The Sunday Times Editorial

25th August 1996

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Get priorities in order

After much vacillation finally the proscription of the LTTE appears to be on the cards. Yet rather astoundingly, the ban has been put-off till a cricket tournament is concluded.

The official who has conveyed the government's position has made a point (page 1 main story). He (or she) says that had the LTTE retaliated and the cricketers went away, the government would have been blamed for the bad timing.

It is also said that having vacillated for so long in banning the LTTE what is in it to delay by another month.

But the crux of the issue is whether we have got our priorities right. While having cricket matches to show a facade of normalcy in the country and using the occasion to woo tourists to prop up dwindling arrivals; we are deviating from tackling the root of all our troubles - terrorism.

We must come to grips with the hard, cold reality that surgery is the only cure for the patient that's Lanka. Aspirins, plasters and drops will not do now. It has been more than acknowledged, that this country is on the brink of disaster. And we still giving priority to cricket?

Nevertheless, the decision that has been apparently now taken to ban the LTTE is a victory for those who firmly believe that the LTTE has to be defeated militarily because its reneging on the 1990 and 1994 peace efforts, have clearly shown it is not interested in peace talks or the devolution package. The LTTE wants the whole cake of Eelam, not devolved tit-bits of a North and East Regional Council. The LTTE feels it can get it through the twin objectives of the battlefield victories and by bleeding the Sri Lankan economy to slow-death.

The move to ban the LTTE is a step towards the reality that the terrorists must be militarily weakened if not defeated before being dragged to the negotiating table.

There is a school of thought that believes the LTTE will talk - but when, is the question. Nobody says that the government should not talk to the LTTE but the point is that if the Tiger snarls and shows its teeth and bites as well, can one tame it to sit on a stool without having to crack a whip?

The TULF and other former Tamil gun-totting militant groups now donning the mantle of political parties wish as nobody else that the LTTE is totally liquidated and vanquished before they are. But they don't have the guts to say so openly.

The backdrop however, to the banning of the LTTE appears to be more generated towards an international drive to thwart the growing influence and financial clout of Tiger Inc. It has become a global business engine engaged in nefarious activities in the west and east and pumping money into the LTTE's war efforts from its ill-gotten spin-offs. The growth of Tiger Inc. was a matter largely ignored by successive Sri Lankan governments and it is only now that reality has dawned to the global monster that is overseeing the disintegration of the Republic of Sri Lanka.

Now is the hour to take advantage of the international awareness and keenness prevalent to combat global terrorism. An attack this year inside the United States and on US targets in West Asia has got that nation galvanized into action.

The Lyon and Paris declarations on Terrorism must be utilised by Sri Lanka to her best advantage to deal with one of the world's most notorious and monstrous terrorist organisations in the world.

Western countries looking for lame excuses not to crack down hard on LTTE fund-raising, propaganda and other activities have been asking us the question; "Why are you not banning the LTTE?" or saying "Give us proof of LTTE activities in our countries."

Well, we have given them proof it seems such as Paris based Lawrence Thilakar's letter to expatriate Sri Lankan Tamils for the collection of funds in Switzerland.

Many are those who are curious if not baffled as to why the LTTE, banned for instance in India after they were thought to have killed a former Prime Minister of that country, is not banned in their home country despite the trail of devastation they have left behind. Now, at last, it seems this anomaly is to be rectified. But we must wait till the cricketers return to the pavilion it seems.

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