Kumaratunga rails at UNF government

[TamilNet, Sunday, 24 March 2002, 08:13 GMT]
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's efforts to promote amicable cohabitation between his United National Front (UNF) dominated Parliament and President Chandrika Kumaratunga of the main opposition People's Alliance (PA) suffered a setback this week when the latter launched a bitter attack on the government's conduct of the local council elections in which the UNF crushed the PA.

In elections hailed by independent election monitors and the police as one of the most peaceful polls held in recent years, the UNF won 218 of the 222 local bodies, including 14 municipal councils and 25 urban councils. The PA won an urban council and three Pradheshiya Sabhas (the UNF secured 180 PS wins, including Kumaratunga's home constituency). The Marxist Janata Vimukthi Perumana (JVP)secured one local body.

The UNF polled 3.69 million votes (57.8 percent) while the PA obtained 2.07 million votes (32.5 percent) and the JVP, which hinged its election campaign on denouncing the Norwegian peace process, 6.5 percent of the votes.

But in a vitriolic letter to Interior Minister John Amaratunga, which she also released to the media, President Kumaratunga charged the UNF government with widespread election rigging. She also heaping invectives on the Minister, election monitors and the Police.

Whilst independent election monitors said violence was considerably down in last week's polls in comparison to those held during the PA's tenure, Kumaratunga accused the government of concealing election violence.

"The number you have stated regarding the number of incidents of election related violence is completely false. I suggest that you obtain the numbers properly. If you are in any way unable to do so, I could do this for you," she wrote to the Interior Minister.

chandrika_kumarathunge_9-p.jpgReferring to last December's elections in which widespread violence resulted in scores of deaths (only three being reported last week), Kumarautnga told the Minister: "You seem to imply ... that the General Elections of 2001 had a high rate of violence against UNP supporters. This again is completely false."

"UNP supporters made numerous false entries in various Police Stations, with specific intent to have arrested [my MPs]," she charged.

Kumaratunga also slammed last week's monitoring measures: "As for the Elections Monitoring Mechanism, I am sorry to say it is a joke. ... Your commission is chaired by a hapless Secretary who knows very little about politics and would not dare take any decisions to harm UNP's scheme to rig [the polls]."

Kumaratunga said she herself and PA members of the monitoring committee had raised allegations of violence "but absolutely nothing was done."

In a telling challenge to the UNF government's efforts to usher in cohabitation with the Presidency, Kumaratunga demanded: "Where then is your much vaunted 'new political culture'?"

"May, I enlighten you, in case no one else has done so far, after the elections, action against the perpetrators of violence has to be taken by you, since you happen to be the Minister of Interior," she continued.

Rejecting the Minister's written response rebutting her initial accusations, Kumaratunga said: "I am truly surprised that a lawyer and a senior politician like you should write a letter like this to the President. It is full of untruths, misrepresentation of facts, smacking of mala-fides. It is obviously designed only to fool the general public, to whom you immediately issued your letter through the media."

Kumaratunga's greatest vitriol was reserved for Sri Lanka's police force. "Even little babes in arms who lived through the 17 year rule of State Terror of the UNP from 1977 - 1994, are aware of the manner in which the Police in this country were transformed from a respectable and efficient institution into a Force in which the large majority of the officials and personnel were compelled to become acolytes and "yes" men of the Government Ministers and MPs."

"...a fair number had been recruited without proper qualifications, only on political considerations. A large number of these policemen were made to murder, victimise and harass political opponents on instructions from UNP politicians, giving rise to the most horrendous era of human rights violations this country has known in its 2500-year history," she charged.

Then in one of her typical contradictions, she declared: "Most of them are still in the Police Force, thanks to the political culture of democratic governance re-introduced by the PA Government in 1994 and the slowness of the judicial processes of this country."

"It augurs very badly for the continuance of democratic governance in the country and the protection of rights of the individual, which the PA Government and I re-built at great cost to ourselves personally, and to our supporters," Kumaratunga observed in her closing comments.

"I earnestly request you, Hon. Minister, to even now attempt to learn and act according to the hallowed principles of democratic governance, which the vast majority of the people of this country expect from any Government."


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