Confirming the widely held public opinion, the government has gained a convincing victory at Saturday’s western provincial council polls. It was clear that even the opposition parties that campaigned for their success, did not expect to make much headway at this election in view of the steady progress that the security forces have made in recovering territory that the LTTE had gained control over by means of violence and terrorism over several decades.
Whatever the sins of omission and commission that the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government is accused of, and guilty of, it undoubtedly deserved the public support and it received people’s gratitude in ample measure as manifested at the recently held elections. The government did well in courageously and determinedly marching towards its goal withstanding pressures the local and foreign forces had exerted in their contemptible campaign to prevent the LTTE terrorist outfit being pulverized. The final operation that the forces launched to rescue the hapless people whom the LTTE endeavoured to retain as their protective shield was indeed a challenging and sensitive one that needed careful planning and execution since it involved the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. So it is creditable that the objective has been accomplished with minimum danger to the lives of the people seeking freedom from Tiger clutches. The harrowing scenes of men, women and children in varying states health, extreme misery written on their faces trudging along for relief, were heartrending indeed. They have reportedly been living under tents put up by the LTTE in the Safe Zone, exposing themselves to environmental hazards and sans decent basic facilities.
Described as the most outstanding among humanitarian operations launched anywhere in the world to rescue a group of people long held to ransom by a senseless gang of terrorists activated by a dream of creating a separate enclave on a communal basis, the operation was indeed a remarkable one. The flow of the multitude continues presenting another challenge to the authorities to provide them with food, clothing, shelter and protection from the possible suicide and other attacks that disgruntled terrorists would attempt through LTTE cadres suspected to have infiltrated into government controlled areas disguised as refugees.
It is encouraging that the security forces who had equally suffered in conducting their operations in extremely inhospitable terrain, seem enthusiastically lending their hand in meeting the needs of the refugees. They are seen preparing food, providing medical treatment and constructing shelter for these people. This indeed is the most arduous but gratifying aspect of the humanitarian operation the security forces have undertaken. It is also commendable that the rest of the country’s population have come forward to render whatever assistance they are capable of, in alleviating their suffering thus demonstrating the genuine concern and compassion they have for the sufferings of their fellow-beings.
The price the country had to pay for the whole exercise of ridding the country of the menace of terrorism is undoubtedly heavy. But most people feel the accomplished task is worth the price paid. The country has suffered much from the curse of terrorism as well as from various measures taken by the authorities in combating it. The loss and suffering that people underwent while facing acts of terrorism were considerable. Equally extensive were the difficulties that the people had to undergo as a result of various measures successive governments adopted to combat the scourge over the years. Many civilians in the theatre of conflict lost their lives in the crossfire and lost their property and were displaced while those in the south had to curtail their movements and suffer restrictions to their other rights and freedoms as a result of security and protective measures that were necessarily adopted. So the sense of relief that people experience today as hopes of an era of peace emerge is considerable indeed.
It is this feeling of relief and the compassion aroused in people for the suffering of refugees that have found expression in the prompt and eager response to the appeals made for providing assistance to the affected people. The international community also has volunteered substantial assistance - discarding the misgivings that some sections of it had – on this occasion, obviously convinced of the genuineness of the humanitarian task the country has undertaken. The completion of the task ahead would understandably be challenging. After meeting their immediate needs, the mass of people who had crossed over to safety has to be properly accommodated until such time as their normal lives and livelihoods are restored to them.
This task obviously needs allocation of funds which have to be generated from the limited resources available to the government. While it is for the affluent sections of all communities to volunteer assistance in this task, political leaders, government leaders in particular, have to whittle down their expenditure and divert saved funds for this purpose. Their words of concern and compassion have to be converted into deeds.