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Editorial

September 9, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 12


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Southern Machiavellism will not work

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse blew conch shells and beat the war drums in remote Galkiriyagama on August 26, when he addressed a passing out parade of home guards who had undergone special training.

‘The government is determined to liberate the remainder of the uncleared areas in the Wanni from the clutches of the LTTE, the same way it liberated the east,’ said the man who is described by government media propagandists and slogan writers as ‘Gotabaya the Great’ who is attributed of having cleared the Eastern Province of the LTTE recently.

We are not commenting on whether the Defence Secretary is correct or not in his proposal to wage war in the Wanni but are struck by the contradictory statements made by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in various foreign capitals as he trots around the globe and also the statements of brother Mahinda, the President.

Bogollagama was reported by Reuters last week from Malaysia, saying that Sri Lanka has no plans for a major offensive on uncleared areas in the north while stressing that the government’s main priority was to look for a political solution.

Ambiguity

Last Monday, a report from Brussels said that he had assured EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Benito Ferrero Waldner that the government had a road map in seeking a solution to the conflict through the All Party Conference.

President Rajapakse who had let the statement of brother Gotabaya go uncontradicted for over a week, however in an interview with an Indian journal, Hardtalk, had said that it was totally incorrect to say he was for a military solution and that he firmly believed in a political solution. However in certain situations a military response was needed for armed attacks on the government but it did not mean he sought a military solution, he had said

It may be presumed that brother Gotabaya, a former army colonel — ‘a veteran infantryman’ as some admirers in the media describe him — may have been carried away at the passing out parade but last week’s army offensive at Silavathurai in the northwest does give credence to the Defence Secretary’s statements and leaves a big question mark on the statements of the President and his Foreign Minister.

APRC magic

President Rajapakse’s occasional claims of his desire for a political solution was been viewed suspiciously by his critics, and even his attempts at a solution through the All Party Conference is viewed with much cynicism. This is particularly so after the military offensives in the east and the jubilation that ensued after the LTTE retreat. The APRC is expected to come out with its magic formula soon but the speculation is that at the most it will be a proposal based on a unitary constitution with no amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Will Pirapaharan who refused a ‘federal solution’ agree to a unitary state?

This ambiguous stand of the Rajapakse government — military or political solution — on this vital national issue can be interpreted in two ways. One is that the government is so confused that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, as it happens so often. The second is, there is a hidden motive behind the bumbling, unsophisticated ways of governance in keeping with the ‘southern cunningness,’ attributed to those born beyond the southern banks of the Bentara Ganga.

The Rajapakse administration is stymied by the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and human rights violations. Velupillai Pirapaharan keeps violating the CFA about which the Norwegian manned monitoring mission can do nothing or are inclined to look the other way.

Velu is sitting pretty while Mahinda is charged with all kinds of human rights violations. Military offensives invariably result in accusations of human rights violations. The strategy appears to be that while President Rajapakse and his Foreign Minister declare that they are working towards a political solution, brother Gotabaya beats the war drums and launches military offensives. The objective is to keep the international community as well as the Southern Sinhala electorates happy. But will this Southern Machiavelism work?

Chandrika as advisor

Perhaps Mahinda Rajapakse can take a few lessons from his former boss, Chandrika, who with her astute Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was able to win over the international community, after being in the doldrums, despite having launched a massive military offensive in the Jaffna peninsula and driven the LTTE into the Wanni jungles.

The status quo of the Rajapakse government is untenable. There is allround pressure being built up particularly on the issue of human rights. If the objective is to strike in the Wanni, Rajapakse will find the powerful Western nations against him, and tacitly backing the LTTE despite it being a certified terrorist organisation. The economy is extremely vulnerable and will not be able to withstand Western pressure

As much as most Sri Lankans will want to see LTTE terrorism eliminated, it does appear that this equivocal strategy in saying one thing to the southern electorate and another to the international community will not work

 

 


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