Ex-Minister Anura Bandaranaike, after being fired from the UPFA Cabinet, told the press that he was happy to have left a Carnival of Clowns. Buffoonery of politicians appears to be fairly well known. Sometime ago, a film called Parliament Jokes became quite popular. Some politicians have become not only jokers but jokes as well. The problem with political `jokes` is, cynics say, that they get elected. How true!
The latest joke comes from the Opposition. UNP MP Joseph Michael Perera was quoted by this newspaper yesterday as saying that his party would ask the Prime Minister whether there was any truth in the allegation that the Security Forces were not attacking the LTTE in the North in keeping with a secret deal between the government and the LTTE. He said his question was based on a statement by an SLFP dissident. Ex-Minister Sripathy Sooriyaarachchi recently said the military was only capturing empty land in the East without moving into the North. The UNP has apparently taken Sripathy seriously!
Wasn`t it the UNP which scoffed at former President Kumaratunga`s northern offensive, Operation Riviresa, which took back Jaffna in 1995? It sought to ridicule the recapture of Jaffna claiming that the army had wrested control of a ghost town! The North, the UNP top guns insisted, should not be taken at the expense of the East, which President Wijetunga had cleared with the help of General Lucky Algama and others. The UNP was right in taking up that position. The LTTE, as predicted, shifted its headquarters to Kilinochchi and consolidated its power in the Eastern sector. That`s how it came to control the strategic township, Vakarai and some other areas in the East for ten long years before being driven away recently. However, the credit for capturing Jaffna should go to Chandrika, who dared take on the LTTE and in the process debunked the theory that the army would not be able to take Jaffna without losing at least 15,000 troops. Nothing of the sort happened!
The East is the be-all and end-all of Eelam, as the UNP used to say in justification of President Wijetunga`s strategy. Most of the outfit`s manpower and material came from the East. The severe manpower shortage that it is experiencing at present is due to its loss of control over the East.
The objective of the LTTE was to attack the Trincomalee harbour and the Palali airbase simultaneously so as to sever the supply lines to the North. By the time the LTTE threw down the gauntlet at Mavilaru, both Trinco and Palali were within its artillery range. Had the LTTE succeeded in carrying out its plan, the troops would have been left without supplies both by sea and air and they would have had to return to Colombo by ship with foreign assistance.
The LTTE positions in the East had to be neutralised and its naval power countered effectively. And it was something that couldn`t be achieved through appeasement. The LTTE made serious military miscalculations and was therefore hoist with its own petard both in the North and the East. Finally, it had no alternative but flee leaving behind even heavy weapons in the East, after months of stiff resistance.
Had the LTTE wanted to secure control of the North at the expense of the East, then it could have achieved that objective without firing a single shot. Remember, in 1994, former President Kumaratunga admitted in a press interview that she had offered the North to the LTTE without elections (as if it were a part of her Horagolla estate!) for a period of ten years. The LTTE had, she said, rejected the offer lock, stock and barrel. Else, it would still have been in control of Jaffna without losing thousands of cadres in war with the Kumaratunga government.
The LTTE rejected Chandrika`s offer because it has no need for the North without the East. It wants its Eealm to encompass the North and the entire Eastern Province as the so-called Eelam map clearly shows. Anyone who believes that the LTTE will offer the strategically important East on a platter to the government as part of a secret deal, must get his or her head examined! He or she must also be asked whether the LTTE`s attempts to assassinate the Army Commander and the Defence Secretary were also part of that `secret deal`.
This is not the first time such a secret agreement is being talked about. Before the last Presidential election, there was a campaign to have us believe that there was a secret pact between the LTTE and the UNP. What a song and dance the Rathu Sahodarayas made of it! But, in the end, instead of supporting Ranil, the LTTE called for a polls boycott and thereby dashed whatever hopes he may have had of becoming President.
This country is never short of such absurd theories. Some armchair defence analysts claim that the LTTE is not getting driven out but resorting to tactical withdrawals with a view to making a dramatic comeback. How brilliant they are! If there are a few more such `tactical withdrawals`, the war will be over before long! For, each `tactical withdrawal` costs the LTTE hundreds of weapons, tons of ammunition and scores of cadres. If we are to go by their logic, then Hitler wasn`t defeated by the Allied forces. He just made a tactical withdrawal into his bunker, tactically took out his revolver and tactically shot himself in the head! (Didn`t the army also make a number of tactical withdrawals from several locations in the North, including Elephant Pass, during the Chandrika government?)
There are hundreds of real issues that the Opposition should take up with the government for the sake of the people. Parliament jokes and Montessori theories about defence matters serve no one`s purpose. They only demoralise the security forces.