Politics & Society by Prasad Gunewardene
Hailing from the Southern city of Matara, I recognize and hail the Tamil Race as a proud and respectable community. Having studied at the school by the sea in Mt. Lavinia with many Tamil classmates like R. Renganathan, Rajaseelan Gnanam, late Frankin R. Sathyapalan, late Kula Indrakumar, Rohan Mather, Rohan Nagarajah and P. Manotharan to name a few, we knew no racial differences from our childhood as we were together like brothers of one family, and still we are. I continue to associate more Tamil friends than those of my own community for the deep respect, trust, confidence and love I have for the Tamil community.
Many extreme minded Sinhalese opposed my views when I expressed sincere sentiments on behalf of the Tamil community which came under attack in July 1983. My journalistic colleague D.B.S. Jeyaraj now living in Canada would recall the number of visits I made to the refugee camp on a daily basis at the Ratmalana Airport with my other colleague late Ajith Samaranayake to attend to the needs of the innocent Tamil people housed there.
During the war period I visited Jaffna many times. On my return I would meet my late uncle, film doyen Gamini Fonseka to brief him on the pathetic plight of the people in Jaffna. There was no wall without a bullet mark while many houses were partly or fully damaged by shells. My heart bled when I visited Nirmala (daughter of the famous Sebastian Book Shop owner) at the Jaffna Hospital during the IPKF time. Her hands and legs were fractured due to shelling while her parents and the sister had been killed by that shell. At the time she spoke to me in pain, she did not know about the fate of her parents and sister. The book shop too was destroyed by shelling. Space here does not warrant more heartbreaking lines to recall that tearful past of my Tamil brothers and sisters.
Gamini Fonseka and I very closely associated the Tamil community. Gamini always upheld that it was the Tamils who created a Sinhala film industry for him to reach the peak. He cursed the Sinhala hooligans who burnt the Vijaya Studio, Wattala in July 1983 and the Sinhala extremists who gunned down renowned film producer K. Gunaratnam in 1988 who helped many Sinhalese people. These hooligans even burnt the business premises of late A.Y.S. Gnanam at Armour Street, Kotahena where more Sinhalese were employed by Gnanam. I felt ashamed to talk to my classmate Rajaseelan after that dastardly act committed by the people of my community. Even the Maharaja Organization that employed more Sinhalese was not spared by the Sinhala hooligans who went on rampage attacking the Tamils.
In that ugly backdrop began the war in Jaffna. The three decade old war vulgarized the once peaceful peninsula which produced great scholars, educationists, professionals, respected politicians and renowned medical specialists who served this country with commitment and dedication. For the first time in the annals of the North, rape of women became a common feature during that dark period. As it happened in the South after experiencing two insurrections, dirty politicians began to emerge in the North during the war period to destroy the decent culture of the people. The war ended in 2009. The derogatory acts have surfaced again as perpetrators are backed by dirty politicians who emerged during that dark period. As in the South, these dirty politicians and some ‘half – baked’ professionals who aspire to enter politics believe that they should have the support of rapists and criminals to win elections. The brutal rape and murder of 17-year-old student, Vithya Sivaloganathan is ample evidence of the criminal culture that prevails in the North today. Many such rape cases may have gone unnoticed in the past due to dirty politics that prevail in the North. When such crimes are committed on innocent helpless victims, the caste conscious affluent and the powerful in the North tend to turn a blind eye.
When I read the news of young Vithya being brutally gang raped and murdered, I was shocked at the manner the crime had been committed on her. Vithya was an innocent student, daughter and a sister of my country. She looked a promising product who could have served this country had she lived her full life. The developments following her brutal rape and murder do not rule out the possibility of the suspects having political links. The main suspect Mahalingam Sivakumar is reported to be a relative of Dr. V.T. Tamilmaran, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Colombo University. Dr.Tamilmaran has had his early education in Pungudutivu, where Vithya was living until her gruesome murder. He has expressed his desire to enter politics. Following the brutal murder of Vithya, Dr. Tamilmaran visited Pungudutivu to assess the situation as claimed by him. The main suspect Mahalingam was set free by the Police and was later captured at Wellawatte after a massive public protest in the North.
Several websites carried photographs of Mahalingam with Dr. Tamilmaran taken in the past. Those also carried photographs of Mahalingam with EPDP leader, Douglas Devananda, V. Anandasangaree, S. Sidarthan and a former Head of State. If those photographs are authentic, it proves beyond reasonable doubt that Mahalingam wielded political influence to commit heinous crimes. His spontaneous release after arrest also raises doubts about the conduct of the Police. The Inspector General of Police should take firm action against those Police officers who released Mahalingam. A crime is a crime when it’s committed within the territory of this country and the race of a victim has nothing to do with crimes. Vithya’s rape and murder was followed by two more rapes of two girls aged seven and thirteen. Once a peaceful Jaffna turned a city of terror for three decades and it now appears to be a city of crimes. As a citizen hailing from the South, my heart still bleeds for Vithya. She was a victim of Politics of Rape and Disgrace.