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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Tigers with their tails behind

By Gomin Dayasri

Undoubtedly the most desirous solution to the ethnic conflict is through a peaceful resolution instead of the military option. You need two to tango and are the LTTE prepared to take road to peace through negotiations? My experience of the LTTE at the last few encounters in Geneva and Oslo is that the LTTE arrives at the behest of the international community, convinced that they cannot achieve their objective of Elam through talks. They know well that Sri Lanka will not agree to any demands of separatism.There is no medium to strike.

It is wistful thinking to assume that the LTTE has abandoned its goal of Elam for anything less. Prabhakaran- in a invisible state is present at the talks and monitors and manipulates the proceedings closely through satellite telephone and is still striving to achieve a separate state - the Elam he promised his people-and is not prepared to shift from that position. He has his pride and arrogance as a successful terrorist, gloats on his success at the military encounters of the past and still more of his terrorist network he developed and the international stature he has acquired. Is he not the best known Sri Lankan internationally? Can he survive in an environment where he has to bend to the wishes of his people?

Prabhakaran is not going to lose it at a table where only his nominees are present. Even defeat he would be prepared to face, in the battlefield where he has sketched the military maneuvers .This is a conflict that can be best understood in studying the profile of Prabhakaran rather than the character of the LTTE. Talks are a mere puppet show with the LTTE speaking from a prepared script. You have to be present to understand the futility of it. It is a colossal waste of time energy and money. If the international community is present with astute observers they will not recommend recommencement of talks for the present. It is the Norwegians who take the centre stage and enjoy the glory of the talks; probably the international community is over guided by Norway. Factually the international community has little time for the local conflict.

Prabhakaran knows his strength is in his military option having turned a band of brothers into a lethal fighting formation. It has to be conceded he converted a ragtag set of amateur fighters into probably one of the most dreaded terrorist outfits with a continuous flow of available suicide bombers at his disposal. These highs were reached on account of a one man show and naturally he is proud of his achievements. On the other hand he has fared poorly whenever he has surfaced at public showings especially on occasions to meet the press or at public encounters. In fact at the only press conference he participated at the height of his success he had to concede the floor to Balasingham and thereafter has left such encounters to his minions such as Tamil Chelvam and Daya Master.

Such a man would not desire to turn the spotlight to fall on the negotiating table where he is a misfit but would prefer to achieve glory or defeat in the battle field where his expertise lies. Prabakarans diffidence of making public appearances, his inability to convert such appearances into a successful public relation exercise, his lack of vocal talents in the field of communication, being unskilled in the methods of negotiation together with LTTE achievements in terrorist activities, the fame achieved as the leader of the most successful terrorist organization during the last decade and his pride on being a military wizard makes him place his priorities on war rather than peace.

In short accept him not as politician but as military genius. In that sense it is both a personality and a organisational problem that must be taken into consideration. A striking feature is that the LTTE is not a hierarchical structured organization but rather a disciplined and motivated band of armed terrorist ruled by an iron grip of a god king .A despot oscillating between a monarch and a deity with a worshipping cult attracted by fear or conviction.

I remember being lectured at a briefing session by previous participants before embarking for talks with the Tigers that Balasingham is a wily negotiator and the LTTE presents a formidable team at the table. Probably that was the perception that made our former Head of Team refers to Balasingham as Your Excellency.

Honestly LTTE at talks are poorer than a school debating team. It was a show of bluff with neither style nor substance just hard talk which could easily be contained by equally hard talk. It was a case of Sri Lanka overestimating the Tigers and developing an inferiority complex at talks. The same could be said of military strength of the LTTE much is hype and psyche with a false show of bravado afraid to encounter open confrontation. LTTE survives on a tripod of suicide bombers, claymore mines and the human shields.

It was often because of such poor showings at the talks that Eric Solheime had to move to the assistance of the LTTE probably to ensure that the LTTE stayed at the table and felt comfortable to remain. Again it was a solo run by Balasingham who treated the rest of his team like a bunch of traveling dwarfs. He sought to be a living legend in the LTTE and enjoyed the role as a negotiator. At the talks the focus was on Balasingham and not on Prabhakaran and this did not augur well for the success of the talks. The advantage Balasingham possessed was that he was able due to his position in the organization from the commencement, to speak from his own script rather than take down dictation from Killinochchi. Living in the west he understood the ways of the Westerners which he utilized to the maximum benefit.

LTTE’s open agenda was to extract military advantages at the talks and to make the talks a forum to discredit the image of the country in the eyes of the international community. The hidden agenda was a visit to Europe to meet their moneymen and make a collection from the Diaspora. Yet another objective was to link with human rights activists to lobby against Sri Lanka. It must be noted that there are travel bans imposed on the LTTE to EU countries and here was an opportunity provided for a sneak visit to Europe by the leadership of the LTTE.

The relevant issue is that LTTE never was prepared to talk or set a time table to talk of a solution to the national problem which is the prime issue. When we spoke of a road map- a road map to peace, they spoke only of a road-the road being A9.The road they required was to collect kappan to enhance their war chest and to bring children from the Peninsula for training for the war. Never did talks reach or touch the periphery of peace.-you need to be present to realize the futility of the content discussed, With this frame of mind talks with the LTTE will lead not to a peaceful resolution but merely a cosmetic exercise to satisfy our donor countries and the international community.

Even setbacks on the war front will not drive the LTTE to talks towards a settlement- in those circumstances it will be an exercise to buy time to regroup to fight from a position of strength on another day. After years of talks extending from Berlin to Hakone and from Geneva to Bangkok the peace movement has not traveled an appreciable distance.

With the demise of Balasingham the talks took a different complexion with Tamil Chelvam a second generation member of the LTTE and indoctrinated from their young days with LTTE dogma kept faithfully to a Pabhakaran script. Therefore the degree of individuality that Balasingham was able to exhibit will not surface hereinafter. Most of the present LTTE team at talks consisted of young men and women conscripted by the LTTE from their young days and conditioned in an LTTE enviornment. They know little of the world outside an LTTE training camps. They are unable and incapable of expressing thoughts of their own even if freedom thought and expression is provided. The few expatriates included in the LTTE team from the USA and Australia after the demise of Balasingham are there more for sartorial elegance than to make a contribution and are treated like B team players by the Wanni Tigers more or less in the same manner Balasingham treated them in the past.

In fact if one peeps at the records of LTTE representation at talks over the years most of the former front row players have disappeared and still worse, unheard-most probably not in the land of the living. Fortunately for Balasingham he died abroad; and is one of the few LTTE leaders for whose death Prabhakaran is not directly or indirectly responsible. Listening to Balasingham had a value added factor-I remember he mocked us once that the LTTE does not need intelligence units to ferret information on our forces as so many members of security forces are in their pay roll. On our return we took it seriously. Recent events have proved him correct. One thing is for sure such gems would not originate from Tamil Chelvams tamil script or even if it does their skillful negotiator George the translator will neatly edit it. In these circumstances the war that Prabhakaran proclaims will continue to prevail. Hitler another military genius preferred to die in his bunker and carefully choose his method of ending his life.

The mistake often made is to identify Tamil people with the LTTE. Unfortunately Tamils have suffered more than any other ethnic group at the hands of the Tigers. LTTE has killed more Tamil civilians than Sinhala or Muslim civilians. Tamils in the North and East in the absence of independent political leadership are unable to assert themselves. The fact that the parliamentary representatives of the TNA have permitted themselves to be sycophants of the LTTE has made the Tamils voiceless.

It must be accepted that Tamils and Muslims have grievances just as much as Sinhalese especially those Sinhalese living in areas where such minority groups are in a majority. We must create a Sri Lankan society with a caring majority and a considerate minority. I do not mean those affluent Sinhalese Tamils and Muslims in urban areas who are sitting on the fence waiting to throw their weight behind whoever emerges victorious. Society has an abundance of opportunists and unfortunately it is these opportunists who extract the best of both worlds.

I had the opportunity of sitting on the Experts committee appointed by the President to find a solution to the National issue. We after discussion were able to identify the grievances of the minorities A significant fact is that most of the grievances of the minorities can be attended to by administrative action and the failure to rectify is due to administrative inadvertence and incompetence, lack of political initiative and political leadership. It is difficult to comprehend as to reason why the successive governments have not taken initial meaningful steps to rectify the grievances and build bridges to the Tamil community. The discovered minority grievances are as follows:-

1 Failure to implement language provisions enshrined in the Constitution

2 Failure to address the Security Concerns of the Minorities/Regional Minorities

3 Continuing Kidnappings and Abductions

4 Compulsory Acquisitions of Lands for Security Purposes.

5 Not attending of the problems of the Internally Displaced Person

6 Alienation of Land on a Discriminatory Basis

7 Child Recruitment

8. Lack of Development Activity in the North and East

9 Discrimination in the recruitment for employment

The LTTE has contributed more to its own downfall than the government. The fact that LTTE has not been able to win the confidence of the people is best reflected by their inability to attract young persons to their forces. A genuine liberation force which has the support of the people they hold out to represent as the aggrieved ethnic group may run short of material but not of men.

It is the lack of fighting forces that compel the LTTE to recruit children and earn the wrath of UN strictures. If the supply line of children can be stopped the effectiveness of the LTTE can be reduced considerably and also earn the goodwill of Tamil parents.

The forcible recruitment of young people will not help the LTTE to build a force of motivated fighters and would continue to alienate the civil population. It has been observed depleted guerrilla forces often collapse like a pack of cards as it happened in Somalia last week. In fact an area of success the present government has been able to enjoy is due to advancement made by the forces in the battlefield and much of the success is due to the three commanders and the Defence Secretary.

Though there are demands to eliminate Norway from the peace process and terminate the Cease Fire Agreement it is not advisable to do so as this will not receive the goodwill of the international community. The Cease Fire Agreement is a worthless piece of paper now observed in the breach. It gave the tigers width to consolidate themselves and enhance their military strength and liquidate comprehensively the survival of rival Tamil democratic parties.

It is preferable to sideline Norway and ignore the CFA rather than eliminating Norway as the facilitator from the peace process or terminate the CFA. It is best to place both on a low profile If the CFA is abrogated and Norwegians are removed there would be vociferous objections from the international community However most objections raised by the international community are ordinarily of a temporary token nature. For example after Supreme Court decision on dismantling the tsunami structures in the PTOMS case there were overwhelming objections from the international community as effort to jeopardize the peace process. But a few days later most of the countries openly pronounced that their own domestic laws forbid financial contribution to the PTOM structure which had LTTE participation and such funds would therefore attract a terrorist organization which is against their local laws.

With that the objections to the elimination of the PTOMS funding exercise to benefit the LTTE evaporated. The same could be said of the more recent de merger of the North and East. With the pronouncement of the judgment the international community asserted it was a threat to the peace process. With the North and East in fact and in law de merged those objections have faded except those of the proxy parties of the LTTE. The lesson to learn is that national interest must be safeguarded at all costs. If you do so everything else will fall into place.

In the final reckoning the war efforts must continue as the Tigers place no faith in the peace exercise as events have proved but at the same time the legitimate grievances of the minorities must be addressed and redress granted where it so merits. It is at this point that there is a deficiency on the part of the Sinhala majority in failing to recognise the just grievances of the minorities. It is also essential before any power from the centre is transferred to the provinces the central government is further strengthened to prevent any movement towards possible separatist tendencies in the future. A road map to peace outlining the transfer of possible political power which does not jeopardize security concerns and are not incentives to separatist tendencies must be presented to the country at a referendum It must be accompanied simultaneously by a proper and effective decommissioning of arms exercise under the supervision of the government. All arms in the hands of any terrorist group whether the Tigers or Karuna must be surrendered otherwise there could be no meaningful peace of a lasting nature as such weapons will remain a threat to the community and the state. It is only the state forces that should remain armed to ensure law and order. This has been the principle that has been followed in Macedonia, Ireland, Ache and Kurdistan. Along with it be efforts to reintegrate the disbanded terrorist forces and merge them society. Otherwise those armed units in civil dress yet carrying guns will take the law in to their hands. At the moment it is important to keep away from the negotiation table and carry on the military operations until it dawns on Prabhkaran that his ambition cannot be achieved by an arms struggle. The main problem that would be encountered is the absence of an independent political party for the Tamils. Again such a political party can emerge only after the elimination of the LTTE.

There are early symptoms that show that main thrust of the war may soon end in favor of the State,

1 The Tigers inability to attract young men to their fighting units and having to turn to abducting children by force

2 .The Tamils are not rising in favor of the LTTE in the North and the East during the thrust by the army or creating any disturbances notwithstanding the efforts of the Tigers to show their protest.

3 The Tamils in the uncleared areas escaping from the LTTE and crossing to the Government controlled areas and thereafter not complaining of any maltreatment.

4 LTTE having to recall those who were eliminated from the movement and for their own security moved away from the country. This shows the absence of senior cadres and lack of replacements.

Note:An address delivered at the Olcott Memorial Lecture by Gomin Dayasri organized by the Old Boys Association of Ananda College

- Asian Tribune -

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