SL President must offer solution, truce - paper

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 12:28 GMT]
Warning Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse that a military solution to the ethnic question, “will be a long and arduous task that will take a long time,” The Morning Leader newspaper urged him instead to “forward [to the LTTE] a viable set of proposals and at least call for a temporary cessation of hostilities.”

Saying the President was hoping victory over the LTTE would solve his political and other problems, the paper Wednesday warned: “All these projections may be beyond reach if military operations are not as successful as he expects or if the LTTE strikes hard in the south.”

“The only sensible way out for Mahinda Rajapakse and the country is to get together with the [main opposition] UNP … and work out an acceptable solution to the Tamil people which will also seem reasonable to the outside world,” the paper said.

The full text of The Morning Leader’s editorial, titled ‘The President’s options,’ follows:

President Mahinda Rajapakse and his advisors would have well expected attacks in the south as he confronted the LTTE in the east and north despite his plea that the government was not engaged in military offensives but only in retaliatory responses.

The bomb explosions in two buses at Nittambuwa and Meetiyagoda that killed 21 people were sharp reminders to President Rajapakse by the LTTE that the south is the Achilles Heel of any government. Rajapakse may now be riding the crest of a wave of popularity in the southern electorates with his military operations, but once the ‘war’ comes to Colombo or the south it is quite a different story. The bomb blast in Meetiyagoda in the south is a message to the Dakune Kolla whom the south voted for overwhelmingly at the last presidential election.

Despite Presidential denials, there are very strong rumours circulating that President Rajapakse hopes to hold a parliamentary election soon in an attempt to win a clear majority for his party and rid himself of the millstone of the JVP hanging on his neck on whose votes he now depends for his majority in parliament.

Last week, the JVP said that the military operations in the east were being done with the objective of a general election being held soon. No doubt, the government will refute these allegations but if the people are made to believe that military operations which result in the killing of large numbers of Sri Lankans have as its objective the winning of an election, it could be indeed counter productive.

This speculation goes further, in that after winning the election and obtaining a majority in parliament, President Rajapakse would decide on talks with the LTTE from a position of strength. All these projections may be beyond the reach of President Rajapakse if military operations are not as successful as he would expect or if the LTTE strikes hard in the south, factors he will do well to consider in making his calculations.

Meanwhile, he has to come to grips with the immediate problems. If the LTTE bombing campaign in the south intensifies, what is he to do? After every mass killing by terrorists, the police and security forces have a stock answer: security will be tightened and absolute vigilance maintained. They would also say that the LTTE is desperate because it is losing the war.

Such statements the public have heard for the last 20 years and are of little solace to the families of the victims. Over the continuing years of terrorism, these have become mere catchwords and cease to have any meaning. The hard fact is that while the police and security forces occasionally are able to stop terrorist attacks, the chances are that the terrorists are able to getaway on most occasions.

Immediately after the two bus bombings the security forces ‘tightened security.’ Passengers entering buses or trains are searched, their baggage examined and the latest is that limitations on the weight of baggage have been imposed. But this is a near impossible task. It involves the checking of every bus and train passenger before boarding. The tremendous inconveniences caused need not be stressed.

Such situations have arisen before and numerous security search methods adopted. Even public vigilance squads were formed but all that initial enthusiasm soon waned.

If President Rajapakse is seeking a military solution, then it will be a long and arduous task that will take a long time, which will cause much internal strife and bring the ‘international community’ on his head.

After one year in office his internal relations too are also by no means satisfactory. His main political ally, the JVP, is flexing its muscles. Rajapakse seems to be playing a childish game with the UNP despite the MoU he had signed. On some days he speaks of UNPers crossing-over to join the government but on other days he tells the UNP – as he told UNP Chairman Rukman Senanayake this week – that he won’t take in any more UNPers. He is making veteran UNPers lose their credibility and appear as jokers.

These politicians should realise that it is time they took a firm stand and prevent President Rajapakse make monkeys out of them. If they are men of honour they should resign their seats and support the President from outside if that is what they want to do. If they are mere unscrupulous politicians looking for the perks of office at public expense, then for goodness’ sake they should go and allow the opposition to play the role they are paid to perform without being bogged down in internal strife. The people have suffered enough.

The UNP rebels – or reformists as they call themselves – should well realise that they have been elected on the UNP ticket and it would be a gross betrayal of their voters to join the SLFP. Their lame excuse that they are doing it for the sake of ‘peace’ has not convinced anyone. Already six UNPers have crossed-over but what have their contributions to peace been? Their only achievements have been their cabinet portfolios and the perks that go along with office.

The only sensible way out for Mahinda Rajapakse and the country is to get together with the UNP in any form of political union and work out an acceptable solution to the Tamil people which will also seem reasonable to the outside world. The LTTE, it can be argued, is insatiable other than its demand for a separate state. If that be the case, it should be isolated internationally and locally if a viable solution which has international backing, more so of India, is not accepted by them.

Meanwhile, Rajapakse should forward a viable set of proposals and at least call for a temporary cessation of hostilities and await an LTTE response. That could have Velupillai Pirapaharan on the defensive.


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