(Ceylon Today) General Secretary of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Tilvin Silva says that they are totally opposed to the Counter-Terrorism Act. “Democracy and human rights should not be sacrificed on behalf of national security.”
Following are excerpts of the interview:
An opinion has been created that there is a danger of a dictator-type military ruler coming into being due to the political instability that is building up in the country. How does the JVP see this?
A: No military administration will be built up in this country based on this incident. It need not be built up either. This is a problem that can be resolved very easily based on laws that exist for the security divisions. If it is being said that it has to be built up, that too is wrong. Based on this incident, some say that there is a threat to national security and have arrived at an opinion that a dictatorship administration should be set up. The people of our country suffered without democracy during the past. They suffered because human rights were violated. Therefore, the people need not sacrifice democracy or human rights on behalf of democracy at all.
But according to the things that are happening, it seems as if the country is being pushed towards a dictatorship administration, isn’t it?
A: Actually it is not being pushed. Some are attempting to take this country towards dictatorship with this incident. That means that those who did not have a means of coming into power have made national security number one based on this incident. They are attempting to set up a dictatorship, saying that they are the ones who can give it. People should realise that by distancing democracy, national security cannot be established.
Is there any possibility of an ISIS State being created in Sri Lanka?
A: There is absolutely no room for an ISIS State being created within Sri Lanka. There is no room for that in other countries in the world either. It is a terrorist group. They have been unable to set up their own State even in Syria. The Muslims in Sri Lanka are not the majority. The second fact is that a majority of the Muslims also object to this ISIS policy. Therefore, there is no room in this country. We have to make sure that we do not push the common Muslim community into this group, who bear extremist ideas, and take legal action against them. If we succeed in accepting them as citizens of this country, this can be very easily defeated.
Is this Counter-Terrorism Act being clearly brought in due to the requirement of the Prime Minister?
A: This Act is being brought in due to the requirement of the UNP led by the Prime Minister. They have agreed with Western forces that they will bring in this act. It was not possible to prevent this incident not because there was no Counter-Terrorism Act, but because the Government did not fulfil their responsibilities even while they had a heap of information in their possession. They should accept the responsibility and not use that incident to try and bring in such an Act of law, which is wrong.
Doesn’t the Muslim society also have a huge responsibility assigned to them to actively contribute towards defeating this?
A: Most definitely. We informed the Muslim society too, about the responsibility of creating a reformist situation within this society by changing certain conditions which create even small obstructions to living together as Sri Lankans, and to prevent such organisations being set up within their communities.
Defeating terrorism completely in a country is not an easy task. But a requirement for expedited solutions that can be given, has arisen in society. What are the most suitable solutions?
A: The first thing is that any extremism, terrorism is created with the decline in the body of socio-economics. When the Government does not fulfil the needs of the people, since that situation arises, if basic human rights are established initially and unity is promoted among people, and a government fulfils their responsibilities and unity is built up through education this can be defeated.
Do you not feel at this moment that the origin of all these bomb attacks and such incidents, is politics?
A: Yes, most clearly it is politics. Even if you consider this organisation as international, it was created because of politics. That means that the imperialists led by the United Kingdom tried to weaken the socialist camp and on the other hand to acquire countries in the Middle Eastern Zone, these extremist groups were nourished and provided with money and weapons. At the same time, based on the influence of those extremist groups while extremism was flourishing they were nourished and even salaries were paid by Sri Lanka’s capitalist political governments. It was Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government and this government. Therefore, these people are using extremism on behalf of their power. Later, they were nurtured and when destruction because of them took place, they do everything to use that disaster for their advantage as well. They should be held responsible.
There was much criticism regarding the actions of the Defence Secretary and the IGP. Why isn’t anyone taking any legal action against them because they neglected their responsibilities?
A: Actually, we do not know whether there is any room to take legal action against either the President or the Prime Minister if they neglect their responsibilities, in our legal system. We have to find out about it.
Intelligence Division reports had come to light. Reply to the simple fact whether based on such evidence, action can be taken or not?
A: Yes. The possibility is there. But then take the problem of the IGP. When the IGP was asked to resign, he was prepared to go to Courts about it.
He is on compulsory leave. He is trying to go to Courts saying that he did carry out his duties properly. The IGP sent a letter to his subordinates. Therefore, he can point out that he did do his duty. But the truth is that he did not do his task properly. When you consider either the President or the Prime Minister, they have avoided their responsibilities too. But we cannot say yet whether it is possible to take legal action against them or not. But we think it is not legal action that should be taken. They should be political actions. They committed a political offence. Therefore, if the people of this country make a decision not to give these leaders without any responsibility power to rule again, that would be the best punishment.
Do you accept the fact that pointing out that the leaders of the country have avoided seeing to national security, clearly room has been created for the international community to interfere?
A: There are a few restrictions regarding international interventions. However, if this incident did not end with these attacks and it became a racist conflict within the country and turned into an attack against Muslims, they could have used that if they wanted to intervene. The reason is we see that there is a concept in the world, they could come in under the pretext of protecting people who are facing a disaster. They could also come saying human rights had been violated. Therefore, if racism is fuelled, there is definitely danger. That can pave the way for foreign intervention. But now, this particular incident has ended. Therefore, we do not think that through that there is any international intervention.
Until this incident took place, the JVP made it clear that there was no serious Islamic extremism in the country. Now, do you accept the danger of that?
A: We never said that there was no Islamic extremism in the country. We said that every ethnicity had extremism and unity in our country cannot be established with those extremists. We tried to defeat all extremism and to build national unity. Even today, we believe that within every religion and every race, there is a small extremist group. It has been possible for that small extremist group to bring about a huge disaster due to the apathy of the general public. Therefore, all extremist groups, all extremism and opinions should be defeated. They should be defeated in organisations. If they bear arms, they should be punished by the law.
Wasn’t the JVP aware of teachings which spread extremism and religious extremism, at all? The reason is because every danger is foreseen mostly because of the JVP?
A: We did feel it. If you remember, a few months ago, Comrade Bimal Rathnayake made a speech in Parliament, about the Burqa and Muslim marriage. At that time, Muslim Parliamentarians and Ministers strongly objected. But we did not consider that and related the truth. Actually, they were not universities, but higher education institutes.
When the Sharia University in Batticaloa was being built, we expressed our ideas then too. At the same time, whenever we received information, we warned the Muslim people about the extremism that was being created. We told society too about our opinions. But the problem was that it was the Government that should have intervened more in these issues.
So, where did things go wrong?
A: The Government ignored all of these things for Muslim votes, and the support of Muslim leaders. For example, at this time, many in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s group are talking about the Sharia University. But who laid the foundation stone? Therefore, it is they who created this extremism. I remember Basil Rajapaksa saying at a function of the Muslim people, that they built two hundred and forty odd Mosques in the Eastern Province.
Therefore, they promoted them for the purpose of obtaining votes and after benefiting from the results, they avoided it. They do not accept the responsibility and at the same time if they are trying to gain power by using it, we should defeat them.
The JVP says that a strong system of law is needed. Are you not intervening actively on behalf of that because you are scared of the accusations that will be levelled against you?
A: The capitalist governments in our country have always used such problems to fish in murky waters for other purposes. Now, they have always attempted to set up laws to protect the capitalist governments and not to protect citizens. Therefore, laws were established always in favour of the Government and against the people. As a result, we should become pioneers. We have no right to contribute towards setting up laws against the people. However, using the laws that exist now, illegal activities can be prevented. They are quite adequate. If laws are not adequate, amendments can be submitted in Parliament. We have no debate about that. But what we always saw is that such incidents are used to set up laws to control situations such as these and to use against the people. We will not allow that.
We have seen a very good procedure from the JVP when preparing nominations and such activities. But the person named Ibrahim, who was accused of bombing, had been included in your National List. Did you not probe him? Where did you go wrong?
A: Actually, we have not gone wrong anywhere. When we put him on the National List, generally we did not come up with the National List with party members, from associates. Number one on the National List was Mayadunne. He was not a member of the Party. Then, when we put Ibrahim on the National List in 2015, we asked everyone, whether there is any legal action or a complaint against either Ibrahim or any of his family members. If possible, someone can tell us what if any allegations there were against him when he was added to our National List. What intelligence information there was? There was no information on him in 2015 regarding any illegal activities. There was no information regarding his children. We did not have any information, neither did the Government.
He was presented with an award for the best businessman during the then governments. We accepted him at a time like that. But at a later stage, it was apparent that his children were involved in this. Now, what we have to do is act according to what happened. How can we say that any person will turn out to be bad in the future? Someone who is good today could commit a murder tomorrow. There were people like this in our Party earlier too. For example, those who were in our Board of Party Leaders changed later. We can analyze politics and say which way politics is going, but we cannot predict the change in an individual.
Did the person named Ibrahim give you large amounts in finances?
A: Actually, no. If possible anyone can prove on what Ibrahim spent lavishly on the JVP, how much, and where.
The JVP always said that they made decisions with the country in mind.
Even though you said that decisions were made in 1994, 2003, 2005, and especially in 2015 with the people in mind, how did the people benefit?
A: There was a benefit for the people with the upheaval we brought about in 2015. That was that the Administration which was under a draconian dictatorship family was changed. Although that administration was changed, the administration that followed failed to make it into a victory of the people. They betrayed that victory. That is the truth.
Who should be held responsible?A: The President should be seriously held responsible. Then, when you consider what finally happened, the people were deprived of the victory they could have achieved. It is not our problem. What we are repeating is that, instead of these people and going to those who were rejected earlier, to reject both factions and take to the forefront a real people-friendly Administration. At the same time I repeat, the problem regarding national security which has arisen can be built up only through national unity. Let us all join together to build national unity.