When Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Suresh Premachandran said in Parliament on Thursday that the Tamil people of this country want an “honourable” peace, he was obviously expressing the sentiments of the majority of the people of his community. His grouse was that while the government was earnestly pursuing military efforts to eliminate the LTTE, it was not pursuing in a similar manner parallel efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.
His comments, made during the debate on the extension of the emergency last week, once again illustrated the great divide among the legislators, in their interpretation of what constitutes an “honourable” peace promised in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election manifesto “Mahinda Chintanaya”.
While many on the side of the UPFA feel the country is on the threshold of achieving that “honourable” peace, in the words of the TNA MP this peace remained as elusive as ever. “Forcing people to hoist the national flag on Independence Day in Jaffna is not going to endear you to the Tamil people. That is not real freedom. What has the government done to show it is genuinely concerned about winning over the Tamil people,” Mr.Premachandran asked.
Contrary to the views of Mr.Premachandran were those of JVP breakaway faction leader MP Wimal Weerwanasa. He said the military efforts not only liberated the Tamil people from the clutches of the Tigers and defeated terrorism, but it also defeated the myth created over the years that the only way to defeat the menace was by negotiating with the LTTE. “Even Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has finally accepted that the LTTE has been defeated,” he said.
He said there was renewed national pride and up to 5,000 young men and women came forward to join the forces each month in the past year to safeguard the sovereignty of the country. “We can now close this chapter in the history of our country,” he added.
While Mr.Weerawansa has remained staunch in his belief that the LTTE must be defeated militarily, his former parytmen were not willing to allow him to bask alone in the limelight of military successes.
Hence, JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti who spoke on the emergency recalled the decisive role his party played in persuading the government to abandon talks with the LTTE and pursue military action to defeat it. “There are many on the government side who said that this problem can be solved only through talks. Now they are playing a different tune. It was because of the JVP that the CFA was abrogated and the north-east de-merged giving impetus to eliminate the Tigers militarily,” MP Handunnetti said.
The UNP which all along maintained that talking to the LTTE was the only way to defeat it has of late jumped on the “pro military” bandwagon. UNP MP Lakshman Seneviratne who was among the few in the UNP to back military action long before the Party hierarchy had endorsed this view saying that the stiff resistance put up by the Tigers in the past few days meant they were nearing their end. “There is a saying that a lamp burns brightest when it is about to be extinguished. The same is true of the LTTE,” he said.
Mr. Seneviratne while praising the military also voiced concern about what was happening in the rest of the country where peoples’ civil liberties were being trampled upon by the government under cover of the war against the LTTE. “While destroying terrorism one must see that the rights of the people of this country such as media freedom is not destroyed,” he appealed.
As the saying goes, everyone wants to back the winning horse and hence the enthusiasm of politicians across the board to support the military victories. Leader of the House Nimal Siripala De Silva who wound up the debate on the emergency ofcourse denied that the government had any intention of taking political advantage of the situation. But then he went on to say that the very same army, navy and air force that were defeating the LTTE today served under different leaders in the past but could not achieve the successes it had achieved now. “It is the political leadership given by President Rajapaksa that has led to this victory against the LTTE,” he said.
Once the military has done its job, politicians will need to show the same level of enthusiasm in dealing with the problems, especially those faced by the Tamil people, if the “honourable” peace everyone is striving for is to serve all communities equally.