Friday night's air raid over Colombo was more than a gentle reminder to all and sundry on the dangers of complacency.
The Security Forces' victories coupled with relentless Government propaganda that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been all but completely vanquished have lulled the populace into a euphoric feel-good state of mind believing that the fighting capabilities of the LTTE are now decimated.
Beware the wounded Tiger.
The air raid may not be the LTTE's last throw of the dice, as the terrorist organisation has amply displayed more than a few times that it can spring a few surprises. The public, yearning to get back to a normal way of life after so many years of tension may well have to wait just a little while longer.
No doubt, by all accounts, its fledgling air wing is now a thing of the past. Or so say the authorities who believe that they were forced into one last fling before advancing troops at Puthukkudiyiruppu in the Mullaitivu district got to them. That might explain why each of the two aircraft had only a solo pilot - to lighten the burden and carry a larger payload on a clearly suicidal mission. The sporadic ground fire thwarted their mission - to crash into the Air Force headquarters in Colombo, and the Air Force base at Katunayake.
But who knows what's next? Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan alias Karuna, the erstwhile deputy of this same LTTE, now a 'born-again' democrat made it plain that the 'all's well' sign can only be given in 18 months time. Speaking to a group of business leaders in Colombo this very week, he said that even though the Security Forces might take complete control of the territories held by the LTTE, it will try to engage in urban guerrilla warfare in time to come to show that it is alive and kicking. That is only to be expected. Even the Army High Command has detailed the need for the Security Forces to change tack to combating urban terrorism once they have regained full control of the remaining areas where the LTTE is entrenched.
One of the LTTE's modus operandi to prolong the inevitable would be to internationalise the humanitarian crisis resulting from clashes between advancing troops and the organization's remaining fighting cadres by forcibly keeping the civilians with them.
This they have done many times before, and are doing now. And succeeding once again to some extent in the exercise, thanks mainly to the efforts of the lobbying by the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora especially in Europe and North America or wherever, leading relatively comfortable lives.
Earlier attempts to up the ante by trying to classify Sri Lanka as a R2P (Right to Protect) country - a country where international intervention at the cost of national sovereignty is accepted - did not succeed.
The world community is, however, moving in that direction. Already, there is growing acceptance that R2P is justifiable grounds to assist civilians when Governments have lost control of the situation.
This may seem like neo-colonialism by the rich and powerful nations to rule the world according to their Good Book but often Governments themselves are to blame. When one sees the happenings in some African states, there seems to be justification in the R2P theory. That is why it is important for Governments to watch their step. When Friday's air raid took place, Sir John Holmes, the UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, who was forced into a candle-lit dinner with Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, must have seen the drama for himself from the Cinnamon Grand.
It has become fashionable for special envoys and what have you to fly down to Colombo, pontificate on the need to ensure civilian safety and depart for some other hot spot, however, scrupulously avoiding Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is a growing trend for this type of pronouncement-making, report-writing with no concrete follow-up action by the International Community. They seem to know no better.
But there now seems to be some element of hope on the horizon. Our Page 1 story today refers to the US actually rolling up its sleeves and coming forward to assist the hapless civilians trapped in the Wanni cross-fire. It must be the new Obama administration. By virtue of their 'humanitarian intervention' and one hopes they have kept to the protocols that some others fail to adhere to, they will also free the area for the Security Forces to secure the balance territory in LTTE hands. Likewise, we see India also offering some concrete measures to alleviate the sufferings of the people while allowing the Forces to do their job - while on the other hand, Tamil Nadu is erupting into a new wave of Tamil nationalism triggered by the civilian issue in the Wanni.
There is then a welcome change in the stance of the International Community - to do something positive to help these civilians with the concurrence of the legitimate Government of the country, and translate empty rhetoric into worthy deeds.