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Fleas and dogs: The irony of sleeping with the enemy

By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent

Robert Taber, a US investigative journalist/writer in his 1965 classic study of guerrilla warfare, “War of the Flea” compares the guerrilla to the flea and his military enemy to the dog and concludes that while the dog finally falls victim to anaemia and exhaustion, the flea emerges the ultimate winner.

The same scenario can be used in the Sri Lankan context – not to describe the defeated Tiger guerrillas as fleas but to describe a correlation between the public and their politicians. Talking about fleas, one remembers what NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa once said when he was a JVP member.

He compared the country’s two main political parties -- the UNP and the SLFP -- to fleas who sucked on the people’s blood. But ironically now Weerawansa has aligned himself with the SLFP while the JVP, the party that Weerawansa represented when he made that statement, has aligned itself with the UNP.
While the people, to a large extent, have been forced to lead a dog’s life for long, the politicians have become the fleas sucking the public dry while fattening themselves on public wealth and resources. Going by the performance of most of the legislators in Parliament this week, it is unlikely that one more election will change things for the better whichever side wins.

Flea theories long forgotten, Mr. Weerawansa is now steeped in conspiracy theories. He saw the UNP-JVP alliance that is backing General Sarath Fonseka to take on President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January 26th presidential poll as the greatest irony of this century.

“The JVP is today with a party whose leader was linked to the Batalanda torture chambers – a party that is linked to the killings of students in Embilipitiya and the killing of the JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera,” the loquacious MP said during the debate on the extension of the state of emergency.

Agitated by these remarks, the UNPs Kurunegala district MP, Dayasiri Jayasekera, reminded Mr. Weerawanasa that the SLFP with which his party had aligned also had JVP’s bloods on its hands.
Noting that the SLFP was ruthless in its crushing of the JVP insurrection in 1971, the UNP parliamentarian said, “While he is sleeping with such a party, he is pointing fingers at others.”

House Leader and Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva used the debate to answer allegations in sections of the media that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa wanted to procure military equipment after the war had ended. “It was the Defence Secretary who objected to the request to import more military hardware after May and this is probably why General Fonseka got offended with him,” Mr. de Silva said.
He also said it was sad to see that a man who had played a big role in the defeat of terrorism become a pawn in the hands of some political parties which were part of an international conspiracy aimed at destabilising the country.

The remarks drew a response from the JVP’s Vijitha Herath, who now holds the party post of propaganda secretary, a post Mr. Weerawansa held till he quit and formed the NFF. Much of his attack focused on the government’s attempt to take away the credit due to General Fonseka for annihilating the LTTE.

Using cricketing imagery, the Gampaha district MP said, “The Cricket Board has a chairman for its selection committee. But once we win a match, it is the captain of the team who gets the trophy while the Man of the Match also goes to someone in the team. Now the President wants the winning trophy and the Man of the Match award when he was only like the chairman of the selection committee.”

With the war coming to an end, UNP and JVP members felt there was no necessity to extend the state of emergency. They said it was being used to suppress opposition political parties. But Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said the emergency laws were needed as there were sinister forces which were trying to betray the country and the government must be geared to stop them.

The two opposition parties also objected to a government decision to restrict Parliamentary sittings to one day in December. When the dispute was put to a vote, the government side won. Parliament is likely to meet only once in January and whatever the outcome of the presidential election, it is likely to be dissolved paving the way for a fresh parliamentary poll.

Whether the next set of legislators will be better than the present lot depends on their performance. After all going by the performance of our politicians, they do put on a good show prior to the polls as servants of the people but turn the tables on the public soon after they are elected.

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