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15th November 1998

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Mirror Magazine

    Commendable diplomatic strike

    In a major diplomatic move aimed at preventing the LTTE from shift ing its main international headquarters from London to South Africa Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar is in Pretoria for talks with top-rung members of the ruling African National Congress.

    At least to that extent the government now is acting swiftly in nipping things in the bud rather than vacillating as it did when Eelam Incorporated grew and grew in Europe with European governments turning a Nelsonian eye and our own government turning a blind eye.

    While the South African authorities naturally down-play or even deny any links to the LTTE, the government here has reason to believe the LTTE has made alternate plans to use South Africa as its base in the face of slow but mounting pressure against it in Europe.

    The LTTE's theme to what may be sympathetic ears of the ruling ANC members is that it is a liberation movement like the ANC. The difference of course is that the ANC fought against the tyranny of minority rule and the LTTE is against what it calls the tyranny of majority rule.

    Soon after this government came into office in 1994, Mr. Kadirgamar met the great legend of our times Nelson Mandela at a Commonwealth Summit in New Zealand. There Mr. Mandela said he was against violence and would not allow the LTTE to function in his country which itself was rising from the ashes of a violent past.

    More recently, Mr. Mandela met President Kumaratunga, but rather flippantly treated her like his daughter or Ms. Bandaranaike's daughter rather than as a head of state.

    He recalled Ms. Bandaranaike's unwavering support for the ANC but insiders believe that J. R. Jayewardene's move to do business with the apartheid regime undid the goodwill. But it is also a stubborn fact that President Jayewardene was forced into buying Buffels and other military hardware from South Africa at the initial stages of the escalating war against the LTTE as no other power (other than Pakistan and China) wanted to give us any arms due to India's then involvement in our internal war.

    Now Mr. Mandela is preparing his exit from public life. He knows it is best to leave now as he gets his fingers increasingly burnt in dealing with situations outside his shores like what has happened in Lesotho, Congo and other parts of Africa. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is already telling the Great Mandela off.

    South Africa is preparing for a life without the legend. His speeches are being prepared by officials and that possibly is how South Africa's call for third party intervention in Sri Lanka could have crept in despite Mr. Mandela's own assertions to President Kumaratunga and Minister Kadirgamar that he is against the LTTE.

    So it's a commendable move on the part of the government to lobby ANC members now in high office for it is they who will rule that significant nation in the years to come.

    As much as on the military front, there must be an equal thrust on the diplomatic front to ensure that the LTTE is not able to find safe havens from which they can plot, plan and execute terror in our country. So please help us, Nelson Mandela and the ANC.

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