Sri Lanka: Learning from mistakes
President Mahinda Rajapakse has minced no words in telling the representative of the Co-chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference, who met him on Monday that truce or no truce, the Sri Lanka government will exercise its right to resort to military action to thwart arms smuggling by the LTTE.
The ‘credit’ for the LTTE having emerged as a formidable guerrilla outfit should go not only to its leader Prabhakaran but also to southern political leaders who let the grass grow under their feet. With those leaders blundering along in their counter terror campaigns, the LTTE had no need for friends. For, they all allowed it to take the initiative at the battlefront and to abuse peace processes to further its military interests.
Peace talks are the last resort of all terror groups that are driven up a brick wall. The present LTTE offer to negotiate has not emanated from any desire for peace. It is desperate for a breather as Prabhakaran, hoist with his own petard, is obviously at his wits’ end and needs time to get his act together. If someone believes the LTTE is genuinely interested in peace making, the question is why Prabhakaran threatened to resume war as early as last November and worked so tirelessly towards that end. Why did he wait until his military campaign boomeranged to wave an olive branch?
Prabhakaran, who is considered a good military strategist, must now be convinced that he cannot match the armed forces, unless he acquires a superior military capability with which to launch a series of spectacular attacks. Struggling to cope with a severe manpower crisis, he cannot achieve that objective through ceaseless-wave type operations. He needs to bolster his fire power by going for sophisticated weapons to unleash hell on ground troops, the way he did in 2000, when the LTTE captured army camps one after the other with the help of its newly acquired MBRLs and marched right up to the gateway to Jaffna. The LTTE is frantically shopping for arms all over the world. The arrest of a few of its emissaries in the US won’t put an end to its quest for weapons.
The recent arms smuggling attempt by the LTTE, which was aborted by the Navy and the Air Force is a testament to the fact that the group’s arms procurement operations are far from crippled. This may have been the reason why President Rajapakse had to tell the foreign envoys concerned that his government couldn’t afford to compromise the national security interests, simply because of a peace process, given the track record of the Tigers. The LTTE strategy is apparently two-pronged. It is trying to use future negotiations to step up arms procurement and regain sympathy overseas by projecting itself as being amenable to a negotiated settlement.
Negotiations are the only way to find a peaceful solution. Yet, talking will be an exercise in futility if the LTTE is allowed to make negotiations a fa`E7ade for pursuing its military objectives. If its desire for peace is genuine, then the LTTE needs no more weapons. If the LTTE desists from provocative acts, the government will have no way of justifying the continuation of its ‘defensive warfare.’ The Karuna Faction, too, will be without an excuse to unleash violence in such an eventuality. In other words, the best form of self-defence for the LTTE is to refrain from provoking others and providing them an excuse to resort to retaliatory violence.
The Norwegian Ambassador is reported to have told President Rajapakse, at Monday’s meeting, that the LTTE was concerned about the on-going military operations by the government. Its concern is natural. However, for what is happening it has no one to blame but itself. Hadn’t it captured the Mavilaru anicut, taken the battle to Muttur and tried to make a foray into Jaffna, there wouldn’t have been any war. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has blamed the LTTE for initiating the conflagration in the North. TULF President V. Anandasangaree, at a recent discussion with the Indian government, traced the beginning of the present phase of the conflict to the LTTE’s capture of Mavilaru.
The best way that the Co-chairs could help Sri Lanka achieve peace is to ensure that during the talks to be resumed, the LTTE will refrain from violence and arms smuggling. Having done that, they will have a moral right to tell the government to stop its military operations against the LTTE forthwith. Nothing else is going to help prevent future talks going the same way as the previous ones. -The Island Editorial