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Victory has many fathers …

Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has told a TV channel in India that his ill-fated peace process led to a change of heart on the part of the international community as regards Sri Lanka's security and helped the country secure international cooperation on military training and intelligence gathering.

When he was Prime Minister (of the UNF government from 2001 to 2004), he used to boast that he had put in place an international safety net through his peace effort. A booklet put out by the UNP recently tells us how UNP governments built the national military to the present level! Recently, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga also claimed the on-going successful war was being fought with weapons purchased under her watch.

There is no gainsaying the UNP made a huge contribution to the development of the military which had been playing a constabulary role since Independence. The Kumara-tunga government, too, equipped the military and recruited combatants. (The Premadasa government was all at sea where the war was concerned. It did not know whether it was fighting a war or making peace. It built the LTTE more than the army by giving the former arms, ammunition, money and cement during the IPKF operations.)

The question is why neither the UNP nor the SLFP under President Kumaratunga succeeded in defeating the LTTE. They had the same Army, the same Navy and the same Air Force. If so, then something that President Mahinda Rajapaksa put in must have made all the difference in the country's war effort. What was it? It was the unwavering political leadership for war.

President JRJ could not be blamed for not winning the war as India scuttled his successful military campaign which almost accounted for Prabhakaran in 1987. But, President Premadasa and President Kumaratunga failed in war, as they sadly lacked a single-mined will to defeat terrorism.

President D. B. Wijetunga (1993-94) and his Prime Minister Ranil Wickreme-singhe carried out a successful military campaign in the Eastern Province. But, strangely, the latter after becoming Prime Minister in 2001 chose to appease the LTTE and pander to the whims and fancies of the international community. The LTTE made the most of his weakness and walked away from peace talks in 2003. The rest is history.

It is being argued that but for the UNF's peace process, Karuna would not have broken away. The LTTE has suffered several debilitating splits over the past thirty years and Karuna's defection was only one of them. He would have left the LTTE anyway, as he and Prabhakaran had been at loggerheads for quite some time.

When Karuna finally voted with his feet, instead of receiving him with open arms and giving him protection, the UNF government, it may be recalled, ousted the UNP MP Ali Zaheer Maulana, who had removed Karuna to safety.

The Kumaratunga government refused to stop the LTTE from crossing the Verugal Aru in blatant violation of the then prevailing CFA to take on the Karuna faction. Is any more proof necessary that both the Wickremesinghe and Kumara-tunga governments treated Karuna as a liability rather than an asset? It was the Rajapaksa government that made the best use of LTTE dissidents in war.

The Opposition Leader has said India actively helped the Sri Lankan army fight the LTTE. Yes, India, no doubt, did so. Without India's blessings, it may be said, this war could not have been prosecuted so effectively. But, India's assistance was just only one of the several factors that led to the defeat of the LTTE.

The present government went on a massive recruitment drive and, as is well known, numbers give an army the much needed flexibility. Without adequate troops, the army would not have been able to open several fronts simultaneously and cause the LTTE to overstretch its resources. The security forces, besides arms and equipment they procured, had a Defence Secretary and commanders who were all battle hardened brilliant strategists whom they could trust. President Rajapaksa provided political leadership for the war effort without being swayed by international pressure. Prabhakaran finally met his match in President Rajapaksa.

That India's backing alone is not sufficient for defeating the LTTE was seen in the predicament of the puppet outfit the IPKF created in the late 1980s––the Tamil National Army (TNA). The TNA became a pathetic failure in spite of all the help from India and was later wiped out by the LTTE.

India, we reliably learn, never expected the army to capture Kilinochchi. Even RAW thought the war would end up in a stalemate after months of fighting with the army nursing a bloody nose. That was why Solheim boasted in Oslo with an RAW agent that the LTTE would suck in the army at Kilinochchi and wipe them out the way the Red Army had done to the German troops in Stalingrad during WW II. But, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka surprised India and other countries which doubted the army's capability, by bagging Kilinochchi and cornering Prabhakaran in Mullaitivu.

Had it been known for sure at the beginning that the army would proceed this far and be in a position to wipe out the LTTE leadership, perhaps a spoke would have been put in its wheel much earlier.

The interception of the LTTE ships, the Opposition Leader has said, would not have been possible without help from India, the US and some other countries. This is only partly true. The full credit for sinking almost the entire fleet of the LTTE should be given to the Sri Lanka Navy, which achieved with ordinary gunboats feats that required huge warships.

Ironically, help for sinking some of the rogue floating arsenals came from a smaller friend of Sri Lanka, the Maldives. It all began with the interception by the Maldivian Coast Guard of a trawler called Sri Krishnan, which the LTTE had seized from Indian fishermen, while it was on an arms smuggling mission, in May 2007. The Sri Lankan Navy was given permission to interrogate the LTTE suspects, who spilled the beans. And acting on information elicited from those suspects, the Navy managed to sink several rogue vessels carrying arms. (See The Island reports, Sinking of Sri Krishna by Maldivian Coast Guard: Foreign Embassy tries to help LTTE arms vessel escape on May 26 2007 and Biggest blow to LTTE arms smuggling on Sep. 12, 2007.)

How the Navy destroyed those terrorist craft against tremendous odds is truly inspiring.

Regrettably, the credit for steering Sri Lanka's war on terror to success is not being given to those who really deserve it. Now that the LTTE is about to be decapitated, everybody wants to climb the bandwagon. Even the diehard critics of the war effort are engaged in a mad scramble to bask in the reflected glory of the victorious armed forces. They are flaunting what they claim to be their contribution to the war.

Victory has many fathers, it is said, but defeat is an orphan! How true!

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