Making inroads: LTTE's Pongu Thamil celebrations

Beware of the Tiger trap
Is the Govt. ready for a lightning LTTE attack, asks S.L. Gunasekara in his new book
The Wages of Sin by S. L. Gunasekara Review by Neville Ladduwahetty

In his new book, aptly titled 'The Wages of Sin", S.L. Gunasekara has brought to the attention of the public how the LTTE through acts of terror has intimidated and exploited the weaknesses of successive governments to gain concessions. The latest concessions the LTTE demands are the twin goals of de-proscription and an interim administration.

The cumulative effect of it all is that if these two concessions are granted, the LTTE would be in a position to establish a de facto state in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The book begins with a commentary on the prevailing attitude in the country towards dissent. This attitude regards dissent as being anti-government.

Based on a premise that the UNF Government received a mandate for peace, the attitude is that the Government must be given a free hand to work out a durable peace. In this backdrop, any criticism regarding the far-reaching concessions being made to the LTTE under the ceasefire agreement is portrayed as being anti-government and anti-peace.

Undaunted by the prevailing attitudes and motivated by his sincere concern for the country, the author lays out boldly and with characteristic forthrightness his views regarding the weaknesses in the current attempts to negotiate a settlement with the LTTE.

Drawing on a history of past failures in peace talks with the LTTE, the author challenges the Prime Minister's claim that "previous rounds of negotiations with the LTTE broke down on the humanitarian issue".

Starting with the Thimpu talks in 1985, and the subsequent talks that were associated with the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987, as well as later attempts by the Premadasa and Kumaratunga regimes in 1990 and 1994-1995, evidence is presented to show that negotiations broke down not because of the failure of successive governments to address humanitarian issues, but clearly because continued negotiations were not in the interests of the LTTE and its agenda.

In Chapter 1 Section (vi) the author lists some of the "achievements of the LTTE". This information is a collated record of the gruesome atrocities committed by the LTTE in every district and every province in Sri Lanka as well as acts of horrific violence committed in India, including the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The sheer inhumanity of these acts is beyond comprehension, but is a revelation about the kind of mindset needed for the planning and execution of such acts. This section also includes a list of 'prominent Tamils murdered by the LTTE'.

One particular incident stands out for the scale of its inhumanity and brutality. While peace talks were in progress during the Premadasa regime, several police stations in the east were attacked by the LTTE. The police officers at Kalmunai led by Ivan Boteju refused to surrender and kept on fighting until he was ordered to surrender.

"No less than 677 police officers of four police stations laid down arms and surrendered to the LTTE after having been promised safe conduct to and release at Ampara by the LTTE... 324 of these police officers who happened to be Sinhalese and Muslim were taken to the jungles of Thirukkovil, blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs, made to lie down on the ground and murdered with sprays of bullets by the LTTE. The total number of Sinhalese and Muslim police officers from the Batticaloa and Ampara Districts abducted and murdered in captivity by the LTTE was about 600. A further 78 were abducted from Trincomalee and murdered."

The single-minded agenda of the LTTE is to establish a separate state within Sri Lanka. To achieve this goal, it has used every ceasefire to extract concessions from successive governments and these governments in their anxiety to negotiate a favourable political solution have overextended themselves to accommodate the demands of the LTTE. This has resulted in successive governments being duped by the LTTE and the rebels gaining decisive advantages at every break down of the ceasefire.

Despite the mounting evidence of the LTTE's previous duplicity, the author asserts that the UNF Government, too, is treading the same course as previous governments. The author warns that this ceasefire, as happened with previous ceasefires, is bound to break down; the only difference being that the gains secured by the LTTE this time would be far greater than on any previous occasion.

Attention is drawn to the altered world-view towards terrorism following the terrorist attack in America on September 11, 2001. The UNF Government has failed to make maximum use of this opportunity.

The ceasefire agreement itself is considered to be a "total illegality" on the grounds that it is a pact with a proscribed party.

Significant clauses in the ceasefire agreement are evaluated and analysed, and clauses that have a bearing on security are highlighted. This analysis exposes the one-sided nature of the agreement, with all advantages going to the LTTE.

Special attention is drawn to the "unqualified undertaking to recruit into the armed forces all such members of the paramilitary groups as are prepared to join....". The other being the undertaking given for the armed forces to move out of strategic locations in the North and the East regardless of the implications on national security in the event of a resumption of hostilities.

The LTTE leader's news conference in Kilinochchi on April 10, 2002 confirmed that there was no change or mellowing in regard to basic issues as far as the LTTE was concerned. The assertion by Anton Balasingham that the President and Prime Minister of Tamil Eelam was Prabhakaran affirmed the LTTE's commitment to Tamil Eelam in the event that autonomy or self-government was not to their liking. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was dismissed as a "tragic incident". The fact that the Government heard only "internal self-determination" speaks of their wishful thinking, or in the author's opinion they were "clutching at straws".

The two issues that are of interest to the LTTE at this juncture are de-proscription and an interim administration which would give the LTTE official control over the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This control will give them the opportunity to set up a parallel administration thus dividing the country and creating a de facto separate state. An interim administration would give the LTTE the opportunity to muster the civilian population to do its bidding, as for instance, demand the withdrawal of the security forces.

The author's view is that having created the right conditions, the LTTE, would resort to a "lightning strike" to take control of the two provinces because it is only total and absolute control that would satisfy Prabhakaran's nature. The sudden strike will take everyone by surprise and it would not be possible to roll back the gains that would have been secured by the LTTE, even with assistance from external sources such as India and/or the United States.

Although the popular belief is that the LTTE is interested only in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the author is of the opinion that Prabhakaran is likely to "cast his greedy eyes on the hill country where the bulk of our water resources and hydro power reservoirs are located".

While offering several options to meet these challenges, the author has offered no explanation as to the current weak attitude of the Government. For instance, what possible reason could there be for the Government to overlook the several violations committed by the LTTE while it rushes to satisfy any shortfalls on its part? Has the Government fallen prey to the propaganda about the lack of funds to prosecute a war at this particular moment? Does it mean that if the LTTE engages in a lightning strike, the Government would not retaliate? Since the certainty that the LTTE would restart a war is the thinking of many analysts, the Government has to be prepared. The question is whether the Government would be prepared to the degree proposed by the author.

Through this timely publication, the author has demonstrated that good men will not remain silent. By sharing his concerns he has made the public aware of the seriousness of the current situation. If the Government yields to the pressures of the LTTE to set up an interim administration, the formation of a de facto state would be inevitable. Sri Lanka would then end up divided for the first time in its long and distinguished history, not by armed conquest, but by default.

The book is a "must read" for all concerned citizens.

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