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How will Trincomalee affect Mahinda?

| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( August 6, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe recently posed a question in Parliament to Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris. He wanted to know if the government had granted permission to a company belonging to the Chinese Government to start an aircraft servicing project in Trincomalee. Ranil pointed out that the project would be a problem to India as it violated the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord signed in 1987. Assassinated former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar asked a similar question in Parliament on 12 October 2003 as an Opposition MP.

"We must focus specially to the needs of India. I would like to remind you of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. According to it, India has the material right to be concerned about the Trincomalee Port and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka." Kadiragamar's words meant the same.

Kadirgamar pointed out that the new military camps set up by the LTTE around Trincomalee were a threat to the security of the port. Then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa applauded Kadirgamar when he raised that issue. Not only that, he requested for a helicopter from the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government to travel to Trincomalee to look into the reality there. Ranil granted him a helicopter while the then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Austin Fernando, opposed it. Mahinda travelled by helicopter and met the Naval chiefs who were in charge of Trincomalee.

Former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda was the Eastern Commander then and he made friends with Mahinda in this visit. Wasantha handed over Mahinda a report on the threats to the Trincomalee port, from the LTTE. This report got into the hands of the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike, and it was ultimately published. India also received a copy of it. Eventually Chandrika took over three Ministries including the Ministry of Defence in November 2003. When taking over the Ministry of Defence, Chandrika cited the threats to the Trincomalee port as the main reason. Chandrika took over the three Ministries on 4 November 2003. A month before that Chandrika wrote a letter to Ranil stating that the Trincomalee harbour is under LTTE threat according to the local and foreign naval reports.

Addressed nation

When she addressed the nation after this move, she spoke of this threat too. Her adviser and former Foreign Minister Kadirgamar was repeating in Sri Lanka as well as when he met the Indian Foreign Minister in India, that the issue of Trincomalee port was crucial to India. Austin Fernando, the Defence Secretary under the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government wrote later in a book written by him that there was an Indian hidden arm behind the taking over of the Ministries and toppling Ranil's rule. Moreover, the media reported that the then Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Nirupam Sen was instrumental in uniting the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peamuna. It was reported that the two Parties met at the official residence of the Indian High Commissioner.

When Ranil's argument that a Chinese aircraft servicing project in Trincomalee would be a problem to India with India's concerns about the LTTE threats to Trincomalee harbour is taken into conderation, it is clear that Ranil is right. Ranil as well as Kadirgamar argued that India had the right to look into the matters of Trincomalee harbour under the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. According to the letter signed by the Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi which is annexed to the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord, Sri Lanka agrees not to offer Trincomalee port or any other port to a foreign country to be used for military or non-military matters that can be a threat to India.

In fact, the Trincomalee harbour was the cause for the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. India secretly armed and trained the Tamil youth to topple the J.R. Jayewardene Government as India understood from a secret report that Sri Lanka was to lease the petroleum storage tanks in Trincomalee to the US. India wanted to send JR home but JR surrendered to India to save his Presidency.

When these facts are considered, it is understood that Trincomalee is a nerve centre that topples governments. JR went on all fours as a result of giving the US powers in Trincomalee. Ranil lost the government as a result of allowing the LTTE to threaten Trincomalee. Now, Mahinda has allowed China to sneak into Trinco. We still cannot predict if the same thing that happened to Ranil might happen to Mahinda. However, during JR's time India considered the US as enemy as Gandhis were pro-USSR. India was afraid when the news of the US coming to Trinco reached their ears.

After the LTTE's assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the Tigers were India's enemy. India was afraid when the LTTE was strengthening fortifications around Trincomalee. Today, China is not an enemy of India. But India is suspicious. If Mahinda allows China to sneak into Trincomalee, it will be the end of the regime.

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