It never rains but it pours. Yesterday`s assassination of Minister D. M. Dasanayake came close on the heels of the felling of UNP MP T. Maheswaran inside a Kovil on January 01 and the attack on a bus carrying injured soldiers in Colombo. The claymore mine blast that took the minister`s life had the trademark of the LTTE. That cowardly attack is, no doubt, condemned unreservedly by all right thinking people. Ironically, the deadly explosion occurred at Ja-Ela, while Parliament was in session and the UNP MPs were protesting against the tragic demise of their colleague Maheswaran.
When Maheswaran was gunned down, his killing was blamed on lack of security. True, if he had been provided with more security personnel he might have been able to escape death on that day. But, his killer or killers wouldn`t have given up so easily. Pointing out in these columns on Jan. 02 that they would have used some other method like an ambush or a claymore mine attack to achieve their macabre end, we argued that no amount of security would be sufficient to protect anyone unless an end was put to the existing culture of violence.
Dasanayake had a security contingent to protect him. But, the fate that had befallen Maheswaran awaited him. And the theory that the best antidote to assassinations is enhanced security stands challenged. Even the army commander was not safe inside his headquarters. President Premadasa perished in spite of his security purdah. The US Secret Service couldn`t protect JFK. Not even the Pentagon was safe vis-à-vis determined terrorists!
In a world where a leader like Prime Minister Palme, who didn`t believe in protection, was murdered in Stockholm, one of the most peaceful places on the planet, how vulnerable political leaders are to violence in a terror-infested country like this goes without saying.
Politicians who are faced with threats must be protected so that they won`t become easy prey for terrorists and other violent elements. But, such protection will be like staying indoors to overcome the problem of air pollution. The only solution is to strike at the roots of separatist terror and obviate the factors that gave rise to it. Unfortunately, the two main parties have not yet realised the need to make common cause to grasp the nettle.
When President Premadasa was assassinated in 1993, the SLFP celebrated that dastardly crime by eating milk rice and lighting firecrackers. Six years later, the Tigers came for President Kumaratunga and nearly accounted for her. Then the UNP celebrated the attempt on her life and went to the extent of claiming that her brain had suffered irreparable damage so as to engineer her defeat at the Presidential Election that followed, but in vain. None of the TNA leaders beat their chests and pulled their hair, when Kadir was felled but they did so when Raviraj was gunned down.
Peace activists, who had been conspicuous at Neelan`s funeral by their absence, converged in their numbers at Raviraj`s funeral, turned it into a media event, acted before cameras and disappeared leaving the task of taking the coffin to the cemetery for cremation to his family members. UNP MPs sporting black saatakas turned Maheswaran`s final journey into an anti-government protest of sorts. The government, too, may have a grand funeral for Dasanayake and try to further its interests.
So long as the leaders of this country, especially those of the two main parties which have taken turns to bring the country to this sorry pass, don`t begin to feel diminished by every killing and join forces to remove the scourge of terror and counter terror once and for all and pave the way for a just and fair solution, the caravan of death will continue to trundle.