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Jul-25-2011 21:07printcomments

Former Sri Lanka President's Children 'Reacted With Anguish' to Tamil Genocide Program

Big changes are underway in Sri Lanka.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has been critical of her successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in Sri Lanka. AFP photo.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga has been critical of her successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in Sri Lanka. AFP photo.

(SALEM, Ore.) - In the United States there is a standing rule between presidents that they should not be publicly critical of the sitting president, and that the importance of that exceeds the public's welfare.

This is not the case in Sri Lanka, where past President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (Sinhala: චන්ද්‍රිකා බන්ඩාරනායක කුමාරතුංග), who was the 4th Executive president of Sri Lanka, has come out in strong opposition to current President Majinda Rajapaksa, considered to be the mastermind and driving force behind a Genocide carried out against Tamil citizens in Sri Lanka's northern coastal regions, culminating two years ago in the brutal, senseless deaths up possibly more than 100,000 human beings, most of whom were civilians.

A military group that has fought for the rights of Tamil people, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) or 'Tamil Tigers', was designated as a 'terrorist' organization during the George W. Bush era and that effectively halted the Tamil people's ability to politically negotiate for themselves.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga served from November 12, 1994 to November 19, 2005, and her leaving office led to the massive attempt to eliminate the Tamil culture. The Sri Lanka Times quotes her saying:

“I still agonize over this, over and over again as to whether I should have used full presidential powers or authoritarian rule to implement the proposed constitution (which had then been blocked by Parliament).”

Her speech, full of anecdotes about her tenure of office, the history of the conflict in this island nation, and the faults and weaknesses of past leaders and the ruling UPFA was made before a distinguished audience in Colombo, including judges, politicians and civil society dignitaries.

She said that if the draft constitution was promulgated and presidential rule ended, Sri Lanka may not have faced the current rejection of the international community, that prevails today. “At the time I didn’t want to do this (to be a dictator).”

The daughter of two former Prime Ministers, she said her own children had reacted with anguish to the Channel 4 TV documentary 'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields' on suspected war-time atrocities committed against the Tamils.

The former president alleges that as a result of the terrible fallout, members of ethnic minorities are leaving Sri Lanka, which badly needs economic sustainability.

Mrs Kumaratunga has been critical of her successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, at different times in the past, but The BBC's Charlie Haviland, suggests in the article, Chandrika Kumaratunga berates Sri Lankan government, that these remarks are perhaps her strongest yet.

Mrs Kumaratunga said the government was not committed to sharing power with ethnic minorities and warned that if it continued its "winner-takes-all" policy, large numbers of minority people would continue to leave the country - referring to Tamils, Burghers, as well as people of mixed descent.

She said Sri Lanka was now a "terribly divided nation" and that the state was against everyone who opposed it, whatever their ethnic group.

And she said both her adult children, who lived abroad, had telephoned her, one of them sobbing, when the British station Channel 4 broadcast a documentary purporting to show war crimes by both sides in the war.

After it her son said he was ashamed to call himself Sinhalese and Sri Lankan, she said.

The government says the documentary is a fake.

Mrs Kumaratunga's blame was not all directed at the current government.

She said that Sri Lankans should have the humility to admit they had "failed as a nation".

And she strongly criticised an act introduced by her own father as prime minister, which elevated the Sinhala language above others: she said it caused ethnic riots and contributed to the war by excluding minorities.

The former president's remarks came as local elections appeared to confirm the country's ethnic divisions, with a Tamil party victorious in the north and the president's party sweeping the board elsewhere.

During her political career, Mrs Kumaratunga was also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party through 2005. She is Sri Lanka's only female president to date.

Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

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Joe Ladislaus November 23, 2012 2:57 pm (Pacific time)

Dr S Sathananthan writing on Tamil and Elections 2010: Choice, Threats and Delusions said that “Tamils voted en masse for Chandrika Kumaratunga in the 1994 presidential election. She won handsomely and promptly abandoned the pre-election promise to ‘seek peace at any cost’ and declared henceforth her new government would “seek peace not at any cost”. She floated numerous so-called devolution proposals from mid-1995 to the draft Constitution in 2000. But each one was hamstrung by procedural requirements [just like president Rajapakse] • must be adopted by her party, should be accepted by the Parliamentary Select Committee, • has to secure two-thirds majority in parliament, win approval at a referendum, etc – all deliberately crafted to ensure the initiatives did not see the light of day. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of Sinhalese chauvinist politics and the strategic role of the Buddhist clergy would easily see through this duplicity. B. H. Farmer with extensive research experience in Sri Lanka said, “Since those saddening days of 1958 Ceylon has had its share of trouble.....The truth, though unpalatable may be to some, is simply that nobody unacceptable to the present Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism has any chance of constitutional power in contemporary Ceylon” Ceylon: A Divided Nation. B. H. Farmer (Issued under the auspices of the Institute of Race Relations, London.) London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1963. Thus CBK’s regrets; about Tamils leaving the country is crocodile tears. The wishful thinking is that all of them walk on to the Palk Straight and disappear into Tamil Nadu.

Graham July 28, 2011 7:21 am (Pacific time)

No idea if she personally did but clearly the Government (with the tacit approval of many of the majority community) has been mistreating Tamils for decades culminating in a 'genocidal' frenzy in 2009. One can hope that the Sinhalese community will somewhow shake off this collective madness and bring down this government otherwise the IC is likely to bring down Sri Lanka.

Mohan July 26, 2011 6:21 am (Pacific time)

When she was in power same thing did...Ask her to stop this kind of Drama

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