Former MP and High Commissioner to India and UK Mangala Moonasinghe testified today at the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. His testimony largely focused on the cost of confrontational politics with a special criticism of the UNP. He cited the UNP’s disenfranchisement of up-country Tamils after Independence, their protests against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact (stepping back the formers Sinhala only policy) and the 1983 riots (which he called political riots) as causes of the conflict. He called the 83 riot “an irresponsible riot by a political group.”
He was also critical of the current government spokesmen, saying, “Spokespersons who speak for government in criticism of international and UN agencies must speak with maturity and prudence keeping in mind overall national interest.”
As an example of good relations, he cited Mrs. Bandaranaike’s relationships with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He neglected to mention, however, Mrs. Gandhi’s support for the nascent LTTE.
Moonasinghe said that the Ceasefire Agreement was a non-starter as it lacked a means of enforcement and since both sides broke confidence constantly. He did not frame the war as an ethnic conflict or even a terrorist one instead saying it was political.
“If you look at the beginning, we were all united. We worked together,” he said. “After Independence our leaders were motivated by greed. They wanted power and whatever happened to the country they wanted to beat the opposition. We were politically immature. Both parties have done it. They are still going on. Terrorism came later.”
“The leadership of two major parties got greedy,” he continued in questioning. “They wanted to dominate against each other. That greed made them in their political immaturity. After the election in north, youth became tired of it, then came Prabhakaran who wiped all of them, including political parties and other terrorist groups. if that first election for the district council was held in a democratic way, the youth would not have done that. Now that has changed.”
He cited the breakdown of political activity, particularly Sinhalese thugs (including monks) assaulting a peaceful protest by Tamil MPs on the Galle Face Green, as the cause of Tamil youth taking up arms.
In conclusion he said that one vital lesson to learn is that political parties should avoid confrontational politics and unite on national issues.