Violence begets violence

Some call it Eelam War IV while President Mahinda Rajapaksa calls it ‘retaliatory attacks by the forces in the national interest’. Whatever term one may ascribe to the current flare up of violence, one thing is clear -the bloody battle is gradually spilling into the south of the country. Something needs to be done fast before we sink into a quagmire of carnage.
The attempted assassination of Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Col. Bashir Walli Mohamed on Monday, August 14, which killed several and the air raid by the Sri Lanka Air Force which they claimed was on an LTTE training base at Puthukudiyurippu in Mullaitivu where several dozens died the same day, are grim reminders that the Government and LTTE are caught up in a vicious cycle of hostilities. These hostilities will not cease unless genuine and concerted efforts are taken by both parties in a fresh bid for peace.
Are we pursuing a ‘war for peace’ strategy? If so it simply will not work as experience has revealed. Rather, it will lead us on a track of aggression that will lead to doom turning the country into a wasteland.
Today, the country’s children are at stake. On the very day that the teenagers were killed in Mullaitivu, the Government announced that all schools would be closed the next day, a week ahead of schedule. The official reason attributed to this was the SAF games but it is reported that school principals pressed for the closure following the killing of the youth in Mullaitivu and the LTTE’s avowal of revenge in the south.
The Government has reiterated that the teenagers killed were being trained at the rebel camp in Mullaitivu to be used as additional cadres for the attack against government troops in Muhamalai. The LTTE has denied this, insisting that the youngsters were girls undergoing first aid training.
Whether the youngsters were rebels or not, the great tragedy is that they, like thousands of others, were victims of circumstances beyond their control. Their rights to safe living, study and play were denied to them from birth and it is the war that is to blame - a senseless war that since its inception has claimed the lives of an estimated 65,000 Sri Lankans since 1983, maimed many others, and caused great harm to the population and economy of the country.
Why have our peace talks come to nix? Could the chilling answer be that some of those involved on both sides do not want peace? Or, is it that divisive party politics is stalling peace?
We cannot even hold a peace rally in peace in this country! Ironically, a recent anti-war march ended up in a mini battle at Vihara Maha Devi Park.
Those who abhor peace should know that violence begets violence. Nothing can be achieved through violence. If they pursue war, then they must know that neither they nor their children will ever see peace in this country.
On August 12, the LTTE assassinated Kethesh Loganathan, Deputy Secretary General of the Government Peace Secretariat. A former EPRLF member, Mr. Loganathan participated in several negotiation processes to resolve the ethnic conflict, including the Thimpu talks of 1985. One can only deduce that this is a clear indication that the LTTE is not serious about peace. Killing Tamils who dare question the organisation’s stance and authority, has no connection with peace whatsoever, but only reflects the policy of extremism and warmongering.
It is no secret that there is lack of commitment towards peace on the part of the LTTE which seems to be following a ‘live and let die’ policy.
Citizens of all races in this country want peace. They want to live in harmony with each other and not run into claymore mine explosions. They want the country to develop and business to flourish. But both the Government and LTTE must be committed to peace.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called for peace talks declaring that the door is open for the LTTE to accept. The time is opportune for peace. It is doubtful if the main opposition will deter any peace moves. After all, it is Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe who paved the way for a cessation of hostilities which held till April 2004 and beyond.
The JVP and JHU on the other hand, feel that the LTTE should be defeated militarily. But as experience has taught us in this war-ridden island, military solutions have not worked. Rather, they lead to more violence. It is the citizenry who have to bear the brunt of violence and not the politicians who are provided with security. The President must not be swayed by any advocates of severe tactics.
Extremism must not hamper peace as it will only cause hostilities as has been witnessed between the JVP, JHU and the LTTE.
We cannot afford to have repetitions of past peace talks that constitute mere rhetoric. We need an authentic effort at peace talks and practical solutions. Theorising will not do.
All communities must be represented at the peace talks. Those participating in peace talks must make some sacrifices if they are to proceed with success. There has to be a give and take policy. There has to be effective team work that has to rise above petty party politics. The peace participants must earn the trust of each other and agree not to disagree on petty issues. Most importantly, they have to truly have the interests of the suffering citizens at heart. Only then can an effective bid for peace ensue.