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The last couple of weeks have seen momentous changes. Basil Rajapaksa has been to Delhi and Shivshankar Menon to Colombo, reminding one of the very successful manner in which relations between the two countries were conducted during the conflict. Even before the visits, the President announced the long delayed elections to the Northern Provincial Council, a move that Basil Rajapaksa is reported to have described as ‘a big victory in democratization’.

Given that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had come out swinging as it were against the 13th Amendment and Provincial Councils, this would suggest that the new situation represents a defeat for him, and a resurgence of moderation. But it would be a mistake to think that the viewpoint represented by Gotabhaya is either negative, or that it has been negatived. After all, it should be remembered that he was part of the troika (along with Basil and Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge) who were responsible for relations with India during the conflict period, and he was at that stage perhaps the Sri Lankan in whom the Indians had the greatest confidence.

That was understandable, for he represented at that stage what I would call the pluralistic perspective in the Sri Lankan Defence establishment. In those days he made no bones about the fact that, while he was determined to achieve a military victory, he knew this was not enough, and it was up to the politicians to ensure a political solution.

Tragically, the TNA was not in a position to work towards this while the LTTE still survived, and sadly they did not immediately take advantage of the destruction of the LTTE to talk to government. I believe they were grossly misled at this stage by those elements in the international community that began to persecute Sri Lanka immediately with regard to war crimes, and unfortunately we did not use the good offices of India to engage in dialogue with them swiftly. Even though immediately after the conflict concluded India and Sri Lanka issued a joint communiqué that was eminently balanced and civilized – and not just Basil Rajapaksa but the President himself categorically made very clear commitments about the political solution envisaged – the TNA was sulking, and they were encouraged to sulk by some of the internationals who also bitterly resented our victory over terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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