How failed leaders could serve the nation

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, like many other Sri Lankan politicians, looks intelligent so long as she exercises control over her restless tongue. But, this exactly is what she finds it impossible to do.

Hell hath no fury like a president forcibly retired. Piqued and consumed with animosity towards her successor, who, Chandrika thinks, took the bread out of her mouth, she has been settling old scores with him at the expense of the national interest.

Last week, she sought to fuel the anti-Sri Lankan flames engulfing Tamil Nadu by sounding just like the pro-LTTE lobby all out to sabotage Sri Lanka's war on terror and bail out Prabhakaran and his cohorts trapped in a rapidly shrinking pocket of resistance in the North. She told the Indian media in New Delhi, according to IANS, "I don't believe in bombarding people and killing thousands of civilians and rendering hundreds of refugees."

According to Chandrika, the Sri Lanka military is doing nothing but killing and displacing people. One may have expected such diabolical lies from a rabid enemy of Sri Lanka like Vaiko. Poor Prabhakaran, impressed by Chandrika's claptrap, must be regretting having made an attempt on her life in 1999!

While disapproving of the on-going military campaign against the LTTE, Chandrika claims her government did two-thirds of work, where the war was concerned and the Rajapaksa government has only completed that. "We had taken over roughly 70 to 75 per cent of the land areas held by the LTTE. They have cleared the rest of the 30 or 25 per cent of the land," IANS has quoted her as saying, "the present government has finished the operations that we had started with weapons we brought."

Curiouser, curiouser! Chandrika wants the credit for the very war she disapproves of! If she did not believe in war which harms civilians, why on earth did she purchase the weapons with which the war is being fought today? She claims she was instrumental in clearing 70 to 75 per cent of the territory held by the LTTE. Did she shoo away the Tigers from those areas or did she wage war? She was also compelled to fight the LTTE. During her Operation Riviresa, which drove the LTTE from Jaffna in 1995, tens of thousands of people were displaced as Prabhakaran took them to the Vanni as a human shield. The UNP sought to belittle her military victory by claiming that she had taken back a ghost town. But, people returned to their homes later.

On Chandrika's own admission, she had the same weapons and the same armed forces at her disposal but could not finish the war. Why? What was sadly lacking at that time was political leadership for the war effort. But today, the military has an unwavering leadership and Prabhakaran, who brought four presidents to their knees during the past three decades, is now hiding behind women and children and suing for peace.

If the present military campaign is not going to help resolve the conflict, how else does Chandrika think that goal could be achieved? She is known for her advocacy of a political solution. But the fact remains that she pathetically failed in her efforts to make peace with Prabhakaran through a dialogue.

In 1994, she offered the entire Northern Province to Prabhakaran sans elections for a period of ten years. Prabhakaran contemptuously spurned her kind offer. Then she talked peace with him for a few months only to be disappointed. In 2000, even after the LTTE tried to kill her, she offered Prabhakaran Regional Councils, which went way beyond the Provincial Councils in terms of devolution. Before the UNP and the JVP shot down her devolution package in Parliament, Prabhakaran had rejected it lock stock and barrel.

Thereafter, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's UNF government agreed to the Oslo Declaration which envisaged federalism. Having initially accepted it in principle, the LTTE rejected it later much to the chagrin of the donor Co-Chairs who considered it a breakthrough. She must now be aware that the LTTE won't settle for anything less than a separate state.

President Rajapaksa, too, chose to be as flexible, if not servile, as his predecessors in trying to make peace with the LTTE but to no avail. Prabhakaran did not even give President Rajapaksa a decent breather after the latter's induction and threatened war in the heroes' day speech in 2005 within a few days of the presidential election. Then, he went on a killing spree against the security forces and police personnel.

Thus, Prabhakaran plunged the country back into war.

President Kumaratunga was very critical of the UNF's peace talks with the LTTE. She said in an interview with The Hindu on April 12, 2003 that the LTTE had established a de facto separate state in the north under the cover of a peace process. She sacked the UNF regime for national security reasons and grabbed power in Parliament in 2004. But, she did nothing to dismantle that 'de facto separate state'. Nor did President Rajapaksa do so until the LTTE closed the Mavil Aru sluice gates giving him Hobson's choice.

This country has, for once, taken on terrorists with a single-minded will to win and the terrorists are on their knees suing for peace. And a small country has shown the civilised world that terrorism could be neutralised militarily.

Chandrika could neither wage war nor make peace. Under her watch, the LTTE committed about 70 massacres of civilians and killed thousands of armed forces and police personnel and many political leaders; the country lost many military camps including the Elephant Pass garrison and huge stocks of arms and ammunition to the terrorists. In short, she retired a failed Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces.

However, failed leaders in retirement could always render a great service to their nations without moving a finger. All that they should do is to keep their traps shut!

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