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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

Ranil plays games of dirty politics

H. L. D. Mahindapala

When Ranil Wickremesinghe belittles the Thoppigala victory, achieved by the blood, sweat and lives of the disciplined security forces, he descends to the level of an ungrateful political pariah scoffing at the very forces that protect him and the nation. He survives because the forces he ridicules are risking their lives to protect him every minute of the day.

The nation survives because the daring village lads and their officers are defending the nation by rolling back frontiers of the Tiger terrorists. So when Wickremesinghe laughs at the Security Forces saying that they had only “captured a jungle” he is making an ass of himself. In a sense, nothing more can be expected from him because those who observe him closely would note that whenever he laughs his face takes on that asinine look of an inane pretender who has nothing to offer his party, the people or the nation needing strong leadership in this critical hour.

Thoppigala is a landmark victory that promises future security by weakening the Tigers who were crowing that they are in command of the north and the east, particularly after Wickremesinghe handed over territory in his failed Ceasefire Agreement. Velupillai Prabhakaran reached the peak of his power with the Ceasefire Agreement, thanks to Wickremesinghe. He was then flying on two wings: the north and the east. Now he is crippled and forced to fly on one wing. In an interview with the BBC even the Tiger military spokesman, Rasiah Ilantheriyan, conceded that they were defeated in the east. But Wickremesinghe sees no victory in it. He says that “there is nothing to crow about”.

He is laughing at the military victory at Thoppigala as if it is one of those all-male shows staged by “Kollu”, his favourite players in town. One of the reasons why the nation is in this current plight is because Wickremesinghe is more interested in playing “Kollu” than assessing critically and seriously each new twist and turn of the unfolding events. In laughing at those who protect him and the nation he has forfeited the right to any leadership role in Sri Lanka. If he has even a smidgin of decency left in him he should apologize to the Security Forces that achieved what he and his “Queen of Thieves”, Chandrika Kumaratunga, said could not be achieved.

Clearly, this victory is a defeat not only to Prabhakaran but also to Wickremesinghe. With the capture of Thoppigala the Security Forces have driven the last nail into the coffin of the Ceasefire Agreement. It has upset the military balance decisively and put the Security forces in a commanding position. It has also given the bargaining edge to the Sri Lankan government in any future negotiations. Wickremesinghe went into negotiations without positioning himself in this vantage point.

He went into negotiations pinning his faith on the treacherous international community without mobilizing the strength of the people. The result was that the international community joined hands with Prabhakaran and forced Wickremesinghe to surrender, with Erik Solheim acting as the Viceroy of Vanni at peace talks. What Wickremesinghe hailed as a victory to the nation when he signed the Ceasefire Agreement was in reality a humiliation to those who had sacrificed their lives to save the nation. At Thoppigala Rajapakse & Co regained that lost dignity and prestige. Moreover, contrary to the doomsayers who say that terrorism cannot be defeated, Rajapakse & Co have shown that with determination, sacrifices, leadership and willingness to stay the course terrorism can be defeated.

If Wickremesinghe was in command now he wouldn’t have even dreamt of opening up the eastern front. He is totally incapable of daring, or thinking on innovative or strategic lines. Time and again he has proved to be a man who tucks his tail between his legs and runs away from confrontations. Who will fail to remember to their dying day how he, guided by his grinning factotum Bradman Weerakoon, pulled up the then Navy Commander for defending the territorial integrity of the nation violated by the Sea Tigers? Who can forget how he sold the nation by signing the Ceasefire Agreement in which he turned the north and the east into a de facto Terroristan and handed it over to the fascist, one-man rule of Velupillai Prabhakaran? Which history will erase his infantile jibe at the Security Forces who have proved with their courage that he is a gutless wonder playing dirty politics at their expense?

Sitting smugly in his transit lounge at Cambridge Terrace (he’s now more out than in Sri Lanka) he can afford to commit these crimes against the people because the very forces he condemns are there, at his beck and call, to protect him. However, if even a single man is withdrawn, at any given time, he will run to the American and Indian diplomats saying that his life is in danger because the numbers guarding him have been reduced. In dismissing the victory of the Security forces he is saying, in other words, that there is no purpose in protecting Cambridge Terrace, his residence, because it is only a patch of the concrete jungle made of brick and mortar. Doesn’t he realize that his safety is dependent on the safety of the nation? All victories of the forces strengthen the safety of all, including the Tamils yearning for peace and freedom. All defeats, concessions, or status quo strengthen the hands of the fascist regime in Terroristan. This is the meaning and the significance of the Thoppigala victory. This is why our forces have to be respected, honoured and saluted: they have won what was dismissed as an unwinnable battle for the last 13 years.

Wickremesinghe’s cheap political scoring at the expense of our Security Forces raises one critical question: why should the Security Forces protect this bankrupt failure who is laughing at them and their victories? If Wickremesinghe has such scant regard for our Security Forces he should be asked to seek protection from his “Kollus” instead of wasting public funds and the time of the Security Forces who have better things to do. It is surprising that the security forces guarding him have not gone on strike refusing to protect a man who denigrates their comrades-in-arms fighting against all odds in jungles.

Both Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe abandoned confrontations with the Tigers in the east saying that the Forces can’t win. It was argued that the Forces would have to sacrifice at least 15,000 lives to regain the east. The victory at Thoppigala has shown them up as negative, two-legged grass-munchers – one of whom has been put to pasture in London and the other who is on his way there. Crushed by their failures to live up to the expectations of the people and by their failure to redeem their promises they gave to the people their calculated response has been to belittle the achievements of the positive doers. Rajapakse & Co, on the contrary, have established that they are the go-getters who have the capacity to deliver dividends to the nation.

Wickremesinghe reaction is predictable because he is stunned by the victories of Rajapakse & Co – the best political enterprise in recent times. Whatever failures there are in other fronts, it is certainly superior to Ranil & Co when it was run by a clique of old Royalists whose greatest success was in driving the key UNPers out of the party. The uncharitable – no, the curmudgeon -- reaction of Wickremesinghe can be explained the fact that Rajapakse & Co has won not only his party members but also all what he sold to the Tigers. Thoppigala reversed the trend of selling out to the Tigers. When Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister he cracked down ruthlessly on those who exposed what Paul Harris, the correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and Jane’s Weekly, said was “the greatest sell out of the nation.” After his explorations of the east Paul exposed the LTTE brutalities, child conscription and the slow but steady take over of the east with Wickremesinghe’s connivance. Naturally this got under Wickremesinghe’s skin. Paul told me when I met him in Oslo that he was thrown out by Wickremesinghe government to appease the Tigers.

Paul also ran into further trouble with his other move. After taking tea in the office of Mahinda Rajapakse, the then Leader of the Opposition, he addressed about 50 opposition MPs in a public room in the Parliament. Anura Bandaranaike, Lakshman Kadirgamar, JVPers were among those present. He exposed how the LTTE was taking over the east in the greatest sell out of the nation. In his articles he had also taken the mickey out of the Tiger leaders. He wrote: “These LTTE people are oh, so charming. With their cheery smiles, mild manners, warm open features and welcoming handshakes they are straight from Saatchi & Saatchi public relations manual for Transformation of Terrorist Leaders in Genial Uncle Figures. …Who could possibly think that friendly, limping man Mr. Thamil Chelvam was such a rotter?”

Predictably, his writings did not go down well with the LTTE. The Tigers put maximum pressure on Wickremesinghe to get Paul out. Bradman Weerakoon, his obedient servant, did the rest by pressuring the Foreign Ministry to throw Paul out. When Nirj Deva, the Sri Lankan-born British MP, introduced him to Wickremesinghe at the Galadari Hotel the latter ignored his proffered hand and said curtly: “I know perfectly well who you are and I have only one thing to say to you, I am not the man who is going to give Sri Lanka away.”

Paul was beginning to feel the heat of Wickremesinghe’s wrath who was running a three-legged race with the LTTE, joined at the hip. Nirj Deva had invited Paul to listen to Wickremesinghe addressing the UNP loyalists at the Galadari after signing the Ceasefire Agreement. Inside a room at Galadari, Wickremesinghe began to wax eloquent about his achievements and future political ambitions.

Paul wrote, describing the meeting at Galadari: “Ranil is soon blowing off about the UNP achievements and grand ambitions. Some of this stuff is quite entertaining albeit alternately drawn from Peter Pan and Hans Christian Andersen. When he announces that Trincomalee is to be the site of Sri Lanka’s Formula One racetrack I fear I cannot keep silent any longer.

“Do you have permission of the LTTE for that?” I venture to ask,” wrote Harris in his book, Delightfully Imperfect, A Year in Sri Lanka at the Galle Face Hotel. That was he last straw. Paul decides that “discretion is the better part of valour, thank Nirj and leave the room”. After that Paul was put under surveillance by Wickremesinghe who now poses as the great champion of the free media and liberal values. Eventually, Paul was forced to leave Sri Lanka with his Chinese girlfriend.

This narrative of Paul is insightful. It reveals Wickremesinghe’s dealings with the LTTE and his approach to the east. Paul had the foresight to see what was coming and subsequent events proved him right. The new turn of events and the new ground realities project Wickremesinghe and Prabhakaran as two misguided missiles that should be defused promptly and without any compunction. Both remain as serious dangers to the security and future of the nation. For his part, Wickremesinghe will not hesitate to sell the nation ten times over if he can get away with it. The tragedy is that each time he sells the nation he sincerely believes that he is saving it. What hope is there for the nation with a deluded leader like Wickremesinghe? He is best at running a Batalanda-type of gulag with Gonawila Sunil, the convicted criminal who was recruited into his services after he was sprung out of jail, as his CEO. This ex-convict and Bradman Weerakoon, who is on the pay roll of foreign-funded NGOs when he is off duty at his master’s gulag, have been Wickremesinghe’s two able assistants.

Incidentally, Gonawila Sunil, who used to run Wickremesinghe’s Ministry of Education, with his feet cocked on the Minister’s desk, died under mysterious circumstances. Why hasn’t Weerakoon initiated an inquiry, with the help of his NGOs, into the mysterious death of Gonawila Sunil? After all, he was the blue-eyed boy of his master, wasn’t he?

In mocking the achievements of the Security Forces Wickremesinghe has once again exposed his chronic inability to relate to events, or to people, or to judge the consequences of his cheap and dirty politicking. He is reinforcing the belief that his forte is in selling the nation down the river rather than standing up for the people who are making sacrifices to protect him and the nation. In short, he is signaling Prabhakaran to go ahead with his planned attacks so that he can score on the misery of the nation. He is good at playing dirty politics whether it be throwing out Paul Harris, or pouring scorn on the Security Forces, or sending coded messages to Prabhakaran not to be disheartened by his failure at Thoppigala. Translated into more plain language he is telling Prabhakaran: “Don’t worry, Thamby. You lost only a rocky patch in the jungle. You have the whole of Sri Lanka and Colombo to play with. I am there with you. I will attack from my end and you attack from your end. Together we can get Mahinda Rajapakse and I will be there to give you all what you ask.”

Thoppigala is a simple issue that should not have divided the nation. If Wickremesinghe wants to politicize it for his gain then he should cop the blame for it. His civilized duty was to put politics aside and congratulate the Commander-in-Chief, the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Forces and the entire chain of command, going right down to the firing line, for giving new life and hope to a beleaguered nation. But old habits die hard: Wickremesinghe will never rise above his habit of playing cheap, dirty politics. That is why people will value the dust on the boots of our soldiers who raised the flag at Thoppigala than all the droppings that drip from the pea brain of Wickremesinghe.

- Asian Tribune -

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