Colombo, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

What happened to Karuna, really ?

Today, Karuna Amman is in the police custody of British authorities, charged with entering Britain on a forged passport. As reported in last week’s Sunday Leader, this forged passport used by Karuna had been issued under a name Kokila Gunawardana by the Department of Emigration and Immigration in Colombo. This is not a normal passport that we civilians usually use but a diplomatic one especially issued to diplomats, high-ranking government officials, heads of governments and parliamentary members and ministers etc. If under special circumstances such a passport is issued to a person not holding some important position in the hierarchy of the state, a written request from the Presidential Secretary is needed. It was with this passport with all privileges of diplomatic immunity that Karuna has landed in Heathrow airport in London on last 18 September.

How did Karuna obtain a British visa for this forged passport? It is on the strength of a Third Party Note furnished by our Foreign Ministry to the British High Commission in Colombo. In this letter the Foreign Ministry is reported to have stated that the holder of the passport called Kokila Gunawardana was going to participate in an international conference on “Climatic Changes”. Taking the details on the passport and the authenticity of the passport holder for granted, as is the normal practice of diplomatic protocol, the British High Commission in Colombo readily issued a visa for this forged passport on the 05th of September.

So, where this Kokila Gunawardana was employed? As the details given in his visa application suggest, at a Department of the Ministry of Environment that comes under the Jathika Hela Urumaya Minister, Champika Ranawaka. And, what was Kokila Gunwardana’s profession? “Director General- Wild Life Conservation”.

A reported discussion that took place in Geneva on 15 June with President Mahinda Rajapakasa and Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda by a third person called K.T. Rajasingham was crucial in the sense that it was at this discussion that they had decided to get rid of Karuna Amman. This K.T. Rajasingham is the editor-in-chief of Asian Tribune, an online news magazine. As the Sunday Leader exposure reports, in pursuance of the above discussion, K.T. Rajasingham subsequently wrote to President’s adviser Mr. Sunimal Fernando requesting him to do the needful as regards the matters decided upon in consultation with the President in Geneva. It is learnt that child soldier recruitments by Karuna, role of the Defense Ministry in protecting Karuna, changes that should be effected in the Foreign Service, setting up an effective propaganda network to combat the LTTE on international arena and a program to win over India are the matters discussed on that day.

Rajasingham has emphasized in this meeting with the President and Douglas Devananada that Karuna was an unbearable liability to the government and a spent force that had no value, politically or militarily, any more. Karuna’s second-in-command, Pilleyan was about to arrest Karuna but waiting, since he was not sure of the government’s reaction. Therefore, the best course of action as suggested by Rajasingham was to get rid of Karuna as soon as possible and seek the support of Pilleyan who is quite popular in the East. Whatever may be the case, finally, Karuna has siphoned off Rs.500 million he had amassed by way of resorting to abducting businessmen and extortion, as well as the money lavishly provided by the government for the upkeep of his cadres, according to Rajasingham.

What is a forged passport? Most probably, name and other details given on the passport might be fictitious, or the photograph attached therewith does not conform either to the person holding the passport or to the details given on the document. In this case, the photograph may have been of Karuna, I guess, for otherwise it might have posed problems very easily either at Katunayaka or at Heathrow. But Karuna’s name, as we all know, is not Kokila Gunawardana. (What a nice Sinhala name for a Tamil, by the way!). Economically marginalized desperate Sri Lankan youth, when caught in the attempt of emigrating to the developed world on a forged passport are mercilessly put in remand prison, if not convicted into imprisonment by law enforcement authorities, and ridiculed by publicizing such incidents in the media.

Now, from the first stage, that is, issuing a fictitious passport under the name Kokila Gunawardana and getting a British visa by knowingly providing wrong information to a foreign diplomatic mission, up to the last act of accompanying Karuna to the aircraft personally by no less a personage than the deputy chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, clearly testifies to the involvement of the government in this sordid affair. So, the question arises as to whether this “legal Mafia” that consists of the bigwigs whoever that may be that recommended a diplomatic passport to a pseudo personage and Champika Ranawaka as the Minister of the relevant Ministry responsible for attesting to a non existent post called “Director General- Wild Life Conservation”, is to be prosecuted forthwith. In retrospect, what seems to be somewhat ironical in this affaire is that this Jathika Hela Urumaya which was initially said to be formed to make Sri Lanka a Buddhist state is now allegedly involved not only in selling duty-free Mercedes Benz in the black market by their monk politicians but also in forging passports and human trafficking too, by their lay leaders! Remember, amending our Penal Code in the last year human trafficking was criminalized!

When Karuna broke away from the LTTE, instigated on a whim by parochialism camouflaged in championing a separate liberation for the Tamils in the East, I wrote at that time in my column called “Avaradiga Avarjana” in Ravaya newspaper, thus: “It is quite evident that Karuna plays an important role at this precise moment in the national crisis in Sri Lanka. He is neither a Douglas Devananda, sustained by the Sinhala state, nor a ‘Mahatthaya’ spirited away like a baby rat at the hand of the LTTE. But, as soon as this moment fades away, no other alternative but these two would be left for the character called Karuna”.
Let me “read” this affaire in a somewhat semiotic fashion. According to the passport used by Karuna, he is a high-ranking official in the Sri Lankan state bureaucracy. Yet, the sworn stand firmly maintained by our government all along was a point-blanc refusal of any kind of direct or indirect dealings with Karuna, in its military or political matters. It was this view that the government relentlessly maintained nationally, and before the international community. Now, the conference Karuna had intended to attend to was on “Climatic Changes”. Yes, certain drastic climatic changes in the field of political opportunism of Sri Lankan variety to the detriment of poor Karuna have been taking place for some time now, which definitely entitle him to be a true participant in that Conference of “Climatic Changes”. As stated earlier, according to the application form for the visa, his profession is “Director-General, Wild Life Conservation”. That position fits him so nicely that the immense weight of the cruel truth underlying that apt terminology crushes all sense of humor, if there is any in this farcical drama.

We all know he lived for a long period in the dense jungles of the eastern province. And then, as a person who voluntarily used a large dose of violence whilst living there makes himself to be labeled as “wild”, ferociously then and mildly now. As there is an imminent danger to the very existence even of this “reformed” wild life, due to unforeseen political “climatic changes” in the prevalent political atmosphere, “Director General of Wild Life Conservation”, who now happens to be none other than Karuna, decides to represent himself at the Conference of Climatic Changes.

There is a human mechanism in the western world where a person like Karuna can claim protection to his life, if in danger of being likely to be harmed by a third party on political or ethnic grounds, although he himself has previously harmed others’ lives. It is called the Right of Political Asylum. Once Mr. Somawansa Amarasinghe, the present Leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna enjoyed this right in the same country as Mr. Kokila Gunawardana alias Colonel Karuna Amaman happens to be today, who has reportedly applied for the same refugee status now.

I hope this facility, which is an accepted human right privilege largely sustained and afforded by the Western World would not be attacked or ridiculed by the like of Mr. Wimal Weerawansa as another ploy of the Imperial Conspiracy financed by the Catholic Church against our Sinhala Buddhist Motherland!