What unfolded at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday had the trappings of a story in the Buddhist literature. Pillaiyan, a former terrorist who had been instrumental in unleashing violence against people, transmogrified into a democratically elected chief minister tasked with looking after the interests of the very populace he had once helped his erstwhile boss keep under the gun. Buddhist monks at his swearing-in ceremony blessed him and tied pirith nool round his wrist. Ironically, a decade back, his former organisation, the LTTE, had massacred about thirty Buddhist monks, including Samaneras at Aranthalawa in the Eastern Province.
One is reminded of Angulimala, who went on a killing spree at the behest of his guru to make a garland with his victims fingers, only to be tamed and transformed by the Buddha, whose life he sought to take finally, into a good human being again.
The universe is in a state of flux and people keep changing. However, in some cases, old habits die hard and Pillaiyan may still be influenced by his past experience. But, he has proved he is capable of becoming a normal human being and he needs assistance and encouragement.
Sadly, even after he has entered the political mainstream and qualified to become a chief minister, some politicians are on a vilification campaign against him. In so doing, they contradict their position that the best solution to the conflict the country is embroiled in is to share political power with those dependent on terrorism to achieve their political ends. Why is it that the proponents of a political solution to be evolved through negotiations and devolution are trying to pillory Pillaiyan and his group and drive them back into jungles? How can anyone who condemns Pillaiyan even after his entry into democratic politics invite Prabhakaran to accept a political solution? Such double standards militate against their much flaunted commitment to a negotiated settlement.
The May 10 election where Pillaiyan was returned with the highest number of preferential votes was certainly not perfect. But, it was, no doubt, much better than the 1982 Referendum that the UNP used to extend the term of its government without losing its five-sixth majority and the 1999 Wayamba PC polls under the SLFP-led PA government the worst ever election this country has had so far. We hadn t had anything charitable to say about Pillaiyan until he started releasing child soldiers in his ranks but as for election violence, rigging etc. we wonder how anyone who didn t oppose notorious criminals contracted by the UNP and the SLFP to terrorise the South during elections in the past, could seek to give Pillaiyan a bad name and hang him.
Greed begets sorrow and fear. Fourteen years before Pillaiyan became Chief Minister of the East, Prabhakaran had an opportunity to become Chief Minister of the Northern Province without an election, in 1994 Pillaiyan must have been a 16-year old child combatant in the LTTE at that time. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga offered the entire North to him sans any elections for a period of ten years, if he agreed to eschew violence. He not only contemptuously rejected her offer but also plunged the country back into war in 1995. Had he been wise enough to overcome greed, accept that offer, give up violence and rule the North democratically, he may have been able to become Chief Minister of the North and East both and gain more devolution, with the passage of time. (He could also have become the first Chief Minister of the North-East Province, if he had subscribed to the 13th Amendment and contested the PC polls in 1988.) Remember President Kumaratunga, who genuinely believed in devolution by way of a solution, took a tremendous political gamble by offering to establish regional councils, which went way beyond the existing Provincial Councils in terms of power sharing. Prabhakaran had rejected her proposal before it was shot down in Parliament. Thus, he missed an opportunity to save thousands of lives of his combatants, the members of the armed forces and civilians and prevented the country from beating swords into ploughshares.
What has Prabhakaran achieved today?
He has proved greed and hatred don t pay. He is trapped in an area encompassing less than two districts with no hope of bouncing back unlike in the past. A foray by the military into Kilinochchi is hanging like the sword of Damocles over him. Today, we report that two of his top Tigers of the calibre of the renegade military commander Karuna have perished at the hands of the army long rangers operating behind the lines. He is getting badly beaten at his own game. He may try to avenge the loss of his colleagues by taking a target elsewhere but his terrorism is not going to pay dividends in a country which has learnt to live with it. This country has survived even a killer tsunami and many people have forgotten the year of its occurrence. The same goes for dastardly terror strikes which are far too many for the people to remember.
We only hope that sanity will prevail and Prabhakaran soften his stand helping avoid a bloodbath in the Wanni. Sometimes, there are things that teachers should not hesitate to learn from pupils. It is no shame for Prabhakaran to learn from Pillaiyan how to transmute bullets into ballots.