Rathu Sahodarayas’ bleeding hearts for democracy | Daily News

Rathu Sahodarayas’ bleeding hearts for democracy

National People’s Power (NPP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) and his supporters are planning to lay siege to Colombo on June 8 to force the Government to hold Local Government (LG) Elections, in a renewed campaign to demand the LG polls that had been indefinitely put off.

The first of the protest campaigns is to be held opposite the National Elections Commission (NEC) Secretariat with the participation of all NPP LG candidates and thereafter protests are to shift to Hambantota, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. “We will lead the people in a final protest in Colombo. We are ready to bring the City under siege,” he said, addressing a meeting in Balapitiya.

Earlier at a meeting at Lipton Circus, he said they would force the Government to hold the LG polls by hook or by crook (hondin nethnam narakin) and that their battle to force the Government to hold the LG polls could not be reversed by firing tear gas or water cannons.

This is indeed rich coming from the NPP, which is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in another name - an outfit that threatened to kill the first five voters who went to the polling booths during the 1988 Provincial Council Elections and also the General Elections that followed.

In fact, the JVP under Rohana Wijeweera not only carried out the threat but also issued an edict for the coffins bearing the remains of the victims to be carried below knee level. Orders were issued to all candidates contesting LG polls to withdraw from the contest and erect a banner in front of their homes announcing the withdrawal. Those who refused were sent to meet their Maker.

Even members of the public who actively engaged in politics for the two main parties were threatened to withdraw their membership of these parties on pain of death. The JVP only wanted itself to be recognized. Others were not allowed any space.

It is this self-same outfit that now talks about protecting the democratic rights of the people, when the democratic right of an individual to hold membership of a political party was denied and those acting in defiance mercilessly killed.

UNP Chairman at that time Harsha Abeywardena and UNP General Secretary Nandalal Fernando were gunned down for holding office in a democratic political party. Members of Leftist political parties too were not spared for taking a different line to that of the JVP. Members of the Sangha who were close to President R. Premadasa and spoke against JVP terror were gunned down.

Freedom of speech is a democratic right and those now talking about restoring democratic rights should be reminded as to how they went about ‘guaranteeing’ the democratic right to hold opposing views.

The killing spree unleashed by Rathu Sahodarayas during the polls period was meant to drive fear into those who were preparing to exercise their franchise. What irony now for the JVP to be in the forefront in ensuring that the people’s franchise is not denied to them? AKD and his comrades will be able to convince the people of their good intentions if they first admit to their blood-splattered past and apologize to the people.

The Rathu Sahodarayas’ fidelity to the people’s franchise will ring hollow if they do not make a confession on how they stifled the democratic rights of the people by resorting to murder. The NPP’s propaganda Head MP Vijitha Herath is taking great pains to shed the JVP tag and go by their new avatar the NPP in a bid to erase the party’s murderous past and portray it as a truly democratic outfit. In this exercise, they have also started to meet with business leaders and captains of industries.

How many businessmen did the JVP eliminate during the 1988/89 insurrection for failing to obey orders? How many planters did the JVP eliminate in this fashion? Will AKD and Co. do a mea culpa and apologize to the business community whom they are now wooing so assiduously for taking a heavy toll of lives from among their fraternity during those dark days?

How many artistes, professionals, academics and Police personnel did the DJV gun down in cold blood for nothing more than merely doing their job? Is doing one’s job not a democratic right of the individual? Is this not in complete variance with AKD’s avowed mission to protect the democratic rights of the people?

At the same Lipton Circus rally, AKD also appealed, among others, to the members of the Armed Forces to join them to ensure the people’s democratic rights are protected. Has he forgotten how the JVP threatened to kill the family members of the Army and Police for carrying out their duties, which ultimately proved to be its undoing?

The NPP has a lot to answer before it can convince the people of its bona fides. This cannot be done by rhetoric, but by a genuine admission of its past misdeeds and a willingness to adjust itself. If not, the ghosts of the JVP’s past will come to haunt the people, which it will be unable to live down.

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