A wake-up call
Posted on April 1st, 2016

Island Editorial Courtesy The Island

The chance detection of an explosive cache in the North and the arrest of a hardcore Tiger on Wednesday have caused quite a stir in defence and political circles. The government has, true to form, sought to put a bold face on it.

No sooner had the detection of a suicide jacket, mines, explosives and ammunition been made than Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi, addressing the media, claimed there was no threat to national security. One found his tone pregnant with flippancy and sarcasm which, he apparently thought, would help him look confident. What one gathered from his statements was that he thought the incident should not be taken seriously. Such derisive dismissals do not inspire trust. How can he be so sure that national security is not in danger?

Politically induced knee-jerk reactions must be avoided in matters concerning public security. It was obvious that the Defence Secretary hadn’t had time to be briefed properly on Wednesday’s incident and the security implications thereof. It was a textbook example of gownsmen rushing in where swordsmen fear to tread. Investigations are still on and the state intelligence services will take weeks, if not months, to reassess new threats to national security.

The Opposition is blowing the issue out of proportion in a bid to make the most of it while the government is all out to play it down for political reasons; the former is trying to impress upon the public that it alone is capable of preventing the LTTE from raising its head again and the latter is making a vain effort to have us believe that it hasn’t jeopardised national security. Neither of them has assessed the situation realistically.

The government is right in pointing out that many arms caches have been detected since the conclusion of the war. Yes, thousands of weapons, hundreds of mines, tons of ammunition and explosives have been found in different parts of the former war zone. But, Wednesday’s detection was different in that a hardcore Tiger who joined the LTTE as a child soldier at a tender age (13) recently moved explosives and a suicide jacket to an LTTE safe house. He couldn’t have done so for the fun of it.

It may be argued that one swallow does not a summer make. But, the fact remains that all it takes to wreak havoc on a country is a few bloodthirsty, brainwashed terrorists. Hence, the need for the government to brace itself and the security forces for any eventuality without being lulled into a false sense of complacency! None of its foreign allies will rush to its rescue in case of terror strikes. They will only proffer advice from a safe distance and urge it to evolve a solution through negotiations.

Meanwhile, nobody knows what has become of the LTTE’s intelligence Chief Pottu Amman. His body was never recovered. Why the intelligence services have failed to find out whether he is dead or alive defies comprehension.

The northern politicians, most of whom are former Tiger proxies, had better refrain from doing anything that will endanger national security and facilitate the revival of the LTTE, which is no lover of democratic politics as is only too well known. They ought to realise that they and their backers organise events such as commemorations which will help resurrect Frankenstein’s monster at their own peril. Their sins are bound to be visited upon their children.

There are about 4,000 former LTTE combatants who haven’t been rehabilitated besides 12,000 other cadres who underwent rehabilitation. This does not mean all of them will take up arms and, therefore, the government should panic. But, the possibility of some of them doing so if conditions conducive to a comeback are created cannot be ruled out. The second JVP uprising in the late 1980s may serve as an example. The senior LTTE cadres who survived the war may even be aware of the locations of underground arms caches.

If the LTTE wants to make a comeback and is ready to carry out political assassinations it will have to target either the doves in power or the hawks in the Opposition, struggling to recapture state power. Will it take the trouble of targeting well-protected doves and pave the way for the return of the hawks well versed in meeting terrorist threats? With the benefit of the hindsight they must have realised long ago that they blundered in 2005 by organising a polls boycott which facilitated Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rise to power. Or, will it turn on the currently less protected hawks responsible for crushing it so as to take revenge, forestall future problems and plunge the country into chaos in the process?

It is imperative that security threats to the leaders of both the government and the Opposition be reassessed urgently and action taken to protect them.

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