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Local Karunanidhis crawling out of the woodwork

All appears to be quiet on the Tamil Nadu front after India and Sri Lanka sorted out problems that had given rise to the DMK-instigated protests, save some noises here and there. Even Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who went all out to thwart the military campaign against the LTTE in the Vanni, seems to have fallen in line, if his silence is any indication. However, the local Karunanidhis are crawling out of the woodwork.

Leader of the SLFP (M) Mangala Samaraweera MP is reported to have once again opposed the Vanni offensive which has reached a decisive phase, claiming that only Prabhakaran and the Rajapaksas want it. One is intrigued. Even the UNP, which is carrying Mangala piggyback, has changed its stand on the country's war. It has decided to endorse the defence expenditure proposed by the current budget, as UNP stalwart and former Interior Minister John Amaratunga said last week. On Saturday, Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe himself told Parliament that the UNP stood for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and the security forces had to deal with the LTTE.

Having been rejected by the people at successive elections for appeasing terrorists, the UNP seems to have realised at last that unless it backs the war effort at least tacitly, it stands the same chance as a cat in hell of winning future elections. The late Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera may have failed to deliver the NCP to the UNP but he demonstrated that the UNP would gain politically if it supported the on-going military campaign against the LTTE. His entry into the UNP acted as a catalyst for change as regards that party's stand on terrorism and that was one of the reasons why the LTTE assassinated him.

Mangala's utterances are bound to run counter to the UNP's strategy to regain the sympathy of the vast majority of the voting public abhorring terrorism and hoping for an early end to it.

Why didn't Mangala oppose war when President Chandrika Kumaratunga took on the LTTE militarily after her failure to make peace with the outfit? Not even her worst critics could question her desire to resolve the conflict politically. But, the LTTE took her for a ride and finally attempted to eliminate her physically. When the LTTE scuttled the peace process in 1995, she launched a military campaign to recapture Jaffna. And Mangala, one of her trusted lieutenants, backed her war effort to the hilt. This is how he boasted of military achievements of the Kumaratunga government in an interview with The Island in August 1997: "Before 1994, there were only 171 sq. km under the control of the government. And only 3,000 people were living in that area. The rest of the land was under the control of the LTTTE. Today [August 1997], we have 3,369 sq. km under the government control. Over five hundred thousand people are now living in this area and many more are returning." Recently, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka said since 2006 the LTTE had been deprived of 80 per cent of the land it used to hold. But, Mangala et al are insisting that the capture of land is useless in battling terrorism!

It was Mangala who provided President Kumaratunga with a smokescreen to justify her 'war for peace'. His Sudu Nelum campaign was only a political prop for her military campaign. It is not being argued Mangala did not advocate a political solution. He did. But at the same time he was a defender of President Kumaratunga's war. Had he not been smoked out from the Rajapaksa government, he would still have been playing the same role today perhaps as the Foreign Minister.

What Mangala says about war smacks of a cross between gobbledygook and Newspeak. While the armed forces were battling the LTTE in the Eastern Province, he and the UNP pooh-poohed the government's military gains and claimed that the real war had to be fought in the Wanni and not in the East. They challenged the government to attack Kilinochchi if it dared. Today, Kilinochchi is under attack and Prabhakaran is making a desperate attempt to get his Tamil Nadu allies to force India to stop the Wanni offensive. We were also told that the war was being fought according to a secret pact between Prabhakaran and President Rajapaksa and the LTTE had been bribed to leave the East without putting up much resistance. If that is true, Prabhakaran is guilty of a grand sell-out and deserves to be shot by his cadres who are dying in the numbers in the Wanni due to his wrong strategy.

War is bad. But, it becomes a necessary evil when the civilised world is left without any alternative in dealing with the scourge of fanatical terrorism which defies all political remedies. Mangala and others are aware that the LTTE has torpedoed all the peace processes and spurned all the solutions offered, from Provincial Councils to federalism. Before the UNP-JVP combine shot down President Kumaratunga' Regional Council Bill in Parliament in 2000, Prabhakaran had already rejected it lock, stock and barrel.

The Rajapaksa brothers are not heavenly beings and the Opposition may bring them down a peg or two from time to time. True, the Rajapaksa regime is gaining a great deal of mileage from war against terrorism and exploiting military victories to win elections. But, on no grounds can the country's war against terrorism be considered a private affair of the Rajapaksas. For, the beneficiaries of defeating the LTTE will be all Sri Lankans, as that is the only way to pave the way for a political solution. If someone is convinced otherwise, he or she, before calling for an end to war, must obtain a pledge from the LTTE that it is ready to give up Eelam and accept a political solution.

In a way, the beneficiary of the Vanni military campaign won't be Sri Lanka alone. A country which is only a speck in the Indian Ocean is about to defeat an outfit described as the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world. Even the US struggling to neutralise terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq may have some lessons to draw from little Lanka. There is a school of thought that terrorism cannot be defeated militarily. But, the Rajapaksa brothers are determined to teach the world that terrorism could be defeated militarily – like the Wright brothers who showed the world that man could fly. Why should anyone be jealous of them and try to put a spoke in their wheel?

Only a person blinded by venom, self interest and sympathy for the LTTE can decry the country's war against terrorism and try to throw a lifeline to the beleaguered Tigers.

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