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Sections of the media that had backed the UNP-SLMC alliance in the elections to the EPC saw in the dispute over the post of Chief Minister the opportunity to once again mislead the public about the imminent collapse of the Government.
Taking journalism to the level of cheap soothsaying, they were busy attempting to keep the umpteenth defeat of the UNP at an election out of the public eye and mind, and instead feed the public on a diet of a major crisis in the Government, with so many Muslim ministers waiting to abandon their portfolios, posing a major problem for president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UPFA.
Once again these sections showed how much they had misread the actual political situation in their tendentious reports that showed a combination of efforts to hide the UNP’s defeat, exaggerate the situation over the contest for the post of Chief Minister, and also whip up communalism in the country, with the least concern for the overall public interest.
In the event, the confident approach that President Rajapaksa had to the situation, as reported in “The Island” that had spoken to him about the issue when in the UK, proved to be the more correct assessment.
The President’s comment was to ask why others were worried about who the new Chief Minister would be, when it was his job to appoint him. That is exactly what he did, with the confidence that he would be able to soothe any feathers that may be ruffled by his choice for the first Chief Minister of the EPC.
In being firm in his decision to appoint Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan or Pillaiyan, leader of the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal - TMVP - (Tamil People’s Liberation Tigers) as Chief Minister, the President has once again shown that he has a much better grasp of political issues in the country than those who are ranged against him, and that he is ready to go ahead with a decision that he believes to be correct, even in the face of considerable opposition, from known opponents or others.
The failure of some media strategists and their political manipulators to engineer the collapse of the Government on the issue of the ethnicity or community of the Chief Minister of the EPC, was a repeat of their failed strategy at the Third Reading of the Budget last December, when the public was made to believe that the Government was facing imminent defeat, only to find that through the working of political reality the Third Reading was passed with a huge majority. Hisbullah must be glad at not allowing himself to be used as the pawn in the machinations of the UNP-SLMC to hide their shame over the failure in the eastern polls.
In making his choice for the new office of Chief Minister, President Rajapaksa has demonstrated considerable sagacity that has taken into consideration many factors other than the immediate repercussions in the limited area of party politics.
The choice of the Chief Minister of the East could at no stage be considered a matter that had to be decided only with the east in mind.
The historical background of events that led to the holding of the elections to the EPC, and the varied expectations from it put the matter into the larger national arena of national politics, making anyone who thinks it as a matter confined to eastern politics well out of their depth in broader national politics.
Those who opposed Pillaiyan’s appointment, and even sought to whip up communal feelings against it, going on the wrong arithmetic of community strength in the East, were trying to ignore for narrow political purposes the objective condition that brought about the elections for the EPC and what it all means in the fight against the terrorism of the LTTE, as well as the tasks of national development.
The role played by Karuna’s breakaway faction from the LTTE in fashioning the present developments in the east is something that no one who understands the politics of the east can ignore.
It is also a reality that in a situation where the Government seeks to attract the people of the North to look at alternatives to the LTTE, it would have been wholly damaging to any strategy of persuasion to have refused the office of CM to Pillaiyan who had obtained the largest preferential votes in the province, and therefore the most votes within the UPFA with its betel leaf symbol. These are the realities that President Rajapaksa had to consider, when he took the firm decision to name Pillaiyan to this important office.
The dispute over the Pillaiyan selection saw the dangerous rise of communalism, which was gleefully fanned by sections of the media that saw an opportunity to serve the interests of their political patrons by helping to embarrass, if not overthrow the Government, through what they hoped would be the emerging developments.
On the one hand there were those who were trying to use this situation to fan Muslim communalism against the Tamils, and one also saw considerable signs of those who were trying to raise feelings of Sinhala communalism against both Muslims and Tamils in the period of temporary confusion.
The manner in which the matter was resolved by the President, while bringing encomiums for his unshaken commitment to principle and necessary strategy, has also disproved many who had called him a racist, a communalist or one who is committed to majoritarian politics.
The present developments have taken him above many a politician of greater experience than him who pandered to communal or majoritarian feelings and flinched from taking the right decision at the correct time.
In his decision on the Pillaiyan appointment, the President of Sri Lanka rose high above the communalism that has ruled our politics for far too long, and pointed to a wider view of politics in the days to come.
It is also important to record the useful role played by many elders of the Muslim community and leaders of the Islamic faith in helping resolve this issue, with advice to those who were encouraging confrontation, not to act hastily, which would lead to consequences that would be detrimental not only to the Muslim community, but to all of Sri Lanka.
Last Friday saw the LTTE carry out another of its suicide bomb attacks in Colombo. That it had everything to do with the outcome of the EPC election was very clear. It was the day Pillaiyan was to be sworn in as Chief Minister.
The LTTE was also sending a message that although they may have been evicted from the East; they will continue to make their bloody presence felt. It will not be wrong to say that with this attack, the LTTE has indicated that it will not let its renegade former conscripted child soldier who now heads the EPC have an easy time of it.
That is but one aspect of the LTTE’s latest calling card. There is much more involved in his, especially after the success of so-called Human Rights lobbyists to keep Sri Lanka out of the UN Human Rights Council. The issue is that of suicide killers.
In his immediate response to this attack that killed 11 and injured more than a hundred, President Rajapaksa said: “Repeated savagery of this order underlines and reiterates the need for concerted action by all those who cherish democracy, human rights and the values of civilised society, to eradicate the menace of terrorism of which the LTTE remains the bloodiest example today”.
This also recalls the important message he gave to the world when addressing the Oxford Union just three days earlier, when he made the strongest case that any head of state had made so far on the need for joint action by those who value democracy against the suicide killer as a political weapon.
He made the very cogent argument that it is time for the world to raise its united voice to express revulsion at the barbaric practice of suicide bombings.
This is what he said: “It is time that the world, raising its united voice, expressed its utter revulsion of the barbaric practice of suicide bombings. It must be made absolutely clear that this form of political expression, if it could be described as such, is utterly unacceptable in the civilized world.”
In a passage that deserves repetition, he also said: “... unfortunately we are being challenged by “the most brutal terrorist group in the world” as the LTTE has been described by the FBI.
Suicide killings using even women and children have become their hallmark. It is this terror group that invented the deadly suicide vest for the suicide killer. Having pioneered the suicide vest, they have freely given this technology to other terror groups in the world. This has now become a global menace.
“It has become incumbent upon us to confront this group to the extent of our ability, deploying all the resources of the State, to protect the people of Sri Lanka and their democratic way of life. I must add that what I am doing is in no way different to what other democracies have done before, and continue to do, in the face of terrorism.
However, I must state that the LTTE is the most brutal terror outfit the world has ever seen, and defeating them requires global support. What Sri Lanka is doing, in my opinion, is fighting this terror outfit single handed to ensure that democracy and respect for human life prevail in the world. If we fail in our war against the LTTE, the world will fail in its fight against terrorism, and democracy will be the victim. This is the plain truth”.
It is nine days since he made that appeal to the world; one week since the most recent act of savagery on the streets of Colombo by a suicide killer of the LTTE.
It is also nine years since May 21, 1999, when India’s ninth Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by Thenmuli Rajaratnam alias Dhanu, a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam at Siriperumbudur near Chennai by a conspiracy hatched by Velupillai Prabhakaran and his intelligence Chief Pottu Amman.
The world still looks on as the LTTE continues with its barbaric policy and is often cheered on by those who have a curiously ambivalent approach when it comes to dealing with Human Rights violations in a country so battered by the savagery of those who nurture suicide killers.
For how long more will we have to look on as the rights of cocooned suicide killers are doughtily protected these champions of Human Rights in the Kingdom of the Sun God in the Vanni?