ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday January 6, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 32
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Beware the wounded Tiger

By announcing the abrogation of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), the Government has -- in effect -- made it clear that a 'state of war' exists with the LTTE, though it has tempered the move by saying that the doors for peace negotiations with the guerrilla group are still open.

No formal statement has been issued by the Government attributing reasons for this move, except for a pronouncement by the Information Minister saying that the CFA was abrogated because it was "defunct", and the Foreign Minister in a slightly more detailed statement telling foreign diplomats a day later that the truce was cancelled due to three reasons- it was flawed; the LTTE did not show any commitment to the peace process, and c) the LTTE made a mockery of the CFA.

True, the CFA was observed more in the breach, and had all the hallmarks of a treaty not worth the paper it was typed on. It was farcical no doubt, and whether it offered some glimpse of hope for possible future talks is very much in doubt.

The Scandinavian monitors were reduced to mere spectators, helplessly and hopelessly taking down notes and writing post-mortem reports of CFA violations as terrorism and counter-terrorism measures ran amok. There was legitimacy in the contention that the LTTE used the CFA, though not entirely, to unleash its military campaigns to move towards a separate state.

The Government of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been crucified for having given the LTTE this handle of a CFA to further its cause. But when that LTTE orchestrated a boycott of voters in order to defeat Mr. Wickremesinghe at the 2005 Presidential elections, and its own leader no less, accused him of setting an "international safety net" to "trap" the LTTE through the CFA one would expect the electorate that is gung-ho to crush the rebels to at least give him the benefit of the doubt that he did have some entrapment plan for the LTTE.

Instead, Mr. Wickremesinghe, and his United National Party have been trying to shake off the 'stigma' of being branded 'traitors' to the nation, its own propaganda machinery being unequal to the task of explaining to the people the benefits that accrued from the CFA, such as the major split in the ranks of the LTTE (the Karuna faction) and the international pressure mounted on the LTTE to sit down and talk, and to face the consequences to their global network, if they did not. The LTTE leadership may have misread the situation by opting to continue with their military campaigns. But the LTTE will do what it is doing, CFA or no CFA.
It is reasonable to assume that the Government's move is based on the twin premise that it will win over the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna to stablise its parliamentary majority and on reports submitted by the military establishment on battlefield successes. Still, how the abrogation of the CFA - despite its uselessness - will help the Security Forces in their quest to defeat the LTTE militarily is not even partially explained by the two ministers.

It, therefore, begs the question as to whether the move, in the absence of any tangible benefit to itself, will only earn the displeasure of the International Community. The JVP, the party that has been in the vanguard of the demand to annul the CFA has said that the CFA "internationalised" the Sri Lankan conflict -- the very aspect the LTTE was afraid of.

Will the International Community now keep away? Obviously it won't, as long as the Government goes to it with begging-bowl in hand asking for aid and loans.

It was against this backdrop that President Chandrika Kumaratunga was arm-twisted by the international community to accept Norwegian 'facilitation' or face the aid tap being turned off. The Government of the day had to simply grin and bear.

Sri Lanka cannot afford to live in an insular global environment. It cannot be dumped as a 'nation in conflict'. It is one thing to ask foreign countries and their nosey envoys to stop meddling in Sri Lanka's internal affairs and then expect them to come to one's assistance at the snap of your fingers.

Already the world has begun expressing concern over the Government's move, giving the LTTE a needless leg up on the one hand internationally and an open general licence to wreak havoc internally, on the other. Signs of LTTE's planned carnage in Colombo if it gets further cornered in the Wanni are already there to see.

Now, the Government is egged on to ban the LTTE, but decisions taken must be measured and studied, devoid of parochial, political or populist considerations. It’s not that such decisions must not be taken. But some cause and effect must flow from these decisions.

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