Nicky Karunarathna, who is a Research Scientist, now resident in Melbourne, Australia sent me a feedback (in response to 'Vivian Gave Beans' article) with some fascinating occurrences concerning the LSSP while he was completely attached, involved and a contributor to the Party. I followed it up in a subsequent column, with an explanation stating that 'many affluent professionals with numerous experiences in their life are now living abroad (some in their retirement) and show their willingness to share their personal experiences impacted on matters closer to home'. Indeed, judging by the feedbacks I receive, it is evident that such information has brought back memories of the past to many 'seniors' who are still alive!
To be fair and objective, I directed Faqi Husain's enquiry to Nicky Karunarathna for his comments. Nicky had this to say:
"Some unknowns will become inquisitive and be upset when the unrevealed past of political parties get exposed. We cannot satisfy every Tom, Dick and Harry or Harriet (Harriet for gender balancing)! So if we carry on regardless giving the truth and absolute truth and nothing but the truth in our endeavour, especially at this juncture where our country is facing enormous challenges locally and internationally, and how these problems developed to such proportions (including third resolution in UNHRC) and big global powers taking such an interest in a small country like Sri Lanka, we have to give a correct assessment of events that led to our present predicament as a country. So best is to ignore for the time being, as more sensational revelations are still in the pipeline for them to digest"!
As a long standing party member and the Chief Organiser for the LSSP, Borella electorate once, Nicky Karunarathna is more determined to reveal his past experiences endorsing the dictum: 'Comment is free, but facts are sacred'. Thus he continues as follows:
"When J.R. Jayewardene contested the Presidential election for his second term, Colvin came forward as a 'Red' candidate while Kobbekaduwa was nominated from the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party). The second Presidential election was enfolded with tremendous enthusiasm as J.R. Jayewardene got himself elected as the Executive President of Sri Lanka, after serving as the Prime Minister in the first instance".
Nicky presided over all election meetings in Colombo where Colvin made an extra effort to participate, especially in the Borella electorate. He says, even Vijaya Kumaratunga and members of the Communist party too were present at such meetings intermittently.
"Colvin used to visit my residence at Havelock Town in the evenings to pick me up before proceeding for election meetings". It had been sort of a ritual where 'two socialists' were seen occupying the rear seat of a chauffeur driven limousine in full comfort! He continues, "The days Colvin could not make it to my place, he made sure that I went to his Colpetty residence where both of us proceeded together for meetings and returned home very late at night, mostly after midnight".
Recapturing a peculiar predicament, he describes how he was seated close to Colvin's office room once when a party supporter (businessman) arrived with a bundle of money rapped in a newspaper.
"From where I was seated, through a small gap in the curtain, I could see him parked himself on his desk and counting that money very miserly like his own - each note at a time, taking a long time! He, (Colvin) was a strange man when it came to money matters. If that money was given for his election campaign then why was he counting it so avariciously over such a long period of time? He should have given to his secretary as campaign funds? Then only I realised his insatiable appetite for money"!
"When the Presidential campaign was in full swing we had a busy schedule. Once at Gampaha District, when so many party supporters arrived in a convoy of cars, lunch had been arranged at Narada Jayakody's residence, so all the cars came to a temporary halt at the 'Wallawa' where over 30-50 comrades sat at a massive dining table to have lunch with Colvin".
It had been a sumptuous lunch with many dishes. Astonishingly, as soon as Colvin sat at the table he had blurted, 'I can't eat rice and I will eat only chicken because if I eat rice in the afternoon I become sleepy and won't be able to address any meetings'! So, he had pulled the vast dish of chicken curry towards him and started gobbling down without caring for any other or sharing with his comrades!
"But I am a character who does not approve of mean-spirited behaviour," says Nicky. "So, I too followed suit and pronounced that I was also suffering from the same disease, my sole intention being to get through to him that among the comrades assembled there, not all were stupid suckers! It was a gathering which consisted of distinguished lawyers and many professionals, yet they all appeared to be timid and allowed to be dictated and bullied by such ridiculous and irrational tactics."
"On a public holiday, during this Presidential election race, a senior police officer friend, Kotakadeniya, visited my residence and after a usual chit chat he invited me for a drink at the Senior Police Officers' mess, but I suggested Otter's Club instead, where I had my life membership".
"As we entered the clubhouse, whom did we bump into? A.J. Ranasinghe (Director General of the Tower Hall at the time and right hand man of R. Premadasa) in the company of Punchi Banda Dissanayake (entrepreneur from Anuradhapura) enjoying a drink".
"The moment they set eyes on us, Punchi Banda came running towards us and invited us to join them. I whispered in my police friend's ear that A. J. Ranasinghe was a devious character, as such, we should change the venue. But he insisted that we stay put, so the drinking session commenced at 11.30 am and went on until 4.30 pm with discussions focused on nothing but politics in our intoxicated moods - especially on the Presidential election".
"Immediately afterwards AJR hurried to Temple Trees and repeated everything that transpired at Otter's Club which made Prime Minister R. Premadasa to summon the Director of CID, Amarasena Rajapaksa immediately and order him to obtain details from AJR about the conversation and manipulate a Naxalite coup coining various names together".
According to Nicky Karunarathna, "The Prime Minister had no idea about the Naxalite business, but J R. Jayewardene congealed the idea to make the story more palpable and palatable for a serious case! In the meanwhile, Mr. Premadasa sent a message requesting me to join the UNP stating that he would welcome me on stage at a Hultsdorf meeting (accompanied by his bodyguard S.P. Jayantha Wickremaratna - later became IGP), which I flatly refused".
Having tried his best twice and realising that Nicky Karunarathna was a tough nut to crack, Mr. Premadasa's next move had been to make Nicky a witness and to make him give evidence at the Naxalite case, in favour of the JRJ Government, which he says, "I completely ignored", and the result was that I was called to the fourth floor of the CID, interviewed by SP Lal Mendis for six long hours and taken down my statements".
"I was treated like a VIP with lot of courtesy, but I didn't budge an inch", says Nicky. However, the gist of his recorded statement had been: “Whatever we discussed or transpired at Otter's Club was through full intoxication of liquor, and on my part I have had eighteen pegs of cognac"!
‘Finally, after a scrutiny of Otter's club records and bill payments on that particular day, the case was dropped on the strength of his declaration as whatever statements made under the influence of liquor were invalid in a court of Law’!
Nicky Karunarathna states that under such circumstances, Vijaya Kumaratunga who was kept in Welikada prison incommunicado too had to be released hurriedly.