After widespread condemnation from all quarters in the south following her controversial statement about the LTTE, former State Minister of Children’s Affairs Vijayakala Maheswaran was forced to resign her portfolio late last week, but all over the streets of Jaffna, posters appeared hailing her ‘sacrifice for the Tamil people.’
Nearly a decade after the end of the war and the defeat of the LTTE by Government troops, the hot button issue highlighted deep ethnic divisions and polarisation within Sri Lankan society.
Posters in Jaffna read “Selfless Politics: Then, Maheswaran sacrificed his life for the Tamil people’s peace. Now, ‘Female Tamil Leader’ Vijayakala resigns her post.”
Last Monday, addressing a public function held at the Weerasingham Hall, the State Minister said, “a six-year-old innocent child has been raped and killed. Our daughters are facing a tragic fate where they have resolved to take their own lives due to the injustices they face. What should we do about this? Is this why we elected our President? The President is only working to strengthen his party and not looking to safeguarding our people. When we consider our lives prior to May 18, 2009 today’s circumstances call for the re-emergence of the LTTE. To enforce the safety of our children and women, to see them come home safely from their schools, LTTE governance must come into operation”.
Her statement drew criticism from all corners pushing her to tender her resignation as calling for the revival of the LTTE, a banned organisation, was a breach of Article 7 of the Constitution. In a statement, the UNP was quick to clarify that Maheswaran’s sentiments were not the official position of the party. Last Friday, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed a disciplinary committee comprising Ministers Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Thalatha Athukorala, Kabeer Hashim and Ranjith Maddumabandara to conduct an inquiry into Maheswaran’s statements in Jaffna.
The committee will seek clarifications from Vijayakala Maheswaran about the comments she made, said UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam. “We haven’t summoned her yet, but she has resigned from her ministerial portfolio. There is no need to have this immediately.” Minister Kariyawasam told the Sunday Observer.
The UNP General Secretary noted that Maheswaran’s remarks about the LTTE were just as bad as the recent controversy over the senior Buddhist monk urging Gotabaya Rajapaksa to be a Hitler. “What she said was only her personal opinion, but both statements are equally bad,” he added.
Meanwhile, considering a case filed by the Organised Crimes Prevention Division (OCPD), Colombo Chief Magistrate Ranga Dassanayake ordered several electronic media organisations to hand over their edited and unedited versions of the statement to the OCPD for further investigation.
The OCPD further informed Court that the statement contravenes provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and is a clear breach of sections 115 and 120 of the Penal Code. It was further stated that since the statement was made within the Jaffna jurisdiction they will take necessary steps to report to the Jaffna Magistrate once investigations are concluded.
Meanwhile, the Chairman and the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council C.V. Wigneswaran who was also present at the function where this statement was made, had justified her statement.
Speaking to the media, the Chief Minister reportedly had said, there was nothing wrong in commenting about the prevailing state of the North and that other than the war itself there was no other hardship during the time the LTTE prevailed. Commenting on the incident Joint Opposition frontliner Vasudeva Nanayakkara in a radio interview said, the Joint Opposition’s common opinion is that “we categorically condemn the statement made by Vijayakala Maheswaran, and further action should be taken against her for making the statement transgressing the Constitution of the country”.
However, extending his personal take on the matter he went on to state that “when you take into consideration the context in which the statement was made it seems the statement was more of a reaction to the current plight in the North rather than meaning the call for the rise of the LTTE.”
“The incident she refers to is something that personally affected one of her supporters and she seemed very stressed about it.
I personally felt her statement did not carry the exact political connotation it was later construed to be,” Nanayakkara said.
When the Sunday Observer contacted the former State Minister Maheswaran, she pointed to a translation of her speech and said she was not willing to comment any further.
Despite her pleas about the drug menace and increase in violence against girls in the Northern Province, critics noted that it had been revealed by High Court Judge M.Ilancheliyan that ironically, Maheswaran had actively worked to secure the release of ‘Swiss Kumar’, the main suspect in the gang rape and murder of the school girl Sivaloganathan Vidya.