Don’t use racism, religion for political gain, says JVP leader | Sunday Observer

Don’t use racism, religion for political gain, says JVP leader

Some of the Government law makers who participated in the three-day Adjournment Debate on the current security situation after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks moved by the Joint Opposition (JO) charged that the JO which was in total disarray was attempting to gain undue political mileage capitalising on the present situation.

The Government law makers stressed the need to make untiring efforts irrespective of petty political differences to defeat terrorism unleashed by some Muslim fanatical organisations such as the National Thawheed Jamaath (NTJ).

However, the JO members who joined the debate attempted to attribute the blame on the Government for not taking precautionary measures to prevent the disaster when intelligence sources had sounded an early warning of such attacks.

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam who joined the debate said the JO attempts to reap undue political advantage from the series of unfortunate incidents that took place on Easter Sunday.

He said there are about 10,000 intelligence officers and of them only 10 are reported to be in custody. Minister Kariyawasam told the House some of these intelligence officers have been taken into custody in connection with various killings such as that of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga and also for taking ransom.

The Minister queried if the intelligence sources were so strong during the tenure of the former Government how was it that the then Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa faced LTTE suicide bomb attacks near Army headquarters and Pittala junction respectively.

Three days after the terrorist attack, Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that he was going to be the Presidential candidate. We have to seriously consider such statements made at a critical juncture such as this. Some people like to impose curfew and close schools so that they can exploit the opportunity to promote their political agenda. Certain sections of the country attempt to revert the country to the situation that prevailed in 1983.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said these terrorist attacks could have definitely been averted had precautions been taken by the authorities. Dissanayake told the House that there are two groups behind these killings - the actual killers and other party who didn’t take any steps to prevent that disaster when detailed information had been provided to them on possible terrorist attacks.

He said the President must be held responsible for this. Since this Government was installed, the President and the Prime Minister have been engaged in a power struggle which in the end paved the way for this anarchic situation.

Dissanayake charged that the Muslim leaders elected to Parliament simply engaged in their business activities rather than imparting moderate politics into their community. Muslim politicians promoted racism for the sake of personal grandeur. Muslim leaders and their community have an important role to play. It is left to them to either foster or destroy this embryo of Islamist fanaticism. He called on politicians not to use racism and religion as a part of their political agenda. The President and the Prime Minister should get together without perpetuating their power struggle.

Participating in the adjournment debate on the security situation in the country, President Maithripala Sirisena said action had been taken during the past ten days to mitigate the shock of the terrorist attacks and to ensure the non-recurrence of similar incidents in the future.

The President called upon the people not to harbour any fears and added that they have already nabbed 99 per cent of the terrorists involved in the carnage. He assured the House that within three more days, the rest of the suspects would be arrested.

UPFA Parliamentarian Duminda Dissanayake said it is obvious attempts are being made to ‘pass the buck’. All 225 Parliamentarians should tender a public apology to the people of this country regretting their conduct following the terror attacks.

Since Independence, the country has been governed on a sort of ‘rotation system’ and as such a crisis situation persists to date. MP Dissanayake said Parliament should not be aware as to how the intelligence services operate and such information should not be released to social media. Otherwise, it would lead to a huge disaster similar to what happened in the past. He said immediate steps should be taken to restore the concept ‘one country, one law’ in the country.

Joining the debate, UNP Parliamentarian Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said he cannot agree with what the President said in Parliament on Tuesday. MP Fonseka said according to the President, we should not shout about the bomb explosions under his presidency because there had been bomb explosions during the times of previous Presidents.

According to him, this country had experienced a 32-year war. So the Easter Sunday carnage is something of a lesser nature. Field Marshal Fonseka was of the view that it is unjust to send the IGP home for not delivering the letter of warning to the President and it is a disrespect for the entire Police department and his uniform as well. The IGP and the Defence Secretary had informed the President. Fonseka said even the defence officials had told him that they informed the President of the danger 15 times.

UPFA MP Dr. Sarath Amunugama proposed the setting up of an All Party Government with a small Cabinet to resolve the political deadlock. He said the Prime Minister and the Government should resign. The Government should be ashamed for not taking the responsibility for the attacks. Otherwise, we will have to request the President to expel this Cabinet and appoint an All Party Government.

“This Cabinet looks like turkeys waiting for an early Christmas.” If the Government cannot fulfill its responsibility, it should quit by leaving the reins of power in the hands of capable people or else we should go for a General Election. The Government has lost the confidence of the people, he said.

Refuting criticism, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament that the proposed Counter Terrorism Bill was not a relief package for terrorists though some people tried to make it out to be. The Premier called on all parties to join hands in dealing with this terror threat and if there were any recommendations from the other parties, the Government would consider them.

Responding to several questions raised by JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the Premier told the House the current laws were inadequate to take action against Sri Lankans involved in terrorist activities overseas. He said that a lacuna in the law was one of the reasons why authorities could not arrest Sri Lankans who had returned after fighting for the Islamic State in Syria.

The Premier said the Section 3 of the Counter Terrorism Bill states, intimidating a population can be brought under that. Therefore, all those who have returned from Syria can be brought under the ambit of this Bill. He was of the view that having brought KP and provided him all the facilities is a typical relief package. The Premier stressed the need to set aside political allegiances and join hands to strengthen the legal framework to deal with terrorism.

However, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa told the House that they are against the CTA and urged the Prime Minister to appoint a Select Committee to discuss the CTA. The Prime Minister agreed to the Opposition Leader’s suggestion. Opposition Leader Rajapaksa said the whole country was not convinced about the CTA and the attitude towards it in the country is not positive.

The Opposition Leader’s appeal came after the Government came under severe criticism in Parliament by Joint Opposition MPs who alleged that it was trying to rush through the CTA in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

UPFA MP Chandima Weerakkody told the Prime Minister that it would be sufficient to incorporate amendments to the existing laws to deal with the terrorism threat and there was no need for a new Bill.

The Premier said he was not opposed to a discussion on the CTA, but insisted it did not infringe on human rights. The Premier assured the House if further laws are needed to safeguard human rights after the passage of the CTA, the Government was willing to consider that as well.

Joint Opposition MPs found fault with Government for engaging in media suppression with regard to the findings made by the security forces conducting search operations on the trail of terrorists who carried out the carnage. MPs said that the Government issued instructions and orders to the media to refrain from broadcasting footage of weapons including swords and knives discovered during countrywide search operations in the aftermath of the terror attacks.

UPFA MP Wimal Weerawansa said that Government’s move amounted to suppressing the rights of media and added that this has never happened even during the time of the LTTE war. Weerawansa warned the Government that if it tries to keep the mainstream media in the dark, then the people will begin to believe everything they see on social media.

Chief Opposition Whip Mahinda Amaraweera also endorsed Weerawansa’s stance on the matter.