The biggest benefit that has accrued to the country from the election of former LTTE combatant S. Chandrakanthan at the Eastern Provincial Council polls was the unmasking of bogus peace makers and conflict resolution activists. Those who had been urging the government to bring the LTTE to the political mainstream through a devolution package made an about-turn no sooner had Chandrakanthan, who had stepped out of terrorism, accepted devolution at the provincial level. Today, they are all out to pull the rug from under his feet thus making a mockery of their peace credentials and laying bare their true faces as terror backers masquerading as peaceniks.
They find themselves in an obtrusive contradiction. On the one hand, they want the LTTE which is still committing gruesome acts of terrorism to be given more than federalism even before it undertakes to eschew violence. On the other hand, they are campaigning against the appointment of a former LTTE cadre, who has won a popular election, as the head of a Provincial Council. Is it that they would rather encourage an LTTE cadre to stay with Prabhakaran and continue to unleash terrorism than help him or her vote with his or her feet and take to democratic politics?
After the closet Tigers' campaign to thwart the LG and PC polls in the East came a cropper, they turned to some trigger-happy anarchical bigots to create ethnic disturbances and render that part of the country ungovernable. The unfortunate incidents reported from the East during the past few weeks smack of the execution of a well thought out plan to destabilise the newly constituted council which has become anathema to the LTTE and its fellow travellers.
The LTTE has the same chances as a cat in hell of making a comeback in the East. It may resort to hit and run tactics and take some high profile targets after months of planning but it is only wishful thinking that the outfit will ever be able to regain control of that terrain.
However, the capability of the LTTE and its allies should not be underestimated. They know more than one way to skin a cat. Cornered as they are in the Wanni, they have managed to open several fronts against the Sri Lankan state. They are carrying out an effective campaign on the Human Rights front and pulling the wool over the eyes of even respected human rights champions of international repute. In the East, they have adopted a method which has failed in the southern parts of the country. They are stoking up racial hatred with the help of some sick elements ever on the lookout for an opportunity to give expression to their lust for ethnic bloodletting. Their objective is to trigger a downward spiral of ethnic violence, which will plunge the East into anarchy.
The biggest challenge before CM Chandrakanthan and PC Minister M. L. A. M. Hisbullah is to avoid such booby traps and work towards re-democratisation and the development of their province where people have pinned their hopes on them. Yesterday, we carried a picture of the duo at the inauguration of the PC. Chances of their success are greater if they stick together without locking horns over frivolous issues. Upon their young shoulders rests the future of the Eastern PC and that of the anti-terror campaign which has enabled them to emerge as true leaders of their people.
Their popularity in the province is proof that they have a considerable following and their first task should be defusing ethnic tensions and preparing the ground for an efficient civil administration to be established.
Meanwhile, it behoves Minister Hisbullah to be wary of receiving gift-bearing Greeks with open arms. Even the hearts of those members of the international community, notorious for their anti Islamic frenzy, are bleeding for the Eastern Province Muslims! What a hue and cry their local agents and media hacks in their pay made, when Hisbullah failed to become chief minister. He ought to ask them, if they love Muslims so much, why they have chosen not to take up the cause of the Northern Province Muslims the LTTE chased away in 1990 in keeping with its ethnic cleansing policy. Today, those Muslims are living in appalling conditions as refugees in their own country, having lost all their possessions to the LTTE.
The Tiger backers, both local and foreign, on a campaign to scuttle the Eastern PC are not likely to give up so easily. They will try every trick in the book to create a situation favourable to their striped friends' agenda. For, without the East, the Eelam war is not worth fighting. Their objective may even be to make governance impossible for Chandrakanthan, who is, with a considerable number of combatants at his disposal in the East, a force to be reckoned with, in the hope that he will become disillusioned with power sharing someday and, out of desperation, turn against the government.
CM Chandrakanthan needs assistance and guidance in running the EP Council. His appointment as the Chairman of the Chief Ministers' Conference was a step in the right direction. His senior counterparts in other councils could teach him the ropes. (We only hope that he won't learn the wrong ropes and succumb to corruption and abuse of power.)
Unity of Chandrakanthan and Hisbullah is a prerequisite for smooth functioning of the EPC and so long as they and the forces––ethnic, religious and political––that they represent remain together, the East will be able to ward off threats from the evil elements hell bent on destroying democracy and enthroning terrorism.