President Rajapakse’s new battle ground: facing S. O. Bs-Part I
Posted on January 7th, 2011

H. L. D. Mahindapala

 A remarkable feature of the post-independence political landscape is the dream run that President Mahinda Rajapakse has had from 2005 to 2010. His luck was spinning at an unstoppable pace. He could do nothing wrong. Everything he touched turned up trumps. It is difficult to find in living memory another political leader who was blessed with so much luck. It was so powerful that he could overcome both national and international forces with ease. He could even tell two big powers “”…” UK and France “”…” to get back to the hole from where they came and get away with it. Even India, which was the primary foreign source that dominated the power play in the national crisis, turned 360 degrees and from training, financing and providing all material and diplomatic assistance to the Tamil militants came round to President Rajapakse’s point of view and backed him all the way to Nanthikadal.

An unmistakable example of how the events fell into place for the success of President Rajapakse was seen in the Indian elections that were taking place in the last phase of the Vadukoddai War. The Congress Party struggling to retain power was forced to maintain a fine balance between appeasing the domestic electorate of Tamil Nadu, which was aligned to the Tamil Tigers, and simultaneously appeasing Sri Lanka. The last hope of Prabhakaran was a regime change in India. But on the last day of the Indian elections, which coincided with the last day of Velupillai Prabhakaran (May 18, 2009), Congress Party won “”…” a critical factor which denied Prabhakaran the last chance of finding an escape route through Indian help.

In the last days of the Vadukoddai War President Rajapakse was also facing the biggest offensive ever launched by the Tamil diaspora against Sri Lanka. They were activating every political base in the West to mount maximum pressure to stop the war “”…” the only means of saving Prabhakaran. Mounting Western political pressure through all available means “”…” i.e., committing suicide in Geneva, running fasts unto death in London and Sydney, blocking roads leading to Westminster, highways in Canada and Australia, running funding campaigns under the banner of “Tamils for Obama”, “Tamils for Clinton”, saturating prime time news with their shenanigans etc., manipulating NGOs, Churches and the media– were strategic moves to wage the overseas war against Sri Lanka. President Rajapakse had no difficulty in steering his way through all these pressures. Quite correctly, he focused only on winning the war in Sri Lanka because it is the outcome of the wars in Sri Lanka that would ease the foreign pressures. If he lost the war the foreign pressures would have been insurmountable. The massive foreign pressures eased only because he won the war.

Internally, perhaps, the worst scenario he faced during this period was when the Tamil Tiger terrorist overran Mankulam. There were heavy losses and high ranking ministers went behind the back of the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse, who was running the war, and told the President that Mankulam proves once again that the war was unwinnable. A somewhat distressed President summoned Gotabaya and queried about the grim reports of heavy losses which had halted the advance of the forces “”…” temporarily. It was to the credit of Gotabaya Rajapakse that he succeeded in dispelling any discouraging doubts that were haunting the Commander-in Chief’s mind. He told him that this was only a minor battle and not the end of the war.

It would have been suicidal if the war was stopped at that critical point. Encouraged and assured by Gotabaya the Commander-in Chief stood by his forces “”…” forces which not only regained Mankulam but also did not stop until they reached Nanthikadal Lagoon. In the end, President not only crushed the “invincible” Tamil Tiger terrorists but also demolished the politico-military pundits (including Erik Solheim) who said that he cannot win the war.

So retreat and withdrawal was not in his vocabulary when all the global forces were pressuring him to stop the war. Nor did he put a foot wrong anywhere at any time then. The lesson in all this that if he wins at home he also wins abroad. For him to keep the foreign dogs away he must win at home — and win convincingly which he has done time and again. His success also is partly in standing up to any foreign interventions. Make no mistake, his success is due fundamentally to the fact that he shone in the eyes of the public as the only defender of the nation against all domestic and foreign threats. He has done it with panache so far. So far so good! But what of the latest happenings under his very nose?

Are there new trends emerging which suggest that he is losing his touch? Primarily, he has been a master strategist. He is no theoretician or a holder of a post-graduate doctorate mass produced in numerous Ph. D factories of academia. That is a plus. His strength is in coming to grips with each situation with the simplest solution to the most complex problems. For instance, he dismissed all the theories, ideologies, analyses, formulas propounded by the so-called intellectuals and took the simplest road to Nanthikadal to end the 33-year-old Vadukoddai War. He is the best pragmatic strategist with the political instinct and fortitude to grasp the ground situations and be in command of every crisis that came his way.

However, at the end of 2010 there are some worrying signs that do not run to form. As a strategist in war-time he was brilliant. But is he wavering as a peace-time strategist? Is he losing touch with the existential realities? The first missteps of the Rajapakse regime are beginning to surface somewhat ominously. Of course, nothing has still gone wrong in the domestic front woefully. At least not yet. Though there are rumblings going on domestically like the former Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake’s piercing attack on the political structures set up by the President the serious cracks have begun to appear ONLY in the foreign front “”…” and all of them could have been easily avoided.

The three major issues where the Rajapakse government stumbled are: 1. inviting the Norwegians to re-enter Sri Lanka; 2. inviting the UN Panel to come in and 3. the Oxford fiasco. As stated earlier, what is noteworthy here is that all three happened not in Sri Lanka “”…” his stronghold “”…” but overseas, his weakest spot. This seems to be the Achilles heel of the Rajapakse government. Critical reports indicate that the government was warned about the impending disaster. Basil Rajapakse is absolutely right in warning the President not to go. But in hindsight it is a good lesson to the government which has assumed that it can win any battle anywhere. One of the lessons that the Kennedy brothers first learnt was that though they were in command of all the key levers of power they could not fix everything by just pressing buttons of power a will, or barging in with a stick like the Bay of Pigs. There are limits to power and successful governance depends on knowing those limits. Knowing to withdraw or lie low is as important as knowing when to go on the offensive. When, for instance, Kennedy encountered the powerful steel lobby which was resisting his pressures he called them “S. O. B’s.” But when the backlash against that provocative remark hit him hard he replied: “I meant Sons of Businessmen!”

President Rajapakse too is faced with a similar S.O.Bs “”…” I mean sons of Bush, Blair, Brown, Bernard (Kouchner) and Balasinghams! These SOBs are not going to disappear soon. They are going to be a permanent feature at least for the foreseeable future. President Rajapakse’s strength was in resisting and not giving into these SOBs. Now he seems to be faltering because he is giving into the very forces which he fought so successfully.

First, take the case of inviting the Norwegians. This is comparable only to Ranil Wickremesinghe inviting the Portuguese to celebrate the 500th anniversary of their conquest of Sri Lanka. Norwegians have a record “”…” both as aid-givers and “facilitators” of peace “”…” of acting against the national interests. The funds of the Red Barna were siphoned off to finance the separatist movement. Erik Solheim has also a proven track record of aiding the anti-Sri Lankan NGOs ( e.g., Jehan Perera’s National Peace Council) and the Tamil Tigers, as stated by Minister V. Muralitharan, better known as Karuna Amman. What is worse, in the post-Prabhakaran phase, Norway has emerged as the most formidable base for the anti-Sri Lanka Nediyawan, the man aspiring to be the next Prabhakaran. So what have we to gain by opening the doors for Solheim to come in and run amok once again in Sri Lanka?

——————————END Part I

7 Responses to “President Rajapakse’s new battle ground: facing S. O. Bs-Part I”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    I do hope HE The President will take cogniscance of what is stated in this article, and read it over and over again, take the advice given, and act accordingly. Norway is coming back to Sri Lanka as an Agent of Nediyavan. Solheim, this time is coming as a Trojan Horse. HE inviting this SOB to come into Sri Lanka again, is really inviting trouble. If the President is fishing for popularity. putting the Motherland into jeopardy, then all what those beautiful soldiers fought for, would be in vain. So, let us hope that wise counsel will prevail in HE, and stop trying to appease International scoundrels, for cheap popularity. He should lisen to “” WHISTLE BLOWERS WITHOUT MALICE.””

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    Of the three forces that are out to demonize and destroy Sri Lanka – the Western Powers, the Christian Church and the Indians, it is the Christian Church which is most dangerous as it is in a position to influence and run wool over President’s eyes. The church will involve members of his own family for this purpose. The very church which campaigned openly against the President in 2005 now seems to be quite close to him. This could be the beginning of the rot. It has happened in the past and can quite easily happen again.

    It is a shame that the President fails to draw precedents from history to understand how the Church has subverted authority from within our own power structures in the past 500 years. It is a shame that he fails to understand that his victory over terrorism was made possible by the Sinhala Buddhist polity in Sri Lanka, not by anybody else and he should not get his wires crossed in doing the right thing by the nation.

    It is a shame that the Buddhist hierarchy is not able to give positive guidance to the President to enable him see the light.

    Those who forget history are condemned to relive it! We have relived our past mistakes many times in the past. This should not happen again!

  3. Ben_silva Says:

    I hope the Prez would take note of HLD’s concerns. The Prez has been very brave and has saved Lanka from break up. I agree with Ratnapala that the three deadly forces against Lanka are the misguided Western Powers, Christian Church and the Indians, mislead by Tamils. Some Buddhist orgs have been very passive and has not contributed sufficiently for the defence of Sri Lanka or the Sinhalese. It is time the Sinhalese stop being passive and let everyone run over them.

  4. Sirih Says:

    SL foreign policy is our Achilles heel..
    What ever the people say about current foreign minister GL and his ability its pure rubbish. This guy is not capable of doing any thing right let alone running SL foreign policy… He escaped serious trouble when he preached in Australia while UNP minister that “what’s wrong in giving inhabitant beaches in north and east to LTTE”

    SL need foreign educated patriots to advise the govt. how things work in foreign lands and how power politics work in modern western industrial base.

    I got a call yesterday from US, VC that control billions of dollars to ask about SL ambassador in US setting up this SL_US investment group and can it be trusted.. I also advise this VC group and hope to get them involve in SL’s post war development and we have 3 mobile companies in SL in trouble due to some predatory pricing by some foreign funded mobile group…
    No point in issuing licences if these companies are not properly regulated.. Present regulator need help with global practice and so far none of our regulators are properly funded or educated.

  5. cassandra Says:

    HLDM lists “three major issues” where he sees the Rajapakse government has stumbled – “1. inviting the Norwegians to re-enter Sri Lanka; 2. inviting the UN Panel to come in and 3. the Oxford fiasco”.

    Inviting the Norwegians to return – It is indeed difficult to understand the rationale for “inviting” back the Norwegians, given their poor record in their erstwhile role of peace facilitators. Perhaps, it is because as HLDM says, “Norway has emerged as the most formidable base for the anti-Sri Lanka Nediyawan, the man aspiring to be the next Prabhakaran” and good relations with Norway have assumed a new importance. The government has shown it is not averse to adopting ‘high risk’ strategies, as in the way it has dealt with Karuna and KP, and the invitation to the Norwegians to return is not inconsistent with such an approach. But a ‘high risk’ strategy is just that – the risk is high, and one must hope that these things don’t come back to bite you later.

    Inviting the UN Panel – The word ‘inviting’ is probably a euphemism as used here. I believe, in truth, the government has not so much invited the panel as agreed to a request from it to visit. Such things as public protests and fasting outside the UN offices in Colombo no doubt captured the headlines and were useful for domestic consumption. And writing letters of protest and name calling of the UN Secretary General all seemed very macho. But it was clear to anyone with any sense that, despite all this, sooner or later Sri Lanka would need to make some compromises and allow the UN panel to visit the island. HLDM is being unrealistic in suggesting that the government could have gone on denying the panel an opportunity to visit the island.

    The Oxford fiasco – Of the three issues mentioned, this is perhaps the only one where the government had a completely free hand. If common sense and prudence had prevailed, the visit will never have been undertaken. It was always clear that there would be widespread disruptions by sections of the Tamil diaspora in the UK and that attempts would be made to obtain warrants for the arrest of the President and some others travelling with him. There was no secret about this. The intention to seek such warrants was openly stated. And a talk to the Oxford Union was not of such importance to warrant the risks associated with the visit. Considering all these factors, it seemed a tad unwise to have gone ahead with it.

  6. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    Whilst defending SriLanka by countering slander coming from the friends of the Tamil Tiger Terrorists, Sri Lankan Govt need to also open a new front and go on the offensive against the Tamil Tiger diaspora by charging them for war crimes committed through the Tigers in SriLanka with false propoganda, funds and war material. It is well past time when people like Rudrakumaran, Fr Emmanuel, Adele Balasingham and other Tiger Tamil leaders taken to task for their war crimes. The last such major war crime was the holding of over 300,000 Tamil civilians as a human shield to protect the LTTE Terrorist and killing many of those civilians who tried to escape the LTTE terror.

    Of course like in cricket,where a match can be won only if properly skilled, trained and committed players are chosen, SriLanka must first ensure skilled, trained, committed and energetic diplomats are appointed to the overseas High Commissions and Embassies. This is the front line for such an offensive. The days of the sleeping diplomat is long over.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    We agree wholeheartedly with Mr Sooriarachi’s suggestion of laying charges against the ltte on War Crimes as well as acts of rabid terrorism against civilians, GoSL & VIPs. Since Prabhakaran is no more, then it should be that anyone supporting the ltte cause should be charged.
    Also, it would be a grave mistake to allow Norway to interfere in Lanka again. Norway has already shown where her sympathies lie.
    Generally speaking, being self sufficient is the way to go for Lanka. We can make friends with the world once we are self sufficient and have a population loyal to Lanka & her People.

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