Facing the crisis
There seems to be a growing sense of unease among the people that Eelam War IV is on the verge of 'happening'.

Since the new President took office - and it is 60 days now - 80 Government Service personnel have been killed and many injured. Is this not a declaration of war? Apparently not.

The Scandinavian ceasefire monitors are only fearful of the "country slipping into a state of war" and have warned the LTTE as well as the Government.
It's almost as if they are setting the stage for the visit of Norwegian Peace Minister Erik Solheim, who has forced himself into the stalled peace process even though one party - the Government of Sri Lanka - has made it known that it thinks he is not an honest-broker.

But the Government is in such a weak situation, unsure of how to handle the situation with novices learning on the job and thoroughly let down by India (on whom they banked so much as the panacea for all their problems) and the international community (that keeps saying go back to the Norwegians and the negotiating table - even if there is no table) that they have been forced to accept 'the good offices of Mr. Solheim'.

And so, the stage is being set for the Solheim visit - the LTTE upping the tempo of its attacks on the one side and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission on the other …yes, making a strong statement about the LTTE but at the same time suggesting that the Government is as much to blame for the volatile situation in the country.

So there we have it: the Importance of Being Erik Solheim. The red carpet will surely be rolled out for him, and don't forget the garlands, please.
In the meantime, the US has come out strongly against the LTTE, possibly its response to the LTTE's sheer disdain for the Mangala Samaraweera visit to Washington DC. Just as the Foreign Minister was telling the US that the LTTE was a "killing machine far worse than Al-Qaeda", the LTTE showed how little it cared for such pronouncements.

The US Ambassador in Colombo was tasked with having to make his country's position clear on the LTTE's continued killings. But haven't we heard these before? And isn't the LTTE simply deaf to them? And after making such statements - almost in the same breath they call for appeasement - for talks - for a negotiated settlement et al.

The question before the LTTE is Quo Vadis? What is it they want other than a separate state? They themselves know that a separate state will not be given to them - even by way of a negotiated settlement. Then what? Self-rule and devolution of power; full autonomy? Was the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) - what they proposed to the UNP Government what they want as a final settlement or was that going to be only an interim arrangement - a precursor to a separate state? Those opposed to granting the ISGA thought it was.

LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham has enunciated the dialectic proposition of 'internal self determination' to explain what the LTTE wants.
The UNP at the time thought that this was a positive shift away from the campaign for a separate state. But the underlying message has been that the LTTE has not given up its campaign for a separate state.

That is why they wanted the UNP defeated - because they felt that they were being railroaded into peace talks which they felt was to be a peace trap. And they cannot stay idle as a guerrilla force - the military wing is feeling the pressure of keeping its cadres fit and guns oiled - without a battle in sight.
It is in this context that today's cycle of violence must be understood. The LTTE on the one hand wants a separate state as its end objective; and on the other, cannot get out of what it fears is a peace trap through a negotiated settlement for something less.

There are signs that the country is spinning back to the bad old days of the 1980s and the immediate post-race riots period. And the LTTE is orchestrating these events taking advantage of the forthcoming elections in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Last week, photographs of Tamils rounded up in Colombo police stations during a search operation were plastered on the front pages of Tamil Nadu newspapers. This week, boats of refugees have begun turning up in the Tamil Nadu port-of-entry Rameswaram.

The new Government cannot cope with this situation unless it transforms this exercise into a truly national coalition - not just a partisan one. Otherwise it will have to deal with a ruthless organisation in the north and east, and also a fair section of the southern population who did not vote for them.

For this to happen, the Government cannot simply rely on patronage from individuals saying they will help the cause. They must embrace the total opposition - and it is the duty of the opposition to respond.

The situation is worsening, and there seems to be no option but for the Government to accept that this battle is for them to fight. India's deafening silence indicated that very clearly.

A helpless Government needs help; and a hopeless situation needs hope. But the grim reality is that there is no quick-fix……it needs hard work.

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