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TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM
Trying to get out of the trap of its own making,
Editorial, Oru Paper
Several facts have become clear ever since Mr.Pirabhakaran issued an ultimatum to the Rajapakse government.
No.1. A frightened Sinhala nation is today fighting for time. The government forces right now are not at all ready for any confrontation with the LTTE. This was borne out by the tame answers given by the Sri Lankan armed forces chiefs at a news conference they gave in Colombo on December 9. The unprecedented move to hold a news conference was itself meant to mollify a Sinhalese public who were getting disappointed at what they thought should have been a tough response both from the President as well as the so-called "tough" new army commander to the two claymore mine deaths. While the second claymore mine attack following on the first sent shock waves in Colombo, all what Mr. (Tough) Sarath Fonseka could say was "We are a disciplined force unlike the LTTE blah hlah blah" and "We stand by the government in its effort to maintain and pursue the peace process... we should have talks with the LTTE ", which was all another way of saying they are not yet geared for war.
No.2. The sudden climb down of the President on many issues reveals a desperate attempt to proceed with the peace process, not because the peace process was important, but time was required to prepare for war. Both bedmates of Mr.Rajapakse, the JVP and the JHU, have been agitating for the expulsion of Norway from the negotiating process, but now Mr.Rajapakse has pocketed his pride and asked Norway to come back.
The government is also prepared to give up the early demand that all talks should be held on Sri Lankan soil.
They expect Japanese peace envoy Akashi to help hold government- LTTE talks in Japan. Also, there is less bandying of the word "unitary". All these reveal an undercurrent of fright in government circles that the LTTE might meanwhile do a swift military strike taking them by surprise. So time is needed and they have to play for it, whatever loss of face in giving up parts of the "Mahinda Chinthanaya"
The new government budget has already provided the biggest ever sum for defence expenditure Rs.97 billion. Even if the money is there, time is needed to procure the arms. Time, Time, that's what Mr.Rajapakse needs, but the Tamil leader's ultimatum also means time is runningout.
Mr Rajapakse cannot blame anyone else for finding himself in an unenviable position. Winning a presidential election is one thing, solving the ethnic issue is quite another, as all elected and unelected presidents have realized over the last thirty years. Unlike the UNP, the SLFP from the time of its founder S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike had always relied on mob power and thug power for political sustenance. Political thug power today is in the hands of the JVP.
Despite Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga's public protestations that it was the JVP that killed her own husband, her lack of political shame induced her to invite the JVP into her fold. Her main enemy at that time was the UNP, and she thought she would use the JVP as the whipping boy to deal with Ranil and his men. It was too late when she realized her folly. Her brother Anura also began hobnobbing with the JVP, with the latter humoring him to help achieve his political ambitions.
It was the late Lakshman Kadirgamar who seeing in the JVP as strong anti-LTTE force also became a powerful espouser of JVP claims, But none of them realized that whether it comes to talking peace or waging war with the LTTE, the JVP was absolutely useless. They would neither take arms against the LTTE, nor would they permit any peace process to succeed. Having helped Rajapakse to come to power they are today getting ready to attack him openly. As for Rajapakse himself, he is in the mood to ditch his erstwhile allies, if that is the only way to avoid immediate confrontation with the LTTE.
These sad developments in the Sinhala south could be best seen from the pontifications expressed by the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, the man at whose feet all Sinhala politicians bend double. The head of the Malwatte Chapter is not only the custodian of aggressive Theravada Buddhism, but has also been the main stumbling block against all peace moves in the country from the time of the Bandaranaikes.
Now what does this powerful man say? "Prabhakaran cannot expect President to solve ethnic problem in two weeks, says Mahanayake" ran a 7-column headline in a Colombo newspaper. Invoking his blessings on the new army commander. the prelate is reported to have said: "The LTTE leader Velupillai Pirabaharan should not be too hasty as one could not expect the new president to solve the two decades long ethnic problem within two or three weeks.." Now what does this mean? This man who is the safe-keeper of Sinhala Buddhist power is pleading with the Tamil national leader to give the president more time. Is that not hilarious? The picture is clear. A terrified Sinhala nation is trying to face the prospect of an uncertain 2006.