Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa while on his temple rounds has been claiming that terrorism was raising its ugly head again and the country was fast moving towards secessionism. But on most occasions he has not pointed to any indications of this so-called threat. However, he was specific as to on what grounds he has been instilling fear in the minds of the people on this threat in a letter he had sent to be read out to the crowd that had attended the 4th “Bring back Mahinda” meeting held in Matara on June 12.
The former President had claimed that “to the rude shock of the patriots the Eelam flag was now being hoisted, 59 army camps had been withdrawn from the North, some groups in the government were insisting on the release of dreaded terrorists and the so-called peace activists such as Erik Solheim who wanted to see the country in flames were openly working on a separatist agenda.”
A situation that could revive terrorism and separatism, if real is no doubt dangerous and alarming. However, one would be more alarmed to see the country not having cared what the former President under whose tenure the LTTE was decimated had warned about, if he was serious.
A few weeks ago the supporters of the former President claimed that LTTE flags were being hoisted in the North. However they did not challenge the army when the latter denied it. Also the former President had not yet accepted the challenge thrown by the UNP General Secretary and Cabinet Minister Kabir Hashim to prove that the new government had withdrawn a single Army camp, leave alone 59 from the North. In fact it has to be reminded of Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran having gone on record as saying that he moved the infamous “genocide” resolution in his Provincial Council in February in response to a claim by State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene that no Army camps would be withdrawn from the North.
There is no wrong even if the government is to take action, under conditions permitting, to further reduce the Army presence in the North, to release more LTTE detainees and to do much more that would facilitate reconciliation, given the fact that more than six years have passed since the end of the war. The Rajapaksa government too had released more that 11,000 LTTE cadres who had killed and maimed hundreds if not thousands of civilians as well as security forces personnel by 2011. It proved to be an action in the right direction. Also Minister Hashim says that all 59 Army camps had been withdrawn from the North by the Rajapaksa regime.
Addressing the Defence Seminar 2012 in Colombo, the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated “In five stages between October 2010 and November 2011, much of the area covered under the High Security Zone near the Palali Cantonment was released.” He added that in 2009, there had been approximately 2000 checkpoints, sentry points and barricades in the North and the East, but there were none in 2012. “28 battalions that were in the North have been relocated in the South and the East. The overall number of troops in the North has been reduced by more than 21,000 since 2009.
The Rajapaksa regime had withdrawn the security forces’ facilities even on political grounds. A statement by the SLMC on December 9 last year; on the eve of the Presidential election, said that it had been decided at a meeting between the former Defence Secretary and a SLMC delegation to release the lands occupied by the Navy in Ponmalaikkudah in Trincomalee and a land meant for “Ranaviru Gammanaya” in Pulmoddai.
Hence it is wrong to create a separatist bogey without strong ground. It was this unfounded fear that would lead to furtherance of animosity between communities. Both fear and enmity are two sides of the same coin. Therefore infusing unfounded fear in the minds of the people is tantamount to spreading hatred among communities. The adverse propaganda immediately before the 1983 riots and recent unfortunate incidents in Aluthgama were clear testimonies in this regard.
The former President has at his disposal many weapons against the present government other than this Tamil bogey. The legitimacy of the present government, breach of promises and the morality of governance by a minority government exceeding its so-called mandate are some of them.