Colombo, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Interview with Udaya Gammanpila, Legal Advisor, JHU

I interviewed Udaya Gammanpila, the Legal Advisor to the Jathika Hala Urumaya (JHU) and erstwhile Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority (CEA). Udaya is now a candidate from the Colombo District for the Western Provincial Council elections to be held on 24th April 2009. I interviewed him in January, before he announced his candidature and just after the attacks on MTV and the assassination of Lasantha Wickremetunge.

This was the second time I have interviewed Udaya for public television. I find him to be forthright in his political opinion and a person able and willing to conduct civil debates on highly contested issues such as the freedom of expression, the clampdown on dissent, human rights and terrorism. Even though we share extremely different worldviews, amongst many other politicians from various political parties I have interviewed it is particularly revealing that he comes across as convincing and principled to the ordinary voter.

When asked about the deterioration of the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka and his thoughts on how we could secure dissent and restore democracy, Udaya suggested that in many other countries, the CIA and Western elements acted as third forces that attempted to destabilise governments.

Udaya also said that there was no essential disconnect in using violence to protect the non-violent way of life. He said that the State had the exclusive right to use violence to protect citizens from terrorism and that even in the time of the Buddha, it was the case that violence was used in polity and society. Being a Buddhist practitioner, Udaya said he totally agreed with the war against the LTTE.

Noting that JHU did not believe there was an ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, Udaya went on to explain his party’s 3D approach (demilitarisation, development and democratisation) in response to a question I asked him about if and how the Government would address root causes of terrorism in Sri Lanka.