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A lesson or two on tackling military coup

world Updated: Nov 18, 2009 00:41 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Two generals occupied the headlines here last week. General Sarath Fonseka’s resignation and political ambitions naturally made it to the top of discussions everywhere from kitchens to kottu corners.

The visit of shadowy and reclusive Myanmar junta leader general Than Shwe was one of its kind too. A Myanmar leader was visiting Sri Lanka in 43 years. Than Shwe himself had stepped out of his country after five years.

Sri Lanka rolled out its traditional finery including decorated elephants, costumed dancers and drummers to welcome him.

It raised a few diplomatic eyebrows and the jeers of 50-odd pro-democracy protesters who landed at the international airport with placards and protests before Than Shwe’s flight took off.

The frail general came with a healthy entourage of 69 people including wife, two daughters and ministers. “He had his security but it is our obligation to give him additional personnel,’’ a government spokesperson said.

Unfortunately, all that security wasn’t good enough to keep a stomach bug at bay. But two specialist doctors from Kandy averted any emergency, touted to be just a couple of notches below cyclone Nargis.

The general was back on his happy feet the next day and toured Temple of the Tooth relic in Kandy, revered by Buddhists. The same general had brutally crushed a monk-led rebellion in 2007 in Myanmar.

It could not be known whether President Mahinda Rajapaksa raised the issue of freeing Aung San Suu Kyi during his meeting with Than Shwe.

But the general must have surely shared a note with Rajapaksa on ‘five things to do’ in case of a military coup.