Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday alleged that a recently set up political grouping led by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was trying to arouse communal feelings among Tamil speaking people living in the Jaffna peninsula.
Rajapaksa charged that an attempt was being made to exploit the continuing presence of troops at Palaly to cause dissension in Jaffna.
The Defence Secretary was responding to Wickremesinghe’s Friday declaration at Tellippalai, Jaffna that Palaly high security zone could be dismantled without jeopardizing security in the peninsula. Addressing a gathering opposite Durga Amman kovil in Tellippalai, Wickremesinghe accused President Mahinda Rajapaksa of being greedy for private property not only in the north but Colombo and its suburbs as well.
Wickremesinghe vowed to push for early elections for the Northern Provincial Council as well presidential or parliamentary polls, through which the government can be changed, by next year.
The UNP leader as well as those campaigning against security forces presence in the Jaffna peninsula had conveniently turned a blind eye to measures taken by the government, since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, to restore normalcy there, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said in a brief interview with The Sunday Island.
“Obviously, the decision to permanently position troops at Palaly cantonment and acquire public property necessary for its expansion is being now used as a rallying point against the government,” the official said. The positioning of troops was the prerogative of the government, he said.
The Defence Secretary insisted that the government wouldn’t succumb to political pressure and abandon strategically positioned troops. He recalled the circumstances under, which previous UNP government abandoned strategic bases at Point Pedro and Valvettiturai in 1989 to appease the LTTE.
A smiling Rajapaksa said that Wickremesinghe and members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) wouldn’t have been able to visit Tellippalai let alone conduct a protest campaign against the government had Sri Lankan forces failed on the Vanni front.
He reminded the TNA the circumstances under which it had to recognize the LTTE as sole representative of the Tamil speaking people in late 2001. The TNA had to reiterate that position even after the signing of the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in February 2002, Rajapaksa said, adding that was changed only in May 2009 when the military triumphed over terrorism on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.
“Today, TNA members are protesting against those who had paved the way for them to take the political limelight by crushing the LTTE,” the Defence Secretary said.
The Defence Secretary expressed confidence whatever the pronouncements made by the Opposition, including the TNA, Tamil speaking people wouldn’t take them seriously. The war veteran formerly of the famous Gajaba Regiment challenged the Opposition grouping to prove whether at least one of its leaders pleaded with the LTTE to stop using children as cannon fodder or vacate public property seized by the LTTE in the northern and eastern districts.
Responding to a query, the Defence Secretary said that those who had been languishing in refugee camps or living with their relatives would never have been able to reclaim their property as long as the LTTE remained a conventional fighting force.
“Those struggling to make ends meet haven’t forgotten the living conditions under the LTTE,” Defence Secretary said, adding that many influential people, too, benefited to eradication of terrorism.
“Let me tell you how one of Wickremesinghe’s close associates, Charlie Mahendran benefited from the eradication of the LTTE. One day, the UNP leader phoned me on behalf of Mahendran regarding his ancestral house at Kokuvil in the outskirts of Jaffna town. Subsequently, Mahendran phoned me and inquired about the possibility of having his ancestral house, at that time occupied by the army, released. On my instructions, Security Forces headquarters, Jaffna released Mahendran’s house, once used by the LTTE.”
Mahendran was Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador during Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister (Dec 2001-April 2004).
The Defence Secretary said that he wouldn’t have cited the release of Mahendran’s ancestral house to highlight the Opposition’s double-talk if not for the UNP leader’s antics in Jaffna.
The Defence Secretary revealed that ancestral house belonging to former Colombo Mayor, the late K. Ganeshalingam situated at Puloli, Point Pedro, too, was handed over to his wife.
“Would that have been possible when the LTTE had a free run in the north? Would Wickremesinghe or TNA members would have dared to ask the LTTE to give up private property taken over by them?”
The Defence Secretary alleged that a section of the Opposition was working overtime to discredit the government and provoke armed forces deployed in the peninsula ahead of the forthcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva.
Courtesy – ‘Sunday Island’