Joint Opposition maverick and Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader Udaya Gammanpila may perhaps have stunned his followers and the public in general by his latest protestations. Gammanpila is known to all and sundry as a diehard nationalist and a minority hater. At least that is the impression given to the public by his daily ravings and rantings against perceived concessions granted to the Tamil community by the government. In his book, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is bent on dividing the country at the behest of the western powers and the Tamil diaspora. To him (Gammanpila) Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran is another Prabhakaran in a politician’s garb, to whom the government is only too willing to oblige, if not surrender. The MP has already sounded dire warnings that the proposed new constitution will be a federal one, giving Tamils a large slice of the cake.
There can be no compromise with the Tamil community on any issue, is the trenchant standpoint of Gammanpila, who even has threatened to blow up an imagined Hanuma bridge, linking Tamil Nadu with the North, to save the nation from enemy invasion. To the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader, the Tamils in the North are still of the Eelam mindset and hardly a day passes without him trying to din this message into the minds of the Southern polity.
But lo and behold, Gammanpila appears to have had a change of heart, at least about one Tamil. Addressing a media briefing on Wednesday, the MP was seen practically weeping for the plight of Karuna Amman, who the CID has thought it fit to arrest and subsequently placed in remand – all for the small matter of misusing a luxury bullet proof vehicle, that had cost the state an insignificant Rs. 93 million. The Colombo district MP did not stop at that. He went onto admonish the government for what he sees as a blatant injustice – placing behind bars an individual who had renounced separatism, while releasing those still espousing division.
This mellowing of Gammanpila from his hard line position as an unrepentant nationalist, who sees a Tiger behind every bush, to a more sober, accommodating moderate, has be welcomed indeed, if only this was not yet another political gimmick of the JO firebrand to show the government in poor light, both before the Tamils and the nationalist electorate in the South.
If this indeed is the motive, his project is doomed from the outset. In the eyes of most Tamils in the North, Karuna is a renegade and traitor who sold his soul to the Sinhalese. Not only that, the Karuna faction also helped the military to defeat the LTTE and ultimately made the Tamils humiliated as a vanquished race by way of post war military parades where the accent was on majoritarian supremacy. The total rejection of Karuna was demonstrated in serial defeats, his group suffered at all elections, since he left the LTTE.
On the other side of the coin, most Sinhalese would not forget the barbaric acts of Karuna when he was LTTE commander of the East. They certainly could not erase from their minds the horrendous cold blooded massacre of 600 policemen who surrendered to the LTTE on the instructions of the then government. Nor the attack on the Jayashri Maha Bodhiya, the gruesome killing of twenty novice monks at Aranthalawa, and last, but not least, the attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa, the pinnacle of Buddhist worship.*
Gammanpila had no qualms to Mahinda Rajapaksa offering this blood thirsty mass murderer, not only a ministership in his government, but also the post of Vice President of the Sri Lanka Freedom party. Hence Gammanpila’s sentiments on behalf of Karuna Amman today is not surprising.
Be that as it may, the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader who is today waxing eloquent on the virtues of Karuna Amman and is enamoured by his transformation from a diehard separatist to an anti-Eelam crusader, has Ranil Wickremesinghe to thank for, for this metamorphosis. For, if not for the “peace talks” that Gammanpila and his fellow travellers in the JO are today reviling against, Karuna would have remained the terrorist that he was and continued to have led the LTTE in the East, putting paid to all efforts to end the war, given his (Karuna’s) reputation as a good military strategist and commanding the most committed fighters of the LTTE, over that of those in the North.
The “peace talks” took Karuna to the world capitals, as a permanent member of the LTTE delegation, giving him more than a glimpse of the bright neon lights and the real life outside a mosquito infested bunker. It did not take long for the dyed in the wool LTTEer to have a change of heart. Primer Wickremesinghe, at the time, dealt a masterstroke that would even have escaped the minds of the best military strategist, albeit unwittingly. Gammanpila, who today speaks in glowing terms of Karuna, for renouncing separatism, should at least now appreciate the contribution of Ranil Wickremesinghe that made this possible, and on the long run, towards winning the Eelam war.