Editorial

27th January 2002

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Beware the de-banning

The Prime Minister's statement of government policy last week was a frank speech that seemed to get many issues off the PM's chest quite candidly. It departed on the pattern of previous such speeches which of course seemed to specialize in blaming the predecessors for all the country's ills. It certainly wasn't an aggressive or vituperative speech as has been customary in contemporary times.

It set the tone for a national self-appraisal, a national resurgence and reconciliation.

On the most pressing issue of our times, the PM asked, "what does the LTTE want?'' A foreign political analyst and academic is supposed to have said, when faced with the same poser "well, he wants that little bit off the top.''

But, we can give the answer to that question more comprehensively. The LTTE wants a separate state in the long term and legitimacy as immediately as possible.

The Prime Minister says he will give "deep thought'' to the question of the de-proscription of the Tigers and appears to be proceeding towards a "suspension" of the ban as a via media between the extreme position extorting. 

A de- proscription may be necessary at some point of time. But, to do it now without adequate guarantees on the part of the LTTE, would not be prudent. The banning of the LTTE globally was a hard fought battle, by a small country, and the new government might not appreciate that as much as it ought to for it played no part in that exercise. It is the end result that has really demoralized the LTTE. The world does not consider the LTTE freedom fighters or liberators, but as common terrorists. The enunciation is clear it is that terrorism is not justifiable for the attainment of any political goal and it has shattered the make believe world the LTTE lived in.

To effectively surrender this hard fought gain, even before the LTTE comes to the negotiating table, is an unnecessary requirement for which the new government could run the risk of ending up with considerable egg on its face.

The eagerness of the new government to give peace a chance is equally understandable. It is relying very heavily on international opinion to bring the guerrillas to the table. But in land - nosed bargaining is it giving in a little too much for so little in return? 

While the LTTE complains to the Norwegians that the Defence Minister has made a speech hinting of war (which is factually incorrect) there have been several reports in the past month, when the ceasefire has been on, of arms and ammunition shipments being unloaded off the Eastern shores. The government does not want to make an issue of this, fearing the breakdown of talks even before they start. The government feels that the public euphoria over the peace talks will evaporate, and the chances of the battered economy getting off the ground on a buffeting peace wind, will crash.

But, what's seen is the same old familiar pattern of the LTTE, which is "preparing for war, and talking peace''. The LTTE will say that there have to be contingency plans in case it is outwitted, but, essentially what is taking place is a re-armament and a regrouping of forces.

If the LTTE reneges on the talks, the de- proscription can undoubtedly be reintroduced overnight.

But what will happen is that the LTTE will regain legitimacy, and will not be considered a terrorist organization, while it continues to unload arms and re-train cadres. The Prime Minister now engaged in "deep thought " over the LTTE ban, will be entitled to ask now for a quid- pro quo for the temporary suspension.


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