Too many cooks and tempura too
When a former Tiger military man with the nom de guerre of Balraj sought medical assistance in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Government refused to grant him a visa. The Malaysians had banned the Tamil Tigers some years ago and did not want their publicly-announced presence in the Southeast Asian country.

However Singapore for reasons best known to itself, permitted Balraj to enter the city-state, accompanied by two other Tiger cadres. Perhaps the Lion city's security arrangements are such that it had nothing to fear from an ailing Tiger. Also this month Tiger operatives were caught in Thailand with weapons and ammunition they obviously hoped to smuggle back to Sri Lanka. This prompted the Thai Prime Minister to urge officials to be extra vigilant against arms smuggling and threatened to act against any corrupt officials.

From their own experience they know who should be held culpable and where the axe should fall. In both cases the finger of guilt has been pointed clearly at the LTTE. If the Malaysians do not want even an ailing Tiger in their presence and the Thais refuse to allow their territory to be the playing field of the feline, each decision is a condemnation of the LTTE and its proclivity to political violence.

Even more, it is a recognition that the Tiger has not changed. Had other countries that now stride the world stage as the saviours of civilised society, purveyors of democratic freedoms and the architects of the rule of law, heeded the call years ago of Sri Lanka and other countries faced with terrorism and acted expeditiously, some of the internal conflicts that now afflict the world might not have occurred or might not have been allowed to get out of hand.

By perceptibly expanding the role of the international community in the Sri Lankan imbroglio, we have allowed too many cooks with too many recipes to involve themselves. Now we find ourselves served with a curious mix of Norwegian sardines, Kentucky friend chicken, Yorkshire pudding and suchi with soy sauce and a dash of wasabe-surely a meal selected by a glutton not a gourmet.

There was a time when the Sri Lankan conflict was considered a national question that had to be solved internally. Very soon it became clear that while such a posture might do our ego good and restore confidence in flagging governments, it was hardly going to lead to any amicable settlement. The reasons, of course, were quite clear. The conflict had an external dimension- the Indian role principally. But it was increasingly becoming more than that. The dispersal of substantial numbers of the Tamil community, particularly after the July 1983 riots and their settling down in the 'Western' countries had created an influential and powerful diaspora that helped and funded the LTTE.

It became increasingly clear to then governments that without international assistance it would be difficult to curb the activities of the LTTE that was being funded and armed by Tamils living in the West. Moreover the Tamils abroad became a powerful lobby against the Sri Lanka Government though not necessarily in favour of the LTTE.

If Sri Lankan authorities in the days gone by sought to score more than diplomatic victories by having the LTTE proscribed as a terrorist organisation, today the doors are being thrown open with some abandon to international participation with the same organisation receiving equal status and recognition with a duly elected government of a sovereign nation.

Some political scientists in Colombo might scoff at the idea of a sovereign nation as an 18th-19th century concept that has little validity today. A theory enunciated 200 years ago does not lose its intrinsic worth simply because it is 200 years old. Does Buddhism lose its essence because it is 2500 years old or Islam because it was preached some 700 years or so ago.

If the sovereignty of nations is being circumscribed it is because each nation, in its desire to join multilateral organisations or because of increasing globalisation yields something of its sovereignty. That does not make sovereignty of nations passé. Rather, the reluctance of Britain to join the Euro and its fear of the proposed new European Union constitution is because the British do not want to hand over its sovereign power to Brussels.

Now that the Middle East and its sandy deserts are very much in the news, the UNF government's action might well be compared to the camel that first sought only to put its head into the tent and ended up by having its whole body inside, effectively ejecting its rightful occupants. The Norwegians who were allowed to come into the peace process first as facilitators and then as mediators have now got not just both humps into the tent but their fishy body as well.

Some of the findings of this miserable mission, particularly when it pointed to the possible existence of a third force being responsible for sinking a Chinese vessel, would have been so laughable had it not been so tragic.

Now that Japan has also been handed over a piece of this peace banquet, Tokyo could join their whale-hunting Norwegian colleagues and bring their collective carving habits over here and collect their pound of flesh from the Sri Lankan people.

Japan's reinvented economic aid policy under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ties medium and long-term aid to good governance, democratic pluralism and practice and the rule of law. Will special envoy Yasushi Akashi be demanding that the LTTE also fall in line with its policy?

Surely Mr. Akashi cannot be unaware of the LTTE's abduction of children and forcible recruitment into its cadres particularly in the Eastern Province, its killing of political opponents, its smuggling of weapons and ammunition in violation of the solemn oath it has given and numerous other acts that cast doubt on the Tiger's newly avowed intentions of living peacefully under a federal structure.

If Mr Akashi and his Japanese promoters in Colombo are aware of all this that is tantamount to repudiation of what Tokyo intends to achieve through its new proactive international role, what does Tokyo expect to do?

The fact that Japan has already donated Rs 35.2 million to the LTTE when Tokyo was well aware of the Tiger violations of even UN conventions and treaties, suggests that Mr Akashi and his government are involved in so far as they can make a commercial killing in this country and not in turning terrorists into respected and respectable citizens practising good governance.

If that is what Prime Minister Koizumi's intended role is, then we have to remind him of history. At the San Francisco Conference when Japan was humiliated and asked to pay war reparations Ceylon, as this country was then known, turned down any payments for the damage and destruction Japanese air raids had done to this country.
Now Tokyo seems to be here to attack this country from within. Are those who see the political chicanery in all this expected to commit hara kiri? Not before some tempura, right Mr. Akashi?

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