The ruling Blues and the opposing Greens are poised to stage a mega muscle-flexing today. The UNP will hold its Jana Rela protest in Colombo, while the SLFP is scheduled to demonstrate in most parts of the country in support of the government. What the public will be treated to is predictable. Both parties will disport themselves in their favourite sport?mud slinging and a show of bravado to impress the voting public. We are reminded of something that the animal rights activist of international repute Maneka Gandhi says in her column in this newspaper today about the breeding habits of hippopotamuses. What have hippos and their private life got to do with politicians?
The male hippos, says Maneka, woo their mates by urinating and defecating at the same time and then twirling their tails like propellers to spread the stinking mess in every direction. Figuratively speaking, don`t politicians of all hues do something similar at public rallies to woo the voting public?
Mud posters have already appeared on wayside walls and the next few weeks will see the `poster masters` of both sides step up their operations. Little do these politicians realise that the hands that sling mud also get sullied in the process!
The SLFP and the UNP have nothing new to tell the people, who know their track records very well. Today, the UNP will go all out to have us believe that the government is ruining the country with its war effort and the government will flaunt its military victories. Both parties find themselves in a contradiction on the question of war.
In 1994, the SLFP called the war `unwinnable` and opted for appeasement. The UNP was dead against the SLFP strategy. One year later, the SLFP-led PA government began a `war for peace` and pulled out troops from the Eastern Province to take Jaffna back. The UNP vehemently opposed the recapture of Jaffna and insisted that the East, which it called the weakest link of the LTTE, be consolidated. Interestingly, President Chandrika Kumaratunga tried to take control of the very Northern Province, which she had offered to the LTTE on a platter before the 1994 general election. The LTTE had rejected that offer demanding that the East be annexed to the North.
Then the UNP which had been fighting the war until 1994 made a U-turn in 2001. It suddenly started to advocate pacifism. Having captured power in Parliament, its leader adopted a policy of appeasement by signing a CFA, which the Norwegians had drafted in favour of the LTTE. The SLFP started to let out hysterical cries of patriotism. The UNF government, the SLFP said, was compromising national security interests and some camps that the LTTE had put up south of the Trincomalee habour posed a serious security risk. True, the LTTE plan was to attack the Trinco harbour and the Palaly airbase simultaneously with artillery guns and cut off supplies to the Jaffna based troops. President Kumaratunga then took over the Defence Ministry and subsequently sacked the UNF government. The SLFP-led UPFA got a popular mandate at the 2000 general election.
Alas, the UPFA chose to continue the policy of appeasement. The Manirasakulum camp which, it had said, posed a threat to the Trinco harbour remained intact. The CFA was respected. President Kumaratunga even offered to share tsunami relief with the LTTE through a joint mechanism, which ran into a legal snag. The JVP left the government in a huff. In 2005, President Rajapaksa, who promised to defeat the LTTE militarily, was elected. He reneged on that promise and opted for appeasement. He took all LTTE provocations and atrocities lying down. But, the capture by the LTTE of the Mavilaru sluice gates was too much for him to stomach. He used military power half-heartedly but was drawn into a full scale war, which he is fighting at present.
The UNP, which once cleared the East under the stewardship of President D. B. Wijetunga, ably assisted by the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the expense of the North today devalues the re-establishment of the government writ in that province. The real war, it says, should be fought in the North! It says war is bad but in the same breath faults the government for having allegedly provided the LTTE combatants trapped in Thoppigala with an escape route without eliminating them. Intriguing, eh? Meanwhile, the SLFP dissidents who have joined forces with the UNP with the avowed goal of toppling the government to put the kibosh on its war effort challenge the government to take on the LTTE in the North, if it dares!
It is unfortunate that the two main parties driven by their greed for power are flexing muscles to the neglect of a joint effort to address the political aspects of the conflict. They are playing ping-pong on the APRC process. The government has yet to submit its proposals to the APRC and the UNP has made an excuse of the government`s delay to drag heels on its proposals.
When the wild pigs crack kekuna nuts, it is said, jungle fowls stand to gain. On seeing the SLFP and the UNP tighten their grip on each other`s jugular the warlord of the Wanni must be guffawing.
With such enemies does he need any friends?