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
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