Q: When you were in Sri Lanka recently and returning to Australia you were subjected to a long session of questioning by the police at the airport. Could you elaborate?
I also saw that news media had given a prominent coverage to the incident that had caused severe embarrassment to me and my children. This was a clear case of human rights violation. Up to now I don’t know on what legal basis was I or my children questioned by the police. The officers themselves told me that there was no legal problem facing me. Then who is responsible for the severe embarrassment caused to me and my children? Their questioning continuously was about my past political record, my private life and my husband’s political role. There were questions on the public struggle campaign and we had to discuss the violation of human rights but it was very clear the questioning session was a rehearsed sequence of a political drama. Though we had planned to stay in Sri Lanka for a month, we had to shorten our stay for a fortnight. That was due to various embarrassing problems caused to me, my children and my kinsfolk at the instance of the authorities. We were followed wherever we went and we had to make a complaint to the authorities citing the instances with the registration numbers of the vehicles in question. We collected money for a year to spend some time with our parents but it could not be done.
But I think that some others who hold independent political views are being abducted without any legal reason for such acts and our problem looked less severe to me.
Q: When the authorities questioned you, didn’t you tell them untruths, why?
I have no legal basis to speak untruths to the authorities, media or even to you. But when I looked at news and views in certain media reportage, I found half truths, untruths and total fabrications in different proportions. I don’t know from what media reports you had accessed that you base this question or even from the CID. As I found that while we were detained at the airport and were being questioned certain media organisations were reporting it. This is a clear example of the ‘transparency’ of the police department and as I said in answer to your first question that fact that we were detained for 18 hours shows it was a clear case of political agenda.
Q: Is Premkumar Gunaratnam also known as Dayalal?
In the questioning by the police they came up with that name and a large number of other names but the questioning was meant to confuse.
Q: What is your connection with the JVP?
We like to hear about your past experience with the JVP.
I have a very longstanding connection with the JVP. When I was a student of the Medical Faculty at Peradeniya University way back in 1985, I became an activist of the student movement. The JVP was banned at that time by a completely non-democratic, unconstitutional government. The leader of the government who had continued to remain in power on constitutional coup bestowing executive power and prolonging the term of the Parliament by an additional six years was suppressing all political opposition and banning the JVP that was engaged only in democratic politics. It was the UNP that began the suppression of students using violence. It was a time when students who held progressive views were attracted to students movements very fast and I worked as a full time activist in protecting the human rights of students. Especially noted at the time were involuntary disappearances of students, torture and suppression and we had to play a role in educating the public, politicians and human rights organisations about the fate of our students, take legal action under that UNP regime.
Although that student movement was marked with various positive and negative aspects ending in a blood stained past, there was no broad dialogue about it in Sri Lankan society it from then to now. It should happen even now as Sri Lanka has faced three instances of bloodletting experiences in the past. As our society cannot be subjected to another bloody experience like that I am prepared to make any sacrifice to achieve that objective as it is very clear that the present government too is trying to emulate the 17 year misrule of the UNP to prolong power using various tactics suppression.
Among the small number of students whose lives were not snatched away by that oppressive government I also happened to be one that escaped death. Therefore we were able in 1994 to retain the identity of the JVP as we were able to see the end of the17 year UNP misrule and the baton taken over by other runners and to come into the democratic mainstream of politics. At that time as a person trying to qualify in medicine and for Gunaratnam there was no alternative. Discarding the memories of violent suppression and doubt I with the guidance of comrade Senadheera led our group of candidates in the Kurunegala District and from then onwards I am taking part in all important activities of the JVP that has ended in the ideological differences in the party.
Q: What is the connection you have with Premakumar Gunaratnam?
I began to associate with him politically after the oppression of the JVP in 1988-89 especially in trying to establish contacts with the handful of our comrades who were still lucky to be alive in various parts of the country in our effort to reorganise the party. We also held similar views about the ideological erosion in the party especially in coalition politics during 2004 and about the presidential election of 2010. And we also held similar views about the struggle against the ethical decline of the party leadership.
Q: Why has Premkumar gone into hiding? Why is he living an underground life? What is the problem that he has that other JVP leaders do not have?
Your question that he has gone into hiding means he is not addressing public rallies! He is not a person whose political activity is confined to making public speeches of statements and has not contested parliamentary elections. As I know his entire political career is based on meeting people working with members of the party and almost living in the party office. I believe there is no member of the party or party activist who does not know him. And I believe the question that he is hiding or has gone underground is absurd.
Any person has the right to engage in democratic politics in the way he sees fit. How it is done could be decided by the individual as it is a human right. My problem is what question he faces that others don’t face. It puzzles me to think about the objectives of the reformist JVP leaders who had betrayed him and revealed details about him. Now they have conveniently placed the burden of the mistakes of 1988-89 on him and this propaganda is being propagated by the state media and certain private media with their own political agendas.
As far as I am aware the present President and some other members of the government were engaged in activities against the oppression by the regime in power at the time. The necessity of recalling the oppressive violence unleashed by the regime in power 25 years back has to be interpreted in consonance with the number of reputed leaders and activists of our party who had sacrificed their lives for a cause then. If the reformist JVP leaders view those sacrifices as faults they should not wave their hands to the commemorators of the heroes of the month of (November) from the tops of the stage of those rallies. So the question faced by Gunaratnam that the other JVP members don’t have should be explained by the malicious propaganda leaders.
Q: Your children go to schools attended by the children of the elites. You are living in Australia with citizenship there. How do you reconcile this position with the proletarian politics you profess?
The entire basis of your question is without truth. My children attend schools attended by the ordinary Australian nationals and they don’t receive any special education but the same as other ordinary Australian children and the question about my citizenship as a skilled worker there does not bestow any special privilege on our family. Therefore there is absolutely no contradiction between our standard of living and the proletarian politics I am pursuing and even if I wish for a higher standard of living my income level does not permit it. For any person who professing proletarian politics the main factor is ideological propriety, and living in accordance with that conviction but a question would arise if one is engaged in such politics for personal profit living an unethical life.
Q: How did you migrate to Australia?
In the normal process of migration. As I was given the assistance of my kinsfolk and as I had the employment skills needed we did not face any problem.
Q: When the JVP had coalesced with the government Premakumar could have easily come out before the public?
As I said earlier Premakumar had no such necessity and what should be his role in politics is not decided by him but by the party. And I am sure he was not in such a weak state to need assistance of the government.
Q: What do you have to say about Somawansa Amarasinghe who is officially responsible for Premakumar’s role in the JVP?
I am not too certain how I could make a comment about Amarasinghe as he has continued to deny there is a JVP activist called Premakumar. I have neither read nor heard any definite criticism yet but I am aware that he is in possession of a large number of fax messages and documents sent in by Premakumar.
Q: It has been said that Premakumar is a puppet in the hands of foreign intelligence agencies. Your comment?
While the truth was tying it shoe laces, a lie will travel round the world thrice and my short and clear reply to that question is a definite ‘No’. Such allegations were made even against comrade Rohana Wijeweera and during 1989-90 period even Somawansa Amarasinghe faced such allegations. But all rejected such allegations with the utter contempt they deserved. I don’t have to elaborate much more about this allegation but the matter to be regretted is the degradation of those who slander him for his ethnic origins of being a Tamil after he had been engaged in non-racist politics for three decades. It is very clear that the government has fallen into a serious crisis and to hide it to the public it has now resorted to malicious propaganda in the presence of the JVP’s anti-imperialist political stance. The public of Sri Lanka cannot be deceived by false propaganda and they cannot be led by pseudo-opposition to the West. Therefore it is very clear that the Sri Lankan nation would reject all attempts to foist a racist policy on them a road map drawn up with unity among all groups will be seen before us sooner than later.
by Chamara Lakshan Kumara, Saturday, 14 January