|Ranils triple dilemmas
Theres no doubt that the recent incident of a suspected LTTE boat carrying arms, blasted by the security services, is of grave concern to the Govt. of Ranil Wickremesinghe.
It is also ammunition to the opponents of the peace process to point a finger at the Govt. to say, we told you that the LTTE is not sincere in their adherence to the MoU.
Added to all this is the fact that in the third week of April the cost of living and the commodity prices shot up like nothing in the past decade. The only solace to the common man was that it was raining like hell and the daily blackout was thinning out by the day. Only farmers at least were happy to get back to their fields to plough, smiling that the time was ripe to sow again.
Ranils dilemmas are threefold: The first of which is to verify whether there is a double agenda to the peace overtures of the LTTE. Or whether there is a split within the LTTE which surpasses the attention of the hierarchy. If so, then the problem of a lasting solution to the twenty year conflict is bound to drag on, perhaps with only a cessation of armed confrontation. The war in the North and East would then be on the economic front. A typical scenario of Japan, the Pearl harbour and ultimately an invasion in fifty years of the USA with products and becomes the 2nd largest economy in the world.
The fact is that the LTTE has firmly established a tax collecting system and a law and order enforcement mechanism all of its own, leave our security service personnel in the border areas with much less to do than sit and wait. This is revealed by the travellers to the North and East in the recent past. They are amazed at the strict code of conduct of the LTTE cadres in these areas where it is said that not a pin is lost even from the parked vehicles in the night.
Dilemma number two is how best to deal with a Presidency which is visibly hostile to the UNF Govt. This is daily compounded with reports of miscreants of the past, close to the Palace, hounded out and indicted for past crimes.
There is no denial that the Presidency has shown in the past seven years and plus that it is pathologically hateful of Ranil and his mates. There was not one public speech both locally and internationally without reference to the UNPs seventeen year rule before. In this situation Ranil has to tread this path with such care that he would have no serious confrontation with the Presidency until at least Peace is achieved. This land has seen enough and more bloodshed commenced by the extremist called the JVP in 1971.
Dilemma number three is that he has to keep a tight leash on the commodity prices. This is no easy task. The world at large is still in recession and spending boys whether be local or foreigners with greenbacks are not coming here in droves as one would expect. The value of the rupee is depreciating to the US dollar and the commodity prices along with the cost of living is ballooning like never before. So the approach to big spending is on hold until there is a clear direction to the peace process. Worst of all a so called macro budget of "big money is no crime", is applied in this years budget nudging the pensioners principle to the bankruptcy wall. Therefore, the public would have to wait for better times to see any tangible results from their newly elected Govt. of the UNP.
The patience levels of the Sri-Lankan public by comparison to others is much higher than most Asian or Latin American countries. Therefore the customary insults by the presidency of the newly elected Govt. of Ranil would fall on deaf ears to the greater majority. Nevertheless, patience is limited. The public can no longer bear the cost of living, under-employment or spiralling inflation.
The great majority including the saner critics of the opposition would admit that with the customary coolness and affability Ranil would ride through the dilemmas with a knowing grin and smile often mistaken for weakness. Like the PA in the last election, the LTTE should be aware that it would be a serious mistake to underestimate the PM. The taste of the new freedoms in the NE could compel their own people to tell the LTTE - Go to hell.!
G. Mahen P. Siriwardena
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