Rajpal's Column

4th March 2001

Between the ban and the Taleban

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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Is the LTTE's international marginalisation complete?

Britain's banning of the LTTE has been seen widely in several circles as a successful coup for the Sri Lankan government, but the ban was in the main due to international imperatives and not due to state pressure brought to bear on the British government.

But, the LTTE's international operations are far flung. More importantly, the LTTE has shown a remarkable deafness towards international censure.

But, the ban of the LTTE by Britain would not have occurred, if the United States had not banned the LTTE before. Tony Blair gets withered in the heat if he ever steps out of Uncle Sam's shadow these days.

Blair for instance, played henchman to Bill Clinton during the Saddam Hussein weapons inspection stand-off. Blair played Clinton's sidekick with a certain degree of comic aggression. His ears seemed to stick out cartoon- like, and he poured out in a sweat as he pumped himself up as Clinton's promoter.

Since Britain has no independent existence in terms of foreign policy, the banning of the LTTE ( and similar organizations of course ) was expected in a matter of time after the US proscribed these organizations.

But, the US itself banned the LTTE and similar organizations without any real empathy for any developing countries which faced problems from these groups. The US seemed to face a sudden threat of subversion from Muslim fundamentalist organizations led by the likes of Ossama bin Laden.

Uncle Sam's sense of security in the US seemed to be disappearing by the minute, due to the World Trade Center bombings and such events which seemed to place the US in the unfamiliar terrain of having to face urban bombings etc.,

The US national security machine therefore went on overdrive, and many organizations which had enjoyed the tolerance of the US hitherto, got proscribed in the process.

Following this sequence of events, Britain's banning of the LTTE can be finally traced to the rising incidence of aggressive Muslim fundamentalism in the world. This in spite of the fact that there have been reports that Britain banned the LTTE due to the possibility of a "rent a suicide bomber" operation being led by the LTTE to assassinate world leaders!

It will be sobering and realistic to realize the real reason for Britain's banning of the LTTE, which is international realpolitik, even though realpolitik may be a password in these post Cold War times.

Britain itself has not been the target of bombings etc., by cross border groups, which is why it makes it fit to reason out that Britain was actually falling in line with the general policy dictated by the US with regard to proscribing certain organizations such as the LTTE among others.

While the Foreign Minister wears his gloves against the Taleban for the Taleban's promise to blow up the tallest Buddha statue in the world, it will be ironic to remember the actual nexus that seemed to have triggered the ban of the LTTE by the British this week. No Muslim fundamentalists no ban by the US and no ban by the British.

For several reasons, it is good for our elite policy establishment to disabuse themselves of the notion that Britain may have banned the LTTE as a result of any pain of mind caused due to a former colony's predicament.

It is realistic to know that we are bit players in this whole exercise, and that Britain would have banned the LTTE as a result of certain legal instruments coming into force.

Certainly, Britain's banning of the LTTE would be of some collateral gain to the Sri Lankan government, but it will not necessarily mean that the general stand of the British government towards the LTTE's campaign and its existence would have changed. No huge impediment to the LTTE's operations in the West could be expected.

End piece: It is March, and the humidity can be counted by the beads of sweat forming under your nose.

The delirium of March is upon us, but it is still worthwhile trying to congratulate the board of Control for Cricket for having fixed the cricket matches with England in the March heat. Though Naseer Hussein said amid guffaws that the heat is the "least of our problems", his players would know better, especially when the match moves towards Colombo and the Sinhalese Sports Club grounds.

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