Sinhala nationalists squabble and split
[TamilNet, Monday, 16 October 2000, 13:15 GMT]
Sihala Urumaya, the hardline Sinhala Buddhist nationalist party, split Monday over who should represent it in the Sri Lankan Parliament. The President of the party Mr.S.L.Gunasekera told a press conference in Colombo Monday that he and seven members of the Sihala Urumaya's central committee had walked out in protest Sunday from a meeting that had been convened to select one of its senior members as the national list MP of the party. The Sihala Urumaya got only one seat in the Parliament on account of the total number of votes it polled island wide at the general elections on October 10.
Mr. Tilak Karunaratna, a former UNP MP who resigned his seat in Parliament to convene the Sihala Urumaya was appointed the party's sole seat in the national legislature at this meeting. Mr. Karunaratna's selection led to Monday's split. He is the general secretary of the party.
A member of the dissenting group of the Sihala Urumaya told Tamilnet Monday that Mr. Karunaratna's credentials as a Sinhala nationalist were quite questionable because he had had clandestine dealings with an armed separatist Tamil group in the past.
Mr.S.L Gunasekara, the President of Sihala Urumaya and a leading lawyer in Colombo, was nominated as the party's sole MP by the Commissioner of Elections as he was the chief candidate on its national list. Trouble erupted when factions in the party backing Mr.Karunaratna and Mr.Champika Ranawaka had demanded that Mr. S.L.Gunasekara should relinquish his seat and let one of them go to parliament.
Mr.Champika Ranawaka was formerly a leader of the radical Marxist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna's (JVP) university students' front.
The two factions had also insinuated that it was not proper for Mr.Gunasekara to represent the Sihala Urumaya in Parliament because he was a christian.
But Mr.Gunasekara, who has been on of the leading promoters and publicists of the Sihala Urumaya, claims that he is a committed atheist. Mr. Gunasekara is an old boy of Colombo's leading public school, St. Thomas' College and was a colleague of the slain Tamil lawyer/politician Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam.
Sihala Urumaya candidates who contested the elections in all the electoral districts of the island, including the chief conveners of the party, Mr.Tilak Karunaratna and Mr. Champika Ranawaka, were routed.
The seven officials of the Sihala Urumaya who walked out on the Sihala Urumaya are: Vice Presidents of the party; 1.Prof. A.D.V.S Indraratna 2.Major General Tilak Paranagama 3.Lt.Col. Anil Amarasekara
Deputy Secretary; 4.Prof.Piyasena Dissanayaka
Committee Members; 5.Gamini Perera 6.Dr.Mrs. Ranjani Ratnapala 7.Malinga H. Gunaratna
Mr.Malinga H. Gunaratna, one of the committee members who walked out in protest yesterday with Mr. S.L Gunasekera, is the author of the book 'For a Sovereign State' which gives a graphic first hand account of the state aided Sinhala colonisation of the southern part of the Mullaithivu district and the creation of the disputed Weli Oya military zone.
Maj.Gen.Paranagama was a respected senior commander of the Sri Lanka Army. The Sihala Urumaya attracted many from the officer corps of the SLA. The Sihala Urumaya propagates the view that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country and that other ethnic and religious groups should be subsumed under this political- cultural formation.
Sinhala Buddhism is the official ideology of the Sri Lankan army and as such many in its officer corps have been drawn by the nationalist-militarist rhetoric of the of the Sihala Urumaya.