Tiger bans and
prosecuting the war
The prevailing mood in the country regarding the on-going war
in the North, has been generally supportive. Everyone may not
support all of the tactics that are being used, but popular
sentiment is that terrorism should be eliminated. And that is
the reason why President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s appeal has remained
intact, despite the economic crunch felt by the average citizen.
Last week, the President fired another salvo on the war effort.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) should ‘release’ all
the civilians they are holding hostage in the uncleared areas
the President declared, and threatened to ban the LTTE, if they
did not comply.
Since this declaration by the President, there has been some
speculation as to whether the LTTE would in fact be banned
shortly, and if it was, how it would impact on the future of the
Sri Lankan ethnic conflict.
There is a school of thought that believes proscribing the LTTE
would be counter-productive. This argument proposes that if the
LTTE were to be proscribed, it would shut the door on all future
negotiations with the Tigers and this would therefore hinder an
eventual resolution of the ethnic issue.
The counter argument to this would be that, as far as the
government in Colombo is concerned, it would not negotiate with
the Tigers if the Tigers do not lay down arms. So negotiations
are not part of the equation at the present moment in time
anyway. As such, there would be little, if at all any, practical
impact on so-called ‘peace talks’ by banning the LTTE.
Let us also remind ourselves however that the Tigers are in fact
banned in many countries including the United States, the United
Kingdom and even in neighbouring India where the ban was
extended recently. Let us also remind ourselves that these are
the very countries which periodically urge Sri Lanka that
Colombo should negotiate with the LTTE!
This government may have many faults. But it has got one issue
right: the war. Previous regimes since the outbreak of terrorism
in Sri Lanka, have prosecuted the war against the LTTE, only to
buckle in the face of international pressure. They have been
frog-marched to the negotiating table where a ceasefire has been
negotiated for the LTTE to regroup, re-arm and then renege on
their pledges and resume hostilities.
So far, this government has been able to resist that kind of
pressure, and has been resolute and unwavering in its commitment
to the war effort. The message is not garbled with decencies and
diplomatic niceties: there will be no ceasefire until the LTTE
lays down arms and renounces a separate state.
Therefore, we do not see reason to panic with the President’s
latest announcement that the LTTE would be banned if they didn’t
let civilians in ‘uncleared’ areas have freedom of movement.
Rather, we see in this announcement a further commitment that
the war would be prosecuted to a finish.
This is a stand that is refreshingly different from previous
governments and the pulse of the people suggests that the
government is vindicated in taking this stance. However, we do
acknowledge that it is also a position which opens itself to
criticism from international quarters.
The way to counter that would be to ensure that amidst the war,
there is a serious political commitment to redress the
grievances of the minority communities and this commitment
should be as great as the will to eradicate terrorism.
That, we hope, would be the next item on President Mahinda
Rajapaksa’s agenda in the New Year.
Cricket and mega bucks
It is not often that we comment on matters related to sport
editorially, but this week we feel we must, witnessing as we are
the antics at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the body that is supposed
to administer the game in this country.
Last week, the Interim Committee (IC) running SLC was dissolved
by the Sports Minister who claimed that its Chairman and one
time World Cup winning cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga was
acting dictatorially and arbitrarily.
We must point out that this is the umpteenth interim committee
that is running the game and that this also probably the
umpteenth interim committee that was dissolved. And we must also
take into account the fact that SLC is an institution that deals
with big money because cricket, commercialised as it is now,
deals with mega bucks.
Cricket is also the one sport where Sri Lanka has consistently
maintained international standards and remained competitive with
the best. Moreover, it is also one of the few uniting factors in
an otherwise fractured nation, where the entire country stands
up and cheers as one when our cricketing heroes outperform
others in the international arena.
Therefore, isn’t there an urgent need to safeguard and promote
the sport in a proper and professional manner, instead of
handing out positions of power and privilege in the sport for
Arjuna Ranatunga was the first former test cricketer to head SLC.
Much was expected of him, but it was well known - from his
playing days - that diplomacy was not his forte. His critics
argue that leading the World Cup winning team does not give him
absolute license to do as he pleases. Ranatunge counters that he
was only trying to clean up SLC which he claims is a den of
Surely, after all this, isn’t it time that an independent,
respected individual with integrity, or a body comprising such
individuals are appointed to sort out this mess? Or, are we just
going for another interim committee, only to see that committee
too is dissolved after some time?