Trying to shoo the Eagle away

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake MP has argued that but for help the LTTE got from the US-led West, Sri Lanka’s war would not have dragged on for nearly three decades. He has stressed the need for arresting and interrogating former LTTE arms procurer KP to expose the US which he blames for double standards and causing trouble all over the world while pretending to be a peacemaker.

Why the JVP leader has, all of a sudden, fired a broadside at the US is not clear. Perhaps, he wants to look more anti-imperialist than his rivals in the Frontline Socialist Party led by Kumar Gunaratnam by bashing the West.

Why should the JVP keep telling the media that KP must be arrested? A member of the all-powerful National Executive Council, MP Dissanayake can prevail upon the leaders of the new government to have KP arrested and grilled. He ought to tell the new President whose candidacy he and his party endorsed wholeheartedly to order the arrest of the former top Tiger. Before the Jan. 08 presidential election, the JHU also promised to have KP tried for terrorism and the time has come for that pledge to be honoured.

Besides former LTTE leaders those responsible for southern terrorism in the late 1980s when thousands of people were killed and properties worth billions of rupees destroyed should be taken into custody and prosecuted. Among the public assets the JVP destroyed during its second uprising were 682 post offices, 20 Postal Department vehicles, 13 telecommunication centres, about 550 SLTB buses, 15 bus depots as well as a main workshop, more than 100 Agrarian Service Centres, several paddy collection facilities, about 210 government offices, 12 trains, several railway stations and over 130 CEB transformers. The JVP also burnt down 75 tea factories and 40 estate bungalows and carried out more than 40 bank heists. The huge loss the national economy suffered at the hands of the JVP was simply incalculable!

 

The US has drawn a lot of flak from the anti-terror activists here for its ‘human rights offensive’ against the Sri Lankan leaders who defeated terrorism. But, the fact remains that if it had really wanted to keep the LTTE going, Sri Lanka would never have been able to crush that outfit.

 

What former Navy Chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda says in his book, Adhistana, runs counter to the JVP leader’s contention. He has paid a glowing tribute to the US for helping cripple the LTTE’s maritime operations. The US assisted the Sri Lanka Navy in tracing Prabhakaran’s floating armouries which were destroyed in daring naval operations conducted under trying conditions.

 

We hold no brief for the US or any other western country and let the JVP leader have the pleasure of tearing into Uncle Sam to his heart’s content. But, there are some obstinate facts which one cannot ignore as regards the US policy towards the Sri Lankan conflict. The then US Under Secretary of State, Thomas Pickering, minced no words when he told the media in May 2000 that the LTTE’s separate state of Eelam could exist only on the ‘Planet of the dead’. That was the time when the Tigers were cock-a-hoop about a string of military victories in the North. Asked to comment on the possibility of the LTTE declaring independence, Pickering stressed that in such an eventuality the international community would automatically become the arbitrator and there would be no international support for the LTTE. The US government also went to the extent of advising the Sri Lankan armed forces how to defeat the LTTE. It, in fact, prepared a detailed plan, which The Island has seen. Israel would not have been able to assist Sri Lanka in fighting terrorism if the US had wanted the LTTE spared.

 

If one goes by the argument that the US and its western allies backed the LTTE what follows therefrom is that Sri Lanka flew in the face of the West to defeat the LTTE and the credit for leading the war without succumbing to external pressure should go to the political leaders in power at that time. Had the then government buckled under diplomatic pressure, the military commanders would have been left with no alternative but to abandon military operations and Prabhakaran would have escaped. But, during the 2010 presidential election, the JVP sought to give the credit for the war victory solely to Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka!

 

True, America’s Sri Lanka policy has, of late, been, to use a Churchillian phrase, ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. Foreign policy was never President Rajapaksa’s forte. His government made enemies of powerful nations and tried to punch above its weight on the diplomatic front only to be floored in Geneva. The challenge before the new government is to figure out what went wrong and how to mend fences without selling its soul to foreign powers.

 

Before blaming others for causing Sri Lanka’s war to last nearly three decades and trying to shoo the Eagle away, the JVP should turn the searchlight inwards. If it had succeeded in shooting down President Rajapaksa’s budget in Parliament while the war was raging his government would have come crashing down; Prabhakaran would have escaped again and the war would not have been over.