Winning and keeping hearts
The Sri Lanka Army is very
rightly adopting a dual-pronged approach to fighting the LTTE.
On the one hand, it is using strong law and order measures to
keeping the Tigers in check. On the other, it has launched a
hearts and minds battle in the North-East.
The latter strand in the Army's dual-pronged strategy is,
apparently, as effective as the first. Yesterday, we quoted
Jaffna Commander Major General G. A. Chandrasiri as saying that
the Army has established excellent rapport with the civilian
population of the North.
He went on to say that such amity has paved the way for the
smooth functioning of day-to-day life. The end result of this
process could be a contented populace who would view the
Security Forces as friends and brothers and not as a hostile
This is essentially a public relations exercise and we are
glad that the Security Forces are gearing themselves for this
complex role which calls for a creative reinventing of
themselves. The end aim are the hearts and minds of the public
and to the degree to which this is achieved, to the same extent
would the LTTE be alienated and defeated.
The growing amity between the Security Forces and the
civilian public in the North-East is a vast and happy change
from former times - for instance in the early eighties - when a
hostile relationship existed between sections of the public and
the Security Forces. Such a state of affairs contributed
considerably towards the growth of the LTTE.
It is heartening to hear that this equation has undergone a
drastic change under the present administration. Reaching out to
the people in a spirit of brotherhood and cooperation is one of
the most effective ways of diminishing the influence of the LTTE
in the North.
From this point of view, the special programmes launched by
the Security Forces in the East to strengthen ties of cordiality
between them and the civilian public deserve commendation. For
example, the Army recently brought down to Colombo from Vakarai,
a host of schoolchildren for recreational purposes.
This was a most touching moment in the life of the Army. The
event proved conclusively that the Army meant well by the public
in general and the younger generation in particular. There is no
doubt that a multitude of hearts and minds would have been won
for the State by the Army through this heart-warming exercise.
What is significant is that such exercises are catching on.
Reportedly, the Jaffna Army Commander is engaged in a
bridge-building exercise between the students of the North and
their counterparts in the South. Exchange programmes are said to
be on between Northern and Southern students with the aid of the
Education Ministry and the Jaffna G.A.
We urge a continuation of such bridge-building exercises
between North and South on account of the complex nature of our
Resolving the conflict is not merely a question of defeating
the Tigers in battle. The civilian public of the North-East need
to back the State fully and feel they are an important part of
In the latter task, the force of arms would be of little use.
Hearts have to be won and kept. This too is an important
New man at Number 10
Number 10, Downing Street, London, will have a new occupant
today. Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, will step into
the Prime Ministerial shoes, after looming in outgoing Prime
Minister Tony Blair's shadow for so long.
This is no surprise. Blair faced an internal revolt, though
not on the same scale as the one faced by Margaret Thatcher, and
his electoral popularity took a nosedive thanks to Iraq. Blair's
exit was inevitable and hardly any tears were shed at his
departure. But therein lies a challenge for Brown, Britain's
first new Prime Minister for a decade.
Although experienced, Brown has never really been tested in a
Parliamentary poll - he has been chosen by the party, not by the
people. Proving that he has what it takes to be Premier will be
no easy task to a sceptical electorate which has become tired of
the Iraq episode and the UK's perceived closeness to the Bush
Brown has a good record as the Chancellor - he kept the
economy stable and unemployment down - but as Prime Minister, he
will have to face far more challenging issues. His biggest
dilemma will be solving the Iraq imbroglio.
Afghanistan will be a formidable issue, though to a lesser
extent. Should he pander to popular sentiment and reduce the
scale of British involvement or is it better to go along with
Washington right till the end ? This question is likely to haunt
him for quite some time.
He will also have to confront the much-ridiculed tax system
in Britain, with many advocating serous reform. His approach to
devolution demands in Northern Ireland and Scotland will be
watched closely. The war against terror at domestic level will
be another challenge, given that it has strained the
relationship between the Muslim community and others in the UK.
Amidst all these issues, his biggest test will be guiding the
Labour Party to a fourth successive term. This is not as easy as
it sounds, but polls already indicate that Labour is ahead.
Brown now faces the daunting task of maintaining this momentum
and translating it to another victory at the next General