Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa wants the UNP to stop playing politics with the ongoing war effort against the LTTE.
In an interview with The Island, Rajapaksa regretted the UNP-led Opposition had chosen to undermine the military campaign which he asserted was on track despite the LTTE and its sympathisers frantically fighting to save the day.
Fielding questions, the outspoken official said the Opposition could play a constructive role, thereby facilitating the military effort against the common enemy. `We need to zero-in-on-the enemy. Unfortunately politicians are distracted and seem interested in petty squabbles, jeopardising the war effort.`
`Unfortunately, in the eyes of some, I am a traitor,` the retired infantry officer said, accusing the Opposition of conveniently turning a blind eye to what he called significant progress on the battle-field. No one would deny their right to attack the ruling coalition over spiralling cost of living, waste, corruption and irregularities, but the war against terrorism should not in anyway become an issue, he said.
He regretted the Opposition hadn t acknowledged the significance of break-up of the LTTE triggered by one-time Batticaloa leader Karuna, clearing of the Eastern Province of the LTTE, the breakaway faction contesting local government elections and provincial council election on the government ticket and the gradual disintegration of the enemy s Vanni bases. The Defence Secretary urged the Opposition not to throw a lifeline to the common enemy now struggling on the Vanni and Welioya fronts. He said the Opposition s strategy had allowed LTTE s overseas supporters to constantly meddle in what he called an essentially a domestic issue.
Recently UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe accused Rajapaksa of deserting the army in the early 90s and went on to call him a traitor.
Rajapaksa said he would have expected to heavy attacks on himself if he had signalled any interest in entering politics. `I have absolutely no interest in politics.` he said. Rajapaksa emphasised that he would never seek to take political advantage over his critical role in what is widely believed to be the most successful campaign in the Eelam war.
The three service chiefs were responsible for the implementation of the overall security strategy, and the government was confident of their ability and capacity to execute the war successfully, he said, stressing the pivotal importance of the government and the Opposition co-operating on the war effort.
Drawing attention to a spate of indiscriminate attacks on public transport in the city, its suburbs and the provinces, Rajapaksa warned the Opposition not to shirk its responsibility. `Whatever our differences on other issues including the economy, there should be a common approach towards terrorism,` he said. The country would never have another opportunity to wipe out the LTTE.
According to the Defence Secretary, the combined security forces were making significant progress on the Vanni front. The army on Mannar (Task Force 1), Vavuniya (57 Division), Welioya (59 Division) and Omanthai west (61 Division) fronts were gradually taking over enemy territory, he said. Although the LTTE would continue to make attempts to bring in fresh supplies, recruit more cadres and adopt new tactics, security forces had the wherewithal to meet any eventuality.
Commending the Canadian ban on the World Tamil Movement, a major supplier of funds to the LTTE war chest, the Defence Secretary said the Canadian action could not have come at a better time. `We expect other governments to follow the Canadian example.` The international community no longer could encourage terrorism by turning a blind eye to massive fund raising operations undertaken by various groups, he said.
Hard on the heels of the Canadian action, the Italian government arrested 30 LTTE activists engaged in a major extortion racket. The Defence Secretary said the government was confident that the ongoing crackdown on the LTTE in various parts of the world would facilitate the destruction of the group. He accused a section of the Opposition of coming to the enemy s rescue as the military turned the heat on the Vanni.