Monday, July 14, 2008

'A carnivore's offer to be herbivorous'- Island Editorial

The best indication of a terrorist outfit's failure to get out of a cul-de-sac it fights its way into is an offer of a truce. When it is strong and cocky, it doesn't give a tinker's damn about peace; it unleashes hell on others. But, when it sees the writing on the wall, it waves an olive branch tied to a gun barrel hoping that its enemies would fall for the trick.

This exactly is what the LTTE is reported to have done. According to a statement attributed to LTTE political wing leader Nadesan, it has become amenable to a ceasefire all of a sudden! This has come as no surprise. A ceasefire is the only hope for the LTTE, which is being encircled in the Wanni. The history of its armed struggle shows it sues for peace every five or six years to gain a boost for its war effort.

Having carried out its first major attack on the military in 1983, the LTTE formally entered into a ceasefire with the Premadasa government in 1989 and their honeymoon lasted till June the following year. After the PA formed a government in 1994, the LTTE, having lost a part of the Eastern Province due to a military campaign by the Wijetunge government, lured the Kumaratunga government into accepting its offer of a truce, which it torpedoed in 1995 by sinking two naval gunboats in the Trincomalee harbour. Prabhakaran made peace overtures again in 2001 and signed a Norwegian drafted CFA with the UNF government the following year.

The last truce, unlike the previous ones which had lasted only a year or so, dragged on despite serious violations thereof by the LTTE for about five years. Its extraordinary life span was due to three factors: The post 9/11 anti-terror drive by the leading western nations and the attendant apprehension on the part of all terrorists groups the world over, the 2004 tsunami disaster, which had a heavy toll on the LTTE and, most of all, the benefits that accrued to the outfit from CFA such as some legitimacy for its macabre cause through peace talks held in foreign capitals, freedom of movement and opportunity for arms smuggling and infiltration.

The LTTE would still have been benefiting from its wish-granting CFA, while violating it with impunity, having scuttled peace talks in 2003 under the UNF government, unless the present regime had abrogated it officially last year after the LTTE plunged the country back into war in 2006 by capturing the Mavil Aru reservoir.

One may think war is the only means through which the LTTE has sought to achieve its goal of separation. But, 'peace', too, has become part of its strategy, as evident from the punctuation of its war effort by ceasefires.

Until 2006, the war had been fought according to the LTTE's time table. When it wanted war, governments responded militarily and when it sued for peace, governments naively reciprocated its peace offers. Thus, it was able to bring about a discontinuity in State military policy under successive governments. In 1989, the LTTE managed to make the Premadasa regime depart from JRJ government's and India's military campaign. In 1994/95, it succeeded in making the Kumaratunga government abandon the military strategy of the Wijetunga regime, which was doing something similar to what is being done by the Rajapaksa government at present -- liberating the East and moving northwards. (Ironically, the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is opposing war today, was chairing the National Security Council meetings under President D. B. Wijetunge!) In 2001, after the UNF's victory, the LTTE's peace overtures caused the Wickremesinghe government to bid farewell to its predecessor's war effort.

The present military campaign against the LTTE has become successful, as it is not being conducted according to the LTTE's timetable.

The LTTE at present is in the same predicament as the army in 1999, when the latter's camps fell like nine pins. Today, the LTTE camps have become fixed targets vis-…-vis a highly motivated and well-equipped army forging ahead on four fronts. The Tigers are badly cornered with their supply routes being blocked effectively. For the first time, they have lost control of the East and Jaffna at the same time and are facing an advancing army in the Wanni with the Air Force and the Navy on the offensive.

Until a few months ago, the LTTE boasted that the army was stretching its legs far too wide in the Wanni and it would learn a 'bloody lesson' in time to come. But, today theLTTE supporters have changed the tune. Now they are arguing that the LTTE cannot be wiped out, as it has the capability to survive as a typical guerrilla movement. They have chosen to ignore the fact that the LTTE no longer enjoys the support of the populace as manifest in the absence of volunteers to fight for it. It has had to forcibly recruit the young and the old alike as cannon fodder. As we pointed out in a previous comment, resentment of the people under the LTTE's jackboot is only too well known. This is what the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) the UTHR (J) has said about the public mood in the LTTE-held terrain: "Several LTTE leaders who deal with the people know the extent of resentment and the curses uttered out of their hearing. Instances of popular jubilation have also been reported when air force bombers hit an LTTE target. At a place 12 miles north of the frontline, a senior LTTE leader told some friends, `Should the Army advance this far, the people would rebel against us!" -- UTHR (J) Special Report No: 28, Dec. 04, 2007. Thus, it may be seen that conditions prevailing in the Wanni are far from favourable to the LTTE.

No wonder Prabhakaran has decided to swallow his pride and offer a truce. The only way the LTTE can break free from the mounting military pressure is to get a truce, regroup, rearm and make a comeback in the areas from which it has been banished, under the false pretext of doing 'political work'.

The LTTE demonstrated that it was not interested in peace making yet another time in 2003 by unilaterally walking away from peace talks while a robust peace process was in place with the UNF government pandering to Prabhakaran's whims and fancies.

The LTTE needs to be asked some questions as regards its truce offer: Is it willing to give up Eelam? Will it abandon its ISGA demand? Will it eschew violence and desist from truce violations? And is it amenable to a peace process to be conducted according to a timeframe with independent monitors?

Courtesy: The Island

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