Time of reckoning at hand
On three successive days — 17, 18 and 19 June — ‘The Island’ newspaper carried on its centre page important pieces of differing genre but closely related import, concerning the Prime Minister’s peace process. Seriatim, an UTHR (J) press statement titled Lanka’s end game", a lead editorial titled "LTTE’s killing spree: time for straight answers", and an article by Dayan Jayatilleka titled "Our Country". Taken together, they constitute as comprehensive a resume as one could wish of the prevailing state of play. Before proceeding any farther, let me state here that I could not agree more with the substance of each and all of them.
Two questions arise there from: first, what is the crucial need of the hour, and second, how best can this be met?
As I see it, the need of the hour is to ensure as far as is possible at what is very much the eleventh hour, that our Armed Forces are ready to come with an LTTE attack when it comes. That includes readiness in the scale and deployment of men and materials, the sense of purpose and morale of all fighting and support forces, and most importantly, the ‘right’ mind-set of the higher echelons of the Command structure. It needs to be kept in the forefront of both military and public mind, that this has to be achieved as far as is possible in the face of what will be very considerable pressure from the Prime Minister’s ‘peace machine’ to prevent/ thwart/abort its achievement. I mean by ‘peace machine’ that nexus between the UNP/GOSL, SLMM and the LTTE, under the overarching benefaction of the so-called ‘international community’.
How best can this be sought — never mind for the moment whether or not it can be met. The answer, again as I see it, is through coherent, decisive and timely executive action by the President and Commander-in-Chief. I have earlier argued that such coherence of strategic design, political will based on the courage of conviction, and capacity for decisive and timely action has proved beyond the President on the basis of her record of performance. Nonetheless, two news items of recent days hint — no more —at the possibility that a sea change could get under way.
A recent news report states that the Prime Minister informed the Cabinet that the Defence Minister had been ignorant of the successful interception by the Navy of a LTTE arms-smuggling attempt until after the event. In any other country, a Naval Command achieving such a successful interception would have been publicly congratulated by the Head of Government. Here, it has been cause for an ‘inquiry’, impolitely designed to ascertain ‘guilt’.
The ‘peace’ mind-set which underpins this UNP/GOSL absurdity was best reflected in TV comment by their principal media propagandist, Lasantha Wickrematunga, when he implied the following:
I. That our Navy’s success was due to officers on duty-station acting through a chain of command linking them with the Navy Commander (then abroad) and the Commander-in-Chief, rather than through NHQ and MoD, and
II. That their action had given the LTTE a propaganda handle gratuitously, allowing the latter to allege a breach of MoU by the GOSL!
Of course, the PM’s and his media propagandist’s agitation is well enough understood. What they have in mind is that, if as hitherto the SLN Officers involved in the action had gone through NHQ and MoD, then that afore-mentioned nexus of GOSL/SLMM/LTTE could and would have aborted, or otherwise thwarted any SLN action to intercept the LTTE arms-smuggling. If indeed this is how things happened, any partriotic citizen can but cheer, and say: well done, Navy.
That same day, ‘The Island’ carried a small item stating that the President (and let’s never forget, the Commander-in-Chief) had summoned the Army’s field commanders and their SLN and SLAF equivalents in the North and East for a full briefing on the military situation, conducted quite properly of course in the presence of the three SF Commanders and the PM’s ‘peace machine’ representatives — Defence Minister Marapona, and Defence Secretary Fernando.
There cannot of course be any authoritative report on what the C-in-C’s final instructions to her Commanders had been — not in the public domain anyway. Again, a patriotic citizen can but hope that she left them in no doubt whatever, that they should disregard or even reject any directives/persuasion/pressure or subordination sought to be brought to bear upon them by any elements of the ‘peace machine’ or the latter’s foreign patrons/benefactors, in an attempt to diminish or thwart the professional discharge of Security Forces’ duty by the nation. It goes without saying of course, in this context of the defence the realm against threat to sovereignty and territorial integrity, that the orders of the President and Commander-in-Chief to the Security Forces would perforce supersede countermanding ones from any other source, ‘peace machine’ or otherwise!
Any moral here? Only one that comes to mind: the time for
lotuseating is over.
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