End of separatism    

Kilinochchi, once thought to be the impregnable bastion of the LTTE dreamland, has finally fallen into the hands of the brave soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army. This indeed is an important milestone in the three decade old fight against terrorism. In the context of the present times, it is a historic development both locally and internationally.

This victory becomes more significant in the context of the many odds against which the war was fought. On one hand we had the opponents from within – those politicians, civil society leaders and even some religious leaders who believed that negotiating was the only way to conquer the LTTE terrorism. They were of the view that the LTTE was militarily undefeatable.

Then there were numerous foreign powers that openly backed the LTTE and its cohorts, and tacitly advocated establishment of a separate state within Sri Lanka for their own ulterior motives. Thirdly, there were the natural forces - unfriendly weather, torrential rains etc which made the forward march of our brave soldiers almost impossible.

Despite all these odds, the Army backed by the Air Force and the Navy has proved its prowess by extending the writ of the Sri Lankan Government upto the all important Kilinochchi town, which once was considered to be the ultimate symbol of the LTTE supremacy.

This achievement of the military forces should be welcomed by all the citizens of this country with pride and honour. As was evidenced during the last twenty four hours, the people will do many things to give due recognition to the bravery of the soldiers who fought for the territorial integrity of the country, risking their own lives. At this hour we should also not forget thousands of men and women from the three Armed Forces and Police, who sacrificed their lives.

No doubt the nation will salute the President, the Defence Secretary and the three service Commanders for giving leadership to the war effort without politicising its operation, as was done often in the past.

As much as the fall of Kilinochchi is an important milestone in a military sense, it should also signify a new beginning in the search for a long lasting political solution that meets the aspirations of the Tamil people. In that sense we should not consider it to be a victory for the majority community but a victory for the whole country, which fact the President emphasized in his Address to the Nation on Friday evening where he declared that this event was of equal significance to all Sri Lankans, be they Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher or Malay. It is a victory for all right thinking Sri Lankans who believe in democracy.

The presence of an armed group who only believed in authoritarianism, has for long been an impediment for development of democratic thinking in the north east region. Therefore, successful elimination of the terrorist grip and control from the north east, should technically pave the way for re-emergence of democratic institutions.

As the war progresses, to gain control of the territory remaining under the LTTE control, the duty of our political leadership should be to fast track the evolution of a constitutional settlement to the national issue, without allowing the people to be blinded by the euphoria of this glorious military achievement.
That is the only way by which this military victory could be converted into a real victory for the whole nation.

Vigilance: Key to financial stability

As we all wish each other a happy and prosperous New Year, we must also remind ourselves that the year that just ended was not a prosperous one by any means. The global economy is officially in recession, the credit crunch has hurt even the major economic super powers and we in Sri Lanka are finding it harder more than ever before to make ends meet.

 Nevertheless, the hottest economic news in this country was not the bleak economic outlook, it was the collapse of two major financial institutions: First the ‘Sakvithi’ scam and then the even more shocking, the demise of the Golden Key credit card company, a member of the prestigious Ceylinco group.

The ‘Sakvithi’ scam highlighted the need for vigilance in the financial world: it was a swindle carried out by one individual, who posed as a teacher, won over his victims with his public relations skills and then induced them to part with their riches with the promise of a fast buck.

The collapse of the Golden Key credit card company, demonstrated how even an established and respected institution can be taken for a ride-using as a key factor- the very goodwill that such an institution enjoys- if proper financial procedures are not followed.

In the latter, the Central Bank had to intervene to take over the management of Seylan Bank, allied to the Ceylinco Group, to allay the concerns of customers and depositors of that bank, and prevent a run on deposits that would have had a domino effect and led to instability in that bank as well.

 It was an unprecedented move by the Central Bank, and a decision that drew criticism from some quarters as well. However, first indications are that the move has paid off, and prevented catastrophic consequences for the bank concerned, at least for now.

It is not often that we are inclined to offer bouquets to the Central Bank but in this instance it seems to have acted promptly and prudently. A run on the deposits of one major bank would have been disastrous for the financial system of the nation, and could have triggered off a series of sensational events. The action of the Central Bank appears to have stalled that downward spiral.

 But these events bring to the fore an interesting question: Why is the general public so gullible as to be lured by the promise of higher returns and heavy advertising, when in fact they should be smelling a rat and turning a blind eye to such overtures?