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Ill-timed, after all



“From Thimpu to Geneva, whenever the LTTE joined the negotiations process, as Prabhakaran pointed out, it had always called for interim measures to facilitate the talks rather than addressing the larger issues. The latter, it used to be pointed out, could lead to a political settlement, as a top-down approach to ending the war and violence.”

by N Sathiya Moorthy

(December 01, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, his supporters and sympathisers could not have asked for worse. The 'Mumbai Mayhem' crowded out Prabhakaran's annual "Heroes Day" speech as nothing had done in the past. The television imagery of the worst ever case of recorded urban guerrilla warfare, as different from serial blasts and suicide-bombings, will remain etched in every mind for a long time. Plain and simple, the world will be in no mood to hear Prabhakaran's call for lifting the ban on the LTTE – and will remain so for a relatively long time to come than the LTTE can afford.

The less said about India the better. The Indian mood assumes significance for the simple reason Prabhakaran's speech mentioned only India by name – barring of course the 'Sinhala nation', on which poured scorn, as was only to be expected. "At no stage did we ever consider India as an enemy force. Our people always consider India as our friend. They have great expectations that the Indian super-power will take a positive stand on our national question," Prabhakaran said.

"It was because we were firmly committed to our conviction and freedom for our people, that friction erupted between our movement and India," Prabhakaran said. In the same vein, he expressed my "love and gratitude to the people and leaders of Tamil Nadu and the leaders of India for the voice of support and love they have extended." He wanted them to do more and "take appropriate and positive measures to remove the ban which remains an impediment to an amicable relationship between India and our movement."

There was no reference in the speech to the 'Rajiv Gandhi assassination', which caused the ban, the LTTE's war on the IPKF, which made the relationship less than amicable, and definitely no indication of the LTTE wanting India to facilitate a negotiated settlement with the Sri Lankan State. It only sought re-legitimisation of the LTTE in India, and in the rest of the world.

Taken as a whole, Prabhakaran's speech this year was both a reversal of his speech last year and a continuation thereof, at the same time. Last year, he had asked the Tamil community in India and the world over to argue the LTTE's case for a 'Tamil Eelam'. He had made less than positive references to India at the time.

Having succeeded, if only to a limited extent in motivating the Tamils of India to do the LTTE's bidding, however indirectly, he finds the Indian State unmoving, as yet. It remains to be seen how Tamil Nadu would react to Prabhakaran's call after the 'Mumbai Mayhem' remains to be seen.

In a way, Prabhakaran's speech was an appeal to the international community to intervene, and on LTTE's behalf and on LTTE's terms. Clearly, the LTTE is feeling the pinch of international isolation, and the direct and indirect support accruing to the war effort of the Sri Lankan State. Prabhakaran indicated that the LTTE was not ready for direct talks with the Sri Lankan Government without external facilitators, but added that it was "unacceptable and insulting" for the LTTE to lay down arms, ahead of talks, as sought by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Clearly, the message was for the international community, 'neighbouring India' included. The LTTE had never stood in the way of the national, geopolitical, or economic welfare of any other country, Prabhakaran said. They were not the enemies of the LTTE he said adding that the outfit had never planned to act against any country. If this reads like a concession to those countries that is it. Deceptive words these, based on the theory that "enemy's friend's enemy could be my friend"?

From Thimpu to Geneva, whenever the LTTE joined the negotiations process, as Prabhakaran pointed out, it had always called for interim measures to facilitate the talks rather than addressing the larger issues. The latter, it used to be pointed out, could lead to a political settlement, as a top-down approach to ending the war and violence.

Today, the military advantage lies with the Sri Lankan State, and it is saying that the LTTE laying down arms alone would create the climate and conviction for proceeding with political negotiations. It was one step ahead of the LTTE's very own condition for restoration of humanitarian aid and human rights for the Tamil civilians as a pre-condition for reviving talks.

The LTTE can take lesson from the way the friends-turned-foes in the Eastern Province were mainstreamed and democratised. In the past, no Tamil militant group, the LTTE included, was known to have used their guns and weapons to defend the innocent Tamils when targeted either by the Sri Lankan armed forces or some Sinhala goons. Since the Seventies, theirs had always been retaliatory attacks much after the provocative incidents.

The LTTE can still give fire-cover for the larger Tamil community until a negotiated, political settlement is in place. It cannot retain 'human shields' under its control in the name of protecting them. It has to re-create the missing trust in the Sri Lankan State and the international community, that it needs to keep the weapons for self-defence, that too in the cause of the larger Tamil community, and not otherwise.

Yes, the LTTE too would require guarantees that the Sri Lankan armed forces would not resort to unprovoked attacks. The Sri Lankan State, which as a State actor would have the inherent, institutional advantage of continuing to deny international supplies to the LTTE, would have to guarantee that – and make it stick, too.

The article was an originally published on the Daily Mirror, daily news paper based in Colombo.
-The writer is Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, the Indian policy think-tank, headquartered in New Delhi. email: sathiyam54@hotmail.
com
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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