Seeing all the posters asserting that ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen was murdered, I was struck by the similarity to the allegations made when Chandrika Kumaratunga was President regarding Batalanda. The Sunday Leader in December 2001, soon after the UNP won the election she had called, wrote:
‘The legacy of evil that Kumaratunga has left behind is so rich that she is driven to defend her turf with all the tenacity she can muster. This is in part the genesis of her evil rhetoric in recent days, with talk of murders, plots and killing’.
The Sunday Times had the same idea about President Kumaratunga, and highlighted three occasions on which she came out with very harsh allegations about her then great enemy, Ranil Wickremesinghe. In August 2010 it noted that ‘Even those with short memories will recall that it was only a few weeks prior to the presidential election in December 1999 that the Batalanda Commission report was released to the media’.
That report was very hard on Ranil Wickremesinghe, but President Kumaratunga did nothing about it. This may of course have been because of the terrible injuries she suffered at Tiger hands just before the election. But by the time of the parliamentary election in October 2000, she was ready to resume the charge. In August of that year the Times reported the return of Douglas Peiris who had given evidence against Ranil as follows – ‘The ‘arrest’ of Peiris will surely be a prelude to major onslaught on Ranil Wickremesinghe linking him to the alleged atrocities committed at the so-called torture chamber in Batalanda.
The language is interesting. I have no idea whether Ranil was responsible in any way for what happened at Batalanda and would prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt, knowing how readily Chandrika jumped to conclusions and then found evidence to support her prejudices. One has only to remember her claim that it was the UNP that killed Vijaya Kumaratunga, which paved the way for her to enter into an alliance with the JVP, an alliance that now seems to have been renewed, though the common enemy now is the SLFP rather than the UNP. But even assuming as I would like to do that Ranil was not guilty of the atrocities at Batalanda, there is no doubt that atrocities did occur there, the death of Wijeyadasa Liyanaarachchi being only the most prominent amongst many horrors.
Chandrika had won the Presidential election in 1999 and then won the Parliamentary election in 2000. 2001 however was a disaster, and several members of her party abandoned her that year which precipitated another election which the UNP won. I voted for them then, but before long it was clear that Ranil had no idea how to control the Tigers, and rather concerned himself with busily dismantling the State.
It was understandable then that Chandrika, who had been persecuted in defeat (Ravi Karunanayake and her handbag being amongst the more entertaining episodes of her solitary struggle against the UNP cabinet) returned to the fray at the end of 2003. Ranil refused to compromise, assuming that he and the then LTTE dominated TULF would get more seats than the SLFP and its allies.
He was wrong, and Chandrika established her own government again in April 2004. Needless to say, Batalanda was trotted out again for that campaign. The Times reported in March that year that she had announced ‘if the Batalanda Commission recommendations related to the 1988-90 period were implemented properly, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would not have been a free man today. President Kumaratunga addressing women’s organization representatives at the President’s House in Kandy said that in future, action would be taken to implement the law properly and corrupt persons, including 18 cabinet ministers, facing charges before the Bribery Commission would be firmly dealt with’.
Typically, nothing was done after the election. Chandrika works hard in adversity but, as I told her last November, if she succeeds she then relaxes. The 18 ministers did not face any charges, though perhaps she will now trot out allegations against those who are back with the SLFP.
On balance I suspect the Leader was right, and it is Chandrika who is behind the campaign to call her present hate figure a murderer. That was not Ranil’s style in the past. But people change, and succumb to the examples of politicians who seem to have succeeded through low tactics. So even the Times claimed that Chandrika’s persecution of Ranil happened because ‘she must have learnt her lessons locally. After all, she was witness to JR stripping her mother of her civic rights over some alleged land transaction and then saw the same JR accuse her husband of being a ‘Naxalite’ and then having him imprisoned. Now it appears that President Kumaratunga learnt the moral of the story well: ‘all is fair in not only love and war but in politics as well’.
Ironically the abuse of power JR engaged in to destroy the SLFP is now being used by both Ranil and Chandrika to try to destroy the SLFP again.