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DateLine Sunday, 24 February 2008

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Government Gazette

Ranil and his deadlines

Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe has set a deadline for the Government and the Security Forces to end the operations in the Wanni and Mullaitivu by March 31. The veteran UNP politician who was twice unsuccessful in the Presidential race has given the Government time till the end of next month to liberate the North.

Irrespective of political or ethnic differences, the majority of the people would accept the fact that the Security Forces have achieved tremendous success during the past two years.

The key to the great achievements of the Security Forces during the last couple of years has been the correct and fearless leadership, both by the military and the Government. While President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, has given the right political leadership, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the three Service Commanders and the IGP have given an impetus to our defence establishment.

The Government has never got its political agendas mixed with the Security Forces. Unlike previous Governments, President Rajapaksa has never mixed politics and national security. In short, the President has let the Security Forces to take their own appropriate field decisions and never set political time frames for our brave Security Forces.

Being a partner of UNP Governments of J.R. Jayewardene, R.Premadasa, D. B. Wijetunga and his own in 2001-2004, Wickremesinghe has again looked at the battles of the Security Forces from a political angle.

Hence, he sets an unreasonable deadline to liberate the North.

This is a downright insult to our dedicated Security Forces who spend many sleepless nights to protect us, our country, its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In setting deadlines for the Security Forces, the UNP and its leader have underestimated the illustrious achievements of our Forces and also devalued their great sacrifices.

When the present Government took office, the UNP made a song and dance about the Manirasakulam camp and demanded that the Government recaptures it. But our valiant Security Forces not only destroyed one Tiger camp but also eradicated the LTTE terrorists from the Eastern Province.

Even then, the UNP leader interpreted the liberation of Thoppigala as an insignificant thick jungle.

He then challenged the Government to take on the LTTE in the North. When the Security Forces were tactically taking time after the Eastern liberation to plan their strategies, Wickremesinghe and the UNP demanded that the Wanni operation be launched expeditiously, assuming that our Security Forces could never engage in such an operation.

However, when the liberation of the North from the clutches of LTTE terrorists is in full swing and when our Security Forces are marching towards Veluppillai Prabhakaran's Wanni stronghold successfully, having killed his able lieutenant S. P. Thamil Selvan, the UNP now fears that they would not have a single trump card to play in the political arena if the Security Forces liberate the North as well. Hence, the UNP is now trying to put undue pressure on the Government and the Security Forces.

How can Wickremesinghe or the UNP set deadlines for the Government or set time frames for the Security Forces to liberate the North when the Service Commanders or even President Rajapaksa, as the Commander-in-Chief has not done so? Is it fitting of an Opposition Leader or a person who is aspiring to be the Head of State? Far from it!

Those actions only depict the political bankruptcy of Wickremesinghe and his UNP, which has lost 16 elections. He is a leader with a proven track record for many heavy defeats, eating humble pie at two Presidential Elections in 1999 and 2005. If not, a responsible leader like him would never set deadlines when the country is waging a war against the deadliest terrorist organisation in the world.

Wickremesinghe was a Minister in the Jayewardene-Premadasa-Wijetunga administrations which governed the country for 17 long years, during which time the LTTE was nurtured and brought up with care due to a variety of reasons. When Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister for the second time in 2001, he signed the controversial Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE and let the terrorists reinforce and regroup.

Now, like a bolt from the blues, Wickremesinghe has got out from his dream and demands that the Government Forces liberate the North by March 31. It is certainly not fitting for a responsible opposition leader and a man who had been the Prime Minister on two occasions. He is cognizant of the previous battles against the LTTE by former Governments and the strength of the LTTE. Then why has he suddenly woken from his slumber to set deadlines?

This is political bankruptcy at its highest. One cannot even imagine that a responsible leader could belittle our brave Security Forces in this manner. Whatever said or done we should understand the mentality of the UNP and its 'prince of defeat'. They know only too well that the elimination of the LTTE from the North and eradication of terrorism would mean that the UNP would never capture power.

Fearing that they will have to occupy the opposition benches for many more years, the UNP is playing a game in a desperate bid to regain power at any cost. Ever since President Rajapaksa assumed office, the UNP has unsuccessfully adopted different agendas.

At least now, they must act as a responsible opposition and rally round our Security Forces in the nation's unrelenting battle against terrorism.

Even at this late stage, Wickremesinghe could still prove his political sincerity.

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