Toppigala a defeat for LTTE or “conquest of Tamils”
The euphoria associated with the capture of Toppilgala that was highlighted at Thursday’s nationwide celebrations was scarcely reflected on the floor of the House the following day when Parliament took up a day- long debate to praise the members of the security forces who had brought about this victory.
Quorum bells had to be rung three times during the course of the adjournment debate for want of the presence of 20 members to keep proceedings going which itself was a clear indication that politicians like to pay lip service to heroics of the military when its serves their political ends but coming to the Chamber and speaking a few words on their behalf means too much trouble for many of them.
JVP parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa who moved the adjournment motion praised the troops for the sacrifices they had made to secure Toppigala and said the military achievements must be strengthened by establishing democratic institutions in the area as well as economically uplifting the people of the east.
Government members coupled praise for the security forces with words of praise for President Mahinda Rajapaksa the Commander-in-Chief, for the leadership given to the military.
From the UNP MPs, there was praise for the military but they could not help going back in time and speaking of the past successes in the eastern province under a UNP political leadership. So while the government members chose to bask in the glory of a victory that was achieved with the blood and sweat scarified by the men in the military, the UNP members found it hard to be gracious and accept that even under a government and President that they dislike a great deal, something positive has been achieved. If the roles were reversed between the two sides, it is likely people would have heard exactly the opposite views from them.
No one was expecting the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs to jump on the bandwagon and say “hurrah” to the security forces. As expected they saw no reason for celebration over the capture of Toppigala. “There is nothing to celebrate .There is an on-going war and there are changes in the balance of power and it will keep happening,” Jaffna district MP N. Srikantha said. He also said it was regrettable that it is the cream of youth who are losing their lives to the war be they Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims. Mr. Srikantha's argument that elections could not be held in the eastern province alone as it would be in violation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was refuted by Education Minister Susil Premajayantha.
The Minister said that since the Supreme Court has ruled that the merger was illegal, the validity of the accord itself was in question. The main architect of the accord Rajiv Gandhi was killed by the LTTE and none of its provisions have been honoured by the Tigers, he said. The Minister also questioned why the TNA was opposing the holding of the local government elections in the east which would give the people there the chance to elect their own representatives after several years.
An urgent bill making provision for the calling for fresh nominations to nine local bodies in the east was passed by Parliament on Thursday. The TNA opposed the Bill while it won the support of all the other parties.
Surprising Minister Rauff Hakeem chose the debate on the Bill to express his displeasure with the government ceremony held to mark the Toppigala victory calling it a “political exercise.”
Mr.Hakeem who had come to Parliament soon after attending the ceremony said he had been reluctantly compelled to attend as he did not want to be seen as opposed to the security forces, but said such measures would only alienate Tamils further from the government and make them feel like a “conquered people”.
The UNP also felt government celebrations were premature and meant only to bolster the image of the President. “The compensation paid to the family of a soldier who loses his life is only Rs150,000/- while millions are being wasted on such celebrations,” UNP Gampaha district MP Jayalath Jayewardene said.
So as the government prepares for an election in the east, the newly formed alliance between the UNP and the SLFP (M) faction is preparing to turn the heat on President Rajapaksa and his government. Memories of the military success will fade away and the government will still have to address some very serious issues such as the cost of living and corruption. It’s a decisive time ahead for both sides and given the strong rumours of shifting of loyalties by members on all sides, Parliamentarians are likely to play a pivotal role in deciding to which side the balance of power will shift in the weeks ahead.