Former UNP MP Upali Amarasiri warned that proposed changes and reforms to the Constitution would spell disaster. Internationally backed moves to alter country`s unitary status to appease a group of fanatics would be catastrophic.
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe should not pin their hopes on a federal solution. `It would be a mistake and a deadly one at that,` Amarasiri told The Island in an interview on Thursday, warning that the ramifications would overwhelm the entire country. `It wouldn`t bring peace,` he asserted expressing disbelief that the UNP could not comprehend the difference between a unitary State and a united Sri Lanka. He emphasised that a united Sri Lanka wouldn`t be a one country.
Upali Amarasiri was appointed an MP in 1988 in place of his father M. S. Amarasiri who resigned his seat to contest the elections to the Southern Provincial Council and was subsequently appointed the first Chief Minister of the province. Upali Amarasiri contested the Galle District the following year and polled the highest preferences and retained his seat till 2000. `I quit active politics over disagreement with the leadership on several contentious issues,` he said adding that proposed devolution of power was one such issue.
Upali Amarasiri had served the Second Battalion of the Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI) for five years before taking up politics in 1988, at the height of the JVP insurgency.
The attorney-at-Law criticised President Chandrika Kumaratunga and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for bending backwards to appease the LTTE. Their appeasement strategy would not work, he said accusing successive governments of adopting almost asinine strategies. He commended former President D. B. Wijetunga for quite rightly identifying the north-east problem as terrorist in nature that had to be tackled accordingly. `Unfortunately Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe cannot comprehend the danger posed by the LTTE,` he said.
He expressed surprise over the recent statement made by Dr. Rohan Edirisinghe, of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and senior lecturer at the Colombo University, at the inauguration of the International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Instructor Training Course for the officers of the armed forces.
Edirisinghe, he said was batting for a federal solution. The renowned expert assured the army that proposed constitutional reforms would not be detrimental to the national interests. `His is definitely not an isolated effort,` he said expressing concerns over increasing international pressure on the government to give in to the LTTE. `I have expressed my concerns to Mr. Wickremesinghe,` he said referring to, what he termed as, a concerted effort by the international community, NGOs and influential academics to pressure Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe. He attacked ongoing efforts to reach a consensus between the SLFP/PA and UNP on the national issue on the basis of a federal solution. `This is a recipe for disaster,` he said appreciating Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse`s pledge to preserve the unitary status. He acknowledged the fact that the JVP, JHU and other nationalist forces were instrumental in securing Rajapakse`s consent to campaign on this basis.
He asserted that the situation would have been different if politicians had not bungled clandestine intelligence operations undertaken during the latter part of the PA administration. Referring to the police raid on a Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) safe house at Aturugiriya in January 2002, Amarasiri emphasised the need to take on key LTTE targets. A similar strategy was employed against the JVP, he said, claiming that Somawansa Amarasinghe was perhaps the only top leader to survive. Thirteen of his colleagues died and he too would have if not for the intervention of an interested party, he said.
The former MP justified Amarasinghe`s hotly disputed statement on disarming the armed forces if they could not perform their scared duty. `Amarasinghe is definitely right,` he asserted. He ridiculed the opposition to Amarasinghe`s statement. What he said was true. Amarasinghe simply reiterated a fact that it would be the duty of the armed forces to preserve the country`s independence and if they were powerless there was no option but to disband them. The forces chiefs who attacked Amarasinghe over his statement should have been ashamed as they very well know that their blunders facilitated the LTTE growth over a period of time. He criticised President Ranasinghe Premadasa`s handing of the LTTE, particularly the decision to demand an immediate IPKF pullout. `It was perhaps the biggest blunder and service chiefs did nothing to discourage him.`
He applauded former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe`s decision to commit troops for overseas UN missions. Overseas assignments would give troops experience and would bring valuable foreign exchange to the country, he said.