Go back to the future
The annual address by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organisation chief Velupillai Prabhakaran this year was much awaited as always -- but for different reasons.
In his 2005 address, following a tactical move on their part that paved the way for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the Presidential elections that year, the LTTE leader said;
“This is our urgent and final appeal. If the new government rejects our urgent appeal, we will, next year, in solidarity with our people, intensify our struggle for self-determination, our struggle for national liberation to establish self-government in our homeland".
The Rajapaksa administration, no doubt, vacillated in bringing about any meaningful proposals, but that was no excuse for the LTTE to have launched against the government by forcibly taking over the Mavil-aru anicut. So, the threat to "intensify our struggle" next year (2006) happened as promised. In his 2006 address, the LTTE leader said, inter-alia, this;
" .. The uncompromising stance of Sinhala chauvinism has left us with no other option but an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam". He said that the dual "war and peace approach", which was happening between both parties, under the smokescreen of a CFA (Ceasefire Agreement) was fundamentally flawed.
The organisation had "No other option but an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam", he said, appealing to the International Community (IC) and the Tamil Diaspora for support.
The question was whether the LTTE leader was going to say anything new in 2007, when militarily they have been ejected from control of areas in the East, lost control of the North, and are restricted to a relatively narrow land mass in an area that somewhat bifurcates the North and the East.
Ultimately, it seemed more of the same. A despairing appeal almost, to the IC for help and the Diaspora for continued support. Almost as if to make the point that the LTTE is still active, an attempt was made on the life of a Tamil Minister of the 'Sinhala government' the day after the address, and in the evening of the same day 20 people were killed in a parcel-bomb attack at a crowded shopping mall.
And the LTTE is bewildered why the world sees it as a 'Terrorist Organisation'?
More such terrorist attacks will surely follow if they feel cornered as the Government relentlessly pursues the LTTE leadership, unrepentant about the collateral damage caused in the process. Their strategy is clearly to bomb the terrorists holed up in the Wanni region to the peace table.
After years of what the LTTE leader himself says is "war and peace approach" that does not seem to be working, and only results in blood-letting and misery on all sides, there is some logic in the Government's position that it should be a fight to the finish. The stop-start, stop-start fighting is leading no one anywhere.
The LTTE leader is right when he says that Sri Lanka is lagging behind while all Asia is marching forward, but then, the blame for this can largely be laid at his own door.
If this is the Government's stance, then there is equally a huge responsibility to ensure that minimal suffering is endured by all the peoples of this country whether from North, South, East, West or Centre.
They also have an obligation to offer some degree of autonomy, if that is the cry of even reasonable moderates such as TULF President Veerasingham Anandasangaree who only this week reiterated his plea for one Sri Lanka.
That federalism is a pie-in-the-sky might as well be accepted for the moment. But the Government can very easily implement the 1981 District Development Council (DDC) system that was aborted at the time of its introduction due to political ineptitude.
That system was basically accepted by all political parties, but when President Rajapaksa's ruling SLFP mooted the idea recently, it was shot down by the IC and the Tamil parties as not going far enough.
That may be so, but going some distance is better than going no distance.
There is a need to be practical about the real-politik situation in the country, to escape from the ethnic enclave system, and place the emphasis on economic development for all.
A working DDC system can be a stepping stone to greater devolution once the threat of separation is absent. The LTTE can help this process, if only it sees the futility of the insurgency waged for a quarter of a century.
The far greater onus though, is on the Government to take that first step towards distributing some power to the peripheries, and in the process, open the doors for the LTTE to enter the mainstream of democratic governance in Sri Lanka.