27th December 1998
By S.S. Selvanayagam
Minister and CWC leader S. Thondaman has strongly denied reports that he is stepping down from politics and is seeking a portfolio for his grandson.
Ahead of a six-week visit to India, coinciding with the visit of President Kumaratunga, Mr. Thondaman accused interested parties of again spreading fictitious or foolish stories aimed at getting him out of the political scene.
He said he had no plans to retire from politics so long as he was physically fit and enjoyed the confidence mainly of his estate people.
He also denied reports that he had asked President Kumaratunga to give a portfolio to his grandson and CWC general secretary Arumugam Thondaman.
Mr. Thondaman, often the target of severe criticism for his alleged political manipulation, said he would like to point out to his critics, that he had, if nothing else, prevented the plantations youth from resorting to violence as had the youth of the north and the south.
Mr. Thondaman said it was his dynamic and exemplary leadership which had led the plantations youth on a nonviolent path.
Several interested parties were jealous of this achievement and that was why they were trying to undermine him by spreading all sorts of rumours.
May UNP learn from '98 follies
The "illness" of my good friend from a not so good party, Viruddha Paakshikaya, earlier this month gives me the opportunity of signing off for 1998, and sign off I will confidently anticipating an election victory early next year at the Wayamba polls, which unfortunately Viruddha Paakshikaya seems to consider a "traditional homeland" of the UNP.
Much of Viruddha Paakshikaya's mundane column last week was devoted to gloating over their defeating Minister Thondaman's votes.
It just shows Viruddha Paakshikaya how cheap your thrills are, be it defeating the helpless Mr. Thondaman or titillating yourselves by ogling at semi-nude Brazilian dancers at Los Angeles.
The end result of the latter is now evident - a dud cheque - and the end result of the former will also be seen in time to come.
I assure you, Viruddha Paakshikaya the entire Thondaman vote bank which had been voting for the 'elephant' all these years is now going to turn its back on the 'Aliya'. Mark my words, my friend, it was an elephantine blunder on the part of the UNP and you are sure to pay for it.
Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya don't get me wrong; I myself am no great admirer of Saumyamoorthy Thondaman, and I have told him so, too.
But, look at practically. Mr. Thondaman, at over eighty years of age and used to calling the shots almost always for the last twenty years, must now be an old man with a hurt ego and yearning for revenge.
He maybe eighty plus, but like his friend, J. R. Jayewardene he remembers old favours and old fights very well. You would agree, Viruddha Paakshikaya that in 1989 the UNP, then under R. Premadasa's autocratic presidency, played him out. After all his candidate from the Nuwara Eliya district lost, Mr. Thondaman had to be accommodated in the National list of the UNP.
I know that he was then very bitter with Gamini Dissanayake, whom Thonda perceived as his rival in the plantation sector. Gamini who had nurtured the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers' Union (LJEWU) to rival Thonda's Ceylon Workers' Congress did nothing to dispel this notion. Whenever CWC workers went on a strike, LJEWU members worked harder to minimize its impact.
Of course JRJ, forever sphinx like, watched this battle complacently 'divide and rule' being his eternal theme. But I suspect, Viruddha Paakshikaya, Thonda learned to live and let live in the UNP, learning an important lesson in the process: Never trust the UNP.
Now, let us look at the ground situation today, Viruddha Paakshikaya: there are more than 300,000 plantation sector votes in the central highlands. I do not say that the CWC or Mr. Thondaman has all those votes but even grudgingly we must concede that he commands more than 200,000 of those votes.
It is also highly probable that Mr. Thondaman will contest on his own aiming to be a power broker by supporting the side that wins more seats. It is here that the scenario becomes very, very interesting, Viruddha Paakshikaya.
Presuming just for the sake of argument, Viruddha Paakshikaya, that the PA gets four or five less than the UNP at the next election (which would happen under your proportional representation system, by the way) a Thondaman bloc of eight to ten seats which he will now never give to the UNP, could tilt the balance in our favor. And my friends in the CWC tell me this is precisely what the grand old man hopes to do, just to teach you a lesson.
I think Viruddha Paakshikaya, I have now proved beyond any doubt your folly in fighting Thondaman, so I will say no more about it. After all, why should we as loyal SLFPers complain when the UNP is hellbent on self destruction?
But I will agree with you on one point, my friend running a coalition government is not the easiest of things. And, I think I should say so before you do - we too are finding life tough with Ashraff in our midst.
Mr. Ashraff is determined to work at the port in his own way making a mockery of the country's ethnic ratios in his recruitment strategies. Our own minister, A. H. M. Fowzie meanwhile perceives himself as a national leader of his community within the PA and is taking the fight to Mr. Ashraff. And, I'll be the fist to admit it, Viruddha Paakshikaya, all this has not made life easy for the PA or our President, what with Minister Ashraff opening a headquarters for his party which is the envy of even SLFPers.
But it is here that the difference between the UNP and the SLFP (or PA) becomes evident. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) can get a significant number of votes, especially in the Eastern Province. And as I said earlier, in a close contest (as I'm sure it would be the next time around) those SLMC votes would be very crucial.
The difference, of course is that our leader, president Chandrika Kumaratunga, is a shrewd politician and unlike your leader, she sees this possibility clearly. She knows how important Mr. Ashraff is to her, the SLFP and the PA and she doesn't try to hide that fact either.
So, she had the foresight and the courage to tell her party men that the Fowzies, Moulanas and other SLFP Muslims can't hold a candle to Mr. Ashraff and the SLMC. But what do you do, Viruddha Paakshikaya.
The only gesture you make towards Mr. Ashraff is attending his party convention. But just in case Mr. Ashraff gets the wrong message by doing that, you rub it in by bringing a no-confidence vote against him over the Galle Port.
Therefore, Viruddha Paakshikaya, the UNP now does not have the backing of the CWC, SLMC, TULF, PLOTE or the EPDP — all parties which supported it at one time. That is why the UNP is hard to beat for sheer political stupidity, my friend.
Of course we know that your own party is riddled with factions — the Premadasas the Coorays and the Mendises but none of them is with the Wickremesinghes.
So, I can't imagine from where the UNP is going to get its votes at the next General or Presidential elections but it is safe to say that most of these rifts will not surface at next months' Wayamba poll.
Even so, Viruddha Paakshikaya, your UNP is showing tell-tale signs of desperation, because, your mud-slinging campaign has begun in earnest. You are behaving like a moralist or fundamentalist party, trying to capitalize on a domestic or matrimonial dispute of our chief ministerial candidate.
This is really the trendy first century, Viruddha Paakshikaya. We know that in this enlightened day and age that such disputes could happen to anyone in any family.
Take Bill Clinton as an example. I say so because you in the UNP are such fans of American politics. What happened to Clinton's popularity ratings after the Monica Lewinsky affair. And better still, the ratings rose even more after the House of Representatives impeached him! Remember Viruddha Paakshikaya, Sri Lanka is an equally enlightened electorate, so your strategies could boomerang before you know what hit you.
And anyway, some of your own candidates at Wayamba, leave alone some of those in the party leadership, are no mean athletes themselves. They can win a Gold Medal at any Games with their fun and games.
The sin seems to be to get caught in the act or to have a spouse who will do the dirty by rattling to a gossipy newspaper. But, as you are likely to realise at dawn one day in late January when the Wayamba results come in, the main problem for votes is to have a chief minister who will work for their welfare, regardless of his personal problems.
We will be telling the people of Wayamba in the next few weeks what we hope to do for them apart from reminding them of what we have already done for them. And no Viruddha Paakshikaya, we will not stoop to the level of personal attacks on your candidate, through gossipy newspapers or campaign platforms simply because we don't need to do that to win.
And our election win at Wayamba will herald a truly Happy New Year, where the results of our prudent economic policies are going to bear fruit, where we will win the war, where there will be job opportunities aplenty for our youth and were all of us even you UNPers - could live in an era devoid of Dooshanaya and Beeshanaya.
And this, I'm sure will be the wish of our readers as well whose idea of a happy New Year will surely materialise under the sensible leadership of President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1999.
As for my friend, Viruddha Paakshikaya, I wish him also a happy new year. May the UNP learn from 1998 and commit less blunders, engage in more constructive criticism and help us guide the nation in the next year by being a more meaningful and responsible opposition in the last year of the century!
When there is terrorism in a democratic country it is the prime responsibility of the government elected by the people to wipe out terrorism, using every legal means available. Legislation may have to be enacted to give the government sweeping power necessary for such a purpose.
If the government fails in this prime duty and allows terrorism to manifest people would lose the confidence they have in the government.
In this country where the majority is divided into two main political groupings of which the winning party would receive 40 to 45% and the losing party 30 to 35% in every election the balance of power rests in the hands of the minorities who become the king makers.
Power-hungry political leaders from the two main majority parties barter away the just right of the majority and agree to satisfy the aspirations of the minorities to grab power after each election.
How else could one explain the latest gimmick of politicians who call this country where there is a 75% Sinhala majority a multi-ethnic country. They even try to create a country with one race known as the Sri Lankan race that has never existed in history. They have forgotten that Sinhale the land of the Sinhala people called Ceylon by the colonial rulers was renamed Sri Lanka by treacherous political leaders of their kind to satisfy the aspirations of minorities and win over their support to rule over a divided majority.
Once installed in power the main objective of the governing party is to remain in power by hook or by crook slinging mud at the opposition. With Tamil terrorism affecting certain parts of the country the situation has become more dangerous with the ruling party making an endeavour to gain political mileage by trying to prove that the strategy followed by the previous government is wrong.
Evolving strategy to eradicate terrorism is the responsibility of leaders of the Armed Forces of a country who have received training for this purpose. Politicians who are ignorant in this regard or who just have a glimpse of knowledge due to reading or due to a basic military training should not use their political power to formulate military strategy for little knowledge is dangerous and could spell disaster to the country. The leaders of the Armed Forces too should have the strength and the conviction to oppose the political leadership who have little or no knowledge of the country's insurgency operations.
Military strategy against terrorism once planned by the leaders of the Armed Forces must not be changed after each and every election to suit new and powerful political leaders for political mileage. There can only be one correct strategy to defeat terrorism and not two.
The aim of the Eelam strategists is to establish a separate state in the Northern and the Eastern parts of our motherland in the first phase of their struggle to create a homeland for the 118 million world Tamil population.
In this proposed first phase the state of Eelam will extend from Puttalam on the Western cost via Paymaduwa, Neriyakulama, Iratperiyakulam, Kebitigollwa, Morawewa, Kantale, Mannampitiya, Maja Oya, Inginiyagala, Siyambalanduwa to Pottuvil on the Eastern cost. This would engulf around one third of the land mass of Sri Lanka.
In the second phase the territory of Eelam would amalgamate with the proposed Malainadu in the hills and would probably extend from Chilaw in the Western coast via Avissawella, Ratnapura, Balangoda, Haputale, Wellawaya to
Kirinda on the South Eastern coast. The second phase Eelam would thus be extended to cover two thirds of the territory of this country.
In the final phase of 'Operation Eelam' the remaining territory will be annexed. At the end of the final phase a country that was known as Sinhale will be renamed Eelam by the Tamil invaders.
If this strategy of the Eelamists is to be defeated the foundations on which the first phase rests must be effectively destroyed.
These Eelamists are still making a concerted effort at stabilising this foundation through the conquest of three strategic river basins. The Malwathu Oya river basin has to be dominated by them through ethnic cleansing if their proposed Eelam is to be extended from the majority Tamil populated Northern district to the Puttalam district on the Western coast. Yan Oya basin has to be dominated by them through ethnic cleansing if their proposed Eelam is to extend from the Northern district to the Eastern district of Trincomalee where they intend to establish the capital of their future Eelam. Finally the Maduru Oya basin has to be dominated by them through ethnic cleansing if their proposed Eelam is to extend from Trincomalee district through Batticaloa district to Pottuvil.
While the moderate Eelamists were engaged in political manoeuvres enticing the two major Sinhala parties to grant them more political power for their support to form governments after every election and were thus able to first obtain District councils then Provincial Councils and are now agitating for Regional Councils in their effort to achieve Eelam in several steps, the LTTE which could be considered to be the extremist group resorted to an armed conflict with the government to win Eelam in one single step.
The LTTE resorted to direct armed confrontation with the government on or about 1983. Since then in its effort to ethnically cleanse strategic areas it has driven away a considerable population from the Sinhala villages within the Malwathu Oya, Yan Oya and Maduru Oya river basins by brutal killings and destruction of property.
Upatissagama the first settlement of the Sinhala people was established in the Malwathu Oya river basin over two thousand five hundred years ago. Many ancient Sinhala villages existed in this river basin throughout history. These villages become the target of LTTE attacks in its effort at ethnically cleansing this strategic area. These efforts by the LTTE to dominate this river basin was stalled due to the civilian leadership of Kudakongaskada Wimalagnana Nayaka Thera better known as the Thantirimale Nayake Hamuduruwo and the military leadership of General Denzil Kobbekaduwa. The Thantirimale Nakaya Thera maintained the morale of the Sinhala settlements with his humanitarian services and prevented a mass exodus of the population from the Malwathu Oya river basin. General Denzil Kobbekaduwa as the General Officer Commanding the Second Division of the Sri Lanka Army established the Silavathurai, Kokkuppadayan and Kondaichchi Army detachments to defend the Sinhala settlements in this river basin.
However with his demise the military leadership withdrew these three detachments and the Sinhala settlements upto Puttalam district were subjected to LTTE attacks once more. The mounting pressure from the masses for stability in this area and the requirement to liberate the besieged parts of Mannar district compelled the present government to implement the 'Edibala Operation'. With the successful completion of the 'Edibala Operation' stability was restored in the Malwathu Oya basin and one strategic area crucial for the establishment of Eelam has been denied to the LTTE.
The Yan Oya river basin a fertile stretch of land irrigated by major tanks such as Padaviya and Wahalkada and numerous village tanks was the granary of the Sinhala civilisation during the reign of kings such as Mahasen and Maha Parakramabahu. Rice produced in this basin was exported to foreign countries from the sea port of Puhulmotte which is now referred to by the Tamil name of Pulmoddai. It is at this river basin that the district of Mulladuva now known by the Tamil name of Mullaitivu, the district of Wevunemava now referred to by the Tamil name of Vavuniya the district of Anuradhapura and the district of Trincomalee meet.
It is by far strategically the most important river basin which has to be dominated if terrorists are to achieve their proposed Eelam. Without this river basin the LTTE cannot extend its tentacles to the Trincomalee district. This river basin therefore could be correctly referred to as the gateway to Eelam.
Many ancient Sinhala villages in this river basin which withstood the passage of time have been attacked by the LTTE in an effort to ethnically cleanse this strategic area. As a good example in the Gomarankadawala Divisional Secretariat area alone twenty three ancient Sinhala villages have been abandoned due to brutal LTTE attacks. The LTTE next attacked the ancient Sinhala villages on the land route between Thiriyaya and Kevulekadawala such as Milawewa, Andiyagala, Thalgaswewa, Bellikada, Nabadawewa, Moragama, Veherawewa and Indulhetiyawa.
All these ancient Sinhala villages have now been abandoned due LTTE attacks. Though the village of Kevulekadawala has been attacked thrice by the LTTE the determination of these villagers to remain and defend their valuable land and the protection provided to them by the Army for this purpose have prevented a further exodus of the Sinhala people from this strategic area.
The LTTE through its propaganda is telling the international community that the Sinhalese are driving away the Tamils from their so-called traditional lands. However it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that it is the LTTE which is driving away the population from the ancient Sinhala villages of this river basin in its effort to dominate this strategic area through ethnic cleansing. With the Northern thrust of the Army the pressure that the LTTE brought to bear on the ancient villages in this river basin has been considerably reduced.
The river basin of Maduru Oya was where the second son of Kavanpiyatissa, Prince Sardhatissa, established the Degamadulla granary and trained an Army to defend the unity and territorial integrity of our motherland threatened by an invading Chola King Elara who had captured the Raja Rata by conquest.
This victorious Army that re-established the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka was led by Prince Sardhatissa's elder brother, the famous King Dutugemunu.
The military strategy during pervious government was to stabilise the East and in this endeavour the Maduru Oya river basin received much attention. LTTE activity was reduced to a bare minimum as a result of well executed military operations and the government writ was established in the East as a result.
The Dimbulagala Nayaka Hamuduruwo who gave leadership to the civilian population and contributed in no uncertain terms to defeat the aims of the LTTE at dominating this river basin was later assassinated by the LTTE when they were able to exert pressure on this basin once more due to the withdrawal of a substantial part of the security forces for operations in the North with the change of strategy by the new government.
It was indeed unfortunate that the present government after failure at peace talks with the LTTE decided to change the strategy followed by the military leadership of conducting military operations from a stabilized East towards the North and ordered instead that Jaffna be taken at the expense of even destabilising the East.
The ruling party was more interested in silencing the opposition with a positive win in Jaffna irrespective of the long term repercussions of such a decision and the military leadership had not the backbone to oppose such a disastrous strategy.
The struggle from the time of this change of strategy has been that of the ruling party trying to gain political mileage from military operations with scant regard for military losses both in manpower and material.
It was only after having taken Jaffna for political mileage that the government apparently realised the difficulty of retaining the Jaffna peninsula leaving aside rehabilitating it without a land route. America, the most powerful nation in the world with all its resources both in money and the most sophisticated military equipment failed to win the war in Vietnam and the Russians failed in Afghanistan because they never made a concerted effort to win over the support of the local people.
Similarly it is now evident that by the capture of Jaffna the government has not necessarily defeated the LTTE. Mao Tse Tsung once compared the terrorists to fish and the masses to water. It was his belief that as much as water has to be drained to destroy the fish that lived in it, the masses have to be won over by a government to drain off their support to terrorists. For a government to win over the masses in an area liberated from terrorists it has to be rapidly developed to show the local population the advantage of living in government controlled areas as opposed to terrorist held areas.
In such a venture it is not only the military that has a task to perform. The government administrative machinery too must act speedily and efficiently to rehabilitate and develop the liberated areas. This is difficult if not impossible to achieve without a land route to the liberated areas only depending on air and sea transport. The situation will be further complicated by the morale of the soldier deteriorating with restriction of leave and at times even rations due to constrains in transportation. With this deterioration of morale their reactions towards the Tamil civilians whose brethren are the members of the LTTE will gradually become more adverse. Such deteriorating Army-public relations and the government's failure to implement an effective programme of rehabilitation to win over the hearts and minds of the Tamil civilians will drive them back into the fold of the LTTE.
In my article Road to Mannar and Key to Peace published in The Sunday Times of March 2, 1997, I praised the government for the successful completion of 'Operation Edibala' which established a land route to the besieged garrison at Mannar and stabilised the Malwathu Oya basin by plugging a gap of sixty kilometres which existed in the forward defence line.
I quote here a paragraph from that article where I said, ''All these problems have now been left behind with the success of 'Edibala' and the troops can now look forward to defeating the LTTE terrorists in the Mannar sector with renewed vigour and march confidently towards the final goal of victory which is to defeat terrorism and separatism to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of our motherland for posterity.
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