The scenario of virtually deserted streets seen in Colombo and in other parts of Sri Lanka today is similar to what took place 33-35 years ago, when JVP terror stalked for more than two years from 29 July 1987 to 13 November 1989.
The cause was the controversial Indo-Lanka Peace Accord (ILPA) of 29 July 1987, forced on Sri Lanka by a belligerent India, at a time when the Sri Lanka Army had cornered LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in Jaffna on 3 June 1987. India threatened military action if Sri Lanka didn’t stop its operation, forcing the barracking of Sri Lanka’s Security Forces under the ILPA, to the forces’ chagrin.
This was also the JVP’s moment, which it seized with both hands to unleash its reign of terror, taking advantage of demoralised and disillusioned Security Forces, where fighting the JVP was the last thing in their mind.
Just a poster by the JVP was sufficient to close down the totality of Colombo, creating a situation similar to the present. But the difference between now and then, however, is if then Colombo being virtually a dead city was caused by JVP terror backed by apathetic Security Forces, the present situation is caused by GoSL corruption, leading to the robbery of what little US dollars there were in GoSL coffers, leaving what little is remaining, insufficient to import fuel and a host of other essentials needed to provide the masses the bare necessities of life.
To catch a glimpse of the seriousness of the situation, CEB’s Acting General Manager Dr. D.C.R. Abeysekera, issuing a statement on Friday, said the present fuel crisis is a challenge to the CEB. Due to a fuel shortage, there may be a delay in attending to breakdowns, he said.
CEB vehicles having insufficient fuel to attend to breakdowns may even mean that if a live wire falls to the road, due to a damaged light post, CEB may not be immediately able to attend to such a repair, causing a serious threat to life and limb.
Nonetheless, dollars to import essentials are with the international community (IC). But dollars, in particular to import urgently needed fuel, are however not forthcoming because they distrust the present GoSL. Distrust centred around corruption.
What however the IC wants Sri Lanka to do to obtain the required dollars is a deal with the IMF, with no promise of direct aid at least to import fuel and cooking gas. Elaborating this position, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, speaking at a Ceylon Chamber of Commerce function on Thursday said, “Yesterday, a high-level delegation representing the US Department of the Treasury and the US Department of State just concluded an important visit. The delegation pressed upon the Government, the need to negotiate urgently with its creditors and the IMF to finalise an assistance package to ease the suffering of the Sri Lankan people and get the economy back on track as quickly as possible.”
So, there is no quick fix aid from the IC to solve Sri Lanka’s fuel crisis. President and retired Lieutenant Colonel Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was serving in the Army, especially in those dark days covering the period 29 July 1987 to 13 November 1989.
He knows that the turning point in the then GoSL’s war against JVP terror took place in August 1989, when the JVP pasted posters in the South, threatening the families of Security Forces with death if their loved ones serving in the Security Forces didn’t retire immediately.
That threat ricocheted on the JVP. The Security Forces, which, for two years were neutral on JVP terror, then turned their guns on them, leading to their subjugation with the killing of their then leader Rohana Wijeweera on 13 November 1989.
A similar turnaround in the economy may only be seen if Rajapaksa charges the members of his own Government with corruption. The other alternative is for Parliament by majority vote to dissolve itself and seek a fresh mandate. Otherwise, IC aid to obtain Sri Lanka’s much needed fuel and cooking gas will only be a pipe dream, at least until 2024, when the next Presidential Poll is due.