Sangakkara at Lords a case mistaken political identity

by Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne

(July 18, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I was attracted to read the speech of Kumar Sangakkara at Lords, due to two reasons. Firstly, his father is well known to me. I used to visit Lal Wijenayaka often those days, before I separated from the LSSP. This was in the early seventies. Lal was with us in our struggle against the LSSP leadership. As a new lawyer he was sharing the room of lawyer Sangakkara, father of Kumar. Visiting Lal, often I was drag into a spirited conversation by senior Sange, man with a sharp mind and radical democratic views. Though he was not involved in politics he used to make sharp observations that were politically very useful. I used to enjoy those intellectual excursions and I am grateful to him. Naturally I wanted to find out what his son has to say in a speech that has shaken many quarters. The other reason was that he had made criticism of political interference in cricket. Well, that was what I was made to believe. No doubt it was a smart speech well delivered. However I was bit shaken by some of the comments he had made in relation to politics of Lanka. I expected to him to be knowledgeable enough, not to make the usual blunders the conservatives make in relation to left politics. I was wrong; he has a very distorted understanding of left politics.

He has said in his speech “The JVP-led Communist insurgency rising out of our universities was equally horrific in the late 1980s. Shops, schools and universities were closed. People rarely stepped out of their homes in the evenings. The sight of charred bodies on the roadsides and floating corpses in the river was terrifyingly commonplace. People who defied the JVP faced dire consequences. They even urged students of all schools to walk out and march in support of their aims. I was fortunate to be at Trinity College, one of the few schools that defied their dictates. Yet I was living just below Dharmaraja College where the students who walked out of its gates were met with tear gas and I would see students running down the hill to wash their eyes out with water from our garden tap. My first cricket coach, Mr. D.H. De Silva, a wonderful human being who coached tennis and cricket to students free of charge, was shot on the tennis court by insurgents. Despite being hit in the abdomen twice, he miraculously survived when the gun held to his head jammed. Like many during and after that period, he fled overseas and started a new life in Australia.”

Knowledge of politics

If he has not classified the insurgency with anything then I would consider him to have no knowledge of politics. But he clearly said that was a communist insurgency. How on the earth he came to that conclusion I failed to understand. Because the insurgents called themselves “desha premi” meaning patriots and they were gunning down every communist, including the far left communists of the socialist equality party. The United Socialist Alliance formed by the unity of the Communist party, Lanka Sama Samaja party, New Sama Samaja party and the Mahajana party led by Vijaya was the main target of the insurgency who claimed to annihilate anybody that supported the devolution of power to Tamils. This campaign against giving any democratic rights to the Tamils was supported by all Sinhala chauvinist leaders including the present leaders of Jatika Hela Urumaya. Many well known communists were killed by the insurgents. I had a narrow escape though I was shot while participating in a socialist meeting at Kadawatha. Of course the members of the then ruling party, the UNP, who supported the 13th amendment were also not spared, not because they were UNP but as supporters of devolution of power to Tamils. Instead of calling them Sinhala chauvinist insurgents, Kumar thought it was wise to classify them as communists, may be because it looks nice and presentable at Lords, or may be it is not the done thing these days to say that the communists were fighting to defend democratic rights!

Tsunami ravaged

 However Kumar made a much better intrusion in to politics in the next part of his speech. After explaining the shock wave that went through the island after tsunami he said “We based ourselves in Polonnaruwa, just north of Dambulla, driving daily to visit tsunami-ravaged coastal towns like Trincomalee and Batticaloa, as well as southern towns like Galle and Hambantota on later visits. We visited shelter camps run by the Army and the LTTE and even some administered in partnership between them. Two bitter warring factions brought together to help people in a time of need. In each camp we saw the effects of the tragedy written upon the faces of the young and old. Vacant and empty eyes filled with a sorrow and longing for homes and loved ones and livelihoods lost to the terrible waves. Yet for us, their cricketers, they managed a smile” and Kumar continued. ... “This is the same spirit in which we play our cricket. In this, our darkest hour, a country stood together in support and love for each other, united and strong. I experienced all this and vowed to myself that never would I be tempted to abuse the privilege that these very people had given me. The honour and responsibility of representing them on the field, playing a game they loved and adored. The role the cricketers played in their personal capacities for post tsunami relief and re building was worthy of the trust the people of a nation had in them. Murali again stands out. His Seenigama project with his manager Kushil Gunasekera, which I know the MCC has supported, which included the rebuilding of over 1,000 homes, was amazing.” Yes tsunami gave us an opportunity to come together but it was lost. How? The Tsunami Agreement which was approved by the parliament was thrown out by Mahinda with the help of his adjutant Wimal using a judicial trick. Then they started digging the grave of innocent people in this country.

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