Can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs
Posted on June 19th, 2017

By Dr. Nalaka Godahewa Courtesy Ceylon Today

The terrorist attack on the London Bridge and Borough Market became instant world news. Over the last few days we heard global media channels continuously reporting details of the incident. Country after country has come forward to condemn the brutal attack on British soil, which according to information available so far, killed seven and injured 48 people. There is no question that terrorism in any form is not acceptable and has to be condemned. We totally agree with the British Prime Minister Theresa May who says ‘Enough is Enough’.

The Prime Minister vowed on Sunday to conduct a sweeping review of Britain’s counterterrorism strategy. The government is expected to extend the duration of custodial sentences for terrorism suspects. Police and security are to be given all the powers they need to counter terrorism.

But wait! Don’t we remember another Prime Minister of UK, who sent his Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka in 2009 on a special mission? A mission that was intended at twisting the arms of the Sri Lankan President, and buying another lease of life for the most brutal terrorist organization the world has seen? The West at that time didn’t agree that ‘enough was enough’ for Sri Lanka, which had suffered for 26 long years due to terrorism. They were advocating Sri Lanka to be more tolerant even after the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians due to various terrorist attacks. The current British PMs view, “There is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country,” was not applicable to Sri Lanka then.

“Why these double standards?” someone should ask the world and particularly the West.
Sri Lanka is a country that suffered due to terrorism for almost three decades. We also faced numerous terrorist attacks on civilians during this period. Just a handful of them are remembered below.

lOn 14 May 1985, 120 civilians were massacred in front of the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura and 85 people were injured.
lOn 17 April 1987, LTTE massacred 121 people travelling in a passenger bus in Habarana. 44 were injured.
l On 21 April 1987, LTTE exploded a car bomb at the Pettah Bus Stand, killing 106 people. 295 people were injured.
lOn 6 October 1987, LTTE set fire to the Batticaloa mail train, killing 40 people and 24 people were wounded.

lOn 9 November 1987, a vehicle bomb at Maradana killed 23 and injured 106 people
lOn 13 April 1989, a car bomb in Trincomalee, killed 51 civilians and injured 43
lOn 3 August 1990, LTTE killed 147 civilians at a mosque in Kattankudy – Batticaloa where 70 people got injured.
lOn 6 August 1990, at Ampara, 34 farmers were killed while working in paddy field
lOn 10 April 1992, a parcel bomb in a bus killed 28 people in Ampara and 36 people were wounded.

lOn 24 October 1994, a suicide bomber killed 54 people at Thotalanga and 72 people were injured.
lOn 7 August 1995, a suicide bomber killed 23 people at Independence Square and 40 people were injured
l On 31 January 1996, a bomb attack on Central Bank, killed 80 people and 1202 people were injured
l On 24 July 1996, a bomb at Dehiwala railway station killed 57 people and 356 people were injured
lOn 5 March 1998, a vehicle bomb killed 36 people at Maradana and 270 got injured
lOn 29 September 1998, a domestic passenger aircraft was shot down killing 54 civilians
lOn 18 December 1999, 16 people were killed by a suicide bomber at an election rally in Colombo, and 106 people were injured.

lOn 7 June 2000, a suicide bomber killed 24 people at Ratmalana and 60 people were injured
lOn 28 November 2000, a claymore bomb killed 16 people in Anuradhapura and 36 people were injured
lOn 15 June 2006, at Kebithigollewa, two claymore bombs killed 64 civilians and 87 people were injured
lOn 25 April 2007, a bomb in a passenger bus in Ampara killed 14 people and injured 25 people.

lOn 16 January 2008, a claymore bomb killed 27 people in a bus at Monaragala and 65 got injured
lOn 25 April 2008, a bomb explosion in a bus at Piliyandala killed 27 people. And 67 people were injured
lOn 6 June 2008 at Katubedda, a bus bomb killed 23 people and 28 people were injured
lOn 6 October 2008, a suicide bomber killed 27 people at a political rally at Anuradhapura and 84 people were injured.
These are just a few incidents out of hundreds of terrorist attacks that took place on the Sri Lanka soil. There had never been a single month without an incident, somewhere, during the 26 years we were at war with terrorists.

But we never saw a Western country condemning these attacks or showing solidarity with Sri Lankan Government. Instead they called these terrorists rebels and pressurized successive governments in Sri Lanka to enter into peace talks with them.
Perhaps it was a war too far away from their doorsteps that they simply couldn’t bother to understand the suffering of the people.
No one said ‘enough is enough’ those days in relation to Sri Lanka.

Finally one leader in Sri Lanka did. That was President Mahinda Rajapaksa. That was after the LTTE exploded two claymore mines targeting a passenger bus transporting approximately 160 passengers from villages of Viharahalmillewa, Halmillawetiya, Yakawewa and Talgaswewa to Kebithigollewa. In that explosion one soldier, 15 home guards and 48 civilians were killed and one soldier and 86 civilians were injured.

By that time President Mahinda Rajapaksa who came to power in 2005 had had two rounds of peace talks with LTTE. But LTTE never gave up their pressure tactics and kept killing civilians and armed personnel through various terrorist attacks.
I was related the story of how President made up his mind to go to war with LTTE by a senior bureaucrat. According to him the moment President Rajapaksa heard about the Kebithigollewa incident, he rushed to see the victims disregarding all security advice. The TV showed one injured person whose child was dead, seeking justice against LTTE and the President with tears in his own eyes promising that he would take care of it.

This incident took place on 15 June 2006. A few weeks later on 21 July, the LTTE closed the sluice gates of Mavil Aru anicut blocking water flowing to the Seruwila area. The anicut that was built in the 1960s by building a dam across two waterways namely the Verugal Aru and the Mavil Aru was the main source of water for the Muttur, Seruwila and Ichchalampattu district secretariat divisions. The LTTE action deprived 15,000 farming families water even for drinking purposes and thousands of acres of paddy field were also affected.

The Security Council of the country met the following day as usual to discuss the developments. Sri Lankan Forces were not at all equipped at that time for a prolonged war with the terrorists. No Western country was willing to supply arms to Sri Lanka. The economy was struggling and the treasury didn’t have money to meet even the basic demands of the military in a sustainable manner.
But that day after a long discussion, the President suggested the members of the Security Council take a break. He asked them to discuss a proper plan of action until his return to the meeting.

But when the President returned after one hour, around 8 p.m. in the night, there was no further discussion. He asked his senior team to get ready for war. He had made up his mind. Enough was enough for him and the rest is history.
On 18 May 2009, Sri Lanka became the only country in modern history to completely eliminate terrorism from its soil.
But the world did not applaud Sri Lankan leadership or its military for what was achieved within a short span of time, with minimum civilian cost. From the day we ended the war, the Sri Lankan war heroes are being hunted by the West.

Now that the world is unanimous in agreeing with British Prime Minister that enough is enough when it comes to terrorism, I wonder whether the same yardstick would apply to the Sri Lankan leadership that came to the same conclusion in 2006 and wiped out terrorism in the country completely by 2009?

(Dr Nalaka Godahewa is a former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka and of Sri Lanka Tourism)

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