The Sunday Times Editorial

21st April 1996

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Full-time man for war

As was anticipated by the UNP, the government has used emergency powers to postpone local government elections. In addition it has given the Minister of Local Government the power to decide if and when such elections should be held in any particular area before the end of this year. That means if the People's Alliance feels it could do well in one particular province or district, elections could be held there. This is not democracy, it is autocracy.

As anticipated by the Editors' Guild the government has used emergency powers to again clamp a censorship on what it broadly categorises as military related news with the launching of Riviresa II. We know what happened during the previous censorship. Anything and everything was classified as military news by incompetent, fearful or arrogant officials who knew little about the importance of media freedom and cared less. This is not transparency, it is hypocrisy.

We are therefore seeing, clearly, the emergence of transparent hypocricy.

Friday's new offensive in the Valikamam East area to flush out the LTTE from another section of the Jaffna peninsula is bound to have repercussions in other parts of the country, including Colombo. The cornered Tiger will be a dangerous animal. We need extra vigilance in Colombo and in the border villages.

It is time the government's security machinery is put in the hands of those whose job in prosecuting the war will be a full-time job. Not a part-time one. The President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services has entrusted the task to General Anuruddha Ratwatte. But he is also the Minister of Irrigation, Power and Energy. He has made a mess of that sector, with power cuts playing havoc in everybody's lives. He must quit that portfolio and concentrate on the most important issue this country has had to face in recent times.

While the LTTE chews the cud throughout the day and night, Sri Lanka's political leadership has made the war effort a part-time job. J. R. Jayewardene made Lalith Athulathmudali Minister of National Security but his attention was diverted by Mahapola fairs. He was also in charge of the port at that time. Ranjan Wijeratne was Minister of Foreign Affairs and later Minister of Plantations when he was in charge of the war. Then D. B. Wijetunga was the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Labour etc. When Mr. Wijetunga was suddenly propelled into the Presidency he decided he could manage without any Deputy Minister of Defence. Now General Ratwatte has various other portfolios. No wonder this war has dragged on for 13 years, double the time span of World War II.

Practise what you preach

Switzerland has become after Canada the second western country to learn the bitter consequences of opening their doors to Tamil asylum seekers some genuine, some bogus in the aftermath of the 1983 riots. Their bleeding hearts policy where they condemned Sri Lanka in general and the Sinhalese in particular for Tamil bashing has now turned full circle.

Switzerland is now fed up and wants Sri Lanka to take the asylum seekers back. Canada is prosecuting a person identified as Suresh who is taking up a legal defence on the grounds that the LTTE is a liberation organisation. Malaysia has thrown a ring round LTTE activists.

But France, Britain, the United States and Germany are still dragging their feet. They have been convening international conferences against terrorism and are asking everyone to do their bit. But they themselves don't seem to be practising what they preach.

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