Ominous silence from the Wanni
Everything looked taped out - the package parcelled, and now only to be ribboned. The peace talks in Thailand looked anything but between a sovereign Government and one of the world's deadliest terrorist organisations. Now de-banned, and made respectable, the LTTE negotiators seemed to have better cut suits as well.

There is natural euphoria in this country - pumped up no doubt by sections of the mass media - that Anton Balasingham, the LTTE's chief negotiator has announced that the LTTE has abandoned its demand for a separate state.

Plainly, that is not the case - and one does not have to feel too disappointed about it, because one would not expect the LTTE to do so, as early as on day one, or round one of the talks.

Eelam is the LTTE's bargaining lever. Has been and will be. What a discerning reader might well do is to read how the pro-LTTE media has announced Balasingham's pronouncement. To quote;

"If our demands for regional autonomy and self-government is rejected and if conditions of oppression continue, as a last resort, our people have no option other than to fight for political independence and statehood".(Tamilnet).

So clearly, let there be no illusions, the LTTE has not given up their demand for a separate state, only shelved it for the time-being. Read to this must be the fact which the Colombo Government has already conceded, the LTTE will remain armed. LTTE Recruitments, Training and Re-arming is still in progress.

Straightaway, though the LTTE has won respectability from the western world with offers of financial assistance pouring in to develop and reconstruct the war ravaged north and east.

Their pariah status now white-washed, the LTTE will embark on a programme of re-building their shattered 'homeland'- and yet keeping the option of independence and statehood very much intact.

There is no need to be unduly worried about this strategy of the LTTE to re-build; re-construct; buy some time to win some credibility and legitimacy; to begin working and getting to know foreign donor agencies - but then, that does not mean one must get too carried away with the hoopla.

The spin-off for the south will be, in real terms, the fact that there is no likelihood of a war-situation at least for some months to come. Inevitably though, when the parametres of regional autonomy and self-government are worked out in the coming months - that would be crunch time. How much of peace could be bartered for sovereignty, territory and coast -line would be the question. And how could the Government insist on what the Prime Minister told the UN earlier this week about "democratic governance" in the North and East etc.

The Prime Minister is on record saying that he will not permit Eelam, or Eelam by any other name. He has also rejected the concept of a homeland theory for the Tamils.
Now, and only now, the LTTE is at pains to embrace the Muslims through Rauff Hakeem and create a grand homeland alliance of 'Tamil-speaking people' in the numbers game of the island's East.

To quote Dr. Balasingham again from his own media; " We operate with (sic) the concept of a homeland and self-determination".

That runs diametrically against the Prime Minister's own concept that Sri Lanka is the homeland of all its citizens.

And what is more, in 1995 Dr. Balasingham was negotiating with the Colombo Government while unknown to him, his leader was supping with two suicide cadres who the next day were despatched to sea where they blasted a Navy boat in Trincomalee and thereby wrecked the peace talks.

Yes, circumstances have changed now. People say the LTTE is on a weak wicket post 9/11 (2001). There is media hype about peace negotiating the bend. Dr. Balasingham is talking. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka has spoken of the prospects of peace in the world's supreme assembly in New York.

And yet, one thing remains the same. The supremo in the Wanni remains silent. All the world's media and all the world's Governments seem incapable of getting the most wanted man to say something about abandoning Eelam.

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