Army planning 'all-out' offensive - LTTE
[TamilNet, Friday, 12 January 2001, 07:33 GMT]
Exploiting the Liberation Tigers' unilateral ceasefire, the Sri Lanka Army is inducting fresh troops, armour and artillery into the Jaffna offensive in preparation for an "all-out" offensive in the Kilali-Nagerkoil, the LTTE said Friday. In an interview with the London-based Tamil Guardian, the LTTE's chief negotiator warned that the Army's "strategy will result in a major escalation of the war."
In its latest edition which hit newsstands in London Friday, the Tamil Guardian said its staff writers spoke to Mr. Balasingham about the Liberation Tigers' assessment of the present politico-military situation in Sri Lanka and what he thought of the Sri Lanka's assertion the LTTE was seriously weakened and not genuine about seeking peace.
The paper also asked his comments on Sri Lanka's insistence that Britain should proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organization, and the increasingly vocal support for the Tigers' peace offensive amongst Tamil political parties and community organizations.
The interview is reproduced here in full, with the Tamil Guardian's permission:
Tamil Guardian: How do you assess the current politico-military situation in Sri Lanka?
Balasingham: There is a widening gap between the main protagonists of this conflict -the LTTE and the Sri Lanka state -primarily due to distrust and suspicion. The LTTE has declared a month long unilateral cease-fire and strictly observing peace, while the Sri Lankan armed forces have engaged in offensive military operations in Jaffna defying and disregarding the LTTE's sincere gesture of goodwill.
Furthermore, the Sri Lanka government is preparing for an all-out war in the Jaffna peninsula and in the northern Vanni region utilising the conditions of peace created by the unilateral cessation of hostilities declared by the LTTE. We have reliable intelligence reports to confirm that the Sri Lanka government has inducted fresh combat troops, battle tanks, heavy artillery pieces and multi-barrel rocket launchers in the Jaffna theatre of war to launch a major offensive assault against the LTTE. The strategic objective of the current military manoeuvre is aimed at over-running our defense positions along the Kilaly-Eluthumadduval-Nagar Kovil axis to push towards Elephant Pass. Such a strategy will result in a major escalation of the war and blood bath.
The Kumaratunga regime is not interested in peace or in a negotiated political settlement. They want a military solution. Therefore, they want to continue the war irrespective of the monumental destruction it could cause to the lives of the combatants and civilians. In assessing the Government's intentions, I would say the current politico-military scenario is gloomy.
Tamil Guardian: There is a general view within the Government circles as well as within the military establishment that the LTTE is militarily weak and therefore they are seeking peace to gain the necessary space to re-group and re-build their military machine. What do you say about this assessment?
Balasingham: This assessment is fallacious based on the misjudgment of our intentions.
We are seeking peace because we are strong; strong not only militarily but also morally. Our moral strength is based on our conviction that the cause of our people is fair, just and legitimate.
We are seeking peace because we sincerely believe that the Tamil ethnic conflict is fundamentally a political issue and that could be resolved by political means, by means of political engagement and dialogue.
We are seeking peace because we want to respond positively to the plea of the international community calling upon the parties in conflict to seek peaceful methods in resolving the conflict. We have expressed our sincere desire for peace not only in words but also by concrete action by observing peace unilaterally amidst provocative military actions by the enemy. We are confident that the international governments will appreciate our genuine commitment to peace.
Tamil Guardian: The recent military reverses suffered by the LTTE fighters in Jaffna might have encouraged the Government as well as the military to assume that you are militarily weak. What do you say about that?
Balasingham: We have made a calculated, strategic withdrawal from Chavachcheri and Ariyala sectors of the Jaffna Peninsula for specific reasons.
It would have been extremely difficult for us to hold positions and engage in counter-offensive operations while we are obliged to observe unilateral cessation of hostilities. Apart from that the terrain was militarily disadvantageous for a defensive war. Our forces will be vulnerable to aerial assault in those areas with open spaces. Furthermore, we faced serious logistic problems of bringing personnel and supplies from Poonagarin crossing the Jaffna lagoon. It is for these reasons that we made a strategic withdrawal to avoid serious casualties. If anyone construes this move as weakness they are seriously mistaken.
Tamil Guardian: President Kumaratunga, in a lengthy speech addressed to the Tamil people of the North through a satellite link-up with Jaffna last Monday night, accused the LTTE as the villain of peace and blamed your organisation as the source and cause of all the problems faced by the Tamil people. In that hard-hitting speech she has not only rejected your unilateral cease-fire but also declared that you are not genuinely interested in peace talks. What is your response?
Balasingham: I would characterise the speech as a big bundle of lies and empty words, which have no meaning to the Tamil people. Kumartunga portrays her government as an embodiment of goodness committed to the principle of equality and justice and devoted to protecting the rights and interests of the minorities particularly the Tamils. To the great amusement of our people, she claims that her government has poured billions and billions of rupees into the north for the development and welfare of the Tamils. Essentially her speech was an insult to the intelligence of the Tamil people.
Our people are well aware of the existential reality in the north since they live there and experience the modes of State repression and the horrors of war. Our people have no doubt that Chandrika's rule has been the most tyrannical in the long history of Sinhala state oppression and the suffering is intolerable. Our people know very well that her term of office is going to continue for another six years. That means another six years of war: of death and destruction.
Her speech was not addressed to the Jaffna Tamils because the Jaffna Tamils are shrewd and intelligent enough to comprehend the political duplicity inherent in her discourse. It was addressed to the international community, particularly to the donor countries to try to convince them of the nature of her 'good governance', of her 'concerns for minority rights' and her urgent need for funds for the Īdevelopment of the war-torn North'. But the international governments are fully aware of the inadequacies and deficiencies of the system of governance in Sri Lanka and also about the conditions of reality in the North. They are also fully aware of the fact that the North cannot be economically developed if the war continues. This is precisely the reason why the Western nations are urging the parties in conflict to stop the war and start the peace talks. Unfortunately, the Kumaratunga government is not prepared to cease the armed conflict though the LTTE has gone ahead in declaring cease-fire as a positive gesture of goodwill. The Government wants to continue the war and simultaneously engage in peace talks. We cannot play this absurd game of fighting and talking.
We have already put an end to the war and observing peace unilaterally. We have also pledged to extend the cease-fire and enter the negotiating process if the Government is prepared to reciprocate positively to our peace gesture and take constructive actions to de-escalate the conflict and to restore normalcy in the North. Having rejected our peace initiative Chandrika says in her speech that she did not believe that the LTTE wants to end the war and engage in peace negotiations. This position is a clear manifestation of her pathological distrust and hatred of our liberation organisation.
The chasm between the Kumaratunga government and the LTTE is caused by this pathological distrust. The Norwegians are fully aware of this problem of historical animosity and skepticism prevailing between the protagonists. It is for this reason they are offering a set of proposals for mutual reciprocal measures as confidence building exercises leading to gradual de-escalation of the conflict. Sri Lanka government is yet to respond to the Norwegian proposals.
Tamil Guardian: President Kumaratunga reaffirmed her intention of implementing the constitutional reform proposals which she abandoned last year because of opposition from Sinhala hard-liners and Tamil moderates. She says that these constitutional proposals should be the basis for talks with the LTTE. Furthermore, she says that the LTTE should identify the 'core' issues underlying the ethnic conflict and be prepared to enter serious negotiations on those matters. What is your comment?
Balasingham: We have already stated our position with regard to these defunct constitutional proposals. Our position is that these constitutional proposals are extremely limited and inadequate to meet the aspirations of the Tamil people. This constitutional architecture does not provide sufficient space to deal with the core issues of the Tamils.
The inalienable right of the Tamil people over their traditional and historical homeland; their political status as a nationality and their right to self-determination are the 'core' issues, or rather the fundamental aspirations of the people of Tamil Eelam. We are prepared to discuss these 'core' issues at the negotiating table when the Kumaratunga government creates a conducive atmosphere by renouncing its hard-line policy of war and violence against our people.
Tamil Guardian: There is criticism from the government and from sections of the diplomatic community in Colombo that the LTTE's unilateral declaration of cease-fire should have been communicated to Colombo through Norwegian facilitators before releasing to the international media. What do you say about that?
Balasingham: I informed the Norwegian peace envoy Mr. Erik Solheim of our decision to declare a month long unilateral cessation of hostilities and faxed a copy of the statement to him before releasing it to the media. The Norwegians were unable to communicate the message to the Sri Lanka government since the President, the Foreign Minister and senior Ministers were not accessible in Colombo at that time but were holidaying abroad. Therefore this criticism is untenable.
Tamil Guardian: Ten Tamil political parties representing the Northeast and the up-country plantation sector have formed an alliance and have been jointly campaigning among foreign diplomats in support of your cease-fire calling upon the Government to respond positively to your gesture and to enter talks. There is also growing support among the Tamil popular masses for your peace initiative. What is your comment about this development?
Balasingham: This is certainly a positive and encouraging development. It symbolises a growing consensus of Tamil opinion towards peace and a negotiated political settlement. We are delighted to note that a united voice of the Tamils is emerging as a potential force in solidarity with out struggle for the emancipation of our people.
The other amazing development is that our people in Jaffna have begun to articulate their collective aspiration as a popular quest for self-determination. This courageous popular upsurgence is evolving, transcending politics in an oppressive environment of military occupation. This is a constructive development in the history of the Tamil struggle.
Tamil Guardian: Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Mr.Laxsman Kadirgamar has been campaigning through out the world that the Tamils armed resistance spearheaded by the LTTE, is a phenomenon of 'terrorism'. He has been pressurising Britain to proscribe your organisation as a 'terrorist' outfit when the Terrorist Act comes into force early next month. The British government, according to Kadirgamar is seriously considering his demand. How does LTTE view this issue?
Balasingham: We know very well that Mr. Kadirgamar is diligently serving his Sinhala masters by demonising the Tamil freedom struggle. He has succeeded in convincing the Americans that the Tamil armed struggle is a phenomenon of 'terrorism'. The Americans were compelled to make a wrong decision which had negative consequences in encouraging Sri Lanka to embark on a ruthless policy of war against the Tamil people. This decision has also prevented America from actively playing any constructive role in the peace making process.
Britain is an important power, playing a crucial complimentary role to Norway in the current reconciliatory process to bring the parties in conflict to peace talks. Britain has also a historical obligation to settle the Tamil conflict because of its interventionist policies of the colonial past which triggered the dynamics of contradiction between the two nations.
I have spoken to relevant British authorities explaining the negative consequences that might arise if the British government concedes to the request of Mr.Kadirgamar whose sole motive is to strengthen the hands of a repressive racist regime determined to crush the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils.
First of all a decision to proscribe the LTTE will seriously undermine the current peace process since it will erode the status of neutrality of Britain and prevent her from playing any significant role in resolving the conflict. Secondly, a negative decision by Britain will seriously affect the interests of the aggrieved Tamil people of Sri Lanka whose political struggle is advanced and sustained by the LTTE which is the preponderant politico-military organisation representing their interests. Thirdly, Britain will seriously disappoint the global Tamil community of over 100 million people who morally and spiritually support the just cause of the Eelam Tamils.
Fourthly, and most importantly, we are not an organisation involved in 'international terrorism'. This characterisation is nothing but a deluded phantasm of Mr. Kadirgamar's closed mind. I hope that the British government, with its profound historical knowledge of the modalities of armed struggles against racism in the Third World, will not take such a drastic decision without a full understanding of its implications.