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Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP at the Indo-Sri Lankan Dialogue at the Indian International Centre, New Delhi 21-22 October 2010.

The election of President Rajapakse in 2005 saw a regime that began with a perspective that its predecessors had wasted valuable time in acquiring. Though he continued with the Ceasefire Agreement and tried to negotiate with the LTTE, he also realized the importance of strengthening his defences, spurred as he also was by the blatant violations of the CFA by the Tigers in the first couple of months after he took office. Helped by having a Presidential Secretary and a Secretary of Defence who had no financial or family connections with arms dealers, an unusual state of affairs for Sri Lankan officials, he was able to build up a confident and disciplined military. So too, when the negotiations began, the Sri Lankan government had no illusions about the bad faith of the Tigers, and they could stick to principles without succumbing to Tiger threats or blandishments. Efforts by the Tigers to sweep the issue of child soldiers under the carpet for instance were resisted firmly.

This was the more difficult because the Tigers had used the follies of the Wickremesinghe years, and the slipshod approaches of the Kumaratunga period that followed, to enhance their standing with the so-called international community. The UN for example had poured money into Tigerland with no supervision of what was done with it, while a few Western nations hankered after the happy days of Wickremesinghe when they were allowed to call the shots. The United States, I should note, was an exception to this since, though under severe pressure from the Tiger led diaspora and international agencies that saw themselves as arbiters of the destiny of smaller nations – the smaller the better, for their proconsular purposes – they understood the need to stand firm against terrorism.

But even the United States had to speak with a characteristically Western forked tongue, and it was on its old friends in the Non-Aligned Movement, plus the former Socialist bloc, that Sri Lanka had to rely most heavily in this most momentous period in her recent history. India was foremost amongst these, and kept its position straight despite much more potentially significant pressures from politicians in Tamilnadu. The Indians made it clear that there should be no indulgence to the Tigers, but all efforts should be made to improve the position of the Tamils.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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