Ousted Minister Sripathy Suriyaarachhi has pooh-poohed the government`s military campaign in the Eastern Province as an exercise in futility simply because the LTTE withdrew, when the army moved in. The real war, he has said, should be fought in the North. He appears to believe that all these months the security forces have been playing marbles in the East, just for the fun of it!
Sripathy is an ex-Navy officer, who, we believe, has at least seen the battlefront proper, let alone being there in action. If he thinks the LTTE has not put up stiff resistance in the East, he ought to explain why the outfit has lost hundreds of cadres and abandoned so many weapons including artillery pieces. Hadn`t the LTTE been controlling Vakarai for ten years before being chased away after fierce fighting a few weeks ago?
It was only the other day that we argued the reverse of Clausewitz`s famous aphorism that war is an extension of politics was also true in some political situations, which could be likened to war by some other means. `The discerning know whether a bull is going to eat a coconut plant`, so goes a saying in this country, `from the way it turns.` When Sripathy scoffs at the military operations in the eastern sector, it is not difficult to see his real intent. That there is a concerted campaign by some politicians, a section of the media and a part of the so-called civil society to thwart the on-going military campaign against the LTTE is only too well known.
Sripathy seems to have a very short memory. Wasn`t it his former boss ex-President Kumaratunga who first revealed during the UNF government that the LTTE had consolidated its power in the East and was posing a serious threat to the Trincomalee harbour, which, she rightly said, had come within the range of the LTTE big guns? The late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar prepared a detailed map of the LTTE military formations south of the Trinco harbour, with the help of military experts and briefed the Indian government on the deteriorating security situation in the East. (The UNP propagandists targeted him for his revelations and some prominent UNPers demanded to know why Kadir, who was not a minister at that time, was allowed to make such statements while occupying a state bungalow and being protected by commandos!) The excuse that President Kumaratunga gave for grabbing the Defence Ministry from the Wickremesinghe government was that it was doing precious little to arrest the rapid deterioration of the security situation in the East. One of the first few things that President Mahinda Rajapakse did after assuming duties was to apprise the Indian government of the worsening security situation in the East, in a special report.
Sripathy doesn`t seem to read enough, though he calls himself a lawyer. He hasn`t even perused the letter that Mangala recently wrote to the President on behalf of the dissidents. Had he read that epistle, he would have exercised some control over his tongue. In it, Mangala poses this question to the President: `Is it wrong to make you aware that the hard earned victories of our brave soldiers are cheapened by abductions and disappearances? (Emphasis added). Sripathy insists that the army has captured empty land in the East, but his boss Mangala is of the view that the military has secured `hard earned victories.` Howzaaat?
The manner in which the Tigers are retreating in the East, unable to face the military, has baffled many, including the staunch LTTE supporters. Its military power has been demystified as never before and the outfit demoralised. True, the government alone cannot claim the credit for it. The breakaway of Karuna, the tsunami disaster, the vicissitudes of the outfit overseas, strategic blunders on the part of the LTTE leaders etc. have rendered the government`s task much easier. For the first time, the LTTE has lost both Jaffna and the East at the same time. It is natural that the LTTE sympathizers are working overtime on the political and diplomatic fronts to take the Tigers off the hook. Hence, our argument that the LTTE, by way of its final battle, will concentrate more on the political front to cause political trouble to distract the government from the warfront.
It is as part of this strategy that some elements are targeting Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. They are making an issue of his US green card. What`s wrong in having a US citizen as the Defence Secretary to fight the LTTE, which is a multi national organisation? Its ideologue was a British citizen and his widow is an Australian citizen. Rudrakumar, one of its prominent legal advisors is a US citizen. The vast majority of its active members are citizens of various countries like Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden. It is mobilising Tamil Nadu politicians, some of whom are its ardent supporters. So, why shouldn`t Sri Lanka hire a US green card holder, who has an excellent track record as a battle hardened exemplary officer to fight the LTTE?
Mangala has pitted himself against what he describes as the Rajapaskse troika, of which he says Gotabhaya is a member. Being an aggrieved SLFP stalwart, Mangala has a democratic right to be critical of his leadership. But, the question is why he was silent when the Chandrika administration was run by a powerful caucus popularly known as the Rahula College Karawa Mafia, which placed itself over and above even the senior elected representatives of that government? The Premadasa government was controlled by the Sucharitha Mafia. The Wickremesinghe government had similar allegations against it, because of its kitchen cabinet and the Raalahamy`s Media Mafia.
President Rajapakse is a politician and Basil a political deal maker. Criticism against them is something to be taken for granted. But, scathing attacks against Gotabhaya, who is not a politician, smack of a sinister attempt to demoralise him. The emergence of the LTTE as a formidable guerrilla movement was due to, inter alia, some misfits being catapulted to the hot seat in the MoD because of their political connections. Once, as the Defence Secretary, we had a retired bureaucrat who had failed to conduct at least a single election properly, when he was in active service. Little wonder, the country lost many camps during that period! Then, we had another Defence Secretary who stooped to the level of carrying baskets of apples to sick LTTE leaders receiving treatment in Colombo! The LTTE made no attempt to harm those worthies, perhaps because it considered them assets. But, the LTTE has already made an attempt on Gotabhaya`s life and is all out to account for him, obviously because he is inflicting heavy damage on the outfit. Is it that the critics of Gotabhaya want a failed bureaucrat or any other nincompoop to replace him so that the LTTE will be able to have a field day? It is not for nothing that they are advocating that the war be fought in the North the way Chandrika did in the 1990s ? to the neglect of the East, where the LTTE consolidated its power. They want the same strategic blunders repeated so that the Tigers will be off the hook yet another time?
They have, through their protestations and skewed logic, let the cat out of the bag!