Mavilaru - a watershed in humanitarian strategy
WATER: The precious water gushing again from the Maavil Aru
sluice has vindicated the government carrying out a special military
operation to provide the people with their birthright of nature's vital
Scoffed at by so-called advocates of peace, who proved they are
nothing but apologists for the LTTE and its terror, and scorned by the
SLMM in most undiplomatic manner, the government kept its pledge to
restore to the people the water that had been prevented from flowing
their way by the LTTE.
The government launched the Mavilaru military operation as a
humanitarian act, to enable civilian irrigation engineers to reopen the
strategically important sluice gate.
If it erred in stirring expectations of an early success of the move,
the fact that it kept on at the task undaunted by the criticism of
southern politicians ready to use the new scorched earth policy of the
LTTE for their own narrow political gain, showed the government had its
ear much closer to the ground than its critics who were green with envy
at possible success of the operation.
The success of the Mavilaru operation has again shown that the UPFA,
led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa is much more in tune with the
feelings and needs of the rural people who comprise the vast majority of
our population, that those in the UNP and its NGO, corporate and media
allies who remain strangers to the realities of Sri Lankan rural life.
It also demonstrated to the world the underlying principle that made
the government take the option it did to open the sluice gate.
It is that of not being prepared to let the LTTE or any other body,
whether local or foreign, dictate terms when it came to the essential
humanitarian needs of the people throughout Sri Lanka, and that it was
prepared to fight if necessary to ease humanitarian burdens placed on
people of all ethnic groups.
A web of deceit
From the start of the crisis forced on the people dependent on the
water from this sluice, the LTTE that stopped its flow gave many
so-called reasons for blocking the water.
Initially its political spokesman in Trincomalee said the sluice was
closed as a protest against the European Union listing the LTTE as an
international terrorist organization.
When it was clear that this possible truth did not have the desired
impact, it was said the Tamil people near the sluice had closed it as
the government had allegedly reneged on a promise, by the pervious
government, to build a water-storage and supply facility in the area.
When this too failed to rouse any sympathy for the LTTE, and in fact
had the effect of the closure of the sluice gate being considered a
disproportionate response to such a situation, much as the Israeli
bombing of Lebanon is considered outrageously disproportionate to
whatever the provocative acts by Hezbollah, the story changed again.
The next reason given for the LTTE's gross violation of humanitarian
principles in depriving civilians of water was restrictions imposed by
government on the transport of iron rods, cement and such materials to
LTTE controlled areas, which was said to affect tsunami reconstruction
This was echoed by organizations such as the National Peace Council,
which also mentioned the failure of government to build the water supply
scheme near Maavil Aru.
When all this, as well as the LTTE's ruthless diversionary attacks at
Muttur failed, its Trinco spokesman was again reported saying the sluice
was closed because of the economic embargo imposed by government on LTTE
held areas, which included a ban on the transport of infant milk food.
The LTTE was obviously trying very hard to pass the charge of being
inhumane on to the government of President Rajapaksa, but with all its
efforts not striking any chords of sympathy, except among its avowed
apologists who have a habit of being chorus singers for the LTTE.
The upshot of this poorly spun out web of deceit came after the
Mavilaru sluice was opened. It was the statement reported on pro-LTTE
web sites that the sluice was opened as a humanitarian gesture by the
people of the area.
It was indeed a strange arousal of humanitarian feelings among
people, to wait for nearly three weeks seeing the crops of their
neighbours ruined, and the struggle that they were facing with lack of
water, as well as the bloodshed that was taking place on both sides,
with the security forces wanting the sluice opened and the LTTE forces
wanting to keep it shut.
In the event that was the only escape hatch available to the LTTE in
the face of the determination of the government to have the sluice
opened and relieve the people from the hardships they were facing
through these weeks.
The extortion zone
Both at Mavilaru and Muttur, the LTTE has retreated under different
pretexts, in the face of decisive military action by the government.
In Muttur, it once again demonstrated its determination to carry out
ethnic cleansing, by driving out the Muslims to whom it is home, and at
Mavilaru too it sought to use water as a weapon in a new exercise at
ethnic cleansing of both Sinhalese and Muslims. They have failed in both
It is now the task of government to restore confidence to the Muslims
of Muttur that they can return to their homes without fear, and also
ensure that the management of irrigation waters at Mavilaru and other
vulnerable places will not remain at the mercy of the LTTE.
The charge made by the LTTE that the Mavilaru sluice was closed
because on an economic embargo imposed by the government, and
particularly a ban on supply of infant milk foods to areas under LTTE
control, needs further comment.
If one is to define these areas more accurately they are not "LTTE
held areas" as so often said. They are the exclusive "extortion zone" of
the LTTE, where it rakes in millions by way of so-called taxes and other
illegal fees levied on all items sent to these areas by government.
The Government of Sri Lanka is unique in the world for supplying all
the day-to-day necessities of the people, living in areas where they are
under the sway of armed terrorists seeking to carve out a separate state
from Sri Lankan territory.
The Government not only supplies all essential commodities, it also
provides all administrative, educational, health and other facilities,
paying the salaries of all public officers and carrying out construction
of new hospitals and other facilities in these areas.
The LTTE, on the other hand, does not spend one cent from the money
it gathers as extortion to provide any of the necessities of the people.
This money is used to pay its cadres, smuggle weapons, and carry out
bomb attacks and pistol gang killings in all parts of the country. It is
indeed strange for any spokespersons of this "extortion zone" to lay any
claim to humanitarian considerations in the LTTE's work.