Principal focus where ideals clash | Daily News
Vijayakala’s controversial statement:

Principal focus where ideals clash

MP Vijayakala Maheswaran.
MP Vijayakala Maheswaran.

During the past few weeks, we have seen comments from both the North and South yearning for a more authoritarian government to regulate the country’s law and order.

Former State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran created an uproar among Southern politicians when she asked that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) be brought back to ensure the safety of women and children in the North and East.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya referred the matter of Maheswaran’s statement to the Attorney-General and pending investigations, Maheswaran decided to resign from her ministerial post. The United National Party (UNP) appointed a three-member committee to delve into the details of her statement, following her explanation to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Maheswaran was not alone when she expressed those sentiments; Northern Chief Minister C. V. Vigneswaran made an attempt to justify her claim, as did Provincial Councillor Anandi Shashidharan. It appeared that most people did not recognise democratic freedom due to the inadequacies in maintaining law and order within the country.

In the South, Ven. Wendaruwe Upali Anunayake Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter called upon former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to form a government with the help of the military in order to impose a draconian rule similar to that of the former leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler. It seemed that people were more inclined towards experiencing a disciplined society, even with more dictatorial powers established by rulers.

When Maheswaran called for the LTTE, did she honestly mean that she wanted an LTTE rule where people were killed and harassed without any justification? The law and order situation at the time prevailed due to fear, and the paranoia among that prevailed among people cannot be denied. Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan, the other day, said he was disappointed with the government as it had failed to deliver what was promised. Recently, he had said that he would not support the current government’s re-election, if it were to fail to implement what the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had promised the people. Is it that the people are dissatisfied with what is currently taking place in the Northern Peninsula, while comparing the rule of the LTTE with that of the present?

It is noteworthy that Hitler rose in Germany following the democratic Weimar government’s inability to control a worsening economic situation and the LTTE in Sri Lanka rose in part due to the failure of democratic Tamil politicians such as A. Amirthalingam, to win the rights of Tamils through democratic means.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran said he did not think former MP Vijayakala Maheshwaran was in the wrong with regard to her statement on the LTTE.

He said that Tamil people would accept a solution based on proposals made by the previous government.

“These proposals were made by the previous regime when the LTTE was in operation. If the present government says that they will not bring a solution based on these proposals as the LTTE is no more, that is wrong,” Sumanthiran said.

“It suggests that the government is ready to find a solution only if the LTTE was still in existence,” he said.

The following are excerpts of what politicians from both the North and South thought of the situation of democracy in the country in the wake of the comments made during the last two weeks:

MP Navin Dissanayake

Vijayakala Maheswaran may lose her MP post upon the completion of the disciplinary inquiry initiated by the party. She had to resign from her ministerial position as it was considered wrong to retain it after making such a statement.

A party-level inquiry would be held and disciplinary action would be taken against her accordingly. Overall, the people in Sri Lanka always preferred a democratic government, not an authoritarian government.

Ven. Wendaruwe Upali Anunayaka Thera referred to the entry of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa; it had nothing to do with the government and does not mean that people prefer an authoritarian government.




MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara

In the heat of passion, the situation in the North had affected her painfully. It was an illegal statement which need not have been taken as a threat, but as a reaction considering the state of affairs in the North.

We need to see the context in which the statement was made. If she persists about the statement, then she should be prosecuted. If she had extended her apologies and repented on what she said, then we should stand in favour of her, considering the context.

It was a sharp reaction, but no offence should be taken until she says that she meant what she said.

The Anunayaka Thera’s statement was not acceptable to the majority in the country. He did not mean that an authoritarian government should be established through constitutional means.

Those statements were made due to lack of proper implementation of law and order. The Anunayaka Thera also wanted a person to take the matters seriously and find a solution.

It was not a threat to democracy. Majority of Sri Lankans prefer a democratic government. People are inclined to dissent on such issues and are unlikely to give up that right.

MP Dayasiri Jayasekara

People would search for alternatives when law and order is not implemented properly. We are all politicians who wish for a democratic government.

Taking the prevailing situation in North into consideration, Maheshwaran was desperate. But I disagree with her statement by all means. She broke the vow she made in Parliament when she assumed duties as one of its members.

Thirty years of war ended and we never expect Prabhakaran to return. There can be neither a Prabhakaran in the North nor a Hitler in the South; both are unacceptable.

The statements were threats to democracy and people have begun to think that only an authoritarian government would bring solutions to their problems; they are searching for a strong ruler.

MP Mailvaganam Thilakarajah

The original intention of her statement was something different. She said that in order to maintain law and order, the LTTE should return; which meant that during the the civil war, numerous social issues were controlled by the LTTE. I believe that was her original message.

I too agree that during the LTTE period, there were fewer cases of domestic violence and rape—but that was only because they threatened people. If anyone opposed them, they would have been hanged.

However, in the long run, violence cannot be stopped with more violence. Social issues cannot be solved in that manner. The LTTE were viscous, regardless of their cause. Youths committing crimes in the North and East at present, were children during the LTTE era. They learnt that violent culture from them and now, they are practising it.

If Maheswaran wishes to protect society from violence, she best promote discipline and ethics rather than stating that the LTTE should return. However, I do not believe that her speech asked for the LTTE’s reemergence and another civil war—that was the interpretation made by the South. But it was the same South that wanted a local version of Hitler to surface. I do not want a Prabhakaran from the North or a Hitler from the South—violence should not be promoted either way.

For 30 years, our country’s citizens lived under perilous circumstances. We grew up with that kind of ideology and that is why our first reaction to such a problem is to spiral back into the only thing we knew, thinking that it is the only way.

Therefore, we must change our attitudes; the country’s people, their representatives, the clergy—we must all change our way of thinking.

Minister Anandhi Sasidharan

Women serving as members of Parliament, while holding ministerial positions had spoken openly on several occasions regarding the prevailing patriarchal nature in the country. I see this controversy over Maheswaran as an outcome of the male-dominated hierarchy.

The golden age for the North was during the LTTE’s rule, and I do not see anything wrong in recalling the good old days. It was after the LTTE was defeated that we saw a rise in illegal activities in the country. Being the Northern Province Women and Child Affairs Minister, it is unfortunate for me to say that a woman cannot even walk safely alone on the road.

The JVP protested against the then government and took up arms to fight against the state. Now, they say that Maheswaran should apologise for making such a statement. My question is, how could they tell that to her? They themselves being one of the groups who protested with violence.

Provincial Councillor C. V. K. Sivagnanam

It was an emotional statement delivered by Maheswaran; she did not mean it. Even though she did not say that she was going to reform the LTTE, being one of the ministers representing the government, it was an inappropriate statement.

Even those who had forgotten about Prabhakaran and Thileepan were now speaking about them, given what had been happening in the North. It was during such a situation that Maheswaran made the statement.

It is important for people in high positions to talk in a responsible manner. Maheswaran had to resign from her position as she spoke while disregarding her responsibilities. But I respect her sentiment.

Former MP Selvaraja Kajendren

Maheswaran’s statement on the LTTE resulted in island-wide arguments and discussions. The party that she represented instigated racism within the country. It was her party that began to settle Sinhala Buddhists in our lands to initiate racial tension.

By removing Karuna Amman, they weakened the LTTE. The same party continues to be a hindrance to the people in the North especially, and Maheswaran pledged to support them.

But I agree with the statement she made that the presence of LTTE would be vital to control increasing criminal activity. From 1985 to 2009, the North was under the control of the LTTE—and was a time when women and children were safe and all internal caste issues were under control. That was the only reason why we repeat that women were even able to walk alone at night at that time.

With the rise of criminal activity in the North, people generally compare it with the LTTE’s time period and say that it was better back then. Maheswaran would have been emotional when she made her statement, but it would not aid the Tamil community as she represented a majority party. If she was truly concerned about her people, she would have made the statement after resigning from her party.

K. Anandharasa

I am a retired principal and I move with people. As such, I consider Vijayakala’s statement as an emotional outburst. She must have made that statement because even though she represented the government, she was unable to curb current criminal activities.

During the time of the LTTE, in 1987, a man was tied to a lamp post and shot dead for sexually harassing a woman; I witnessed it.

The rising numbers of sexual harassment cases in the North would have triggered Maheswaran’s pro-LTTE statement. Male politicians in the North rarely raise their voices against such issues. I was fascinated by Maheswaran’s boldness to speak on that. I think it was correct for her to resign from her ministerial position.

S. Jegabalan

I do not condemn what Maheswaran said; it was the plight of her community that made her speak in that manner. It is a fact that the LTTE was able to keep people under control, whereas the present government had failed to do so. The culture and tradition of the North was maintained when it was under LTTE rule and now, we are losing everything. That is a concern for any person in the North.

The government defeated the LTTE while calling it terrorism, but a proper system prevailed during their rule; I will not object that. Even 10 years after the LTTE was defeated, the government could fell short at uplifting the lives of the people in the North.

(Several attempts were made to contact the JVP regarding the issue. However, they were unresponsive).


 

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