A political view of Sri Lanka's violence
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Despite Colombo's 14-hour daily curfew last week and the presence of troops and sharp-shooters on the streets, there was no visible military protection at President Junius R. Jayewardene's home.
Only a handful of plainclothes security men were in the garden of the residence in the fashionable Cinnamon Gardens area, only blocks from the riot-scarred center of town.
There was a modest brass name-plate at the entrance gate of the home where ''J. R.,'' as Sri Lankans call him, has lived since his marriage in 1938.
In a one-hour interview, the President discussed Sri Lanka's violence of the past week. Excerpts follow:
Is this Sri Lanka's most crucial period since independence?
No. The 1971 insurrection was worse than this. Then, there were attacks on police stations, on military armories. . . . A large number of police stations were taken over by the insurgents. They wanted to strike directly at the government. . . . This time, it's not yet come to that. It may. But we are attempting to forestall it by proscribing those parties that we think are responsible.
Who is behind these parties? Many of your ministers have said publicly that foreign powers are involved. Do they mean the Soviet Union?
I'm not quite sure. Many governments are associated with them. I can't point a finger at the Soviet Union alone.
But there has been speculation in the Colombo press that Soviet diplomats may be expelled. Have you thought of expelling the Soviets?
No. That would be a very serious step.
You said ''many governments.'' Is India one of them?
Definitely not. I have great confidence and trust in (Indian Prime Minister) Mrs. Gandhi.
Could the situation deteriorate to such a point that, to preserve the integrity of Sri Lanka, you might ask India for military assistance? For troops?
Not only India. During the last insurrection, troops were requested from various parts of the world. I may ask for assistance, but I don't think it will be necessary.
Who profits from this violence and unrest? Is it aimed at removing you from office?
Well, I have opponents who are trying to remove me, both democratically and antidemocratically. On the democratic side, we've had six elections since 1977. . . . However, we have within our democracy political parties which are not democratic. They are Marxist-oriented. The [Sri Lanka] Communist Party is one. The JVP [People's Liberation Front] is another. They tried to oust [then prime minister] Mrs. Bandaranaike in an insurrection in 1971. JVP members were imprisoned for life for that insurrection. I pardoned them and released them. They then tried to contest the elections. They were unsuccessful. So, they have now resorted to undemocratic means.
But by banning these parties, plus the Tamil United Liberation Front - in effect all of your parliamentary opposition - aren't you undermining democracy as well?
We have declared an emergency, yes. This has to be done on occasion. I've done this several times since 1977. In the past, it's been limited - to quell a riot for instance. Now it's become a bit broader, under the Public Security Act. We have implemented several regulations which are antidemo-cratic - the seizure of persons, of property, the banning of meetings - all under the Public Security Act. I suppose you could say that, under the Public Security Act, this is a dictatorship. But,m and this is an important point, our parliament and our courts are still functioning. Mrs. Bandaranaike had six years of running the judiciary herself. She used the judiciary to unlawfully suppress her political opponents. She passed laws without Parliament. I have not.
Are you satisfied with the way the Sri Lankan military conducted itself during the violence?
Not fully. There seems to have been some sympathy [in the military] with those [who were] against the Tamils.
Some Tamils abroad have charged that the two massacres of Tamil political prisoners at Colombo's Welikada prison were carried out by the military. That is not correct. The military has no business inside Welikada prison, and it wasn't there. It was purely prisoner against prisoner. And, I must tell you, all of those prisoners who were killed had been under military custody. At their request, we moved them to prison custody two-three weeks before they died. Sadly , they would have been far safer in military custody. . . . There is no evidence [however] that any prison officials took part in the Welikada deaths. . . .
:Where are the Tamil Tigers [guerrilla separatists] getting their weapons
Most of their weapons are stolen . . . from police stations, from raids on the armed forces. . . . The weapons they've stolen are sufficient to fight an army
. . . and their training
What training? To shoot an unarmed person you don't need training. . . . But they do have some ex-police and army personnel with them. . . . However, I don't exclude foreign financial assistance or training. . .
Will this violence be a continuing process - a period of quiet, then violence again in another month? Another Northern Ireland or Cyprus
Well, we'll have to take steps to prevent that happening here. We know that would be the pattern in Sri Lanka if we don't take the proper steps.
You have tried, during your presidency, to remove Tamil-Sinhalese differences. Yet today they appear harsher, more bitter than ever before. . . .
Quite. . . .
How does this leave you? How do you feel
It has been caused mostly by the terrorist movement in the north, the Tamil Liberation Army, and our inability to deal with them. But, the past is the past. . . . So why bother about it? What blame there is should be attached to me for not doing what should have been done, or for doing what should not have been done by a government.
By disenfranchising the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) now, are you not creating a dangerous void, eliminating a moderate voice through which you can negotiate Tamil demands?
I am not disenfranchising the Tamils. I have three in my Cabinet. This [ legislation] is not a racial bill. . . . I am disenfranchising any party that advocates separatism. Let the TULF re-form themselves into a new Tamil party if they want. But not one advocating separatism.
Your critics charge that by banning the TULF, by forcing it underground, you are only radicalizing the Tamil movement. . . .
More people are blaming me for not doing it earlier. I'm receiving fire on both sides - from those you mention and from the Sinhalese and the Tamils who are against a separate state.
But, is there not a danger that by such a large movement of populations, with so many Tamils now going north, that partition will become a fait accomplim?
There will notm be partition. Jaffna district (in the Northern Province) was nearly 100 percent Tamil before this happened - 792,000 Tamils and only 4,000 Sinhalese. We didn't agree to partition then. We won't agree to it now.
Why notm agree to the partition of Sri Lanka? Give 75 percent to the Sinhalese and 25 percent to the Tamils?Because the Sinhalese won't hear of it. The Muslims won't hear of it. The Indian Tamils won't hear of it. . . . And those who want a separate Tamil state want not just Jaffna. They want the Eastern Province as well . . . the Eastern Province where they have no support, where we hold 12 of the 14 parliamentary seats. . . . Without the Eastern Province, this new state is worthless.
How will all of this affect your new pro-capitalist economic policies?
We will not change our policies. How the world will react to it [the violence], I don't know. Come back in a month and I'll tell you our reaction.
Have any foreign countries offered support?
No. . . . We've told them what has happened. Most think it's strictly racial. When the political pattern evolves, then they'll want to help.
How do you view all of this philosophically? Do you see your dreams for Sri Lanka evaporating?
Well. . . . All human dreams evaporate.
How can this kind of hatred be overcome? How is it possible to reconcile the two communities now?
All religions have a following in this country - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam. . . . If they haven't succeeded, I doubt very much that I can.
Are you discouraged?
No, not at all, . . . but, I'm very sad. I was holding Sri Lanka up as a model. . . . But, I will not disturb its democratic setup. I will operate within it.
The replacement of a government by a military coup? This would only mean that a new phase of suffering would start after that. And I will try my utmost to prevent that. . . . People say that I'm too soft sometimes, too democratic. . . . That is the only blame I bear.
How much time will be needed to rebuild what has been destroyed during the last 10 days?
I can't measure it in time. Physically, of course, we can rebuild . . . but attitudes, friendships, minds? I cannot speak of time.