Common candidate and common enemy
The police and the armed forces continue to net key Tigers. Yesterday we reported that the CID had arrested a hardcore terrorist who had driven an explosive laden lorry to Colombo for the attack on the Central Bank. After the defeat of the LTTE, he had entered an IDP centre posing as a war affected civilian and later managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the security forces and walk to freedom. Sellathamby Navaratnam is his name.
There must be thousands of LTTE cadres like Navaratnam masquerading as civilians. And they must be brought to justice. However, that is not the point we are trying make. His arrest evokes our memories of the terror attack on the Central Bank, where over 55 persons were killed and about 1,400 others injured.
But, how many of us could remember the year of that LTTE strike? (It took place in 1996.)
We have suffered many such terror attacks including barbaric massacres smacking of genocidal violence for over a quarter century. But who remembers when the LTTE attacked places like the Pettah Central Bus Station, the JOC, the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Sri Maha Bodhi, the Bandaranaike International Airport (twice), the Kolonnawa Oil Installations, the Maradana junction, the CTO and the Galle Harbour? And who could remember when the LTTE assassinated President Ranasinghe Premadasa, Opposition and UNP Leader Gamini Dissanayake and several others, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Navy Commander Clancy Fernando, TULF Leader A. Amirthalingam, Gen. Janaka Perera, Gen. Lucky Algama, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam? When did the LTTE commit massacres in Arantalawa, Dollar Farm, Kent Farm, Gonagala, Palliyagodella and Eravur? How many buses did the LTTE blast? Where and when?
We bet our bottom dollar that only a few Sri Lankans know the answers to these questions. Little wonder that they are notorious the world over for their phenomenally short memory! It is doubtful whether even those who bore the brunt of LTTE terrorism could recall the exact date when Prabhakaran breathed his last by the Nandikadal lagoon.
The LTTE cashed in on our defective memory to the fullest; for nearly three decades it took every government for a ride by pretending to smoke the peace pipe and resuming hostilities after rearming and regrouping. Finally, we managed to enhance our collective memory, work on mistakes, take on the LTTE, avoiding peace traps, and eliminate the scourge of mindless terror.
But, six months on our memory appears to have failed again. Today, our focus is not on the common enemy struggling to make a comeback, maybe in a different form but with the same goal. Regrettably, those who united to meet the threat of terrorism head on stand divided today. Piqued, they are fighting among themselves. It is not the common enemy who is being talked about but a 'common candidate'!
Prabhakaran must be guffawing with delight wherever he may be. His followers are, no doubt, elated to see what is going on in the political arena, where patriots are being craftily pitted against patriots by the very forces that tried their damnedest to scuttle the war effort and are willing to pander to the whims and fancies of foreign powers peddling hidden agendas and the separatists pursuing their goal of Eelam discreetly.
The LTTE's conventional military capability has been effectively neutralised but this is not the time for settling personal or political scores at the expense of national security interests and a concerted effort to prevent a possible re-emergence of the threat.
Let the on-going political circus over a common candidate and the attendant gimmicks blind none to the common enemy.