Peiris, then and now | Daily News

Peiris, then and now

Pohottuwa nominal leader Prof. G. L. Peiris is opposed to Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka's proposal for a general amnesty to those accused of war crimes, both from the military and the LTTE. In doing so, the former law professor has displayed yet another inconsistency as to his posture vis-a-vis the LTTE at different times. Addressing a media briefing the other day, Peiris said he would not consider the suppressing of terrorism constituted war crimes and thus was opposed lumping both the military and the LTTE, together, in this respect.

Minister Ranawaka recently spoke in favour of granting an across the board pardon for acts committed during the war by combatants on both sides, but for using the full force of the law to punish those who committed criminal acts beyond the theatre of conflict. He also called for compensation to be paid for victims of both parties and death certificates issued on behalf of missing persons and that this chapter be closed and done with once and for all. The Minister has made the proposal to the Cabinet.

This, no doubt, is a massive transformation on the part of Ranawaka which belies his earlier posture as a belligerent nationalist of the Jathika Hela Urumaya which only espoused the cause of the war heroes, calling for the release of soldiers in custody, with no compromise on the fate of the LTTE detainees.

It appears that G. L. Peiris too has undergone a metamorphosis, albeit in the reverse, vis-a-vis the LTTE. If Champika Ranawaka has shed his hard-line position on the LTTE and has now opted to let bygones be bygones Peiris, on the contrary, has changed his once benign and accommodative attitude towards the Tiger terrorists and is today adopting a combative posture and gunning for his one-time pals. We say this because Peiris who feels queasy to lump the LTTE with the security forces saw nothing wrong in breaking bread with top LTTE leaders in world capitals when he led the Government delegations for ‘peace talks’, in 2002.

The LTTE delegation comprised a virtual who's who of the terrorist outfit, starting with Anton Balasingham, S. P. Thamilchelvam, S. Pulitheevan, Karuna Amman et al. It is strange how Peiris can see any difference between this lot and the LTTE members held in prisons, which now Ranawaka wants pardoned along with members of the security forces similarly held in custody. Peiris certainly didn't mind being lumped with the LTTE leaders on that occasion. His only objection is the security forces being lumped with the LTTE, which too is a dubious claim as will be explained below.

How can Peiris, after rubbing shoulders with senior LTTE leaders now say ‘don't spare’ the rank and file and is opposed to lumping the forces with the LTTE? True, the country's armed forces can in no way be equated with a bunch of blood thirsty terrorists and thus should be treated on a more exalted level. All we question is the right of Prof. Peiris to make this charge after his dalliance with the top LTTE hierarchy. Peiris, who was then a prominent Government Minister was silent when several intelligence operatives of the military were killed after the infamous ‘Millennium City’ betrayal and kept mum when the Manirasakulam camp was exposed to LTTE heavy arms attacks, endangering the lives of the soldiers, due to certain lapses of the then Government. Peiris, perhaps, did not see any difference between the LTTE and the security forces at the time although he is now averse to speaking of the two groups in the same breath.

The former minister also did not see anything wrong when his leader Mahinda Rajapaksa accommodated Karuna Amman -who was responsible for the murder of 600 policemen, the Arantalawa massacre of novice Bikkhus and the attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa - in his Cabinet of ministers and also conferred on the latter the post of SLFP vice president. Are we to assume that Peiris did not mind himself and his Cabinet colleagues being lumped with a mass murderer the way he now sees a yawning gap between the members of security forces and the LTTE?

Minister Ranawaka's proposal is certain to find favour with those who desire a rapprochement across the ethnic divide. It certainly will be a huge step in the current reconciliation efforts and would silence the cries of international lobbies calling for the release of LTTE prisoners and also northern Tamil politicians. Ideally, the reconciliation process should commence on a clear slate with all obstacles removed.

Besides, a similar amnesty was granted to the JVP which staged two bloody uprisings, with some of its hardcore members later entering Parliament and going on to become Cabinet Ministers. The proposal, coming as it does from an individual of minister Ranawaka's background, in all likelihood would receive general acceptance across the political spectrum. Coupled with the President's decision to release more land occupied by the security forces to the civilian population, the proposal would go a long way to heal wounds and facilitate the current fence mending measures.


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