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
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
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
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
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,
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
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