Yesterday`s ceremony at the Independence Square marked the culmination of a military process which had begun with the Mavilaru battle last year, where President Rajapaksa, who had been feigning retreat delivered a Parthian shot to Prabhakaran. The celebrations had the trappings of a political event aimed at boosting the image of the government rather than the morale of the armed forces. However, it cannot be impugned that the government had something to preen itself on, having captured Thoppigala and demolished a well propagated myth that it was an impregnable LTTE stronghold.
Opinion is divided on the celebrations and some argue that the government should have kicked it into touch without politicising that military victory. Politics of the celebrations notwithstanding, the tone and tenor of President Rajapaksa`s speech?which we publish in full today?are of great import.
He makes no bones about his aversion to the moribund CFA underpinning the peace process which is kept on the heart and lung machine of international support. He laments that `there is no country other than Sri Lanka, where the criminal act of conceding a legal area of control to terrorists has been implemented through an agreement.` This could be likened to a hook dealt to Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who signed the CFA in question with the LTTE. The President boasts of having debunked `the myth of such an area of control` and `shattered into smithereens the crowning terrorist fantasy of Eelam` through the clearing of the East. A great deal of legitimacy, no doubt, accrued to the LTTE from the CFA, which continues to serve as an international safety net for the outfit. That exactly is the reason why it has not yet officially withdrawn from the CFA.
The East is the be-all and end-all of Eelam and without it Prabhakaran`s separatist project is bound to come a cropper, the signs of which are already visible. He is in a far worse plight than ever before. He controls neither the East nor Jaffna at present! Worst of all, the government is all out to complete the process of the North-East de-merger that the JVP initiated by successfully moving the Supreme Court against the arbitrary merger of the two provinces. The successful military campaign in the East has bolstered that legal action and the President is going to put the seal on the de-merger by holding a separate provincial council election in the East. The President says, `We will take steps to conduct the Provincial and Local Government elections in the East by the end of this year. By this time we will give the people of the East their sovereign right to elect their representatives to the Provincial Council and Local Government bodies.` Some of the mainstream Tamil political parties supporting the government have not taken kindly to the de-merger and they are likely to take issue with the President over the proposed Provincial Council election. Some members of the international community also have reservations about the de-merger and they might try to throw a monkey wrench in the works. However, the government will have the blessings of the Karuna group, which has as its goal `liberating the East from the clutches of Prabhakaran.`
President Rajapaksa reiterates his commitment to the APRC process apparently for the consumption of the international community, which is enamoured of the on-going efforts to evolve a political solution. `What we seek to achieve through the All Party Representative Conference,` he says, `is to bring together the diverse views of political parties to find a political solution to the North East crisis.` That process, he insists, should not be delayed any further! He doesn`t forget to take a swipe at the UNP by innuendo for not presenting its proposals: `I make a public appeal to all political parties to kindly present their proposals with speed?Please come together, discuss and reach agreement and give us a single final solution.` (The UNP says it will present its proposals after the government submits its!)
Ironically, Prabhakaran, who in his Mahaveer Day speech warned President Rajapaksa within a few days of the latter`s election in 2005 that unless his wish was granted the country would be plunged into war, and did as he promised, has been given a dose of his own medicine: `The LTTE should even now accept the reality that it is not possible to bring liberation to the Tamil people through guns, bombs and cyanide capsules. What they destroy is the future of Tamil children,` the President says. Then he twists the knife: `However dreadful, I will not be subdued or frightened by the violent growls of the LTTE. I will not be shaken by their threats of assassination. I am bound by conscience to fulfil my duties and obligations by the country.`
Prabhakaran must be ruing the day he decided on the capture of the Mavilaru anicut, which has proved to be a costly faux pas and cost him the entire Eastern Province, which he could have retained without firing a shot, had he abided by the CFA.
The President also urges his opponents not to `attempt to bury the victories of our troops by insulting them or levelling serious charges against them`. He says some are attempting to `hide their own `stripes` by insulting the Maha Sangha. That his target is UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is obvious. Then he names Mr. Wickremesinghe and asks him `not to be an outsider but to be a stakeholder in this victory`.
Although speculation is rife that the government is eyeing the Wanni, having bagged the East, President hasn`t given the game away in his speech. Instead, he has declared a different war?an all-out development campaign. But, the feat he will have to achieve, if he really wants to be remembered as?to quote his own words?`a trustee and protector of this country, its people, all its fauna and flora` is to `bequeath to our children a land where Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims can live together and smile as the children of one mother`.
The Himalayan task before him is to make the Thoppigala victory a stepping stone to that end.
Is he equal to the task?