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The’'War' as we have known it for the last 25 years or so is in its final phase. The army has to clear less than 60 square kilometres of land in Mullaithivu. With that, for the first time in 22 years the LTTE will not be controlling any land area of this country. After the initial stages of urban guerrilla warfare, the LTTE took control of most of Jaffna peninsula after the army was restricted to barracks during the Thimpu talks.

In the next two decades the land mass shrank and expanded as the advantage of the war shifted from one side to the other. When’Eelam war IV started, LTTE controlled approximately 15,000 square kilometres of land in the north and east and had set up a de facto state with their own courts, police stations, etc. etc.’’ But the appearance of a separate state was more a myth than reality. It is the Sri Lankan state that paid the bills for medical faculties, education, and the thousands of government servants who had the unenviable task of serving two masters - the government in Colombo and the LTTE leadership in the north and east. All of that is now history.

When the government announced at the start of Eelam war IV’that it was going to wipe out the Tigers in three years, few thought it possible. Most people in this country and abroad were skeptical. After all we all had heard it before. From Lalith Athulathmudali to Anuruddha Ratwatte, those who led the war effort had confidently predicted the demise of the LTTE before.

One could argue about the methods used but what cannot be argued is that it worked.’The strategy of 'all out war' with a clear objective of defeating the Tigers once and for all was a high risk gamble. ’If the war had dragged on, the huge cost of a sustained military offensive could have bankrupted the country.’ Defeating an armed group rated as the best rebel group in the world was never going to be an easy task. ’Sri Lanka has managed’to progress economically despite the war. The economic fall out’of the drawn out conflict was manageable.

Successive governments did not have the courage or the foolhardiness ( whichever way one wants to look at it) to risk everything’ to take on the most feared armed group in the world.

The single minded commitment of this government, especially the much maligned Defence Secretary’ Gotabaya Rajapakse’ and Army Commander Lieutenant General’ Sarath’ Fonseka may have’possibly saved the country from a long drawn out economic disaster in the larger context.

However, the country is not out of the woods. A lot more needs to be done especially to make the minorities feel secure. The mood of’triumphalism’among a large section of the Sinhalese could do immense harm to this country. The importance of magnanimity in victory cannot be stressed enough. If this is seen as a victory over the Tamils and not simply as a victory over the LTTE,’ethnic relations will take a nose dive. What even Pirapaharan could not achieve - to create an unbridgeable divide between the Sinhalese and the Tamils -’could be the result. That would make the sacrifices made by thousands of soldiers and tens of thousands of people in this country an absolute waste and lay the foundation for further bloodshed in the future. It may not happen in our life time but’the possibility of history repeating itself is very high. Do we need to take that chance and place in jeopardy the future of a future generation?

What is needed today is an enlightened leadership on both sides. President Mahinda Rajapakse has a historical opportunity’to lay the foundation for a united, multi ethnic, multi religious nation’that is at peace. If he shows the same courage he has shown in waging 'full scale war' in managing the peace, then there is hope of achieving that goal.’ The President needs to take a leaf out of U.S. President Barack Obama's book and extend a hand of friendship to the Tamils, not merely in words but by actions.

The action that needs to be done is not rocket science. The Tamils must be made to feel that they can live in this island as equals, that they can achieve their aspirations and hopes without discrimination. Certainly it is easier said than done and will take time. But for the first time in 30 years’there is a real opportunity,’and all that is needed is political courage that was lacking in successive leaders since independence.

’What is equally important is for the leaders of the Tamil community to overcome their’sense of defeatism and grasp every opportunity to further this goal. If the current Tamil leadership sees the defeat of’the LTTE as a defeat of Tamil aspirations, then it will become a self fulfilling prophecy.

The Sunday Leader has over the last two and a half years been very critical of some aspects of the war, specially’corruption and human rights violations that took place. For this, the government and a section of the people have labelled us unpatriotic or worse 'traitors.' The Sunday Leader always stood for a united, multi ethnic, multi religious nation where all its citizens are treated as equals. For that we will always fight.









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