Karu says his statement misinterpreted

Wednesday, 8 December 2010 00:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya yesterday said his original statement issued last week had been misinterpreted by the Government in an attempt to draw people’s attention away from the embarrassment from the fiasco in London.

Following is the full text of his new statement issued yesterday.

The Government in an obvious attempt to draw attention away from their embarrassment from the fiasco in London, is seeking scapegoats. The Government mind you is sheltering a criminal wanted for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of our neighbouring country. No attempt is made to extradite this criminal. It is also the same Government that has within its own ranks those who murdered troops and policemen in cold blood that is now harping on a headline in a Sunday newspaper of 5 December 2010 that is deliberately misleading and undoubtedly aimed at political mischief-making. This duplicitous double standard of the Government is not new to them since it is otherwise difficult to understand how they have imprisoned General Fonseka who led the war effort and entertains “KP” in the lap of luxury. Be that as it may proper scrutiny of my statement issued to all media institutions on 3 December, 2010 would irrefutably prove that the Sunday Island headline was an interpretation and phrasing by the newspaper and the newspaper alone, while the release issued by me did not even include the words ‘Tamil Diaspora’ or ‘War Crimes’. It is unfortunate and also ridiculous that government MPs now attempting to make massive political mileage out of this matter, by fanning the fires of nationalism, chose to use the headline created and published by the Sunday Island in order to frame their protest to my statement. I urge them to study the statement more closely and reflect on the points raised, and to introspect whether those points are not in fact pertinent to ensuring good governance, the rule of law and restoring Sri Lanka’s credibility and standing in the world, if indeed such a standing is still important to the Sri Lankan government. The disproportionate and instigating response to my statement following the President’s ignominious visit to Britain, in which I called for the Sri Lankan government to take immediate steps to conduct its own investigations into the allegations of human rights abuses and excesses in order to restore this great nation to the standing it once enjoyed on the global stage, has prompted me to issue clarifications on several pertinent points. The overwhelmingly negative response to my appeal and the mischievous manner in which it has been misconstrued and interpreted has proven once again that freedom of expression, a widely touted virtue by those members of the presidential delegation when confronted with the cancellation of the President’s Oxford Union speech, does not exist in this country and cannot be exercised without risking personal injury and the dangerous label of traitor being foisted upon individuals holding different or dissenting views. I stand by my statement, in its full and intended form and categorically deny claims by government politicians that the statement amounts to an admission of ‘war crimes’. Since the Commander who led the troops to victory against the LTTE has been reduced to a common inmate at the Welikada Prison, I am not surprised by these attempts to brand me a traitor and I see it for what it is – further evidence of the erosion of democratic freedoms and individual rights in a country that is increasingly intolerant of diverse viewpoints. We have tolerated injustice so long that we can no longer distinguish between right and wrong.

My statement also refers to the fact that the only way to diminish the credibility of protesting groups such as the ones President Rajapaksa was confronted with on his British visit was by taking meaningful steps towards reconciliation among the communities and addressing the just claims of the minorities. The President’s trip to Britain proved that we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand as a nation any longer. We cannot allow the residual proponents of the LTTE’s policies hold sway in the capitals of the world, by refusing to address the aspirations of Tamil citizens of this country. The simplest way to cripple these elements is by taking away their favourite slogans against Sri Lanka. And the only way to achieve this is to genuinely seek out political solutions to the ethnic question.  I was a commissioned officer of the Army for 7 years (1965-1972). I have faced insurgencies. There were two attempts on my life. I was a diplomat and served as an Ambassador to 3 European countries. I love my country. Although I do not carry a label as a patriot, I will bury my bones here in Sri Lanka. In 1999, Prabakaran passed death sentence on me, when I contested as the Mayor of Colombo for the Western Province Chief Ministership. It was due to timely warning I received from an intelligence source that the attempt was foiled. Later, Minister Mulitharan (Karuna Amman) highlighted the whole plan of Prabakaran, when he entered parliament. He told me how Prabakaran pulled up Pottu Amman when he failed to carry out his orders. I extended fullest co-operation to the Government unconditionally, to eradicate terrorism. That went a long way. There are norms when dealing with the civilised world. Going in front of Embassies and shouting slogans, having Bali ceremonies or staging death fasts will not serve us. By such acts we get further isolated. The facts of life must be understood. I know perhaps better than any of my parliamentary colleagues, what it would mean to a military man to be dogged by allegations of human rights excesses. It is a blight upon our military that such accusations are gathering momentum in the world. Let us be clear about one thing: Sri Lanka is not facing this level of international pressure because we defeated the LTTE or because there exists an international conspiracy against us. Sri Lanka is being besieged at this time because our rulers have failed to adhere to accepted civilised standards of governance and as a result, we have lost the moral high ground. These are not ‘Western’ standards or ‘Eastern’ standards. There are certain universal standards that pertain particularly to the sanctity of human life and the equal treatment of all beings upon this earth. For a country like Sri Lanka, whose rulers have for centuries walked in the path of the Buddha’s teachings, the standards we set for ourselves ought to be higher than any of those prescribed to us. My statement called for introspection; with the war now behind us, the time has come for us to reflect upon the conflict, not in a militaristic, jingoistic fashion, but in a way that will bring healing to ourselves and to our nation. If the war is over, let us do away with war time rhetoric and war time labels. Let us not constantly compete for the slot of No. 1 patriot. Let us not fan nationalistic fires and breed mistrust among communities and people in a bid to win votes. My statement urged this government to seek to propagate a particular value system; one that would restore Sri Lanka’s proud democratic traditions. We resist autocratic dynastic government, as blatantly propagated by the 18th Amendment.

In the Press Conference held in London, following the cancellation of the President’s Oxford Union speech, Minister of External Affairs, Hon. Professor G.L. Peiris decried the Oxford Union’s surrender to pressure, quoting the great French philosopher Voltaire. “I disagree with everything you say, but I shall defend unto the death, your right to say it,” Prof. Peiris told journalists gathered at the event. I say to the government today, afford me the same privilege. Defend unto the death, my right to express my views. President Rajapaksa ought to have been given the right to speak at Oxford. Do not Sri Lanka’s opposition parliamentarians qualify for the same extent of those freedoms? Instead, the government sings another tune back home. Here, in Sri Lanka, dissenting opinion is dealt cruel blows, the might of the state is moved against those of us daring to disagree. What is my treachery? That I called for reconciliation? That I called for introspection? That I claimed that the erosion of our liberties should matter most to us, the people of this country? That we ourselves should seek answers? There is a statement that comes often to my mind, as I observe and bemoan the plight of my beloved country today. That great American Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King once said, that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. I am determined that I will not be silent. I will not be culpable for the fate that will befall this nation if we carry on the way we do. I choose to walk in the light, to speak the truth; today I am choosing knowledge over ignorance and justice over popularity. It is my fervent hope that others will also walk with me, so that together as Sri Lankans, we can begin our long walk to Unity And Freedom.