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Excerpts from article by Upul Joseph Fernando published in the Sinhala daily 'Lanakdeepa' on the 19th   September 2002
[September 27, 2002]

Chandrika’s constant refrain with regard to the Ranil Wickremasinghe Government’s peace effort has been “they are performing on the stage set up by us”. At other times she says “they’ve now become actors on the stage built by me”.

The stage was certainly built by Chandrika and she did try to act on it. When she was getting ready to do this the props she needed to play her role were robbed by various people. The thieves were not Ranil Wickremasinghe, the UNP or even the LTTE or Prabhakaran. She was robbed by her own People’s Alliance Government; her own Ministers and Members of Parliament…..” 

“Chandrika didn’t build this stage overnight; she suffered immense hardship while acquiring her political experience. Her efforts began as far back as in 1977, in the run up to the General Elections she went to Kalutara where there was a Sinhala and a sizable Muslim community, she asked them not to win elections by arousing communal feelings. Then she spoke of Sinhala and Muslim communalism. Now she speaks of Tamil and Sinhala communalism.”

She first began talking about Tamil Sinhala communalism way before Black July of 1983. When different groups were forming within the SLFP after the 1977 election defeat, she was in the anti-communal group. When Hector Kobbekaduwa a representative from her group in the SLFP contested the 1982 Presidential elections she led the campaign with her husband Vijaya on an anti-communal platform.  

Kobbekaduwa during his campaign in Jaffna promised to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act enacted by the Jayawardena Government, an Act used to subjugate all Tamil Organisations. As a result Kobbekaduwa polled more votes in the North and East than the Tamil candidate G. G Ponnambalam Jnr who also contested 1982 Presidential elections. The SLFP candidate Hector Kobbekaduwa polled 80 per cent of the votes in all districts of the North and east in a fairly free election in 1982.He won in the areas where Tamil people actually lived. It was Chandrika who played a major role in that victory.  

While Chandrika was a member of the then SLFP, and also after forming the Mahajana Pakshaya, she stood for politics without communalism. After Black July 1983, when the country was being terrorised and a war was on in the North and East she with her husband was seeking out a political solution to this problem. She went to Madras with her husband and met the leaders of the militant organisations. She also met the LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham. Her husband went to the North and met the LTTE leaders. This was the first and a historic effort In Sri Lanka’s political history made by the opposition or a party in opposition to find a solution to this problem. They worked with a sense of national responsibility and were not looking for narrow political gains. She and her husband Vijaya though battered by the JR government, supported the JR government to resolve the issue. That certainly was a new trend in the political history of this country.” 

This she expressed publicly. A speech made by her at Kurunagla in the 85-86 period was reported in ‘Dinakara’ as follows: 

           ‘The basic truth we must accept is that peace in the country is essential for the liberation of, not only the suffering masses among the Sinhala, Tamil and the Muslim community but for all Sri Lankans.’  

A speech made during that period by her at Nugegoda was reported in ‘Dinakara’ as follows: 

           ‘This war is a big headache. The Sinhala Buddhist leaders who were not there when millions of acres that belonged to Sinhala Buddhists were given over to foreigners, when Bhikkus were beaten up, when the industries of the country were fragmented and sold, are now creating an environment to prolong the war.’ 

A speech made by Chandrika at Divulapitiya was reported in ‘Dinakara’ on 16.8.1986:    

           ‘Mahajana Paksaya extends its support to resolve the ethnic issue in order to prevent human carnage and create a peaceful atmosphere. Provincial Council Councils will never divide the country.’  

When one reads the speeches, editorials and the articles published in Dinakara it is obvious that politically, she had then and now walked a tight rope. It was not an easy task for her to support the peace efforts of JR Jayawardane and the UNP Government while maintaining her anti-JR and anti-UNP policies. She took up that challenge politically and as a media administrator.’  

In 1994 she rejected Dinesh Gunewardene’s MEP despite its many overtures because of its extremist views on the solution to the ethnic crisis. Immediately after victory she initiated negotiations with the LTTE. When talks collapsed she introduced the package for a political solution. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party had vowed from 1977-93 to end the North- East war with war and refused any devolution of power until 1995. Chandrika introduced the biggest devolution package in the history after Independence, the most far reaching since the 1958 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact, In other words she detonated the Sinhala Buddhist Foundation of the party and she reversed it.’  

Thereafter she liberated Jaffna and pushed Prabhakaran into the jungle. Prior to that Prabhakaran didn’t live in the jungles on the contrary was ruling from Jaffna and dealing with the international community. After pushing Prabhakaran into the jungle and taking the package forward she went before the international community. It was she who internationalized this problem for the first time and launched on an operation of marginalizing Prabhakaran in the international community. She did that effectively. She kept the LTTE hidden in the jungle and not permit any media-man to enter the jungle. She made life bitter for the Tamils living with the LTTE in areas under their control by banning food and drugs to those areas. 

The JVP then entered the scene and totally transformed her peace character leaving her with no role to play.


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Last Updated Date: September 25, 2003 .