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,
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.
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.
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