Daily Archives: May 6, 2006
Sri Lankans Against Terrorism’, a newly formed organisation in UK, has organised a demonstration against the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) from 12 noon to 3 pm on May 15.
Members of this outfit comprising Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim Sri Lankans living in UK will protest in front of the BBC’s ‘Bush House’ building in London against `false and distorted reporting on Sri Lanka’.
Rani Bulathwela, an organiser told the Sunday Island that in the recent past BBC television, BBC radio including the Sinhala Service ‘Sandeshaya’ had been responsible for false and distorted reports favouring the Tamil Tigers. ‘These reports undermined the good work of the Sri Lanka government and the armed forces who are trying to achieve a negotiated solution to the conflict’.
‘All Sri Lankans in London have united to organise this demonstration’, she said.
In the meantime, Sri Lanka Freedom Party branch in the UK together with other political and non political organisation organised a Bodhi Pooja to invoke blessings on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka who was injured in the recent suicide bomb attack in Colombo.
This ceremony, held at Sri Saddatissa International Buddhist Centre in London, was conducted by Ven. Galayaye Piyadassai Thera.-Island By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London
Less than a fortnight after Army Commander Sarath Fonseka survived a murderous terrorist attack within his headquarters, life in Colombo certainly and in many other parts of the country has returned to normal. People have grown immune to the numbers they read in the newspapers, hear on their radios and view on their television screens. Those have become the daily dozen, give or take a few, "other people" who have died or been seriously wounded in the violence. When it is not you or yours, whether the victims are servicemen serving the State, and that means all of us, poor peasants eking out an existence in border villages or innocent civilians caught up in crossfire or mishits, it matters little to the vast majority. They don’t relish what they read and hear, but that does not disturb the even tenor of their lives.
Prabhakaran understands better than most that what causes the kind of waves that best suit him are spectacular strikes in the city center, such as that which on April 25 took ten lives and seriously wounded the army commander. There are those who believe that the Sun God’s intention is to provoke a communal backlash, reminiscent of the horrors of July ‘83, and win over a world where public opinion is strongly against terrorism to once again view the terrorist war he continues to wage as a freedom struggle. Mercifully, the Sinhalese appear to have learnt that lesson and have not played into Prabhakaran’s hands whatever the provocation. Despite the claymore mines that have been claiming military lives with monotonous regularity, the forces too have remained disciplined. Some would opine that the tit for tat strikes beginning with Muttur and followed by a few more in the last few days is a limited retaliatory response intended to ensure armed forces morale and also send a message to the Wanni that the president’s patience is not limitless. But the Tiger leader acts on the premise that we need peace more than he does. His beady eye remains on a separate state and everything he does is focused on that objective. That is something that the friends of peace in Sri Lanka in the outside world must digest and what they do to help us along a tricky road must be based on that perspective.
Meanwhile all else seems to be forgotten with national attention focused on what is happening in the northeast and the efforts to break the deadlock and make Geneva 2 a reality. Whether anything substantial can emerge from such a meeting, when it does eventually take place at a time of the LTTE’s choosing judging by what is happening now, is another matter. Although both the government and the Tigers have reiterated their commitment to the Cease Fire Agreement of February 2002, to all intents and purposes it is non-existent. While there is no full scale war, much more than a shadow war continues to be fought in the northeast and the threat of LTTE terror elsewhere, as demonstrated by what happened on April 25, is ever present. TULF President V. Anandasangaree, a brave man who has stood up to the Tigers and who risks his life every second of the day given the LTTE’s approach to its opponents, has once again gone public with his formula for a settlement. We have today published his "My dear thamby" letter to Prabhakaran where he proposes a federal model similar to India’s and voices confidence that should the LTTE proclaim it was renouncing the separate state demand, he was confident the Sinhalese would accept that formula. That is a fair claim although extremist elements in the south may regard a federal formula as a stepping stone to separation. But they will not be the majority.
While nobody can fault the president for his preoccupation with security matters, it is also necessary that he looks at issues of governance crying for attention. A lot remains wrong in that sphere beginning from the imbroglio in the Constitutional Council that remains unresolved. Rajapakse’s appointment of the Police and Public Service Commissions, however well intentioned, subverts their independence. As we have repeatedly stressed in this column, Mahinda Rajapakse’s greatest strength is his ability to get on well with all sections of the polity. He must use this muscle to resolve the issue. Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara has proposed that Mr. G.P.S. de Silva, a retired chief justice whose reputation is unimpeachable, fills the disputed seat in the Constitutional Council. If the JVP and TNA which claims the right to this nomination cannot accept that, the public can reach no other conclusion but that they do not want a solution. Rajapakse must use the considerable goodwill he enjoys in the political spectrum to make this appointment a reality. That is the only way in which blatant political interference that has sapped the independence of the police, public service and other branches of the government can be prevented.
There are many other matters, including Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga’s continued presence in the cabinet, that needs the president’s immediate attention. If Kumaratunga does not agree to resign he must be removed. We published a reader’s letter titled "Whither Good Governance" Sunday before last which itemized many matters Mahinda Rajapakse must look at if he is serious about good governance. Nobody disputes that the president’s top priority must be to get a credible peace process launched. But other issues facing the country cannot forever be consigned either to the back burner or the limbo of forgotten things.-Sunday Island Editorial
Mr. V. Prabakaran
My dear Thamby,
Although you had not responded to any of my earlier letters, circumstances compel me to write to you again. Your failure to reply makes me feel that my letters had not reached you. If you had taken my suggestions seriously the entire outlook of your organization would have changed and peace achieved long ago. It is still not too late for you to take my advice seriously. Please rest assured that I am acting on my own and with good intentions. I can neither be influenced nor bought over. Our people and the country as a whole has suffered enough. Please cry halt to all your activities. Allow the people to live in peace and start negotiations without delay.
The recent attempt to assassinate the Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, prompted me to write to you. At the very outset I strongly condemn this dastardly act which is one other grave blunder of yours. It is as serious as the assassination of the Ex-Foreign Minister. Lakshman Kadirgamar and not second to the assassinations of the Indian Ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Secretary General of the TULF, Mr. A. Amirthalingam. To shorten the list I am not mentioning here many other notorious assassinations that brought you down from the hill-top.
Never disowned liability
There is one good quality in you I much appreciate, which is not found in many leaders of today, who conveniently put the blame on their supporters and themselves tactfully escape. You are one who had never disowned liability for any act or conduct of your cadre from the very inception of your involvements in politics and militancy till now, starting from the assassination of the Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappa to the attempted assassination of Lt. Gen. Fonseka last month. Without letting down your cadre you had always taken the responsibility on yourself, a very good quality of leadership. I wonder how long you are going to condone all the activities of your cadre. You are now branded as the leader of the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world.
If only you had listened to good advice from the very beginning you would have, to a great extent, achieved your ambition of seeing the Tamil people winning back all their lost rights and living in peace enjoying all rights like the others, in our country.
There was a time people all over the world had some admiration for you, for your determination and discipline of your cadre. I have heard a number of Sinhalese and Muslims, although not in agreement with your policies and your way of doing things, also saying so. All that is now gone. All your lieutenants and their subordinates have become selfish and do not work for the common interest. They are all worried about themselves and their families. One by one they will let you down and I warn you before it is too late to alert yourself.
Opposition for peaceful settlement
Everyone in this country and the international community are working hard to bring back peace. They are moving heaven and earth to bring you to the negotiating table. Refusal of the government to provide helicopter rides for your political leaders of the East is not such a serious issue for your cadre to go to the extent of sending an expectant mother as a suicide bomber, seriously violating the provisions of the Ceasefire Agreement. The question asked by everybody is why and who sent this human bomb to assassinate the Army Commander. This is why I put the blame on your cadre who are making it obvious that there is opposition within your ranks for a peaceful settlement of the problem. You should accept the lack of leadership in your organization. Who set the clock back to deliberately delay or disturb the peace process?
I equally blame the government forces for the air raid in the Muttur and adjoining areas. It is the duty of the government to safeguard its people and not to cause them distressc in any form. It is your duty to see that your cadre keep away from the people and not use them as a human shield. The LTTE also should be partially blamed for the displacement of the people and for the causalities among the civilian. I quite understand the provocation your suicide bomber gave to the army by causing the death of ten innocent people and causing very serious injuries to the army commander and many others without any consideration for innocent civilians.
The time has now come for you to declare a permanent ceasefire. You can’t trust your lieutenants and their subordinates any more. Most of the subordinates behave like thugs. They ill-treat our innocent people. They behave like super humans and treat the people like slaves. The people are fast losing confidence in you. Tamil Eelam is never achievable; some reasons for which are given below. Hence please declare that you are giving up your demand for separations and is prepared to accept federalism as a solution.
During the recent presidential elections 49.7% of the voters supported a federal solution openly. In addition to that, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at its last convention offered federalism as a solution. The left parties during the election campaign expressed their willingness for a federal solution. I am positively sure that if you declare that you will give up your demand for separation, the JVP and the JHU will support a federal solution. In any case, if referred to a referendum, over 80% of the voters will support it. Even the late Mr.. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, the leader of the TULF, had declared that the TULF will recommend to the people the acceptance of a viable alternate proposal if submitted.
I am sure that this is the best time to find a solution based on federalism. Our people will welcome it. The Sinhalese and the Muslim too will welcome it. The international community will give full support and all asssistance for it .
India against separate state of Tamil Eelam
Successive governments in India had made it very clear that they will never support a separate state of Tamil Eelam. Let us properly understand the concerns of India. Their oppositions for a separate state is not out of love or hatred for any group in Sri Lanka. But they will go all out to prevent the revival of a similar demand which died in the early sixties in Tamil Nadu and now nobody talks about separation there. The fact that a Strait of only 28 miles separates Sri Lanka from India cannot be ignored. Hence, however much you try and whatever sacrifices you make, separation can never be achieved and you must think of an alternative.
You are now a married man and having many responsibilities. You have grown up children to look after and thousands of others’ children to care for. You should therefore act with greater responsibility. As a father, you know the concerns of parents for their children. You know how the parents will feel when a child is killed or a child’s education is disrupted. You cannot be unaware of the sufferings of a family when the head of the family is killed. It is generally believed that about sixty thousand died due to the war, but my estimation is that it is much more. This figure remains constant for years but killings take place everyday.
The army claims that about 20,000 of their men died and the number of your cadre killed is over 18,000. What about the several thousands killed by other means. I won’t accept that all operations were carried out by your cadre on your orders. They have started killing on their own initative. Your cadre deprived India of its leader Rajiv Gandhi who could have been India’s prime minister for many years . Your cadre was responsible for the killing of a number of much respected Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim political leaders and thousands of innocent civilians all over the country. These killings that began with Jaffna Mayor. Alfred Duraiappa has been going on non -stop for a period of over 30 years.
Do you remember the bomb-blast at Maradana, Central Bank building, Central Telegraph Office, Colombo’s central bus stand, the Aluthgama-bound office train and many other such incidents where thousands lost their lives, limbs and eyesight and many are bedridden even today. Your cadre and not just you are responsible for these.
Do you remember the massacres of Anuradhapura and Habarana that took 129 and 127 lives respectively and a total of 243 lives in two massacres at Eravur. The number massacred in Kaththankudy and Palliagedella were 103 and 161 respectively and the massacres of 35 novice Buddhist priests, all of whom were small children. The total number of policeman massacred at Thirukovil was more than 678. What about your suicide bombers and the number of innocent lives they took with theirs. How many widows and orphans have your cadre created among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims by these massacres?
I know that some of your cadre will try to remind me of the Chemmani cemetry killings, massacres in the ferry from Delft, at the refugee camp of the Eastern University, aerial bombing at the Navaly Church, Kudathannai School and Puthukudiyiruppu in the North and also some other places in the East like Kokkatticholai. I am not unaware of these incidents. There are many more on both sides but don’t dispute that the killings by your cadre, of people from all the three communities – the Sinhalese the Tamils and the Muslims – heavily outnumbers the killings by others. Except enhancing the number of widows and orphans I do not think anybody benefited by these meaningless killings.
Driving away all the Muslims from the North
Although your cadre is responsible for most of these crimes, the international community had branded you as the leader of the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world, a label that you are going to carry for many generation to come. The future generations will curse you for driving away all the Muslims from the North for no reason at all. Not only Buddhists, even people of all faiths will curse you for attempting to destroy the sacred Bo-Tree of Anuradhapura and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, both priceless possessions of which the country is proud of. Don’t forget that the Kandy’s Dalada Maligawa has very close links with the Vinayaga Temple, Pathini Temple, and Murugan Temple in Kandy.
The first blunder of yours was the mine attack of the soldiers in July 1983 causing the death of 13 soldiers which ended up in major communal riots. Thousands of Tamil people were killed, billions worth of property of the Tamils destroyed and looted. Thousands more made homeless and all became paupers overnight. Hundreds of thousands of Tamils fled to various countries as refugees and sought asylum. During the last few years, due to the atrocities of your cadre, people got displaced in their thousands and are now peacefully living in the midst of the Sinhalese and Muslims from Puttalam to Panadura, under poor conditions. The Muslims of the North who were driven out with only Rs. 500 each left behind all their belongings in 1991 are still in refugee camp in the South. This type of plundering is unheard of in our country.
The Tamils were proud of their culture and civilization. All that pride is no more. We are now an uncivilized lot, ruthless murderers and plunderers. Your cadre should take the responsibility for this slur on the Tamil community . Have you at least preserved the rights that we enjoyed at the time you came to champion our cause? Are we enjoying our fundamental rights? Are you not aware that human rights violations by your cadre has no limits?
Will you deny that till the CFA was signed by you with the government our people were happy and contented . The relationship with the army was very cordial and only after the signing of the CFA your cadre, step by step, took over the government held areas and now ruling them with iron fist . Our people are God fearing and just. They spurn violence. It is your cadre and not civilians that is promoting violence by brutally killing people, throwing bombs or hand grenades, planting of claymore mines etc. A local daily refers to your movement as one notorious for slashing pregnant mothers, dashing their unborn babies on walls and trees, chopping infants to death and recruiting child soldiers. This is just a sample of what is said or written about you.
Obviously you have failed to tame them and they have now gone out of control. Therefore I plead with you that it is still not late for you to save our people. Do it before all your powers are usurped by your local leaders.
Bundles of lies
I wish to mention here the various factors that brought the LTTE to this state. It is the local and foreign based Tamil media, both print and electronic. How long can we expect the expatriate Tamils and the international community to believe the bundles of lies unfolded by them through the media, under their control. The dirty role played by many media, supportive of you, was mainly responsible for the proscription of the LTTE in Canada. Eighteen pro LTTE papers, all weeklies, were distributed free with exaggerated news. Demeaning comments about critics of the LTTE, poems, stories, articles and discussions over the TV, radio and paper contributed towards the ban. Some websites run by mentally ill persons make readers roll with laughter. Please cry halt to this type of vicious propaganda which has proved counter-productive.
Another factor is the calibre of your key negotiators like Mr. S. P Tamilchelvan and Dr. Anton Balasingham. Mr. Tamilchelvan’s claim that civilians are planting claymore mines and makes other similar statements that have been ridiculed by the international community. Likewise Balasingham’s statement that the LTTE leaders, who accompanied him for talks in Bangkok, without helping him, were interested in many other matters was a serious let down. Further his desire to hug and kiss me and invite me to have good meals at the five star hotel run by Mr. Pottuamman at Killinochci were veiled threats to me. Do you think people who can’t behave and talk properly are suitable for negotiations? I am referring to Dr. Balasingham’s indecent references to the Buddhist clergy, Head of State etc.
Things are going out of control. The country can’t efford to face another communal riots. The international community is throwing its full weight for finding a satisfactory solution for the ethnic problem based on a federal constitution within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. If only you decide to accept this proposal, almost all the political parties are ready to support it . Even the Buddhist clergy will back a solution within a united Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese are only opposed to a division of the country. Apart from that, all are ready to fully back a federal solution, if you openly declare that you would accept a federal solution dropping the demand for separation. Massive support will come even from unexpected quarters. Out of experience I am advising you that the best solution is to accept a constitution based on the Indian model with equal rights for all.
I owe you on explanation for repeatedly suggesting the Indian model for the simple reason that it is neither a federal nor a unitary constitution and such a constitution will be acceptable to many. In proposing this solution I am not acting as anybody’s agent. You know very well that I will not yield to any pressure or give into any considerations. If you are agreeable to this suggestion, other related matters can be subjected to detailed discussion with the assistance of the facilitators and the international community.
It would have been a coup de grace, had it worked. Imagine that the suicide bomber succeeded and Gen. Sarath Fonseka was killed. Not only would Sri Lanka have suffered an irreparable loss; not only would the Tigers have been rid of a dangerous and an implacable enemy. If the dastardly attempt to assassinate this most popular commander succeeded, Mr. Pirapaharan would have got the anti-Tamil pogrom he has set his heart on, this time not just a localised mini-riot in Trinco but a generalised massacre commencing in Colombo. And in that conflagration, as Sinhala goons murdered innocent Tamil men, women and children, the initial act of provocation by the LTTE would have been forgotten by both the Tamil people and the international community.
Unfortunately for the LTTE and fortunately for everyone else the Tigers’ diabolical attempt did not achieve the expected success. And this time, the government moved fast to prevent any unrest in the South; even the JVP and the JHU issued explicit warnings against harming Tamil people. The retaliatory air strikes were aimed at Tiger targets and not at Tamils, although some innocent Tamils did pay with their lives. Still inaction was not an option Mahinda Rajapakse had, in those tense hours subsequent to the suicide bombing. A strong response was needed. Even though a surgical strike targeting a major Tiger leader (and I don’t mean a TNA politician but a leading member of the LTTE) would have been more effective, it was precluded by the time factor. A fast response was needed to calm the tempers and as a morale booster.
Geneva or no Geneva, the LTTE will continue to escalate its acts of provocation in the hope of igniting an anti-Tamil pogrom. It will target Armed Forces personnel and Sinhala civilians. Wesak will be a particularly vulnerable time, with pilgrims and revellers thronging public places in their thousands. Given their perverse mindset, the Tigers would love that — a bomb in a crowded place; the resulting carnage catalysing an attack on Tamils; the international media carrying reports and pictures of enraged Buddhists massacring Tamil civilians on Wesak day, in the 2550 Buddha Jayanthi Year. Given what we know about the psychological landscape the Tigers occupy, it is reasonable to assume that such an outcome would have a special appeal for them.
‘Beyond Human Borders’
Imagine a land where the ultimate heroine is a woman who, in order to kill an enemy, blows up herself and her unborn child. According to media reports preliminary investigations have revealed that the woman suicide bomber who targeted the Army Commander was actually pregnant. Since pregnancy was the tactic used by the suicide bomber to gain access to the Army Headquarters via the Army Hospital, it is logical to surmise that either she became pregnant on purpose or the Tigers asked for and obtained the services of Black Tiger member who was already pregnant. Given the youthfulness of the suicide bomber (according to media reports she was only 21) it is highly likely that she joined (or was conscripted by) the LTTE as a child soldier. The story of this one woman, possible child soldier and pregnant Black Tigress, is pertinent in understanding the unique mindset of the LTTE and what it presages for Sri Lanka and for Tamil people.
The LTTE practice of permitting suicide bombers on a mission to dine and be photographed with Vellupillai Pirapaharan is well known. A Tamil commentator, Satchi Sithananthan, (in the website Independent) drew a comparison between this LTTE practice and the treatment of sacrificial goats in Jaffna: "The night before a suicide bomber leaves the Wanni jungles, the Tiger supremo goes through an extensive ceremony with the assassin and this is considered as the ultimate gift for a martyr. He has dinner with her privately and even a photograph is taken with her which is later sent to her family to be cherished as that of a heroine. On this night she is denied nothing and the whole exercise has its sadistic proclivities ritually staged. One is reminded of a sacrificial goat in Jaffna which is afforded all the pleasures the owner thinks fit and even an opportunity to sire a few posthumous kids". Mr. Sithanandan points out that many of the suicide bombers were once child soldiers (he cites the case of Dhanu). From child soldier to suicide bomber — this is the state of Tiger Eelam, in a nutshell.
Jose Luis Borges characterised Nazism as a state which ‘suffers from unreality’: "One can die for it, lie for it, but in the end it is uninhabitable, one cannot actually want it" (A Comment on August 23, 1944). Tiger Eelam seems to be akin to that, a state based on human sacrifices, in thrall to a God who demands human sacrifices, a land of the forsaken, a land forsaken. And if Tiger Eelam happens I wonder how many of the Diaspora Tamils and those living in Southern Sri Lanka would want to relocate themselves and their young children in the new land. There is something unimaginably horrific about a land which takes its young (including perhaps the unborn ones) and turns them into suicide killers. Ordinary soldiers have some chance, some hope of survival; suicide killers none. In fact survival would be an act of betrayal, the ultimate failure. This is what you do to the children of the poorest and the most powerless members of your community, while your children are safely studying in foreign universities? What kind of a leader can decree such a fate for his people?
Hugh Trevor Roper compared Hitler to "some cannibal god, rejoicing in the ruin of his own temple" (quoted in ‘More What If’ — edited by Robert Cowley). So is Vellupillai Pirapaharan, exulting in the brutal debasement of his own people. In the land of the Tiger, Black Tigerism is the highest honour and glory a Tamil man or a woman can aspire to. In the LTTE run ‘orphanages’ children are taught to sing songs venerating the Black Tigers. The latest atrocity demonstrates that Tigers occupy a place "beyond human borders" (Antigone — Sophocles), inaccessible to normal human logic and understanding. Is it rational to expect such an organisation to settle for anything less than its ultimate goal? Irrespective of how many meetings there are in Geneva or elsewhere will there ever be peace in Sri Lankan and normalcy for the Tamil people as long as the Tigers remain?
The LTTE determined that the Fourth Eelam War should be a ‘Peoples’ War’ very early in the peace process. The plan was to compel/cajole Tamil people (especially school children) to engage in violent demonstrations and actions against Tiger prescribed targets. The first incidences of ‘Peoples’ Actions’ took place in October 2002, just days after the first round of peace talks in Thailand. There were four such incidents: "The first was the use of school children in the violent demonstration opposite Valaichenai police station on 1st October; second, the attack on the EPDP at Delft on the night of 5th October; third, the tyre-burning and stone throwing demonstration outside the Kanjirankudah STF camp that resulted in 7 civilians being killed and fourth, the tyre-burning "peoples’ protest" in Trincomalee that led to three protesters being killed in a grenade explosion" (UTHR Information Bulletin No. 29 — 26.10.2002).
The second phase of this ‘Peoples’ War’ commenced in late 2005, with a flurry of statements issued by various organisational avatars conjured by the Tigers; a spate of attacks by the Tigers on the Forces followed. An identical pattern was discernible this time around. On the 30th March 2006 the TamilNet carried a press release by the ‘Upsurging People’s Force of Jaffna District’ which ended with a telling statement: "We will meet again on the battleground." This, said the TamilNet, was an indirect hint "that the suspended offensives against the SLA forces by the ‘Upsurgence People’s Force of Jaffna District’ may resume soon". The LTTE was thus not responding to any particular event when it commenced its second round of attacks on the Lankan Forces, on the very day the representatives of the Co-Chairs were in Killinochchi to discuss Geneva II. The attacks form part of a preconceived agenda aimed at creating ‘great disorder under Heavens’ leading to an anti-Tamil pogrom.
The LTTE’s latest atrocity is demonstrative of the vastness of the divide between the LTTE and the IRA or the ANC or the Aceh rebels. Geneva or not, the Tigers will not abnegate Tiger Eelam. War will come and in that war it is necessary to ensure that the majority of Tamil people do not opt for Tigers because they feel that they have not been offered a better, more honourable alternative by the Lankan state. The Trinco local government election results seem a protest vote against the activities of the Sinhala supremacists and the inaction of the Lankan government rather than a vote in support of the Tigers. It is a warning that the concerns of the North Eastern Tamils should be understood and addressed if they are to be won over to the anti-Tiger camp.
The Lankan state will have to develop ‘new methods of political defence’ if it is to successfully face the Tiger challenge. Since Mahinda Rajapakse seems unwilling to come up with a substantial devolution formula — federal or non-federal — he must at least implement some compensatory measures to alleviate the sense of alienation felt by the Tamils. A major socio-economic development thrust in the government controlled areas of the North and the East is necessary. President Premadasa did not permit the war to interfere with the development effort in these areas. He built houses, opened garment factories and held Presidential Mobile Services in the midst of war. President Rajapakse can do no less if he wants to win over the Tamil people. Why not hold the opening ceremony of his next welfare programme in a Tamil and a Muslim area in the North and the East? Mr. Rajapakse must remember that he is no longer the representative of Hambantota district but the President of the entire country.
It is vital for Sri Lanka to present an ethnically pluralist rather than a Sinhala image to the world through the visible inclusion of anti-Tiger Tamils in the power structure. The obvious starting place is the government’s press conferences; they must include minority ministers such as Douglas Devananda and the highly articulate, tri-lingual Ferial Ashraff as well as democratic Tamil leaders such as Messers. Anandasangaree and Vigneswaran. The TULF’s request for a commemorative stamp for Mr. Amirtalingam should be granted; in fact commemorative stamps should be issued for other Tamil leaders and intellectuals assassinated by the Tigers, especially Neelan Tiruchelvam, Sarojini Yogeswaran and Rajini Rajasingham Thiranagama.
The propaganda war against the Tigers can be won only if involves anti-Tiger Tamils and focuses on LTTE’s many crimes against Tamils. Why is the Canadian film on the life of Rajini Thiranagama — No More Tears Sister — not being shown here? Why have we not taken up the issue of Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole internationally, particularly in Western universities (since this is a clear violation of academic and intellectual freedom by the Tigers)? How come we have failed to produce a single quality documentary on child soldiers? When do we realise that the Tigers are immune to a propaganda campaign waged by the ‘Children of ‘56’, focusing on the grievances of the ‘Children of ‘56’ and informed by the Spirit of ‘56? -TSIO by Tisaranee Gunasekara
The Sri Lankan Navy says it has sunk a boat belonging to the rebel Tamil Tiger group after the rebels opened fire. The incident is the latest blow to a 2002 cease-fire between the government and the rebels, which is in danger of collapsing and returning the country to civil war.
Officials say two boats belonging to the Tamil Tigers began Friday to fire at Navy patrol boats, which promptly returned the fire. One of the boats of the rebels’ so-called "Sea Tigers" unit then exploded.
Officials say the size of the blast suggests that the boat had been packed with explosives, and may have been intended as a suicide vessel. The rebels have been known to use such devices before.
Officials also say the Sri Lankan Air Force was called to the area, off the northwestern district of Mannar, but it is not clear whether warplanes became involved in the exchange. The sinking of the Sea Tigers’ boat could not be independently confirmed.
The incident Friday is the latest in a series of deadly clashes that threaten to destroy the 2002 cease-fire signed between the government and the Tamil rebels.
Norway brokered that agreement, and has mediated during the subsequent four years of intermittent peace talks between the two sides. Most recently, Norway garnered an agreement from each side to meet for talks in Geneva, Switzerland, in April.
But that meeting was called off when the two sides failed to agree on preliminary matters.
Jehan Perera is with the advocacy group, the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. Despite the latest violence, he says both the government and the rebels still consider the ceasefire valid.
"Both parties are saying, are claiming, that they uphold the ceasefire agreement, and both parties are engaged in the preliminaries before resuming peace talks in Geneva," said Perera. "So these are the two reasons why we say that there is still a peace process going on, even though on the ground there is so much violations taking place."
The Tamil Tigers have waged a more than two-decade-long campaign for greater rights for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority. At first, the rebels demanded independence for predominantly Tamil areas of the country in the North and East. Later, they said they would settle for greater autonomy in those areas. More than 60,000 have died in the conflict.
On Saturday, Japanese peace broker Yasushi Akashi is expected in Sri Lanka, for a four-day visit that is to include meetings with President Mahinda Rajapakse and, separately, rebel leaders.
Perera says the Japanese envoy may have a greater impact than Norwegian delegations that have visited recently, because Japan is Sri Lanka’s largest aid donor.
"The Norwegians seem to lack the muscle to put pressure on the two sides," Perera said. "Perhaps Japan, as the largest aid donor to Sri Lanka, has economic muscle in the sense that the Sri Lankan government needs the money that the Japanese government gives."
Perera says the rebels would also be open to Akashi’s visit, because of the possibility of future development aid for Tamil areas.
Friday’s incident is not the only clash to threaten the cease-fire. Last month, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up at the army headquarters in the capital, Colombo, killing seven people. The government responded with two days of air strikes in rebel-held territory.by ABN