The LTTE's Thamil Selvam, in a brief interview session
with visit ing journalists in the Vanni, has said that the government should
lift the ban on the LTTE before the talks commence. "This is a must" he
stresses. It appears that he voiced this de-banning proposal as a precondition
for talks. The Sri Lankan government is still behaving like the typical
tyros in getting about this business of talking peace. A new Secretariat
is being set up, with diplomats being brought down from foreign capitals,
and new Ministers, who don't seem to be that familiar about the LTTE's
tactics or the workings of its mind, busy with the "peace process".
The LTTE on the other hand, is showing a jungle cat's felicity in its
negotiating tactics, which are as guerrilla-like as their military tactics
in the battlefield.
So far, the LTTE has been scripting the drama as exactly as they have
done before. The Tiger Supremo is as silent as the Sphynx. He is using
his regular "yes men'', Anton Balasingham and Thamil Selvam as the "human
face'' of one of the world's deadliest terrorist organizations. That leaves
him the option to pull the plug on the talks anytime. It is now known that
Anton Balasingham, the confidante himself did not know when Velupillai
Prabhakaran decided to sink naval boats at Trincomalee harbour to unilaterally
scuttle the peace talks with the Kumaratunga administration way back in
The LTTE, in rapid fire succession, this week, discharged two salvoes
regarding the peace talks. First, there was Anton Balasingham's request
to the Norwegian facilitators to allow the talks to be held in a Southern
Indian city, because of its so called proximity to a hospital, and the
jungle hideout of their leader. Now comes Thamil Selvam's fresh demand,
which notably was not made to the Norwegian facilitators by Balasingham,
about lifting the ban on the LTTE. It appears that on both scores, so far,
the government has reacted positively. Madhu is being seriously considered
as a location for the peace talks. How much closer can the LTTE get to
the Tiger Supremo's command centre? So far as the ban goes, it seems that
the government will consider that only after substantive negotiations get
What's obvious then is that these are all "feelers" and gentle tests
of which way the wind is blowing, by these guerrilla strategists.
Even more so, there is the element of suspicion that the LTTE is looking
for ways to instigate hardline reaction in the South, aimed at a new Government,
and through such an exercise, weaken it before it comes to the table i.e.
of course, if they are ever-thinking of coming to the table in the first
Certain NGO's back here, have been parroting the regular refrain of
the LTTE that the ban should be lifted and so create the necessary goodwill
that is necessary for two "equal partners'' to be negotiating. It is not
a question of goodwill, it is a question of starting negotiations without
pre-conditions. The government has gone that extra mile in flooding the
market in the LTTE held areas, even as reports filter in about the LTTE
lending cash to traders to stockpile hitherto banned goods for future reference.
How can it be "equal partners" when the LTTE is a terrorist organization?
Surely it is not a sovereign state. But the whole emerging pre-talk brouhaha
is putting the LTTE in a poor light, insofar as its own goodwill and credibility
goes. The pessimists seem to be vindicated in their notion that the Tiger
will never change its spots, and that the LTTE is buying time and taking
a breather when the whole world is taking a dim view of those who espouse
terror as a means to an end.