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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2735

The east is bright – only Ranil is bleak

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

The road to the east was rugged. Going over the ubiquitous pot-holes we – Canadian, American and Australian expatriates guided by knowledgeable locals – felt as if we were ancient mariners rocking and tossing in choppy seas rather than modern travelers riding on a flat earthly surface. To make matters worse the rains came down in buckets. Intermittently, the clouds cleared and the sun would burst in all its bright splendor.

On either sides of the roads were uniformed cadres (they hardly looked like grown-up adults) armed with rifles, scanning the open spaces for the Tigers who ran away from their camps in the east with the advance of the Security Forces. They are the home guards protecting the cleared areas. There are 39,000 of them standing at intervals of 50 metres. They appear to be vulnerable and exposed in those lonely stretches. They, however, know that the military balance has changed for good and their positions are not that precarious as before. Their presence makes the east feel safe and normal. They stand in between law and order and chaos, between the negative past and the promising future.

They also symbolize the two different cultures: 1) the Pol Potist bomb-culture of the Vanni, where children are forcibly recruited to fight a futile war and (2) the volunteers who stand up for their people in rain or shine. In fact, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse told the expatriates that new recruits are hard to find in the villages now. All of them have flocked to join the Home Guards.

The Army camps dotted on en route too seemed like havens for meditation than volatile militaristic hives. They are more active as peacekeepers administering civil life than making preparations for war.

The Army is actively engaged in the east building relationships with all the communities, on the one hand, and keeping a sharp eye on any suspicious movements that may destabilize the newly regained peace. For instance, in Amparai the forces have resettled 151 Tiger deserters. They have been told that they are most welcome to stay with the people of the south as long as they do not revert to their violent past.

These deserters have been offered vocational training to regain their normal family lives but some are reluctant to go up further north in Welikanda where the training centres are located. They prefer to live in Amparai with their families. If this was achieved by the 26 INGOS and the numerous NGOs they would have replicated this record and sent copies to various foreign funding agencies asking for more millions! But the Army is advancing on the civilian front, helping in the rehabilitation programmes, with the minimum of fuss.

There is sense of calm and normalcy prevailing in the east despite occasional bursts of violence which we did not see. In various places we saw name boards of the TMVP which looked like another advertisement for Sampath Bank than a para-military outfit. There were no signs of the Tigers prowling in the east.

The east is also far removed from the hysteria whipped up by the local and foreign media. For instance, on the final day of the budget reading we were heading towards the east. The mobiles inside our vehicle were tuned to the west (Colombo) than to the east. Some of the locals who were with us were naturally better informed than the expats.

Speculation was running high as to the stand of the JVP at the critical time of voting – the key factor in deciding the outcome of the budget and the government. The informed locals were hinting that the JVP will not let the government fall. But the media and the bone-heads in the National Congress, led by Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera, were expecting the government to fall in the final voting of the third reading of the budget. Towards the evening the news came through that Anura Bandaranaike had crossed over to the opposition amidst thunderous applause from the bone-heads.

"That's a sure sign," said an expat, "that the government will win because Anura has the unerring knack of joining the losing side!" The laughter confirmed the consensus in the vehicle. And finally when the bone-heads in the opposition lost, another expat said: "Ranil and Mangala will not likely feel gay after this!"

Mangala Samaraweera, stunned by the defeat after promising to bring over 18 SLFPers, went ballistics. He called it "the biggest betrayal of the nation". His reaction is typical of the deluded politicos who believe that the end of nation begins when they lose their seats in parliament or lose their electoral and parliamentary battles. Lasantha Wickrematunga, the full-time UNPer and part time Editor of The Leader, too went bananas. He was huddled together with Malik Samarawickrema, working his fingers to the bone on the phone, trying to fix the numbers. He is a paper tiger who overplays his hand by relying on the ineffective power of his media to topple governments that he cannot manipulate to get favors done for him and his cronies. With all his talents it is unfortunate that he has joined the rank of losers who have been promising the capture of power tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow which never dawns.

Both Malik and Lasantha were operating in cuckoo land, completely out of touch with reality. The numbers were with the JVP and these two operators had no access to those votes. The crafty JVP led the likes of Lasantha, who pretend to know what is really happening, up the garden path. The JVPers have mastered the art of maneuvering parliamentary tactics far better than Ranil, Mangala and Lasantha put together. They played their cards close to the chest and sprung their surprise at the last minute, robbing the gaiety expected by Ranil, Mangala and Lasantha.

The corrupt political malaise that blights the nation begins with the Opposition obsessed with capturing power. It is the Opposition led by Wickremesinghe that promotes corruption at the highest political level. Attempts at regime change in Sri Lanka by the Opposition invariably involve money changing hands. It was so when Mangala Samaraweera's father, Mahanama Samaraweera crossed over from the SLFP to the UNP in 1964. Nothing seems to have changed since Mahanama crossed over from the SLFP to the UNP.

Wickremesinghe cannot claim to be a man with clean hands when he is patron saint of this corrupt practice of buying MPs. When he lends his support to buying MPs he forfeits the right to accuse the government of being corrupt. Nor does a corrupt Opposition give hope to a clean administration if and when it comes into power. Wickremesinghe stands at the apex of a corrupt opposition.

JVP, on the other hand, is the only saving grace in the opposition ranks. It is not tainted with corruption either in office or out of office like the UNP led by Wickremesinghe. Nor is it unprincipled, playing opportunistic politics. Its greatest asset is in placing its trust in the nation. Defending the nation at any cost is the need of the hour and the JVP got its perspectives right in abstaining from voting.

JVP foxed Wickremesinghe who was initially promoted as "the fox" by Lasantha's Leader. And each time Wickremesinghe fails it exposes the stupidity and weakness of the UNP in handling basic politics. It was under his leadership that the UNP lost the strongest fortress of the party, the Colombo Municipality. In Colombo he is the Jonah who lost the unlosable. He lost his MPs three times. He has lost elections for the umpteenth time. He lost in his gamble of signing the Ceasefire Agreement. He lost to Prabhakaran who used him and kicked him out. He lost in all his anti-national activities, including his invitation to the Portuguese to celebrate the first invasion of the Western imperialists. What has he won for the party, for the nation and for himself? At the end of the day he is left with only Mangala Samaraweera, Anura Bandaranaike, and Lasantha Wickrematunga which only goes to prove that birds of a feather flock together.

Besides, how many times is the Opposition going to waste the national energies and public funds in trying to overthrow governments against the wishes of the electorate. It is the nation that has to pay ultimately for the petty politics of Wickremesinghe. It is an anti-national opposition which cannot offer a viable alternative to protect national sovereignty, territorial integrity or its heritage. It is bent on regime change of a democratically elected government pledged to serve its full term and not regime change in the Pol Potist regime in the Vanni which poses the greatest threat to the nation.

This exposes the misguided and disruptive priorities of Ranil Wickremesinghe who parades (without a hope in hell) as the next Prime Minister-in-waiting. The known record should inform him that with his anti-national political program he hasn't a chance this side or that side of Suez to win either in Parliament or in the electorate. Besides, the latest fiasco should make him realize that neither Lasantha nor Malik has the slightest capacity to fix the numbers in Parliament without the JVP. Their asinine adventures have ended in pushing Ranil and Anura over the edge into a bottomless precipice. It only confirms that Ranil is doomed to be a chronic loser with no hope of attaining power not only through his journey in local politics but even in the unending journey in the cycle of samsara.

It is the JVP that saved the day. Somawansa Amerasinghe told the expatriates who met him that the so-called National Congress was ready to take to the streets if the government was defeated and create havoc demanding elections. The hopes of the dispirited UNPers, who had not seen any victory since Wickremesinghe took command, were to be given another lease of life and thrown into the streets in the hope of recapturing power in Parliament if Ranil-Mangala combination succeeded in defeating the budget. It was also a move to divert attention from the heroic victories of the soldiers to the futile gains of Ranil-Mangala combination.

Their hopes were dashed by the clever strategies of the JVP. They argued that a parliamentary victory of that magnitude would be a defeat to the self-sacrificing efforts of the rest of the nation yearning for peace through the successful military campaign. They were reflecting the mood and the aspirations of the rest of the nation. Dimbulagala Rahulalankara, Secretary of the District Sasanarakshaka Maha Balamandalaya, who is daily facing threats from the Tigers, told me that those in Colombo do not know the reactions, the fears and the feelings of those facing the Tigers.

"More than the Tigers we fear the return of Wickremesinghe Mahattaya," said Rahulalankara Himi. "Feelings were running hot in this area over the budget. We feared that the government would fall and Wickremesinghe Mahattaya would come back to sign another Ceasefire Agreement and sacrifice us to the Tigers. We are safe with Janadipathi Mahinda Rajapakse. We do not trust Wickremesinghe Mahattaya. We are the ones who will have to face the bullets, not Wickremesinghe Mahattaya," said Rahulalankara Himi.

The Buddhist monks also identify Wickremesinghe with NGOs and Christian fundamentalists. They remember how Catholic John Ameratunga, a powerful minister in charge of Police, gave protection to the fundamentalists to erect a church just next to the historic Somawathie Chaitya. They remember how Wickremesinghe refused to heed he protests of the Buddhists in the locality. They remember how John Ameratunga provided electricity to celebrate Christmas for one month while curtailing supplies to celebrate Wesak only for two days. They remember how Wickremesinghe ran a Cabinet loaded with Christian Ministers, backed by his fundamentalist newspaperman, Lasantha, who is now waging a family fight to convert his son into a Christian, against the wishes of the rest.

This explains, to a great extent, why Wickremesinghe is doomed to fail. There are 81 temples in Dimbulagala and 34 in Welikanda and 95 percent of them are disciples of the Dimbulagala priest who was tortured and killed by the Tigers. These monks may forgive but never forget how the Tigers went on the rampage to attack and destroy the Buddhist base. They are also wary of the NGOs, the UNPers and the Christian fundamentalists who infiltrate the area under various guises.

Led by these brave monks the people are fighting back. They need the support to fight back. Rahulalankara Himi told me: "We have confidence in Janadipathi Mahinda Rajapakse. We know he will give a fitting reply to the Tigers. We rely on him to protect our rights, our heritage and our future.”

- Asian Tribune -

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