5th November 2000

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Confusing signals

And so, the sun-god as his wor-shippers call him has deigned to speak with the Norwegian facilitators for peace talks.

The meeting was earlier scheduled for April, but the LTTE was on a winning streak then and had penetrated through the Elephant Pass gateway into the Jaffna peninsula where most of the 40,000 government troops, like it or not, were shivering in their boots.

The LTTE had superior fire-power then and there was no escape route by land, sea or air while India was adopting a hands-off stance. The peninsula itself was like an old-man's tooth waiting to fall.

Desperate situations called for desperate remedies. So the government had to pump in millions upon millions of rupees to Sri Lanka's war machine to purchase arms. Envoys were sent to world capitals with letters from the Commander-in-chief while politically unpopular Generals were sent to the front, and diplomatic ties with Israel were renewed to get modern weapons from them after we kicked them out twice before because of local political compulsions.

Somehow with the grace of God and the Devas that protect this island from the follies of our leaders, the fall of Yalpanam was averted and the marauding LTTE was halted in its tracks.

The LTTE was obviously arm-twisted to a point, by mounting international pressure from the countries from where it receives much of its funds for the war here. Those countries apparently said they had enough of Anton Balasingham and they wanted to talk to the numero uno.

The brief encounter in the jungles of Wanni has witnessed a gust of optimism in some quarters. Once again we hear the oft-repeated chorus 'peace is in the air' "peace in our times" "peace with honour" and the like. Equally, the scepticism.

The fact that the government has had to engage the Norwegians as a facilitator is an admission that the government and its armed forces are unable to defeat and vanquish the LTTE militarily.

It is true that neither can the LTTE win a separate state militarily. But it has succeeded in not being overcome by all the State's men and all the State's horses, and all the men, material and millions that have gone down the tubes in the process.

What of the LTTE's position? How can the sun-god come down to the position of mere mortals like his predecessors who claimed to lead the Tamils in Sri Lanka? How can he become an MP, a chief minister or at best the President of the province of the North and East Sri Lanka?

The LTTE has grown into an organisation referred to as Eelam Incorporated. It is a huge global business empire that keeps many Sri Lankan Tamils worldwide in business and with a self-importance of their own. Velupillai Prabhakaran is their sun-god.

So, while we say 'Go Ahead' and 'All The Best' to the peace talkers, we must also say it was the vanity and short-sightedness of our political leaders of the recent past that has resulted in our being taken for a ride time and time again. For surely, the LTTE has not given up its military options.

The LTTE press release on the talks their leader held, clearly is aimed at telling their followers that they have placed prerequisites for talks.

Neither then should the state give up the military option as our political editor says in the front page today, these on-off calls of peace talks have given the military the wrong signals yet again.

The Army Commander says the LTTE problem must be solved militarily .

We have Thavalamas one day, war-footing the next and peace talks the day after.

The President and her senior ministers keep adopting different stances at different times. They are just confusing the poor foot soldier who finally will have to bite the bullet.

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