| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( June 4, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, has been the target of Sri Lanka's State and pro-government media since the day the results of the Indian general election were out. They jubilantly reported Jayalalithaa losing the grip she had on the centre due to the outright victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many cartoonists in Sri Lankan newspapers also mocked Jayalalithaa. Government spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, said the non-dependence of the Modi's Government on Jayalalithaa was a victory for Sri Lanka. The government was elated when President Mahinda Rajapaksa was invited for Modi's swearing-in ceremony amidst protests of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.

The Rajapaksa Government has been criticizing the Tamil Nadu State Government led by Jayalalithaa for a long time. Tamil Nadu once protested a cartoon in a Sri Lankan newspaper that insulted Jayalalithaa personally.

To the amazement of the Rajapaksa Government, now Jayalalithaa has initiated talks to join the BJP-led Government. The Sri Lankan Government seems shocked with this news, although it tries not to show it.

JR's Government that came to power in 1977 was also distressed the same way in 1980 when the Indira Gandhi-led Congress Party was re-elected to rule India. The reason was JR's Government attacking Indira and her son as if imagining that the Congress Party may never come to power. JR's Government also attacked Indira in the same vein the present Rajapaksa Government attacked Jayalalithaa.

Relations with India

Following excerpt is from a speech delivered by then opposition MP, Anura Bandaranaike in Parliament, criticizing the foreign policy of Sri Lanka.

"Take for instance our relations with our neighbour, India. India is, historically, culturally and politically linked with Sri Lanka as no other country is. Our close proximity, not only geographically but in every sense of the word, makes India our most important neighbour. Our good relation with India is therefore vital as the cornerstone of our foreign policy. If our relations with India have in any way been damaged or in any way lessened in some form or the other then one of the principal pillars of our foreign policy would have been demolished.

Our relations with India have been built over decades and centuries carefully nurtured and cultivated, and between 1970 and 1977 we finally eliminated some of the misunderstandings that yet existed between Sri Lanka and India.

India faces a general election in less than three weeks' time, and from all reports reaching us, from international sources and particularly from India, there is no doubt that the lady whom you referred to as a cow will once again become the Prime Minister of India.

Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe: Who referred?

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: I will come to that, Sir, I have brought with me quotation after quotation of how members of your party insulted this gracious lady.

Mr. C.P.J. Seneviratne (Minister of Labour): This is the calf speaking!

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: No, you know more about it because you are the stud-bull from Mahiyangana. We are discussing a serious subject.

The Chairman: Order please! Do not interrupt.

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: Do not worry, Sir, I have come to an agreement with the back benchers.

I have with me quotation after quotation of how your speakers went on public platforms to make cheap political gains at the expense of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and hurled insults at Mrs. Indira Gandhi. I have brought with me a report in The Sun of 13 July 1977, of a speech made by His Excellency the President in support of Mr. Keerthi Abeywickrema. He says: 'What happened in India to Mrs. Indira Gandhi will happen in Sri Lanka also.'

Members: That happened.

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: What will happen in January will happen here too.

Members: No.

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: Sir, he goes on to say: 'What prevailed in India under Mrs. Gandhi was a dictatorship government riddled with corruption and malpractices. Our conditions are very much similar to the conditions that prevailed in India under Mrs. Gandhi. As the Prime Minister of the country, Mrs. Gandhi failed to solve the problems of the Indian nation. She could not tolerate her political opponents. She tried to crush them. As a prelude to that she got the duration of Parliament extended by another year in addition to its normal life span of six years. When she was criticized for her anti-democratic measures, she proclaimed a state of emergency, and arrested all critics, and banned all public meetings.'

Another statement, Sir, made by His Excellency the President, in support of my good friend, the Hon. Acting Minister of Finance. This was made in Puttalam.

Mr. Anandatissa de Alwis: Is that particular statement wrong?

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: That is completely wrong, completely false! The people of Mr. Naina Marikar. He tried to make out that certain incidents, which took place in India were due to the suppression of democratic freedoms. He said, 'Mrs. Indira Gandhi suppressed the Opposition. The people of India were courageous enough to teach her a lesson.'
He made statement after statement. The more I read the more embarrassing it will be for you.

This is the statement he made in Kandy, in support of Mr. E.L. Senanayake:

'Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and her son are ruling the country in the same manner Mrs. Indira Gandhi and her son, Sanjay, did in India. The people of India sent Mrs. Gandhi and her son home. Likewise, there is no doubt that Mrs. Bandaranaike and her son Anura too will be sent home by the people of this country.'

We did not go home, we came to Parliament!

Like this, statement after statement was made on public platform of this country trying to draw a political comparison between India and Sri Lanka, with the sole objective of gaining cheap political advantage. Furthermore, the attacks in the campaign become dirtier and dirtier as the polling date became nearer and nearer, and finally they referred to her as 'cow.'

A Member: By whom?
Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: By your speakers.
Mr. Anandatissa de Alwis: That was a reference to the symbol of the party.
Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: You know the value of punning on a word more than anybody else.
Members: Change your party symbol to cow and calf!

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: Like that, that gracious lady who ruled India was insulted and mud was slung at her. Even Morarji Desai, the former Prime Minister of India, when he came here, in that hall, maintained the dignity of his office and made no reference to the former regime of India; but his counterpart here, I am sorry to say, made use of the situation to sling mud at Mrs. Gandhi and the Member of Attanagalla."

In three weeks' time this lady will become the Prime Minister of India, whatever you may call her, and at that time you will have to eat your words – (Interruption) you will all have to eat your words! You told the people that democracy was being destroyed in India.

Today democracy is being destroyed in Pakistanby one of the most blood-thirsty maniac of Asian politics. The former President of Pakistan has been murdered; democracy is being cast under the iron heel of a dictator. You have not uttered one word about the destruction of democracy in Pakistan. But you chose to make dirty personal insinuations against the former Prime Minister of India. Your concern for democracy comes only at election time. I, therefore, wish to tell the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs that we will have to rebuild the relationship with India, piece by piece, I wish you good luck in bringing back that relationship, but I know you will fail.

You taught the people of this country to say that whatever happens in India will happen in Sri Lanka: 'Indira went; so, Sirima must go, Morarji came; J.R. must come.' You taught them to think like that (Interruption) – You have taught the people of this country to compare and now they are comparing notes.

Now, there is an article written by a fictitious character called Chanakya, who is none other than Esmond Wickremesinghe who gets his stories from different places. It is a column in the Sunday Observer; he writes the most hysterical rubbish that has even been written in the newspapers. Now, Sir, Chanakya is the pen-name under which it is written. He tried to put a construction to the situation in India by saying. 'Oh people in Sri Lanka must not compare the situation in India with Sri Lanka. That is all wrong.' Now, they have totally reversed their role, a complete somersault – to not compare what is happening in India with Sri Lanka; it will never happen here. Now, they are writing article after article talking about the great connections between the President of Sri Lanka and the Nehru family. When you called Nehru's daughter a 'cow' you did not think of the late Jawaharlal Nehru. – (Interruption) When you insulted that great daughter of Asia, you never thought of the relationship with the late Jawaharlal Nehru.

Mr. Anandatissa de Alwis: We have never called any lady a 'cow.'

Mr. Anura Bandaranaike: You called Mrs. Gandhi a 'cow' Sir, the Hon. Minister of State knows much more about ladies than I do. I do not wish to cross swords with the charming Gentleman, because his state of health is a little delicate at present. I do not wish to complicate it further in any way. Well, a few days ago we had a bad situation with the Hon. Member for Chavakachcheri (Mr. V.N. Navaratnam). I want him to be here in one piece."

Unforgettable lesson

When Indira Gandhi came back to power, she taught an unforgettable lesson to JR's Government that attacked her and her son by way of supporting separatist movements in Sri Lanka. This is how Dinakara newspaper, which was the official newspaper of opposition SLFP, warned J.R. Jayewardene's Government about consequences of Indira Gandhi coming to power in its lead story on 1 January 1980.

Braver than a man. India is for Indira. The election is on day after tomorrow

"Jayewardene's chair got heated with the election heat in India. The Jayewardene Government has panicked with the possible victory of Mrs. Indira Gandhi at the Indian general election since the leaders of the present government launched a hate campaign against Mrs. Gandhi before and after they came to power."

This is an excerpt from the lead story of Dinakara on 2 January 1980.

Today India. Tomorrow Sri Lanka

"Almost all the leaders of Congress Party have won. Only C.M. Stephen that contested for New Delhi electorate has lost so far among the Congress leaders. Former Foreign Minister of Janata Party, A.B. Vajpayee, defeated him with a majority of 4,000 votes. Vajpayee gained over 70,000 majority votes at the 1977 election."

Here is the lead news of Dinakara on 8 January 1980:

"At the character assassination case against Indira that was initiated by the backward old Brahmins led by Moraji Desai, all the other newspapers of Sri Lanka slang mud at her with the blessing of Sri Lanka Government. Due to the duty we performed through educating our readers about the injustice of the anti-Indira politics, as a people's newspaper of Sri Lanka, we have a right to celebrate Mrs. Gandhi's victory. Since her defeat at the 1977 general election, the Moraji Desai Government followed a mean policy against her, which exceeded the boundaries of the civilized behaviour against the political opponents in a democracy. Moraji Desai, who acted like a dictator who had got mad with the craze to take revenge, unleashed the dogs of suppression against Indira and her son. While State newspapers and radio under Jayewardene regime provided media backing to the anti-Indira campaign of Moraji Desai, the UNP hierarchy launched a defamatory campaign against Indira. Defeating all these sufferings, insults and reprisals, the vote cast by the Indian people for Indira is a slap on the face of not only the Indian old Brahmins like Moraji, Charan and Jagjeewan but also the local backward old men too."

Following is Dinakara editorial on 11 January 1980.

"The defeat of the Janata Party Government of India is a suspended death warrant to the UNP. Today, India is an evil force against Sri Lanka. The mud commission that was appointed to hang Mrs. Indira Gandhi has itself been hanged. The Government of Muthraji (Muthra means urine) Desai Government has committed suicide. The old Brahmins of Janata Party Government have committed suicide after misleading the entire country towards a mirage of holy state of Ram with the help for the blind by the US."

The political review of Dinakara on 11 January 1980 was as follows:

Indian Government's Operation Sri Lanka

As the Opposition of Sri Lanka pointed out, the folly of the J.R. Jayewardene Government has led the country towards a massive destruction. The separatists of Sri Lanka gained maximum benefit from Indira-JR conflict by baptizing Indira Gandhi as their God Mother.

God Mother of Tamil Diaspora

Today, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is the God Mother of Tamil Diaspora. As same as TULF Leader, A. Amirthalingam, went to meet Indira Gandhi to carry tales against Sri Lanka, today the TNA is planning to meet Jayalalithaa to carry tales against the Mahinda regime.

But Jayalalithaa's stance on Sri Lanka was extremely anti-LTTE when Ranil Wickremesinghe was in power in 2002. As Ranil's Government was negotiating with the LTTE, she wrote to Prime Minister Vajpayee complaining that the discussions might strengthen the Tamil Tigers and it would be a threat to the security of Tamil Nadu. She wrote in her letter, "The LTTE has always found some pretext to revert to its patented brand of ugly terrorism after quite a phase of peace negotiations."

She also met Ranil's opponent, President Chandrika, in Tamil Nadu and criticized the peace process severely, putting Ranil's Government in hot water. Following is the media report of her statement.

Sri Lanka President meets Jayalalithaa

Chennai, 7 April (IANS): Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga arrived here Monday on a 'working visit' to India and held talks with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa about Tamil Tiger guerrillas, their common foe.

Kumaratunga, who narrowly escaped an assassination attempt three years ago blamed the rebels, and Jayalalithaa, who steadfastly opposes the Tigers, met shortly after the Sri Lankan leader flew into this Tamil Nadu capital.

Kumaratunga and Jayalalithaa are two of the three women the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) hates most – the third being Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by the LTTE in 1991.

Kumaratunga, who arrives in the capital later Monday to brief Indian leaders about the progress of the peace talks between Colombo and the LTTE, is scheduled to meet Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.
Diplomatic sources said details of the discussions between Kumaratunga and Jayalalithaa were not know, but the LTTE and the progress of the peace process to end the island's protracted ethnic war reportedly figured in the talks.

Jayalalithaa and a host of senior ministers in her government welcomed Kumaratunga on her arrival at the international airport here.

Lakshman Kadirgamar, a former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister and the Principal Adviser to Kumaratunga on International Affairs, is accompanying the Sri Lankan leader, who is known to be wary of the Tamil Tigers.

Sri Lankan politicians, including those close to Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, have lauded Jayalalithaa for taking a firm stand against the LTTE and denying it sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.

The LTTE and other Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups once had military training camps in Tamil Nadu, a sprawling state divided from Sri Lanka by a narrow strip of sea.The island's minority Tamils have close linguistic and cultural affinity with the people of the southern Indian state.

Kumaratunga, who heads an uneasy cohabitation government of Wickremesinghe, has often criticized the latter for allegedly giving in too much to the LTTE.

Although Jayalalithaa acted in a way to put Ranil's Government in trouble, he did not retaliate against her. He met Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu and made her aware of the peace process, wiping out her fears.

This is a good lesson for the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, which is attacking Jayalalithaa. The country may suffer the pains of a clash between Mahinda and Jayalalithaa, as same as the country experienced the ill effects of JR-Indira clash.


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