Stop this violence!

As the vampires in the Wanni toast blood to celebrate the deadly hit on the civilian bus at Kebethigollawa, peace-starved Sri Lankans, who are shedding tears for the victims and this blessed country, ask when we will see an end to this terror and what we should do to wipe out the curse of violence besieging this country.

The attack brought out the beast in the Tigers and demonstrates that the liberation struggle of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is largely a campaign to eliminate all those who are not Tigers and a violent campaign to establish a fascist or Polpotist state.

In the aftermath of Thursday's horror, the co-chairs, save facilitator Norway, condemned the LTTE. The Norwegian condemnation focused on only the act, not the actor. Oslo may justify its stance on the grounds that such an attitude is necessary in the long-term interest of the peace process, but it also exposes its lack of courage or bias towards the LTTE. Has Norway outlived its usefulness as a facilitator? If bombs go off and civilians are massacred even as Norway acts as a facilitator, there will hardly be a difference in the ground situation, if the Norwegians were not there.

True enough, such a move may earn the Sri Lankan government the anti-peace label in some quarters,. A facilitatssor has to be seen as independent and impartial and command not only the respect of the people of Sri Lanka but also assure them that peace is achievable.

The Norwegians today, are seen as allegedly mollycoddling the Tigers. Had they done their groundwork properly before bringing the parties to the negotiating table? The recent Oslo meeting was a case in point. Even Geneva 1 was not without its structural deficiencies.

We are not blaming the Norwegians for the present situation. The blame is squarely on the LTTE, which has time and again demonstrated that it is interested in any peace process only if it offered opportunities to regroup itself to fight another day. The government on its part, despite having no coherent policy on the ethnic conflict, has consistently held the position that it does not want to go back to war.

The greatest respect we can pay the Kebethigollawa massacre victims is to see that no more civilians are killed in this conflict; no more civilians are displaced and no more civilians are victimized in any manner. Protect the civilians even if they sympathise with the LTTE.

A large number of civilians living in LTTE-controlled areas support a negotiated solution to this problem. The government should be mindful of the fact that a large majority of the Tamils living in LTTE-controlled areas wanted to vote for the UNP at the 2005 presidential election, which is a clear indication of their desire for a political solution to this national problem.

At one end of the spectrum, there are those who call for an all-out military solution and at the other, there are those who support a negotiated solution within a united or unitary state. The more the LTTE believes in violence, the stronger will be the call for a military solution and the weaker will be the voices that cry for a negotiated settlement.

However, the government appears to be vacillating between the two options and its neither-here-nor-there approach may neither help win the war nor bring about peace.

The government's response to LTTE attacks has so far been measured. Probably it wants to demonstrate its willingness not to squander whatever the chances left for peace.

While we appreciate its commitment to a negotiated settlement even in the face of the worst type of terror targeting civilians, the immediate need is de-escalation.

As terror stalks us once again, as did the previous Tiger terrorist strikes, we are faced with a problem of finding first an immediate solution to stop the bleeding as any surgeon would do before taking a seriously wounded person for surgery.

We understand the military preparedness of the government when dealing with an unpredictable foe. But this should not dissuade the government from redoubling its efforts to create an atmosphere that will lead to peace even though the security forces and the LTTE are engaged in battles in Mannar and elsewhere in the country.

As violence intensifies, we are either entering just another phase of Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict - Eelam War IV-or entering the decisive phase of it. If it is another phase, then the cycle appears to be repeating itself: war, a facilitator, peace talks, ceasefire and war again.

If it is in the decisive phase, among the possibilities could be a situation like Rwanda or a Burundi where everyone killed everyone else. Intervention by the UN in a failed state that is on the chopping block to be severed into two cannot also be ruled out.


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