such remarks. Such a person should not be a member of a party like the UNP,” he said.