Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tigers, toads and twerps - Island Editorial of Feb. 27th 2009

We have in this country some kind of toads (gembas) which love to live indoor. Even if they are swept out, they land facing the houses where they have lived. Humans are also said to have animalistic traits. They have foxes and lions among them. Similarly, there are gembas in the diplomatic community. These ambassadorial gembas cannot wean themselves from Sri Lankan affairs even after they retire.

Former US Ambassador in Colombo Jeffrey Lunstead giving evidence before a US Senate Sub Committee on Sri Lanka the other day proposed that donors slap tough aid conditions on Sri Lanka to make her capitulate to the diktats of the international community in resolving her conflict. A few weeks ago, some other ex-US envoys who had served here issued a statement severely critical of Sri Lanka thus lending their voice to the terrorist lobby working overtime to bail out the LTTE.

Even a child with a decent education will find gaping holes in Lunstead's presentation to the Senate Sub Committee. His arguments are not backed by facts and he must have been swayed by the INGO fraternity pulling for the separatists. The less said about the Human Rights Watch submissions, the better. We only hope that the US Senate will do its own research without going by hearsay in drawing conclusions on the situation in Sri Lanka.

Some US lawmakers are making a song and dance about the humanitarian situation in the North of Sri Lanka, where a war on terror is being fought. Is the US really concerned about the human cost of war? One may find the answer in a comment a US Secretary of State (Madeleine Albright) made in 1996 in an interview with CBS television on the Iraqi invasion:

Interviewer (Lesley Stahl): "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Albright: I"I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think is worth it."

So much for America's concern for civilians caught in a war! (President Lincoln, whose ruthless military campaign to prevent America's disintegration left over 600,000 people dead, became a national hero!)

Why is it that the so-called crusaders against global terrorism are all out to scuttle Sri Lanka's effort to defeat a terrorist outfit which has been banned in many countries in the West? They seem to think that Sri Lanka alone will benefit from her war on terror. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is in this country that a breakthrough in the world's war on terror is being made. The outfit being beaten has been described as the most ruthless terrorist group in the world.

When a tiny nation––which receives zero military assistance from the US, as Lunstead told the Senate Sub Committee––breaks the back of a mighty terrorist group backed by lawmakers in the UK, the US, Canada and India, terrorists the world over will get a shocking message: Terrorism is no longer an intractable phenomenon and the civilised world is capable of removing the scourge of mindless terror.

The SLBC yesterday said that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had said if there had been a delay of six months in taking on the LTTE, Sri Lanka would have been destroyed.

One could not agree with him more. The LTTE had brought all the key military installations in the North and the East within its artillery range taking cover behind a CFA from 2002 to 2005. It had located heavy guns south of Trincomalee to wreak havoc on the Trinco harbour and render it nonoperational, while pounding the Palali airstrip simultaneously.

In such an eventuality, about 30,000 troops, left without supplies, would have been in the same predicament as the LTTE trapped in Puthukudiyiruppu at present.

Had the LTTE got six more months, it would have launched its submarines thus posing a grave threat to all the vital sea routes in the Indian Ocean; narcotics trade and gun running would have flourished in the region. A few years ago, it may be recalled, the US Coast Guard intercepted a submersible an LTTE activist used to smuggle narcotics. The world battling the Somali pirates who loot anything that float would have had another problem.

India had to tighten air defences at power stations and military bases in the South because of the LTTE's crude air capability and it would have had to deploy a fleet of submarines to tackle the LTTE submersibles.

The million dollar question is why on earth the LTTE plunged the country into war without buying some more time? There could have been several reasons for Prabhakaran's hasty decision to resume hostilities. As water is to fish so is war to blood thirsty terrorists. Absence of war leads to their demoralisation and subsequent disintegration of a terrorist group. Prabhakaran therefore may have started Eelam War IV. He was also overconfident as he had scored a crushing victory over the army at Elephant Pass and he may have thought President Rajapaksa would fight the war they way his predecessors had done without making it to the Vanni. A desire to avoid pressure the international community brought to bear on him to agree to devolution in keeping with the Oslo Declaration may have prompted him to telescope his Eelam project. His failing health could also have been a reason; he may have been in a hurry to achieve his goal.

Whatever the reason, Prabhakaran did democracy a big favour by making a monumental military miscalculation and thereby having his terror empire dismantled within less than two and a half years. He has also exposed the underground secessionist movement in Tamil Nadu.

Ambassadorial twerps––both retired and serving––and others of their ilk marketing human rights to make a living should realise that Sri Lanka is not fighting a war for the fun of it. She is fighting to protect democracy and her territorial integrity. The winner from her war will be the civilised world. Terrorism and human rights, they must be told, can never coexist.