ballots and some baloney too
When the woman suicide bomber blew herself up at the Kollupitiya
police station earlier this month I was in Colombo. News of the
drama at high noon spread like wild fire, as the cliché experts
hours Colombo's cocktail society was all agog and worried. Ordinary
people who live and work in the city were terrified. Had the dreaded
moment come? Had the Wanni warlord decided to flex his muscles and
missiles after all? Had all that toing and froing to the Wanni raja
by politicians and diplomats from West and East eager for peace
and a piece of the economic cake, finally come to so much water
down the Mahaweli that flows into the sea in Prabhakaran's traditional
his traditional homeland is Velvettithurai, better known as VVT,
the habitual homeland of smugglers. Understandably a feeling of
helplessness, of gloom and doom descended at the prospect of terror
on the streets again. After two years or more of what seemed like
peace a fear that was always lurking below the surface returned.
-- certainly not a single person I spoke to in Colombo or elsewhere
in the country -- had any doubts who was responsible for that day's
events that started with an abortive assassination attempt and culminated
in the explosion that killed the would-be assassin and at least
modus operandi, the target, the use of sleepers, all pointed clearly
and unmistakably to the LTTE. One did not need an intelligence agency
to tell you that. Anyway, intelligence agencies have been found
to be woefully lacking in intelligence as recent official inquiries
in the US and UK have established. And these agencies are reputedly
highly professional and sophisticated. As it later emerged, a person
who had got within a couple of yards, if not feet, of the intended
target, who refused to allow herself to be body searched was then
taken to a police station a 100 meters or more away without being
restrained in some way, especially when it is well-known that the
LTTE does use women suicide bombers. The assassination of Rajiv
Gandhi and the attempted assassination of President Chandrika Kumaratunga
are cases in point.
these were lapses in security, and they surely were, what angered
the people was the weak-kneed response of the government and the
main opposition party to the attempted assassination of a cabinet
minister and the blatant use of terrorism by a garrulous group making
dubious claims to be committed to peaceful negotiations.
State-owned and government-run newspaper the Daily News reported
that President Kumaratunga "did not foresee any damage caused
to the peace process". If that did not annoy the people sufficiently,
other remarks by the president did.
President observed that the peace process fell into a much broader
process to be derailed by a mere incident," the newspaper said.
A "mere incident" indeed. Here is an act of terrorism
in which the intended victim is one of her ministers. If the attempted
killing of an elected member of parliament who has been elevated
to the status of a cabinet minister in her government can be summarily
dismissed as a "mere incident", it not only reflects the
esteem in which she holds her ministers but is also a sign of her
mindset, many people said.
pointed out to me that when the LTTE tried to kill her, Chandrika
Kumaratunga made political capital of it. Check contemporary records,
now, when another political leader and one of her ministers escapes
yet another attempt on his life, it is brushed aside as a matter
of little consequence. Since the suicide bomber blew herself up
( or "exploded herself" according to some reports) I have
heard people in and out of Colombo including those who voted for
the Alliance at the last general election, ask whether President
Kumaratunga is now following in the footsteps of the Ranil Wickremesinghe
government whose craven accommodation of the LTTE emboldened that
organisation sufficiently to project itself on the world stage as
the legitimate ruler of an independent entity.
according to information available to the President the LTTE had
denied any hand in the attempt on Douglas Devananda and the subsequent
killings. So what was the reaction of the UNP, the party that played
a pivotal role in the appeasement of the LTTE, that shook like leaves
in the wind and caved in when the LTTE raised its voice a few decibels?
Listen to the words of the UNP spokesman Ravindra Randeniya, film
star turned politician. The poor chap did not want to "blame
the LTTE or any other party or group."
who would he blame? The UNP-led government that, in a simple-minded
and naïve hope of taming the Tigers, allowed them to roam the
country all in the name of confidence-building and political edification?
the UNP spokesman does not want to blame the LTTE and President
Kumaratunga seems to absolve them of any blame because the LTTE
denied it was involved, who is to blame for the tragic happening?
were the questions Sri Lankan people who a few months ago placed
their faith in Kumaratunga's Alliance having been diddled and misled
by the Wickremesinghe administration, kept asking time and again.
quickly that faith is being eroded could be seen from the provincial
council election results, despite attempts by the Alliance to make
them seem like another milestone in its triumphal march to the promised
land. The comment of a Muslim merchant in Badulla seems to echo
the thoughts of hundreds of persons I spoke to over a range of issues
from the so-called peace process to unsupervised mushrooming of
foreign funded non-governmental organisations all seemingly interested
in peace and conflict resolution and the free movement of foreign
politicians and diplomats to the Wanni without even a by your leave.
it was election-day I asked him whether he would cast his vote.
He looked at me with some surprise."Sir what is the use of
our voting and electing these fellows. The last time we voted and
sent some people to parliament. But all they do there is fight.
Every party is the same. There are too many corrupt people and hooligans
in them. I will not vote for anybody and most people here think
is a perceptible disillusionment with politics and politicians and
it is growing. This is especially so because people see in both
major southern political camps a reluctance to take the tiger by
the tail, to remain silent while the LTTE brazenly violates the
ceasefire agreement as clearly stated by international watchdog
and UN organisations. If the UNP says it cannot blame the LTTE and
President Kumaratunga says the LTTE has denied the act of terrorism,
who do they think did it, al Qaeda? Or maybe they should join hands
with President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair and lay the blame
squarely on Saddam Hussein, the Houdini of the disappearing weapons
of mass destruction.