The Military Column

28th July 1996

LTTE to be banned

By Our Military Analyst

In the aftermath of the Dehiwala bomb explosion which killed or injured nearly 550 men, women and children, the government is considering the option of banning the LTTE.

The decision to consider banning the LTTE is being supported by large segments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence. Four reasons have been advanced by officials of these ministries.

First, the LTTE international infrastructure has dramatically grown during the past decade. According to the latest cover page and lead story of Asia Week released on July 26, 1996, the British born Australian writer Anthony Davis states that about 60% of the war budget of the LTTE is raised overseas. Foreign governments that have been requested by Colombo to clamp down on the LTTE state that they are even willing to do so but after banning the LTTE. But a pre-requisite for that would be to ban the LTTE in Sri Lanka, they said.

Second, the line between political and militant activity by the LTTE has grown thin. Money raised overseas by the LTTE for rehabilitation activity is being used to procure explosives, weapons and other war related equipment. Political activity by the LTTE by way of propaganda, protest meetings, demonstrations and rallies has sufficiently politicized and mobilized the Tamil diaspora to donate substantial funds. If the LTTE is not outlawed, its political activity can continue unhindered and that will provide the fuel for its militant activity.

Third, a number of Tamils and even a few leftist Sinhalese have actively participated in LTTE political meetings. Participation in the political activity of a banned organization that is committed to terrorism would be a crime. For example the Vicar General of the Jaffna Diocese Revd. Fr. S.J. Emmanuel has not only addressed LTTE meetings in the north of Sri Lanka and overseas but also written documents on behalf of the LTTE. Similarly, Professor Siva Sinnathamby and Wasantha Rajah have played an overt and covert role helping to advance the LTTE cause. Banning the LTTE will enable not only the Sri Lankan but also foreign governments to clearly identify those supporting and those opposing terror, and institute legal action against the supporting terrorism.

Fourth, the Tamil public feel that banning the LTTE will give a boost to the alternative Tamil political leadership to emerge. The thinking of the Tamil public in Colombo, particularly after the bomb blasts of the Central Bank in January and the train in Dehiwela last Wednesday, is that the LTTE is no longer concerned with the safety and well being of the Tamils as some 40% of the Sri Lankan Tamils live among the Sinhalese. The LTTE strategy has been to provoke the Sinhalese to attack Tamil civilians to drive the Tamil public into the hands of the LTTE. Banning the LTTE will help to dampen the hope a section of the Tamils have that one day the LTTE will succeed as the legitimate rulers of the north-east, at a moment when the LTTE has claimed that it is the sole representatives of the Tamil people.

While the government is moving in this direction, there is a segment of Sri Lankan policy and decision makers that are opposed to the banning of the LTTE. They argue that banning the LTTE will permanently close the doors to the LTTE from entering democratic politics.

Two counter arguments have been forwarded to break the argument in support of not banning the LTTE.

First, the LTTE has reneged four opportunities directed at peace. In December 1986, J. R. Jayewardene, Rajiv Gandhi and M.G. Ramachandran and Velupillai Prabhakaran met in the wake of the SAARC Bangalore Summit. Prabhakaran went back on his promise. In October 1987, the LTTE declared war against the IPKF after having agreed to a peaceful transition to politics. Both during the Premadasa administration and the Kumaratunga administration, the LTTE went back on offers of peace. The argument is advanced that the LTTE is not interested in a negotiated settlement but in a military victory to achieve the north-east, an impossible dream that will become increasingly costly to the Tamil public and the Sri Lankan Government.

Second, the LTTE may be banned not indefinitely but for one or two years. If the LTTE genuinely expresses an interest in joining the democratic mainstream, the ban on the LTTE may be lifted or may not be renewed. The government of India was wise enough to ban the LTTE having realized the destabilizing influence it had on Indian politics and security. Malaysia has indefinitely banned the LTTE. Australia and at least three other Western governments have nearly banned the LTTE and await the decision of the government of Sri Lanka to begin the process of banning the LTTE, in their own countries.

Politics and war are inseparable. One of the greatest weaknesses of Sri Lankan political leaders have been their inability to understand the nexus, early enough to reach a decision, that will be beneficial to the national security of Sri Lanka. That the military might of the LTTE alone is insignificant - weakening the LTTE politically, both in Sri Lanka and internationally is gaining greater acceptance.

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