Drawing the line

The peace process has arrived at a very critical crossroads. As US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage was quoted as saying in Washington on Friday night, the LTTE appears to be straying from the peace process. But he did not end without making an appeal to the LTTE to stay on course as “there is light for them at the end of the tunnel.’’

Last week's dangerous episode in Delft shows that the peace process is becoming increasingly brittle as the first anniversary of the Memorandum of Understanding between the LTTE and the government approaches. The government, though practised by now, is finding that covering up for the LTTE is becoming increasingly embarrassing.

Though the LTTE’s Anton Balasingham feigned surprise when the LTTE got nabbed smuggling weapons near the island of Delft, he went to nearby Dusseldorf thereafter and made a case for the LTTE. He derided Sri Lankan “propagandists” for saying that the LTTE has given up the goal of Tamil Eelam - this was said, mind you, by the Government’s Chief Negotiator, G.L. Peiris - and went on to quote from the Tiger leader’s Martyrs’ day speech, saying that the LTTE is for “self-rule.” Balasingham is not gun-shy about saying that the interregnum that is offered by the peace process is being used to reconstruct the North, to win international legitimacy and rebuild their armed cadres.

To say it in his own words, “only violence can bring results,'' and that's the LTTE credo. He says, the LTTE will never disarm. No force, diplomatically or political, can force the LTTE to lay down arms, he insists from Dusseldorf while accross the Atlantic, the Hon. Richard Armitage clearly speaking for the international community says there is no case for two armies in a united Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the en masse resignation of elected local government representatives of the people of Jaffna displays the LTTE’s contempt for democracy.

The LTTE is continuing to impose taxes on items brought to Jaffna while simultaneously complaining about embargoes imposed on the people of Jaffna.

These are copious crocodile tears then, about the welfare and well-being of the people of Jaffna whom they claim to represent -- tears for their hardships, their intellectual life, and their right to multi-party democratic governance etc.

The question that arises is whether this government is about to hand over to the people of Jaffna a fascist federal state led by the LTTE.

The international community has risen from its sleep resultng from the peace euphoria of recent months, after the Delft incident, and the question now is what does one do -- walk out of talks? Surely not.

And yet, though the international community was in an unholy frenzy to embrace the LTTE, there is now the slow realisation that the rebels are only beginning to bare their fangs. Sometime back, when the ban on the LTTE was lifted, we had occasion to ask the Prime Minister when or under what conditions will the ban be reimposed. The PM responded that he hopes he will not have to bring back the ban. The international community is allowing for margins and wide berths and hoping against hope, similarly. So are people of all communities. We all hope for the best but must we not be ready for the worst?

We therefore repeat our earlier call that the Government consider a set of guidelines, setting some conditions in the breach of which the LTTE will revert to its former classification as a terrorist organisation. This is how it is done in advanced democracies like the US and UK. Whether the Government will have the courage to do this we cannot tell, but the Government must not be afraid to tell the LTTE where to draw the line.


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