The reality unfolds
The government of Sri Lanka for the first time conceded this week that the LTTE has not agreed to hold peace talks. This must come as quite a rude shock to people who expected that the peace talks would be a natural extension of the MoU - and that talks will follow ceasefire as night follows day.

It appears that the government was hitherto avoiding the embarrassment of coming out with the whole truth. Prof., G. L. Peiris was over-fond of the double negative, being given to say most of the time that "there is nothing to indicate that the LTTE will not come for talks.'' It is the consummate art of doublespeak.

The same Professor says this week that the government will consider lifting the ban on the LTTE, only when the dates are fixed for the talks. Our Defence Correspondent has returned a couple of days back from a visit to Tiger held territory where the political wing leader of the LTTE has told him " if there is no lifting of the ban on the LTTE, and no talks on an interim administration, there will be serious consequences.''

The LTTE, knowing that the MoU is loaded in their favour, is engaged in an attempt to elicit maximum advantage while the agreement is in force, for instance by dragging its feet until the Army can be forced out of the temples and schools in the North and the East. It will be remembered that the chief negotiator of the LTTE Anton Balsingham said last December that the "LTTE will regain Jaffna if not militarily, then politically.''

It might not be a bad idea for the government to also announce that the withdrawal from these strategic locations is delayed by each day the LTTE avoids coming to the negotiating table.

The LTTE has created the façade of a quasi state and an illusion of self-rule by having their own entry points at Puliyankulam, by charging taxes, and by establishing police stations and courts systems, and by retaining a functional army. But, once the LTTE has the Sri Lankan Army withdrawn, they will have the free run they want. In these circumstances, the government should not only tie the lifting of the ban on the LTTE to the commencement of the talks, but should also make the withdrawal of the army from schools and temples in some way dependent on the success of the peace talks.
It is encouraging that the Prime Minister has told the European Union that the core issues will be discussed at the negotiating table, in exchange of any agreement on a putative "interim administration''' that the LTTE wants to run in the North East.

As for the ban on the LTTE, there is normally a criteria by which any group qualifies to fall under a "terrorist '' categorization. This is so in the UK and the US, but not in Sri Lanka where emergency regulations were used to ban the LTTE - -and presumably - -after these lapsed, it is the Prevention of Terrorism Act which acts as the dubious fig leaf behind which the LTTE ban is made operative.

If a laid out criteria exists, it will be easy to indicate to the world community, and the LTTE, how the organization can come to be banned if certain crimes are committed that run afoul of the guidelines pertaining to proscription.

The worldwide tendency to ban the LTTE has definitely been a major setback to the Tiger terrorists who style themselves as a national liberation movement. It might be worthwhile to ask the LTTE to conform to internationally accepted norms of political activity, or else face the consequences.


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