Feature Article

War and Peace- LTTE way: Taraki, 1991

[TamilNet, Monday, 02 January 2006, 00:08 GMT]
In the 12 June 1991 issue of Sri Lanka's English daily, Island International, late Dharmeratnam Sivaram, popular journalist and Senior editor at TamilNet, writes on issues that dominated the early Premadasa period after the departure of IPKF as prevailing climate appeared ripe for peace talks. However, on the day the article appeared, two soldiers were killed in a Batticaloa landmine attack. Enraged soldiers massacred 150 Tamil civilians (13 June) in Kokkadichcholai. LTTE retaliated by killing 19 soldiers (20 June) in an ambush, leading to continued blood letting as Eelam War II (June 1990 to 1994) was fought without any hopes of peace talks.

A spokesperson of the Tigers told the press in Jaffna some time after the assassination of Gandhi, that they (the LTTE) have been in touch with the government through the good offices of some concerned parties. The spokesperson even mentioned the name of a senior government official, as the person who would arrive in Jaffna to begin negotiations.

These stories aside, there are some questions that would have to be countenanced by the government in holding talks with the LTTE. In such a dialogue does it accept the Tigers with their military assets intact?

Would the thirteenth amendment, which provides for the Provincial Council system, be relevent in the envisaged dialogue in view of the LTTE’s position on the Northeastern Provincial Council?

Would the preliminary agenda include the question of the merger of the north and eastern Provinces, colonization and district boundaries?

Would it also include the status of the other groups and political parties both Tamil and Sinhalese in the north and east if and when any agreement on the prospect of holding elections is reached?

And finally does the state, if it is earnest about holding talks, have an idea worth placing before the general public as to how a mechanism for supervising and/or inducing the inevitable process of disarming could be worked out?

These questions beg to be answered and answered in detail. The essence of any possible settlement to the Tamil question is the future of LTTE’s military assets. It has become integral to the Tamil problem. The failure of the IPKF’s effort to disarm the LTTE and the unprecedented military build up before the war began in June have brought a new and perhaps confounding factor into the idea of finding a solution to the ethnic conflict in sri Lanka.

This has also given rise to the notion of finding an ‘alternative’ system of security in the north and east. the military assets of the LTTE cannot be ignored for too long in the event there being any talks between government and the Tigers, for the status of the other groups and political parties including the UNP will figure crucially, may presume even in the preliminary stages.

This time the political and military leadership of the country cannot but address the dual problem of alternative security and the mechanism supervising and/or inducing the process of disarming. This can be the critical area in which the intractable difficulties of dealing with the Tamil question now will arise. If the desired method on the part of the government is a peaceful one then it has to inevitably countenance the constitutional and politically sensitive problem of setting up a system of security in the north and east which would be a sufficient incentive for the staggered dismantling of the LTTE’s military organization.

The government it appears is thinking in terms of a system of security which would be ‘indigenous.’ But again the question is, in the context of a ‘peaceful dialogue’ envisaged, can this idea of indigenous security- which means that law and order would predominantly in the hands of the Tamils in the north and east- be a sufficient incentive to convince the LTTE to agree to voluntary and real disarmament?

The crux of the matter however is this: that when everything has been said and done, it would transpire that the LTTE would not allow anyone else to be part of indigenous security arrangement and that inducing disarmament would mean in that case, another protracted war. The very essence of LTTE’s argument for physically eliminating the other groups is that they cannot be entrusted with the security of the Tamils. they have systematically and fanatically endeavored over the years to arrogate the right of ensuring the safety and security of the Tamils from Sri Lanka, India and the other groups. Hence any solution envisaged by the government has to consider the LTTE and its military assets and potential as comprising the law and order system proposed to be set up under the terms of that solution.

If not it means war.

The whole thing has taken on the nature of a pointless conundrum. If the government ruthlessly pursues the war while uselessly dragging on the APC then it stand in danger of losing the other groups and ultimately being left only with the LTTE to hold talks; an LTTE which would still retain its potential to re-establish a better organized and resourceful military system to wage a more successful war.

On the other hand if the government talks to the LTTE now and earnestly pursues the process of drawing and setting up a suitable form of autonomy including a security arrangement which would be indigenous it would be again faced with the LTTE as the sole political and military reality in the north and east, because even if the LTTE agrees in principle even at a later stage to the idea of holding elections in the north and east it would be a stage in which the government accepts them as they are; with their military assets, which in turn would mean that other groups will be non-entities in the LTTE dominated areas.

These seem to be the reasons why the Tigers feel that it is easier to advance towards thier goal through the studied and calculated alternation of war and peace. The front page comment by the Editor in the latest issue of the pro-LTTE TamilNation will throw some light on these matters that inform the Tigers’ approach to t he military and political methods for achieving their goal.

“It must be said to the credit of President Premadasa, that unlike his predecessor, he is a politician with this ears to the ground; and hence has the perspicacity to understand and respect the nature of the new Tamil phenomenon. This is what perhaps gave him the courage in May 1989 to admit armed Tigers into the city of Colombo and host them in 5-star hotels, over which his Sinhala critics have not stopped taunting him. If his recent convincing win in the local bodies elections has given him the confidence to go back to his original track, he now has the added benefits of two experiences- a one year old pointless dialogue between May 1989 and May 1990 that came to nothing, and the one-year old fruitless war between June 1990 and now, which had come to nothing either, but had left the country weaker economically, and more exposed to strong-arm pressures from western donor countries. In fact he has fewer options now than what he had in May 1989.

President Premadasa is reported to have told a Sinhala audience recently,- in a bilingual flourish- that while he was not prepared to concede Eelam, but short of it he was prepared to give “ellam” (all, in Tamil). That we think is a good beginning.

After all, one should be pragmatic enough to understand that no ruler anywhere can concede anything that is not in his power to give. New nation states are never given, they are always taken. The General Yahya Khans and Bhouttos could not have given Bangladesh; it was taken from them.

 

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