Former Sri Lankan Minister and Colombo district candidate representing Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Champika Ranawaka, rejected the idea of federalism and attacked former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and former President, Maithripala Sirisena, for a “weak, lethargic approach” that allowed for the return of the Rajapaksas, during an interview with the Daily Mirror.
Karuna’s connection with the Rajapaksas
During the interview, Ranawaka railed against Rajapaksa family for their connections with former LTTE leader Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan (also known as Karuna Amman) and claimed that whilst the SJB “believe in the unitary state”; the same question has not been “directed at the Rajapaksa’s”.
Karuna defected from the LTTE in 2004 and is a close ally of the ruling Rajapaksa regime. He is accused of a litany of crimes including kidnappings, extortion, and executions, many of which took place with the complicity of Rajapaksa’s government after Karuna had defected from the LTTE.
Mahinda Rajapaksa has attempted to deflect attention from Karuna after the government-backed paramilitary leader boasted of killing “2,000 to 3,000 Sri Lankan Army personnel in one night at Elephant Pass” during the armed conflict.
He has said people should avoid “minor distractions” and accused the yahapalana government of attempting to divide the country and claims that in 1989 they had given “lorry loads of weapons and gunny bags full of cash to the LTTE”. He further blames the yahapalana camp for the 2002 ceasefire which is framed as ceding the “Northern and Eastern provinces” to the LTTE.
Ranawaka attacked the Rajapaksa’s stating:
“Former LTTE cadres are doing politics for the Rajapaksas. They are the forces with blood-stained hands”.
He further claimed that his party has always stood for a unitary and pushed for the military defeat of the LTTE. He claims that the Rajapaksas and the UNP “did not have any idea of crushing the LTTE militarily”.
“They were talking about a political solution to win over Tamils alienating the LTTE. We took up the position that the LTTE should be vanquished militarily. Our position prevailed finally”, Ranawaka told the interviewers.
During the final stages of the war, tens of thousands of Tamils were systematically slaughtered by the Sri Lankan armed forces which engaged in a litany of war crimes including executing civilians, shelling hospitals, and sexual violence. Ranawaka has consistently stood opposed to holding those who engaged in war crimes accountable for these atrocities.
When addressing questions on the Tamil demand for federalism, he insisted that whilst in discussions with the TNA, his party was fully opposed to federalism.
“The TNA stands for Federalism, but we don’t”, Ranawaka said.
Ranawaka claims that under the Liam Fox agreement, the main political parties accepted federalism with the SLFP only changing their position in 2005 and the UNP in 2012. He asserts that it was due to the SJB that both “Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe had to drop Federalism”.
In the previous election cycle, Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked Sajith Premadasa for his refusal to use the term “unitary state”. Rajapaksa claimed that his deliberate misleading of the Sinhalese majority would lead to the country becoming a “loose federation of virtually independent provincial units”.
Ranawaka further responded to questions of splits within the UNP by claiming that it was positive as it enabled them to distance themselves from “allegations about moves to introduce Federalism and a neo-liberal economic model, and the alienation of national assets”.
He further stated:
“After severing links with the UNP and Mr. Wickremesinghe, we were able to absolve ourselves of certain allegations which alienated voters from us”.
With respects to federalism, Ranawaka asserted that the TNA should “join hands with us to form the Government and accept portfolios as the Tamil parties in the estate sector and the Muslim parties do”. Ranawaka has consistently stood opposed to federalism and has argued for strict measures to defeat “Islamic terrorism”.
His proposals included the banning the Niqab and Burkha, immediate deportation of foreign Islamic teachers, Batticaloa university being brought under the Ministry of Education, and the scrutiny of Muslim places of worship by the state security units.
Ranawaka further attacked the Rajapaksa’s describing them as “a neo-liberal and ultra-capitalist lot”.
He further attacked the Rajapaksa’s tax policy stating:
“Within two weeks upon returning to power, they did away with certain income taxes. It resulted in the loss of a one-third of the state’s revenue. It means they don’t tax the haves […] They are driven by a capitalist agenda”.
In his interview, he alluded to the perception that Sri Lanka was suffering from an “alienation of national assets”. This is in part due to a belief held by Sinhala nationalists that foreign powers are undermining Sri Lanka’s sovereignty through economic development programmes.
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