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This is my Nation


  Expediting killer punch on LTTE and world pressures on ceasefires 

What all this verbal sabre-rattling indicates is that the conflict in Sri Lanka is very much on the world’s radar. The LTTE, cornered as never before and fighting desperately for an escape clause knows well that it cannot thwart the armed forces forever militarily and that if the ground offensives continue, it is only a matter of time before they are forced to capitulate.
In such circumstances the Tigers see a halt to the military thrust as the only way out and in the present circumstances that will be achieved only by forcing Colombo to restrain its troops under the weight of world opinion and that is what the LTTE and its worldwide Diaspora is doing its utmost to achieve

Gordon Brown

Des Browne

The final battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has gathered momentum and expectations are high that the entire country would soon be ‘liberated’ from the LTTE, but this has brought in its wake a new challenge for the Government - a growing howl of protests and lamentations from the international community.

The past week saw an increasing number of remonstrations aimed at Colombo with the United Nations, the United Kingdom, the European Union and even India joining the growing chorus.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon spoke of the Sri Lankan conflict being ‘under reported’ and stated he was contemplating sending a United Nations humanitarian assistance team here. It is however unclear at present whether such an exercise would ever materialise, given the ground situation in conflict areas in the North.

Shortly afterwards, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the appointment of senior ruling Labour Party parliamentarian Des Browne as his special envoy to Sri Lanka. The British Government said that in his new role Des Browne would ‘focus on the immediate humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka and the Government of Sri Lanka’s work to set out a political solution to bring about a lasting end to the conflict.’

Although the announcement in London tactfully avoided any direct reference as to whether the envoy would deal with the LTTE which is banned in Britain, this move too ran into stormy weather with the likelihood that Colombo would object to Browne’s appointment on the grounds that it was tantamount to interference in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.

At the European Union (EU), Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the EU Ravinatha Ariyasinghe had to intervene to correct misconceptions that were being created as a result of Tiger propaganda to convey the impression that hundreds of civilians were being indiscriminately killed by the Lankan armed forces.

Then, just across the Palk Straits in India there was Indian President Pratibha Patil telling the Indian Parliament of her concerns about the conflict in Sri Lanka. What raised eyebrows in Colombo was Patil’s virtual call for a ceasefire in the Lankan conflict.
Emphasising the need for a negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka, Patil was to say that “this can be achieved if, simultaneously, the Government of Sri Lanka suspends its military operations and the LTTE declares its willingness to lay down arms and to begin talks with the Government, ”words not likely to be considered kindly by Colombo.

What all this verbal sabre, rattling indicates is that the conflict in Sri Lanka is very much on the world’s radar. The LTTE, cornered as never before and fighting desperately for an escape clause knows well that it cannot thwart the armed forces forever militarily and that if the ground offensives continue, it is only a matter of time before they are forced to capitulate.

In such circumstances the Tigers see a halt to the military thrust as the only way out and in the present circumstances that will be achieved only by forcing Colombo to restrain its troops under the weight of world opinion and that is what the LTTE and its worldwide Diaspora is doing its utmost to achieve.

To its credit, the government which has given the military a free hand to run the war machine has not blinked. But, the crisis of civilians trapped in the conflict zone provides vital ammunition for the LTTE which they will not hesitate to use to maximum effect.
This was also amply demonstrated last week when the Tigers sent one of its suicide cadres disguised as a civilian, only to blow herself up at the military checkpoint at the entrance to a relief centre for displaced persons, the resultant carnage killed at least 28, most of them unarmed soldiers engaged in relief work.

The incident may create a negative impact for the LTTE vis-a-vis their propaganda blitz but they must be believing that this is a fair price to pay for the eventual benefit - for the incident would most certainly deter other civilians from trying to trek through to government-controlled areas. This would provide the LTTE with an invaluable ‘human shield’.

If that is the thinking of the LTTE, it would only be logical to expect more incidents of this nature in the weeks to come as the government draws the battle lines for a final thrust to declare the Eelam war over.

And exactly when that would happen is the next question that is now being talked about. At the current pace at which territory is being gained in the battlefield, it is more a matter of weeks than months, analysts say.

Although politicians of the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) would be quick to point out that it is not using the war for political gain, the fact is that the Government would be loath to let the opportunity slip by.

For the UPFA, it would not be cost-effective politically to use up all of the ‘feel good factor’ from the war merely to secure victories at a provincial council level. It would almost certainly cash in when it can by attempting to seal a general election victory as the icing on its cake.

Given this consideration too, it makes sense to end the war sooner rather than later and that is what the military and political think tanks in Colombo would wish for. Also, delivering the killer punch to the Tigers quickly will obviate the need to pander to world opinion regarding a ceasefire. The coming weeks, if not days,therefore, will surely be decisive, both for Colombo and the LTTE

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