The UNP has suffered more than any other political party at the hands of the LTTE. Prabhakaran systematically decapitated it within a span of few years beginning from the assassination of de facto Defence Minister of the Premadasa government Gen. Ranjan Wijeratne in 1991, followed by that of President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993. In 1994, Prabhakaran, while having talks with the Kumaratunga government, destroyed Gamini Dissanayake and a number of other prominent UNP leaders in a single suicide blast in Colombo. The UNP has not yet recovered from those debilitating losses.
UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday rightly pointed out that President J. R. Jayewardene, President Premadasa and he himself had sought to resolve the conflict politically but the LTTE had spurned all the opportunities to evolve a peaceful solution and finally it had been militarily destroyed. (If only he had made this revelation before the UNHRC special session on Sri Lanka the other day!)
JRJ granted devolution in the form of Provincial Councils albeit under duress and his immediate successor President Premadasa tried to find a different solution through a direct dialogue with the LTTE against India`s wish. The Present UNP leader as Prime Minister of the UNF government (2001-2004) wiped the slate clean and tried his hand at peace making. He even agreed in principle to a solution to be evolved in keeping with the Oslo Declaration which envisaged federalism. But, the LTTE walked away from peace talks in 2003 thus smashing all UNF`s eggs its leader had put in the peace basket imprudently in a temerarious attempt at political expediency.
Prabhakaran rejected devolution offers from President Chandrika Kumaratunga as well. She was genuinely desirous of finding a peaceful solution unlike other leaders and took a number of huge political risks to achieve that end. First she offered the entire Northern Province to Prabhakaran without elections for a period of ten years from 1994. She obviously underestimated the LTTE separatist project. In trying to make Prabhakaran agree to devolution, she was only trying to put the man eater on a diet of soya meat! He who pursues the stag, it is said, regards not the hare. Prabhakaran predictably rejected her offer lock, stock and barrel. He also gave thumbs down to her Regional Council Package (2000), which went way beyond the 13th Amendment or Provincial Councils, before it was shot down by the UNP and the JVP together in Parliament.
President Kumaratunga moved along the same rut as her predecessors in her conflict resolution experiments and in the end found herself neither warring nor making peace.
All the leaders who offered or at least indicated their willingness to offer devolution to the LTTE invited trouble. JRJ was safe thanks to his retirement and the LTTE`s preoccupation with the IPKF. Rajiv Gandhi paid with his dear life for his devolution deal with the LTTE. President Premadasa had a human bomb in return for his efforts to find a negotiated settlement and his services to Prabhakaran including the provision of arms, ammunition, money and building materials during the IPKF operations. President Kumaratunga had a narrow escape when an LTTE suicide bomber came for her in 1999. And, if the UNP`s claim that the LTTE-instigated polls boycott at the Presidential Election in 2005 was aimed at ruining the UNF`s chances of grabbing the executive presidency is anything to go by, Prabhakaran destroyed Ranil Wickremesinghe politically.
Experiments with peace, under all political dispensations, thus helped Prabhakaran inch towards his goal by using every peace process as a springboard to the next phase of Eelam war. Only President D. B. Wijetunga had the wisdom to avoid talks with the LTTE and deal with it militarily.
The incumbent President, too, chose to appease the LTTE initially in spite of his reputation as a `hawk` but Prabhakaran blundered by closing the Mavil Aru sluice gates and triggering war.
Fighting that began near the Mavil Aru waters ended in the Nandi Kadal lagoon with Prabhakaran meeting his Waterloo. Today, there isn`t a single LTTE supporter to be found in this country and the surviving LTTE members, wherever they may be, will not even dare turn off a running tap let alone close an anicut!
The moral of the story is that it is futile to negotiate with an intransigent terrorist outfit. The the best way to deal with terrorists, as the White House said in response to bin Laden`s truce offer some years ago, is to send them out of business.
There is no other way out.
Ironically, the aforesaid statement by the UNP leader coming as it does from a dove and darling of the west that has turned against Sri Lanka is a solid defence for the Rajapaksa government in that he has admitted negotiating with the LTTE was an exercise in futility. Ranil knows better than anyone else that neither his government`s servility nor pressure from the so-called Tokyo Co-chairs (the US, the EU, Norway and Japan) could bring the LTTE back to the negotiating table.
In other words, war became the last resort or pis aller for President Rajapaksa and the LTTE had to be defeated militarily. In fact, Ranil has virtually echoed what the European Parliament said in 2006 in justification of the EU ban on the LTTE. It pointed out, inter alia, that the LTTE had rejected devolution at the provincial level (Provincial Councils), at the regional level (Regional Councils) and at the national level (federalism). Strangely, the EU sought to rescue the very terrorists it once condemned for rejecting devolution as a solution!
A transcript of the UNP leader`s speech at issue may be prepared and copied to Moon, Miliband, Clinton, Kouchner and all other Sri Lanka-bashers so that they will realise that in dealing with terrorism this country did what it had to for want of a better alternative.