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Propitious Paranthan and beyond

On My Watch

Lucien Rajakarunanayake

“We have great confidence that the determined path we have traversed so far will result in a sustainable peace to our country and people….It is my firm belief that when our nation crosses the threshold to victory it is the responsibility of us all to be united in safeguarding the future of our country.”

That was the key thought in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s New Year Message to the Nation. Coincident and concurrent to this message being issued, the Sri Lanka Army announced the capture of Paranthan, the strategically important junction that is only a few km away from Kilinochchi, the northern town that until recently was hailed by most foreign media as and INGOs as the “capital” of the “de facto” state of Tamil Eelam – the now unrealizable dream of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE, the TNA and their supporters both in Sri Lanka and abroad.

The news of the capture of Paranthan, about which reports were trickling in from the battleground for several days ahead, has brought the country beyond the threshold of victory against the separatist terror of the LTTE. No doubt there will be many more battles ahead, with the need to regain control of Elephant Pass and Muhamalai, moving on to the final hosing out of the LTTE from the Vanni jungles. This is the time when, as the President emphasized in his message that, the responsibility is on all to be united in safeguarding the future of the country.

The dawn of 2009 is also the beginning of the “Year of Heroic Victory” as New Year has been designated to honour the great commitment and sacrifices made by the Security Forces to rid the country of terrorism, make it safe for democracy and ensure the equal treatment of all people to whom Sri Lanka is home. It is significant that the final capture of Paranthan took place far away in the Vanni, as many in Colombo and other urban centres were ushering in the New Year with singing, dancing and the deafening burst of firecrackers. It is urban society’s lack of sync with the rest of the country that as the New Year was ushered in to the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” and merriment, there was hardly any Em Cee, DJ or compere to remind the revelers that the very ability to carry on with the dance is largely due to the sacrifices that were being made even at that hour by the troops who were fighting the most ruthless terrorists known in modern times; which was most distant from the thought of the revelers, too.

The mood and thinking of those enjoying the creature comforts of urban life, are fashioned by those who hardly feel the pain and loss of the fight against terror, as the bulk of the troops are drawn from the rural areas, where there is little fuss being made over the price of petrol or the increasing cost of imported goodies. However distant from the sacrifices of the fight against terror this mood may be, the troops are now engaged in a sustained battle, which is disproving the urban and western-oriented punditry of three decades that the LTTE is an invincible force. They are moving ahead, capturing one important tiger location after another, showing in every way that they are doing justice by the President’s decision to designate 2009 as the “Year of Heroic Victory”; bringing to the people of the North the Dawn of a New Spring of Democracy, Freedom and Development, and to the entire country the freedom from terror.

Heart to heart

As the troops moved further into areas once held by the LTTE, although provided with food and all essentials by the Government in Colombo, the President made a significant move in his message to the "Future Minds of Jaffna" exhibition, also known as the Jaffna Educational and Industrial Exhibition 2008, organized by the Sri Lanka Army in Jaffna, which had drawn more 200,000 visitors despite the hardships of travel in peninsula.

President Rajapaksa demonstrate his respect an regard for the Tamil language, as a language of the Sri Lankan people, when, in last September, he was the first Head of State from any country, India with Tamil Nadu included, to speak in Tamil at the United Nations General Assembly. Last week he went further in showing the importance he attaches to the Tamil language, by making the first ever address by a Sri Lankan Head of State to the Tamil people in their own language.

The words he spoke were not those of conquest, or of majoritarian dominance, but of reconciliation and understanding. He spoke of the days of unity among the different communities that the people still yearn for; recalled the camaraderie of travel to Jaffna in the former Yal Devi, and the success of Tamil traders in Colombo as much as that of Sinhala bakers and restaurateurs from Matara in Jaffna. He did not forget the industrious nature of the Tamil people, and also reminded us all that the first call for freedom from British colonial rule came from a student leader in Jaffna – Handy Perimpanayagam- and also that Tamil leaders such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanaden knew well the machinations of the British as they sought to divide the people for the benefit of colonial rule, and the important role such leaders played in the struggle for freedom.

With this heart to heart approach towards the people of the North, President Rajapaksa is making it clear that all the talk of his being a hawk in politics is part of a deliberately distorted image that has been built up by sections of the media, from the time of the last Presidential election; carefully to this day nurtured by some NGOs and other organizations of “civil society”, as we’ll as some religious leaders who, like most of today’s western leaders today, in the face of the current Israeli massacre of the Palestinians in the Gaza strip, fail to see the difference between the armed threat of terrorism of the LTTE and the troops of a sovereign state that fights for freedom and democracy.

As the victory over the forces of terror draws nearer, President Rajapaksa is making every move possible to show the Tamil people, and the world, that he is firm in his belief in Sri Lanka being a country where its several communities, with their different faiths and languages can and must live in freedom and equality. His message, spoken entirely in Tamil, was a good blow at the chauvinists in Tamil Nadu who are repeating the calculated canard of the LTTE – TNA - DKM axis about Mahinda Rajapaksa being the prisoner of Sinhala chauvinism and a proponent of majoritarian dominance in the affairs of Sri Lanka. His decision to speak more often in Tamil, the importance being given to Tamil knowledge in the public service, and the new importance being given to the teaching of English too, shows a level of pragmatism in inter-communal relations that has hitherto not been seen in any other national leader. These indicate major changes in political thinking and important attitudinal changes in dealing with issues of community, ethnicity, language and religion in the months ahead. They seek to eliminate the fears that the defeat of Prabhakaran and the LTTE, would only lead to the dominance of he Sinhala majority; which is a genuine fear among many Tamils, including those who strongly oppose the policies of the LTTE.

Welcome confluence

As the troops keep moving ahead pushing the tiger cadres into an increasingly confined area within the two districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, there are other developments too that are propitious for the success in the battle to eradicate terror from Sri Lanka. The pro-tiger voices in Tamil Nadu, including that of the ageing DMK leader Karunanidhi, who is now busy passing over the reigns of his chauvinist party to his son Stalin, have been muted after the terror attack of Mumbai. The anger shown by the Indian public at the apparent kid-glove handling of terrorism, until the shock of Mumbai woke the whole nation to the danger that terrorism posed, has made it impossible for the voices in Tamil Nadu that supported the LTTE to be outspoken anymore. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh has on more than one occasion echoed the words of President Rajapaksa that there are no good terrorists or bad terrorists, and that all terrorists are bad and require being treated as the enemies of society.

India’s new determination to fight terrorism, which can be a major blow to the LTTE’s expectations of prolonged India-based terrorist activity once they are defeated in Sri Lanka, have been struck a major blow by the new anti-terrorist legislation that was brought into force earlier this week.

They are the National Investigative Agency (NIA) Bill and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, which have now obtained the assent of the Indian President Pratibah Patil. Orders constituting the NIA have already been issued, with a Multi Agency Centre (MAC) being set up in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) as the nodal agency for intelligence in a bid to strengthen intelligence set-up across the country.

Indian Home Minister Chidambaram has said the MAC is already operational 24X7, and that its subsidiaries would also be set up in every state capital as a part of the drive to check terror strikes. Other steps aimed at beefing up security cover, include the creation of NSG hubs at key centres and a Coastal Command.

These laws which show the new determination of India to fight terror, point to a major threat to the LTTE’s plans that are not unknown to use secret bases in India for continued terrorist activity against Sri Lanka. Intelligence sources both in India and Sri Lanka see the boasts of the LTTE’s so-called IGP and spokesman Nadesan about how the LTTE will continue to fight after it is thrown out of Kilinochchi, as not only being empty rhetoric to boost the morale of weakened tiger cadres, but signs of a more sinister plan to move their activities across the Palk Strait as the situation becomes too hot for survival in Sri Lanka. However, it is now evident that such plans, even if drawn up with the help of terrorist organizations in India that the LTTE is known to have had more than cursory contact with, will not be easily put into operation as it may once have been possible, with the new anti-terror laws in place in India; and the new watch out for terror that is taking place throughout the entire subcontinent.

Another significant development that one saw in India last week was the result of the elections to the Assembly in Jammu & Kashmir. The over 60 per cent turn out, the largest in a J&K state election ever; and such a poll talking place in the face of a call for a boycott of the election by the main separatist party is seen as a significant response of the voters of J & K against separatism. It is evident that the day-to-day issues of economic hardship and problems of livelihood would have played a major role both in the large turnout and the related spurning of the boycott call. The Indian establishment will have to read the results very carefully to judge the real mood of the people. However, there is clear evidence that the forces of separatism in J & K have suffered a major blow, which can be used to resolve the long standing issues in the State, if both India and Pakistan can act with sagacity and have their ears to the ground, as the people express their disenchantment with the separatist call. This is also a good pointer to Sri Lanka where, as we have already seen in the East, the rhetoric of separation is not one that can last forever, once the people begin to see the disadvantages in it as compared to the advantages of more inclusive politics.

This will be seen even stronger in Sri Lanka, with the suffering the Tamil people have had to undergo during three decades of armed oppression by the LTTE. These include incursions into the families of the Tamil people, the snatching away of children to carry arms, the training of women to be suicide killers, as well as the continued extortion being carried out to serve the needs of well fed LTTE cadres. All of which are made worse by the bondage they are now being held in, as the human buffer against the advances of the liberating forces of Sri Lanka.

Massacre in Gaza

It was only a few months ago when the Russian troops moved into Georgia after the Georgian incursion into South Osettia and Abkhazia, that western countries were shouting themselves hoarse about the Russians action being disproportionate to the actual military realities in the Georgian dispute. Today, there is only subdued talk of the lack of proportion in the massive Israeli attacks that are being carried out against the Palestinians in the Gaza strip, compared to the threat posed by Palestinian rockets aimed at Israel from the Gaza. Israel and the West, the US and the European Union included, that refused to recognize the democratic election of Hamas to administer the Palestinian territory, engineered the split between the West Bank and Gaza, and have been complicit in trying to strike a deal between the West Bank and Israel, ignoring the very existence of Gaza.

The present conflict is the deadliest since Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank in the Six Day War of 1967. As reported in Alernet.org, that gives the views of the Israeli attacks not fully reflected in Western media, reports: “Israel has targeted Hamas, but the vast majority of the casualties from its attacks have been civilian police officers, government workers, and other civilians. The Palestinian death toll currently [Thursday 01] stands at nearly 400 while more than 2000 have sustained injuries. The figure is expected to increase as Israel’s bombardment continues. Since [last] Monday morning, Israel’s navy has commenced bombing Gaza from the coast. Compounding the suffering is the fact that medical and other humanitarian supplies are in a dire state thanks to Israel’s three-year-old blockade of the territory. Half the population of Gaza, even before this most recent attack, was living below the poverty line.

So far, rockets fired from Gaza have killed four Israelis and injured several others; so much for the proportionate aspect of what is essentially the Israeli massacre of the Palestinians in the Gaza.

Sri Lanka has always been a strong supporter of the Palestinian people’s right to have their own sovereign state and is supportive of the many UN Resolutions that have sought to make this a reality, but have been treated with contempt by Israel, and its western backers, especially the US and the UK.

What is of direct interest to this column, apart from the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza, is shameful silence of the great champions of Human Rights who keep screaming at the slightest rumour of so-called human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, that are unable to utter a single word of condemnation against what the whole world sees as the most disproportionate attack on a people seeking the security of their own sovereign state. The UN Security Council and other bodies pass wordy but useless resolutions, but no one condemns Israel, and the suffering of the Palestinians goes on, and Israel scoffs at any suggestion of a ceasefire. The international Human Rights lobby stands exposed in all their humbug and hypocrisy as they take glee in pummeling small countries such as Sri Lanka for alleged rights abuses, and abrogating the farce of a ceasefire, while not having the courage or even see the need to condemn the outrage to humanity that Israel practices in the Gaza today. (Courtesy – Daily News =- January 03, 2009).

(What is expressed here is the strictly personal opinion of the writer)




By Dayan Jayatilleka




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Last modified: August 06, 2010.

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