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Basil-Chidambaram spat over Prabhakaran's death

| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( December 11, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) "It is only we who can solve our issues. This is our country's problem. It is a national problem. Foreigners have no feelings for us. I know that if they wanted to, they could have intervened in our crisis. But they had no interest to do so. Some countries had their own reasons for wanting us to kill Prabhakaran, and those reasons were not in the interest of our people. Now they are shedding crocodile tears. I appeal to the Tamil people and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), let us, being citizens of this country, solve the problem on our own. We treat all people of this country equally. Hence, let us consider this as our problem which we have to solve on our own." (An excerpt of Basil Rajapaksa's speech during the 2014 Budget debate in Parliament – Courtesy: Sunday Observer)

Sometime before, the President's brother, Basil, had made the foregoing remarks when Chidambaram had commented that if the Government of Sri Lanka had listened to India, Prabhakran's life could have been saved. When Basil had referred to some countries in his remarks, he was clearly pointing his finger at India, causing much embarrassment to Chidambaram in view of the remarks he had made earlier, vis-a-vis Prabhakaran's death.

Hit the nail on the head

There is no denying the fact that Basil, in his remarks, had hit the nail on the head. Prabhakran's destruction was at the top of India's agenda during this period. It was more specifically the burning desire of Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi to extract revenge from Prabhakaran who had killed the husband of one and the father of the other.

From 1991 to 1996, India was ruled by the Congress Party Government. When Chandrika came into power in 1994, she made peace overtures to Prabhakaran, much to India's chagrin. The then Leader of the Opposition, Gamini Dissanayake, who was a close personal friend of Rajiv Gandhi, had warned Chandrika to exercise caution in dealing with Rajiv Gandhi's murderer. He was giving voice to India's misgivings about Chandrika's peace overtures to Prabhakaran. In 1994, with the Presidential election looming on the horizon, Gamini had visited India. However, soon after his return to the country, one of Prabhakaran's suicide bomber's blew him to bits. Subsequently, Chandrika visited India after becoming the President of the country. Interestingly, on her return from India, she started preparing for a military solution to the terrorism unleashed by Prabhakaran, with India's tacit approval.

The fall of the Congress Government in 1996 brought about a reversal of fortunes for Chandrika and the war against the Tigers. The BJP Government installed in Delhi did not help Chandrika's war effort. Instead, it wanted her to come to a negotiated settlement with the LTTE terrorists. She did not adhere to the advice of the BJP Government and continued with the war effort, at the cost of heavy losses. Later, in 2001, when Ranil won the Parliamentary election and came into power, he negotiated a peace deal in February 2002 with the Tigers, mediated by Norway.

The Congress Party coming into power in 2004, reposing vast governmental powers in the hands of Sonia Gandhi, was an extremely fateful happening in so far as the LTTE's then (future) fortunes were concerned. Sonia, single-mindedly, wanted Prabhakaran totally annihilated. Her resolve received a renewed boost after her daughter, Priyanka, visited the then pregnant Nalini, who was serving a prison sentence for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. She had a prolonged one-to-one meeting with Nalini, which had lasted several hours. Most political commentators dismissed the meeting then as yet another media show. However, the fact remains that it was a much more important matter than what was portrayed to be. Priyanka was looking for a conclusive and unequivocal answer to the question as to who had given the order to kill her father. Was it Prabhakaran or was any other government involved in Rajiv's murder? Nalini confirmed to Priyanka that it was Prabhakaran himself who had given that infamous order to kill her father. Having established without a shadow of doubt that Prabhakran was Rajiv's murderer, India was prepared to pay any price to get rid of Prabhakran, and encouraged Sri Lanka to fight the war to a finish.

It was Basil who brought the news from India, in this regard, to Mahinda. When there was international pressure to stop the war, Basil went to India and got the probable spoilers of the war efforts silenced. After Mahinda, Sonia was the only leader from the international community who was informed of Prabhakaran's death, no sooner it had happened.

The proverbial bull...

It was because of these developments that I asserted at the outset that what Basil had said was true, in response to Chidambaram's remarks. What had now transpired from the (above) stated series of events was that, ironically, Mahinda had scored victory after victory in elections by the magical power of the war victory whereas the Gandhi family was losing elections, especially in Tamil Nadu, for the same reason. Chidambaram is a very senior Congress member who is fit even to become the Prime Minister of India. But now he is facing the danger of losing even his parliamentary seat in Tamil Nadu as an outcome of the Congress Government's help to defeat the LTTE. He had to shout himself hoarse, urging Manmohan Singh to refrain from attending CHOGM because of that. The Rajapaksas and the Gandhis are muddying the water they had shared so far. In that context, Basil's remarks can be construed as the proverbial bull ramming a man who had fallen from a tree.

At the time Basil came out with those remarks, Mahinda's other brother, Gotabhaya, was in India. It was understood that Gotabhaya's mission to India was successful. Previously, when there were problems to be sorted out with India, Mahinda had invariably sent Basil there to trouble-shoot while Gotabhaya was allowed to shoot off his month criticizing India. This time, he had acted differently. With Singh's CHOGM boycott, Basil was entrusted with the onerous task of nettling India, which reminds one of how JR had used Gamini in friendly engagements with India, while he had used Lalith and Premadasa to joust contests with it.

However, provoking Asia's big brother would not bode well for the government or the country.

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