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Winning the hearts of Tamils as vital as winning territory

The theatres of conflict in what is likely to be the final Eelam war are not only in the ‘No Fire Zone’ in the North, they are also scattered in the various international hubs throughout the globe - from Sydney to London and from Ottawa to Chennai.

That Tamil speaking Sri Lankans in various cities throughout the planet have taken to the streets to protest the final assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cannot be ascribed to pure coincidence.

The broad parameters of most of these protests have been the same: sudden and unannounced, crippling activities in the city in which they are staged and strategically located in key countries which lend a sympathetic ear to the LTTE cause.

In such a scenario, it is safe to assume that these ‘impromptu’ gathering of the Diaspora are anything but that. They are more than likely to be highly co-ordinated propaganda exercises orchestrated by the LTTE’s international high command.

So far, Sri Lanka has not blinked despite warnings from the likes of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and telephone calls from the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

The latest entrants to the cacophony clamouring for a ceasefire are the Tokyo Co-chairs, namely the United States, Japan, Norway and the European Union. As government troops move in for the kill, there is no doubt that this pressure will intensify.

Minister Dulles Alahapperuma - known to be in the inner circles of power - articulated Colombo’s stance by stating that the war could be concluded in a few hours if troops adopted an Israeli-style blockade of the No Fire Zone, but said this would not be done.

What the powers that be should realise is that while the world at large may conveniently ignore or even excuse Israel for adopting such tactics, it would rush in to condemn Colombo at the hint of such strategies being contemplated, let alone being used.

What Sri Lanka can do - and must do - at this juncture is to convince the world at large of its bona fides in dealing with civilians trapped in the No Fire Zone. It must also impress upon them that it is genuine in seeking a political settlement to the ethnic issue.

This will not come easily especially in the face of the adverse propaganda blitz launched by the Tigers. A concerted and consistent campaign must be launched and must be conducted in a professional manner.

Allowing media organisations access to areas where the facilities provided for civilians can be verified independently would go a long way in boosting international confidence, as would a sincere attempt to negotiate a political settlement with moderate representatives of the Tamil Community.

Gung- ho statements by certain personalities allied to the government do not always help. It would be prudent, particularly at this point in time to carefully monitor who says what about the war because irresponsible statements should not be misconstrued as articulating government policy.

This is a time when success in the Eelam War is being measured by the number of square kilometres to which the Tigers are confined and in the number of LTTE cadres that are being killed every day. That should not be so.

Success in the Eelam war will come not when the last square kilometre is captured or when the last LTTE cadre is killed but when the hearts and minds of the Tamil community are won and the world at large acknowledges that.

In that sense, there are many miles to go and more promises to keep before it could be proclaimed that the Eelam War is finally over.


One law for MPs, one for the others

Are there two sets of laws in this country? One for the masses and another for MPs and ministers? One for the hoi polloi and another for the high and mighty?

That is the question we pose in the context of two incidents which occurred recently. In one instance a child was abducted allegedly by parliamentarian Sarana Gunawardana and then returned. In the other, a school admitted twenty children allegedly on the instructions of maverick MP and non-cabinet minister Mervyn Silva. In both instances the wheels of justice seem to be turning in a rather curious manner.

In the alleged abduction, the MP has stated that it may have been staged by someone looking like him! We know politicians are capable of terminological inexactitudes but this surely must qualify for a prize!

In the other incident, after going through the ‘usual’ routine with Mervyn Silva, with some parents of the school being harassed by hired hooligans, we now have to stomach the spectacle of Education Minister (and general secretary of the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance) Susil Premajayantha justifying the decision to admit twenty extra children to the school because more facilities are to be provided for that institution.

Of course, the good minister with his incomparable intelligence could have done better - he could have provided those extra facilities to Royal College, Visakha Vidyalaya or Ananda College and made more parents happier but he chooses a school in Mervyn Silva’s electorate to do so! Need we say more?

Nevertheless, these are ominous signs of impunity. The government is not vulnerable to such assaults on decency now as it is attaching its rising star to the victory over terrorism. But there will come a time when such indecent manoeuvres are seen and condemned for what they are. And the price the government will have to pay then for such indiscretions will be too high indeed.

Therefore, if it wants to nip such issues in the bud, the time to do so is now, not when these ministers and MPs have transformed themselves into even more unmanageable megalomaniacs.



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