By Lal wijenayake –
Lot is spoken about the 30 year old conflict which is popularly known as the war and the heroes behind the defeat of the LTTE militarily. Every leader of our country during the 30 years has contributed in some way towards the defeat of the LTTE militarily. It was like getting the opposite team balled out in a cricket match to win the match. Fortunately for President Rajapaksa, he took the last wicket and when looked superficially he has the right to claim that he won the match for the team. That is what is happening today. But if one sits down and think deeply about the 30 year war, one would have many things to ponder about.
JR signed the Indo – Sri Lanka agreement and pitched India (which supported the LTTE at one stage) against the LTTE. He successfully deprived the LTTE of the base that they had in India and made India too hot for the LTTE. This led to the series of events that ultimately led to the LTTE being banned in India.
President Premadasa adopted a somewhat different strategy to weaken the LTTE. It is now clear from the available documentation that he tried to weaken the LTTE by making use of rival groups within the LTTE, specially the ‘Mahaththaya’ group.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga while sincerely offering a political package to the Tamil people and even approaching the LTTE leadership, did much to strengthen and modernize the security forces to enable it to face the developing military situation.
General Fonseka, undoubtedly the most dedicated commander of the Army we had and who meant business and was not distracted by politics or personal glory and /or privileges has on many occasions in public appreciated the support given, during President Chandrika Kumaranatung period to improve the fighting capacity of the security forces.
Now it is forgotten that it is during her period that the most difficult military operation to capture Jaffna from the LTTE was successfully concluded. This was an important turning point in the task of defeating the LTTE militarily. Capture of Jaffna deprived the LTTE the most important administrative and military base to carry out its offensive against the security forces. The fall of Jaffna brought about demoralization among the LTTE fighters and skepticism of success among its supported within and outside the country.
This military offensive was the most important military victory in the fight to defeat the LTTE militarily.
President Wijetunge during his short term in office was able to liberate most parts of the Eastern Province from the control of the LTTE.
During the two year period that Ranil Wickramesinghe was Prime Minister, he tried to find a political solution with the support of the International Community. The ceasefire brokered by the International community and the events that led to the LTTE going back on the agreement entered into with the government on the peace process and their hard-line stance exposed the LTTE internationally. That finally led to the LTTE losing the sympathy that the LTTE was drawing from the International Community and finally led to the isolation of the LTTE internationally, which was an important factor which ultimately led to the support the Sri Lankan Government got from the United States, India, and other countries. This support was a major factor that led to the weakening of the LTTE militarily and ultimately to its isolation and defeat.
There were two other factors that should not be forgotten in any discussion on the military victory over the LTTE. One is the role played by Lakshman Kadirgamar, Foreign Minister in the President Kumaratunga regime. His intelligent, well studied and polished diplomacy helped the international community to understand the nature of the LTTE movement and its aspirations. He was able to convince them that the LTTE is a threat not only to our country but to all countries in the region and in fact the whole world. His diplomacy was a turning point in the way that the international community perceived the LTTE movement and its aims and its so called aspirations.
The other factor that helped the President to capture the last wicket was the massive buildup of support among the international community towards countries fighting against terrorism, after the terrorist attack in USA, and the threat of such attacks throughout the world and more specifically in the western world. The realization by the powerful nations in the international community that terrorism cannot be fought in each country in isolation but has to be a global effort beyond national boundaries was a significant fact that led to the military support that helped our courageous security forces led by Sarath Fonseka under President Rajapaka’s regime to defeat the LTTE militarily and in fact to eliminate the LTTE.
*Lal Wijenayake – Chairman,Standing Committee on Rule of Law of the Bar Association