– by Shenali D Waduge –
Since we are on the subject of 13th amendment it is no better a time to look back since 25 years has passed of a virtually non-existent Indo-Lanka Accord that remains a binding nuisance which has been passed down from one Government to the other with the present President left to deal with all the bag and baggage! What must intrigue many is the golden question – if President Premadasa could ask the IPKF to exit Sri Lanka and India conceded without fuss, why was the opportunity not taken to abrogate the Indo-Lanka Pact as well? It was the most suitable time to have done so and Premier V P Singh would not have stood in the way. Similarly, when Opposition Leader signed what he claims to be the greatest ceasefire in Sri Lanka’s history, why did he not do away with the Indo-Lanka Accord given that the 2002 CFA had achieved what the Accord failed to do?
In a game of blame who do we point fingers at most? Jayawardena’s folly was to take a pro-US stand which did not deliver to him the support he needed and expected. Had he received US backing the Indo-Lanka Accord would not have gone through – when Indian ships and Indian Airforce are used to show India means business, Jayawardena succumbed and the Accord was signed. The same strategy is unlikely to work this time round though! That India did not deliver, could not deliver or did not intend to deliver is nothing we need to repeatedly write on. What we are surprised though is how an aspiring to be super power nation with a “super” army that boasted it would disarm the LTTE in no time could not “guarantee and enforce cessation of hostilities” from a group of militants India trained when these militants were being handled by India’s intelligence! The student ended up taking the lives of over 1200 Indian jawans and injuring double that number and injecting one of the most embarrassing examples of loss of faith to the Indian Army so much so that it took Sri Lanka to even moot the idea of a war memorial for these dead Indian soldiers and it took India over 25 years to thank the men who died by the arms India gifted to the LTTE – how is that for déjà u.
While Tamils who welcomed the IPKF with garlands and banners ended up being victims of rape and indiscriminate shootings by IPKF soldiers, no short of a civilian nightmare. India’s crime of aggression in demanding the halt to Sri Lanka’s offensive cost Sri Lanka 27,000 of its war heroes, thousands of civilians and 30 years of no development.
Premadasa had enough grounds to rescind the Accord given that having merged the Northern and Eastern Provinces as promised and holding elections with Indian-backed EPRLF candidate Varatharaja Perumal being elected as its first Chief Minister, IPKF went on to arm Tamil civilians and created the Tamil National Army to support Perumal in whose cabinet Dayan Jayatilake was an MP. By virtue of arming and creating another armed force India breached the Accord yet again.
Premadasa while sending off the IPKF to earn a score with the LTTE ended up only half solved. Had Premadasa annulled the Accord in toto along with the packing off of the IPKF, India’s incursion on Sri Lanka would have been taken care of. Advisors again failed. No different to the manner LTTE were given VIP treatment in Colombo staying at the Hilton and with STF having to provide guard while the same Government ordered over 600 policemen to surrender themselves to the LTTE who shot each one dead in what remains one of the greatest betrayals by the Head of State to its police force and no different to how his fellow UNP leader exposed the names of 43 of Sri Lanka’s army intelligence and LTTE shot each member dead. The number of times the UNP Governments have failed the armed forces and the nation are too many to count.
The ground reality is that Premadasa did not throw out the Indo-Lanka Accord, neither did D B Wijetunga, Chandrika did not even contemplate it even though her mother Mrs. B who despite being great friends of the Nehru family denounced the Indo-Lanka Pact in toto while Gamini Jayasuriya was the only UNP member to resign against the Accord and Ranil Wickremasinghe was a member of the then UNP Government. Chandrika herself was a devolutionist but what looks nice in text books and what the ground realities are were never factored in.
This was how the Accord came to drag on for almost 20 years with leaders politicizing issues instead of devising how best to steer Sri Lanka on a track of development by bifurcating what was stifling Sri Lanka.
We now come to the question of who can the nation actually trust? In answering this question it is good if we explore some tidbits from the past which will help us conclude who we should not trust in handing over affairs of the nation. With the present crisis revolved round the 13th amendment it is important that the countrymen do not continue to make the same mistakes.
With regard to the bag and baggage the country has been carrying – they number many. The UNP Government burnt the Jaffna Public Library in 1981 and thereafter was largely responsible for the 1983 riots which left Sinhalese Buddhists unfairly labeled as discriminating the Tamils and the problem was dabbed “ethnic” – Yet Tamils have forgiven the UNP and continuously votes for it in the same manner they vote for the Tamil National Alliance despite its open allegiance to the LTTE and we thought the Tamils were suffering because of the LTTE.
This same UNP Government often falsely projected as ushering the open economy had in reality brought small industries and self-sustainability to ruin. We have little memories. The very person faulting the Government for appeasing to India sought India’s help even for fisheries! We have forgotten how the economy of Sri Lanka was ruined when the UNP embarked upon a maiden privatization and selling of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure which directly impacted on the gradual demise of Sri Lanka’s agriculture. Yes, a handful became very very rich but the masses became very poor too. Today, that agriculture is picking up but not without the farmers becoming victims of the world agriculture mafia in the form of reliance on fertilizers and pesticides. We have also forgotten how the UNP scrapped the Guaranteed Purchasing scheme where instead of producers benefiting the rice millers and traders struck gold and the rice mills and paddy stores became neglected to pave the way to import rice and farmers bringing their vegetables and fruits to the Fair had to sell their goods to traders at low prices and we came to purchase same at double the price! The strikers may also like to look back at how they had been treated in the past as well. These are good lessons for the present Government not to follow the same garden path.
Have we also forgotten the 2002 UNF budget where 100% tax levied on foreigners was reduced giving them the opportunity to purchase real estate in Sri Lanka which was a total sell out. Thankfully Chandrika’s Government put a stop to this.
The ceasefire of 2002 was a story of selling Sri Lanka’s sovereignty for personal glory at the cost of the lives of our war heroes. Just as JR kept from his cabinet any details of the Indo-Lanka Accord, Ranil agreed to the CFA without a vote in Parliament and the agreement was announced only after it was signed – so much for democracy the UNP now demands! It appears Premadasa too kept even Gen. Ranatunga in the dark about most of his dealings with the LTTE.
When we accuse the US of torture we also forget the Batalanda chamber in Kelaniya which the Presidential Commission of Inquiry confirmed was a torture chamber. When education was entrusted to him his Secretary was an underworld thug – Gonawala Sunil. It was Ranil’s Government which even collaborated with America’s rendition of alleged terrorists! So the question is do we continue this legacy or should we slowly try to move away and break away from these ugly precedents that are throttling the country. The next question is how?
Every Government had to carry the bag and baggage of ruin created by the UNP. The agreements with IMF to sell resources of the country, to slash the welfare assistance to people, to privatize state institutes, to impose tax concessions to the wealthy and impose taxes to the ordinary masses were all encouraged and agreed to by the UNP – once these agreements are signed with international authorities it is extremely difficult to break away from them.
It is in the backdrop of this legacy that the present Government took office and in fairness to it we must be thankful that to break away from the tentacles of a “system” that no leader dared challenged, the decision the Government took to militarily defeat the LTTE and deliver the promise to end terrorism is something we need to be thankful for. That task was made possible by first eliminating the bogus classification that Sri Lanka had an ethnic problem – if so the Indo-Lanka Accord and 13th amendment plus the PC system should have provided the solution. Solutions are not achieved in carving and creating a country simply to satisfy the whims of a handful. It was under the stewardship of the Defense Secretary that the lies the country had to suffer 30 years came to an end in just 3 years despite being surrounded by the same proponents who carried the opinion that we were suffering an “unwinnable war”. Being veteran politicians means not to be veterans of deceit and these are good lessons for both the Government and especially for voters to think about before casting their vote at future elections.
Contracts can also come to a close on frustration – IPKF withdrawal was one such frustration that led to the President of Sri Lanka demanding the exit of IPKF from Sri Lanka. Had he gone a step further and completely closed the Accord – Sri Lanka would have been in a very different situation. As things stand the region has become quite crowded and stronger players are fishing in the Indian Ocean which requires suave diplomatic maneuverings to make India realize that in its best interest the 13th amendment is best done away with when it should know how within its own internal contours the manner India is being destabilized – therefore the annexure plan is likely to be usurped to create a bigger nightmare for India that may lead to India ending up what it was like before the arrival of the British – disunited in territory and regions.
If the Government managed to defy the odds and deliver a magnificent victory in 2009 there is no reason why it cannot resolve the 13th amendment and conclude the Accord which is virtually existent by name and because of our courtesy only.
What the Government must resolve to do at all times is not to make the mistakes the previous Governments and leaders made – then only will their credibility remain amongst the majority who voted for them and will continue to vote for them.
With the country now more alert and watching the onus is on the Government and all leaders to lead the country out of the mess instead of leading it towards more messes given that we are already paying for the crimes of the past.
The country is confident that the President can still deliver and take the nation out of the turmoil it is now in.