Ending the war and sustaining its gains | Daily News


 

Ending the war and sustaining its gains

As the country marked the eleventh anniversary of the defeat of LTTE terrorism, the selfless service and sacrifices of the Tri-Forces and Police personnel have once again touched the hearts and minds of the public as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The battle against COVID-19 is almost three quarters won and it was possible because of the role of the military and police at the frontlines. They worked day and night shoulder to shoulder with the health staff and other workers to save lives and allow the country to gradually resume work.

Following 30-year prolonged war against the LTTE terror, the Tri-Forces and police gave their vital contributions to the post-war development and agricultural drive, went beyond the call of duty to help the people in times of natural disasters, and above all promptly and successfully thwarted the ISIS-inspired extremist groups in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks that shook the nation.

The annual event to salute fallen War Heroes at the War Heroes’ Monument adjacent to the Parliament Complex was held this year amidst this deepened respect and admiration for the Security Forces, and this added more importance and colour to the event.

Nation’s sentinels

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa wholeheartedly celebrated the achievements of the Security Forces, adding that the greatest tribute for them is to make the aspirations of all communities a reality.   

“The decisive defeat separatist terrorism suffered is a symbol of this country’s yearning for independence, unity, territorial integrity and national security. A sense of pride and joy overwhelms me as we commemorate the Ranaviru Day at a backdrop where those aspirations have been accomplished,” the President said in a message.

“To make peace and independence we achieved meaningful, we should stand together as one sovereign nation. We should achieve our targets while building a strong national economy and integrating with the rest of the world benefitting Sri Lanka. Despite horrendous pandemics such as COVID-19 we will not be restrained,” he added.Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his message to mark the occasion, said that the ‘Ranaviru’ constituency is now an integral part of the ‘Sangha, Veda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru’ social line up of former times.

Emphasising that a retired military person is a civilian, the PM was unambiguous that there would always be former members of the Armed Forces and police holding various positions in the Government.

“The frontline role played by the Armed Forces and Police in working with the public, has undoubtedly been of immense help to the health sector in bringing the spread of Covid-19 under control in the present manner. This once again reminds all of us that the Armed Forces and Police are the sentinels of the nation, ensuring the safety of the public in all crises whether man-made or natural - whether the crisis is terrorism, floods or disease. In this context, I wish to condemn in the strongest possible terms, the attempt being made by the Yahapalana political parties to create an artificial social dichotomy between ‘military’ and ‘civilian’,” he added.

The UNP also issuing a statement said that the end of the war marked a new chapter in the country’s history, providing with an opportunity to move forward and heal the wounds of the past.“It is only through discussion and engagement that we as leaders of our country can hope to reduce the ethnic and religious divides, and prevent further bloodshed on our soil. We must do this for the future generations. Acts of racism and ethnic violence will only hamper that settlement,” it added.

Two former ministers in hot water

In the meantime, two political heavyweights in the Opposition, former Ministers Dr Rajitha Senaratne and Mangala Samaraweera are now under the spotlight for their alleged malpractices during the last Presidential Election. 

Dr Senaratne was re-arrested last week for fabricating information on the ‘white van’ abductions alleged to have taken place before 2015. The two men who attended a controversial media briefing in the run up to the last Presidential Election have spilled the beans to the CID implicating Dr Senaratne.

Samaraweera has been grilled by the CID twice over approving money for the SLTB buses to transport Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Puttalam to the polling stations in the Northern Province at the last Presidential Election. However, Samaraweera defended his actions stating that he was proud that he assured the right to vote of the IDPs who were living in camps for 30 years.

While the members of ‘Samagi Jana Balawegaya’ decried the investigations as political witch-hunt, the UNP did not bother to say anything about its erstwhile colleagues who broke ranks with it.  

Moderate views

In the Northern political landscape, M. A. Sumanthiran, President’s Counsel, former Member of Parliament from the Jaffna District, and Spokesman for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), landed in the middle of a political minefield over a YouTube interview he gave in Sinhala last week.

In that 20 minutes interview, Sumanthiran provided candid responses to point-blank questions, which one may say, meant to pique him. Sumanthiran, known for his moderate views, steadfastly said that he never believed in separatism and that he does not condone former LTTE Leader Prabhakaran’s armed struggle.

“I never condone it. I say this in Jaffna. I say it anywhere. There has been a lot of opposition against me due to this. They say ‘why don’t you accept it when they fought for us’. I don’t accept it because I don’t condone armed insurrection,” he said.

Sumanthiran also dismissed the notion that the TNA was a direct creation of the LTTE, pointing out that the TNA (back then Federal Party) was formed in 1949 whereas the LTTE was formed in the 1970s.        

He was clear that he has no connection with the “Tiger diaspora” and that he rejected an invitation by Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) head Rudrakumaran to address their “parliament” around 2016-2017.

He was straightforward that he accepts the national flag and the national anthem, adding that TNA incumbent Leader R Sampanthan and he hoist the national flag in Jaffna, despite the fact that some members of their party apparently boycott the flag.

Northern politics

Lawyer cum politician Sumanthiran was in the eye of a political storm in the North following the above comments which were not well received by sections of Tamil political representatives, Tamil media and social media. He was hauled over the coals even by his fellow members of the TNA for not falling in line with the popular narrative in the Tamil speaking polity in the North.

An effigy of Sumanthiran with a garland of sandals and a sign that called him a ‘traitor’ was found in Nallur, Jaffna, which is his constituency. Some Tamil political actors called on the TNA leadership to take action against Sumanthiran and remove him from his position.Following the controversy, Sumanthiran in another video statement made in his vernacular language took pains to clarify what he thought was mistranslated or twisted by his political rivals and sections of the Tamil media.

Senior-most politician and TNA Leader R Sampanthan threw his weight behind Sumanthiran and warded off the criticisms against the latter in a statement which said, “Sumanthiran has been frank and forthright in his answers to questions that have been asked with the deliberate purpose of promoting mischief and disunity amongst the people of this country particularly amongst the Tamil people with the ulterior purpose of sabotaging efforts to find a resolution to the National Question within the framework of a single, united, undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka”.

“The Tamil struggle when it commenced was democratic, peaceful and non-violent. The LTTE commenced their armed struggle in the late 70s and early 80s, after a period of 30 years since the commencement of the democratic peaceful and non-violent Tamil struggle,” the statement added drawing a line between the TNA and the LTTE.

Have we been listening, these moderate views, expressed firmly despite the Election heat, give a strong message not to fall for the hardliners of both sides of the ethnic divide. These views come at a time the TNA is engaging constructively with the Government over the matters concerning the Tamil speaking people. Only time will tell the outcome of these deliberations.


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