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Politics

 

 

LTTE on annihilation path

  • India’ s tacit behaviour
  • International community loosing trust in LTTE
  • Confidence in Govt. growing

For the first time in the history of the Sri Lankan conflict, almost everything has gone right for the government. Having decided to wage war against the LTTE, the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has systematically ensured that all fronts of the conflict situation, from humanitarian assistance to international considerations have been played to the advantage of the government. On the one hand, New Delhi which was going to be a serious point of concern for any Sri Lankan government that decided to fight the Tigers was being controlled by the Congress Government, the head of which political party, Sonia Gandhi was herself a victim of LTTE terror when the Tigers assassinated her husband and then Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. India has therefore, notwithstanding pressure from the Tamil Nadu region, has been largely a passive observer in the ongoing military conflict against the LTTE, interjecting only occasionally to stress on the Sri Lankan Government the need to protect civilian life in the North in the process of eliminating the LTTE. One might even say that India’s silence has been tacit approval of the Rajapaksa regime’s military operations to destroy the LTTE and eliminate the threat of separatism once and for all.

Furthermore, by asserting its sovereignty time and again, in what has often been termed a kind of Rottweiler diplomacy, the Government has also managed to silence the badgering of the international community and the international organisations who always posed a problem to successfully carrying out a military operation against the LTTE. These international organisations are now under the direct supervision of the Government and have been told in no uncertain terms that they are in Sri Lanka on the invitation of the State and cannot therefore appear to be siding with a terrorist outfit or conduct themselves in a manner that hampers the Government’s efforts to relieve the North and the East from the LTTE’s death grip.

In this Eelam War IV, the Government has also won the propaganda war, albeit at some cost, by making their military spokesmen readily available and holding regular press briefings and guided tours to captured territory in order to ensure their version of the conflict also reaches local and international audiences. Media personnel have been barred from the North except in special cases when journalists are embedded with government troops.

By waging war on all these fronts, the Government has now managed to confine the LTTE, one of the world’s most ruthless terrorist organisations into a land area of 151 square kilometres. Military victories notwithstanding however, the Government has been unable to entirely nullify world sympathy for the LTTE cause, specifically because of the number of civilians living in areas under the rebels’ control. Now those same civilians are trapped in a vicious cycle of violence, with the Government requesting them to leave the area while the LTTE for their part require them to remain. The LTTE’s position is one of utter desperation and the Tiger leadership realises that the only thing standing in the way of government troops marching into their last remaining area of control are the thousands of civilians who will get caught in the crossfire should they go in. A stalemate situation has transpired therefore, with the international media giving significant airplay to the plight of the civilians trapped inside the conflict zone and the occasional instances of civilians being caught up in the fighting and being injured or killed. The LTTE has therefore used the displaced civilian population of the Wanni as a human shield for many months.

But one might say that all this changed last Monday (9), when the LTTE sunk to a new low by sending a female suicide bomber into government controlled area of Vishwamadu with a group of fleeing civilians, mostly women and children. When the bomber blew herself up amidst the civilians who were being screened and received by the military, 29 people including 10 civilians were killed and 64 others including 40 civilians were reported injured.

After using the displaced civilian population of the Wanni as a human shield for many months, the Tigers have turned their guns on this hapless populace to prevent a total annihilation of its military forces. At least 29 people including 10 civilians were killed and 64 others including 40 civilians reported injured when an LTTE woman suicide bomber blew herself at an IDP transit centre in Viswamadu on February 9. The attack drew wide condemnation from various quarters. The United States and the UN called on the LTTE to separate its combatants and the civil populace and once again implored the organisation to allow the civilians to move out of the conflict zone. Earlier the Tokyo Donor Conference Co-Chairs, Japan, Norway, the US and EU called on the LTTE to discuss the terms of surrender with the government preventing any further blood letting. All these calls have been disregarded by the LTTE. Later in the week the LTTE gunned down 19 civilians trying to flee the Udayarkattukualam area in Mullaithivu. Reports said at least 75 civilians were wounded in the incident some of them critically. 29 women and 11 children were among the scores injured.

International players ranging from India, US to Norway, some of whom who had sympathy towards the LTTE cause in the past have now unequivocally condemned the LTTE for its inhuman treatment of the civilians in the Wanni and called on the organisation in no uncertain terms to release the populace from the conflict zone. The UN, international organisations such as Human Rights Watch, ICRC, Amnesty International etc. have also made the same request. These calls have been virtually ignored by the Tigers.

With the LTTE turning its guns on the very people that for years it has claimed to have represented, the organisation is in no position to claim its previous status as the sole representatives of the Tamil people. That recognition was also an arrangement of convenience rather than a true acceptance of the LTTE as a democratic force. The recognition as the sole representatives of the Tamils was a fundamental demand of the Tigers before they entered the peace process in 2002. It was meant to mainly silence dissenting voices such as the EPDP which had for a long time been affiliated with the different administrations. The international community and the Sri Lankan Government had to give into the demand of the LTTE as a necessary evil considering its military strength and the ground reality that a peace process would not have been successful without the LTTE in the 2002 context. However all that has changed with the new paradigm shift. The LTTE, becoming increasingly close to being annihilated as a military force, has lost its bargaining strength to its claim. More importantly due to its attacks on the civilians and its refusal to allow the civilians to flee its territory, further threatening the lives of the community, the LTTE now has no moral authority whatsoever to claim to be the sole representatives of the Tamil people.

No to British envoy

Despite being down and out, the Tigers are still using whatever influence they can wield with foreign governments and organisations to put pressure on the Sri Lankan Government in order to stop the ongoing military operations against their last remaining bastions. It was in this context that the LTTE welcomed the announcement by the British Government to appoint a Special Envoy to Sri Lanka. The TamilNet website said that the “LTTE welcomes the appointment of Des Browne as Special Envoy to Sri Lanka by the British Prime Minister on Thursday. In a letter addressed to Mr. Des Browne, LTTE’s Head of International Diplomatic Relations S. Pathmanathan said the British Government had a moral responsibility to intervene to stop the genocide being committed by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) on Tamil civilians in the island of Sri Lanka.”
The LTTE statement from its newly appointed head of “International Diplomatic Relations Office” came a day after Colombo categorically dismissed the British initiative as “disrespectful” and “unhelpful”.

Sri Lanka rejected the appointment of former Defence Minister Des Browne, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s a special envoy to the island, saying that the British government had violated accepted diplomatic practice when making such an appointment and adding that the initiative from London as a move interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

Britain’s decision to “appoint” an envoy to Sri Lanka resulted in Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama making submissions to the cabinet of ministers and the President that such a move was tantamount to infringing upon the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan state. The Ministers then decided unanimously to reject the British Government’s appointment on grounds that it violated the norms of a bilateral relationship between two sovereign nations.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was to state that that the government saw Browne’s appointment as a unilateral move by London and decided not to accept him. “It is tantamount to an intrusion into Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and is disrespectful to the country’s statehood,” the minister is reported to have told reporters after obtaining cabinet approval for the decision not to accept the British envoy. Sri Lanka added to the embarrassment of the British Foreign Office by saying that there would be no further discussion on this issue. This is after the British Foreign Office has said talks were ongoing to resolve the dispute.
Browne who resigned as Defence Minister was seen by political observers as being given a consolation prize by Prime Minister Gordon Brown by appointing him as the Special Envoy to Sri Lanka.

“As special envoy, he will work closely with the Sri Lankan government, leaders from all communities in Sri Lanka, international agencies and the wider international community,” the Prime Minister announced to the British Parliament. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was reported to have been furious that the appointment was made in an arbitrary manner without proper consultations with the Sri Lankan Government. The reaction of the Sri Lankan Government was another example of how this administration has consistently refused to cower before the world community or put international agendas ahead of its own interests.

Poster war

Outside of the conflict zone and related matters, the ongoing political dramas have been virtually background noise. The North Western and Central Provinces went to the polls yesterday without much ado, with the nation as a whole completely engrossed in the unfolding situation in the north. In the meantime, what has been getting attention is the poster war that has erupted in Colombo, with the Western Provincial Council dissolution. The most glaring ones have been those put up on every public wall, often stretching for miles at a time, in Colombo and its suburbs, of former Western Provincial Councillor, Duminda R. Silva. Silva was once a major young gun in the UNP, but decided to cross over about a year ago. He has been at the centre of several personal scandals that have made the national press because it has involved allegations of serious crime or renowned personalities. The first series of posters featured miles and miles of walls plastered with Silva arm in arm with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Since then, he is pictured with babies, disabled children, teenagers and grandmothers in posters incongruously titled ‘balaporoththuwa’ or ‘hope’. The posters have irritated Colombo’s public not least because Silva now occupies all the wall space on any major city road but also because he is not the pure white character he attempts to portray in the poster blitz.

The President has not been left out of the poster war, with every UPFA WPC hopeful plastering the walls with pictures aiming to portray their close and personal relationship with President Rajapaksa. Unfortunately, not all these personalities seeking nomination are necessarily the cleanest politicians or businessmen in the running, putting the President also in an awkward position by featuring him so prominently. It was perhaps this fact that prompted the Presidential Secretariat last week to ban the use of the President’s picture in campaign posters with immediate effect. The President has also instructed the IGP to remove all such banners, cutouts, and posters from public display since the use of the President’s picture for election propaganda is a violation of election laws.

In fact, the pasting of any type of poster is a violation of election laws, but has become one of those laws written to be flouted. It is hoped that the President will take a further step to ban all his party men from putting up any type of posters and campaign material that deface public property in order to help Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake with this onerous task at which there is rarely any chance of success.

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