A General Election, the only solution

In a strongly worded appeal to the public, the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG), an organisation of leading professionals, has called upon President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe to rise above political expediency for the good of the nation.

During the past decade such appeals have been made periodically to both political leaders by leading and respected citizens, religious leaders, reputed organisations and independent newspapers, while the country went on from crisis to crisis. But all this, as the trite Sinhala saying goes, has been like Beeri aliyata veena gahanawa vagei, playing veenas (violins) to deaf elephants. Whereas the accepted norm in modern democracies is to place national interests above all other matters, in this country political interests of our leaders get topmost priority.

Undoubtedly, the LTTE is virtually blackmailing the government that is scared to act against the blatant acts of terrorism in the fear that the cease-fire agreement may fall through. In the north and east it has been reduced to a state of impotence as the LTTE violates the law at its will and pleasure. The plain hard truth that the LTTE has not given up its terrorism is now being acknowledged by even the most optimistic and naive backers of the Cease-fire agreement, at the time it was signed.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s commitment to abide by the Cease-fire Agreement is acknowledged by those in the country as well as foreign powers. But as we have pointed out in this paper, his fear of not jeopardising the agreement, itself, has been an incentive for the LTTE to carry on with its terrorism, build up its terror outfit and keep stepping up its demands.

Last week five Muslims in the Eastern Province were killed and two were reported missing. At the time of writing four Tamils are reported missing. Reports say that communal tension in the Eastern Province is escalating. The government’s policy of appeasing the Tiger is not working out.

It is apparent that the LTTE does not want a full scale military conflict to break out. Remember it was the LTTE that sued for peace first and readily accepted the Cease-fire Agreement because of the hostile international environment against all forms of terrorism that emerged at that time. Their strategy is that while building up the infrastructure for a separate state, to keep making demands on the government to achieve their political objectives. The attacks on the Muslims in the Eastern Province is with the objective of ethnic cleansing or bringing Muslims under the heel of the LTTE.

This week, the LTTE is holding a meeting in Paris, apparently to make further demands about the Interim Council. The government’s offer of an Interim Council with a LTTE majority, which will be strongly opposed by the Sinhala electorate, does not satisfy them. They apparently want unbridled power even before a final settlement is reached. To make the government kowtow they have established a military camp at Wan Ela in government controlled area which even the Norwegian peace monitors have held to be a violation of the cease-fire agreement.

All this can take place not only because of Mr. Wickremasinghe’s appeasement but because of a split government - a government pulling in two directions. Last week, President Kumaratunga as commander-in-chief of the armed forces asked Prime Minister Wickremasinghe to have the Wan Ela camp removed. Though the president and commander-in-chief, she does not wield power to remove the camp. The prime minister for reasons stated above cannot move against the Tigers. Last week President Kumaratunga threatened to separate the amalgamated Northern and Eastern provinces. Though de jure she may have the power de facto she cannot.

Even in areas other than in the north and east, a tragi-comic situation is developing. President Kumaratunga is complaining to the prime minister that her life is being threatened by an assassin who has booked himself into the Colombo Hilton which is in proximity to President’s House. Apparently, she has no power to have the suspect removed despite being the head of the police force. Two ministers, Mr. Ravi Karunanayake and Dr. Rajitha Senarathna have complained to the police that there are conspiracies to kill them. The suspects have been named but no arrests have been reported. This is indeed a very strange situation where two cabinet ministers complain of death threats but no suspects have been arrested or a public statement on it made by the police.

The Bribery Commission, Constitutional Council, Police Commission are in a pathetic state because of this two-headed government pulling in different directions.

This state of affairs has to end soon.

The only hope seems to be a general election where the two parties go to the polls with a clear cut mandate on all vital issues.

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