While a sinister campaign is on overseas to press war crime charges against Sri Lanka, one of our columnists, Durand Appuhamy, has made a valuable suggestion in an article on this page yesterday. Since former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake has sent a report to the US Congress on Sri Lanka presumably in a bid to make a case for the prosecution of the Sri Lankan armed forces for war crimes, Durand asks what prevents the Sri Lankan parliamentarians from putting up a united front in defence of the heroic forces who defeated terrorism. That is the way, he rightly points out, to convince the US Congress of the need to look at both sides of the issue raised by Blake allegedly after meeting some LTTE activists abroad.
We could not agree with our columnist more! But, the problem is that most of our MPs are notorious for running with the hare and hunting with hounds. Some of them are deriving a perverse pleasure from Sri Lanka`s predicament in the post-war period. On the other hand, they are in the good books of foreign powers hostile to this country and they may not want to ruffle their masters` feathers. So, it is highly unlikely that all parliamentarians will join forces to defend the defenders of the nation voluntarily.
The government deserves the credit for defeating terrorism and the Opposition has also claimed a share of it. The Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe famously said in the aftermath of the decimation of the LTTE that the UNP, too, had contributed to the country`s victory as among the armed forces were members of the UNP. He got it right! Moreover, the UNP was the first to take on the LTTE militarily, and build the national military to the level of a modern combat outfit. It also lost many of its stalwarts at the hands of terrorists in the process.
Therefore, there is no reason why the two main parties cannot come together and defend the Sri Lankan military and clear the country`s name vis- -vis the on-going human rights witch-hunt against them. However, even the patriotic parliamentarians on either side of the political divide are not likely to make common cause on their own because of their confrontational politics and animosity. Someone has to take the initiative.
It was only the other day that Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara told the House that it must oppose the shoddy treatment meted out to Sri Lankan VIPs in some foreign countries. Similarly, the national legislature is duty bound to defend the armed forces that have made Sri Lanka safe for her citizens irrespective of ethnicity and religion. Today, no one is dying because of war. There are no assassinations no massacres, no bomb blasts no illegal taxes no kangaroo courts no illegal prisons and, most of all, no child recruitment. UNICE had been striving to prevent child conscription by the LTTE for over two decades but in vain and a few months before the conclusion of the war it launched an expensive advertising campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the crime of child recruitment. That prompted us to say in these columns the child conscription would continue as long as the LTTE lasted and children would be free only on the day the outfit was decimated. And today children are free from conscription in all parts of the country!
These benefits which were considered unthinkable a few years ago have accrued to the country as a whole because of the selfless sacrifices of the armed forces bravely led by a government against tremendous odds and unbearable pressure from external forces determined to save Prabhakaran and his killers. Therefore, now, it is the turn of the country to defend the armed forces, their commanders and the political leaders who gave them leadership.
Let the worthy Members of Parliament move a resolution in the House expressing fullest confidence in the armed forces and condemning despicable efforts in some quarters to vilify them.