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Sunday, 18 May 2014

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Opinion:

Astute political leadership helped crush LTTE

The fifth Victory Day celebrations will be held in Matara today. Exactly five years ago on May 18, 2009, the Security Forces brought the moment of glory the entire nation has been yearning for three decades, crushing the world's most ruthless terrorist outfit - the LTTE.

Army personnel in operations against the Tigers
Navy personnel rescuing civilians fleeing LTTE controlled areas

Hardly anybody thought that Sri Lanka could ever get rid of the scourge of LTTE terror which had devastated the country since 1980s. Making full use of the peace talks periods during successive UNP Governments, the LTTE had strengthened itself. Many believed that crushing LTTE terrorism was only a daydream as the Tigers were at their peak when President Mahinda Rajapaksa first assumed office in November, 2005.

But the supreme sacrifices of the Security Forces and the political sagacity of President Rajapaksa paved the way for a new era in Sri Lanka history.

Thanks to the untiring efforts of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the unmatched political leadership of President Rajapaksa which inspired the Security Forces, Sri Lanka was able to crush the LTTE terror at last.

There may be many people to grab credit for the victory but the undisputed fact in the country's military victory was the political leadership that had inspired the Security Forces.

International pressure

Over the years since the LTTE had launched its military operations against the Security Forces, there had been enough and more brave soldiers who had sincerely devoted their precious lives to save the country.

There had been several military leaders who had the ability and strategy to tame the Tiger terrorists. The most notable them of was General Denzil Kobbekaduwa. His troops would have easily crushed the LTTE if he had any backing from the then political leadership.

All previous leaders of Sri Lanka had always succumbed to international pressure, each time there had been a military offensive against the LTTE.

There had been a couple of instances the Security Forces would have either killed or captured LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. But when the Security Forces were about to do that, they were ordered to abandon those operations by the then Presidents who succumbed to international pressure as ice melting under the hot sun.

But President Rajapaksa had the courage and determination to give that much needed political leadership to the true sons of our soil. He gave a better meaning and recognition to the Security Forces to make an all out offensive against the LTTE terrorists. The Opposition political leaders who now project themselves as heroes and the saviours of the nation had been at a faster asleep when the country was threatened by the Tiger terrorists with its economy in a near collapse.

Those who now shout from the rooftops against the Executive Presidency had forgotten that the country was able to crush the LTTE terror due to the executive powers enjoyed by the President. Had the Head of State been forced to get the approval from the legislature for each and every decision that had to be taken promptly, Sri Lanka would never have ended Prabhakaran's thirst for blood.

It is deplorable that many political leaders, people and even a prominent monk are daydreaming to become the so-called common candidate at the next Presidential election. As a leader who reposes implicit faith in democracy and holds elections well ahead of their due times, President Rajapaksa would perhaps seek a fresh mandate for a third term well ahead of the scheduled date for the next Presidential election.

Knowing that President would always opt for elections ahead of their schedules, several Opposition political parties have begun a debate on a so-called common candidate, whereas there are more than two-and-a-half years to go for the next Presidential election.

Most Opposition political leaders appear to be in their own fantasies as everyone of them assume that they could be and have enough credentials to become the common candidate. For instance, Democratic Party leader Sarath Fonseka is still under an illusion that the UNP and the JVP should accept him as the common presidential candidate of the Opposition.

The leaders of the UNP and the JVP are no fools to make the same mistake again. But Fonseka argues that he is still the most suitable and the UNP and the JVP should support his candidature as much as they did four years ago.

Although a common candidate in particular has not been identified several Opposition politicians, civil society leaders and a monk daydreaming of becoming the so-called common candidate. The Opposition has become vociferous about Presidential and general elections well ahead of their schedules to boost the sagging morale. They ought to give fresh hopes to retain their dejected party supporters.

Overambitious

The UNP is functioning like a ship without a captain, not knowing in which direction it should head. In the absence of their leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, a few overambitious UNP seniors are daydreaming of grabbing the party leadership with Sajith Premadasa being the most notable.

However, Wickremesinghe will neither permit anyone to oust him during his lifetime nor allow anyone else to contest the next Presidential election on the UNP ticket. After evading second successive defeat at a Presidential election by supporting the candidature of Sarath Fonseka in 2010, Wickremesinghe is forced to contest the next Presidential election or to field someone within the party. But the UNP membership would never tolerate the party making the same mistake of supporting an outsider such as Fonseka.

Wickremesinghe himself is unsure whether he could survive pressure and get popular support to contest the next Presidential election on the UNP ticket. Sajith Premadasa is a person who has no patience to wait until his turn and has always looked shortcuts to oust Wickremesinghe.

But the majority of the UNP supporters would still opt for Wickremesinghe, despite his dismal record of election defeats.

Neither the JVP nor the Democratic Party would support anybody outside their parties. Having failed to win the 2010 Presidential election even with the support of the UNP and the JVP, Fonseka would no doubt prefer to go in his own, even if he is rejected by the UNP and the JVP.

Discussions

Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the new leader of the JVP, is highly unlikely to make a sacrifice and agree on a common candidate from any other party. He would always like to contest and show his strength - that he is more accepted leader than his predecessor Somawansa Amarasinghe.

A few political parties in the South, including the JVP and the UNP, have already held discussions with the former Tiger proxy party - the TNA, to come to an understanding before the next Presidential election.

Though the UNP is notorious for such power-greedy deals in the past, this is the first time that the JVP is seeking the support of a party which had been remote-controlled by Prabhakaran in the past.

But an emergence of a common Opposition front is highly unlikely as the parties in the Opposition would not agree on a common candidate due to their lust for power. In contrast, the TNA would prefer to retain its own identity by fielding its own candidate at a future Presidential election.

Even if a highly unlikely alliance among the UNP, JVP and the DP is formed, their common candidate would be unable to match the popularity of President Rajapaksa. He has almost all political parties and their breakaway groups under his belt, making him th most trusted and popular common candidate for the next Presidential election.

It would be a meaningless exercise even if a religious or civil society leader attempts to bring all these Opposition political parties under one umbrella to challenge illustrious political leader such as President Rajapaksa who has been accepted by people of all walks of life.

Fullest support

There are more than a dozen political parties in the UPFA of which the main coalition partner is the SLFP. Apart from the UPFA's constituent parties, the breakaway groups of almost all Opposition political parties are also supporting the President to the hilt.

These politicians have either joined the SLFP or are functioning as the constituent parties of the UPFA. Even the former LTTE leaders who had given up arms and joined mainstream politics in different camps are extending their fullest support to the President. Many popular figures of the UNP and JVP had either obtained the SLFP membership or joined the UPFA as constituent parties.

Hence, almost all political parties are represented in the ruling UPFA. As President Rajapaksa had pointed out recently, the Opposition is too within the Government.

More than half of the Cabinet Ministers are former UNP stalwarts who had crossed over to the UPFA after being impressed by the President's illustrious leadership. There is no other political leader, either in the Government or in the Opposition who could come anywhere near the popularity of President Rajapaksa. That makes him the undisputed choice at the next Presidential election to seek a record third term.

He richly deserves such honour as the leader who had saved our nation from the jaws of the LTTE terror. None could dispute the fact that it was President Rajapaksa who changed the destiny of the nation. If not for his fearless leadership, Sri Lanka would have been divided by now.

Hence, it is supreme duty of all Sri Lankans to show their gratitude towards that great leader who had put an end to the merciless killings of the LTTE terrorists. He richly deserves a third term to continue the good work and win the economic war as well. A fresh mandate to such leader would make Sri Lanka's goal of becoming the Wonder of Asia closer than expected.

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