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 Post subject: Is Sri Lankan govt. winning this war?
 Post Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 6:58 pm 
Is Sri Lankan govt. winning this war?

Eliminating the Tigers militarily won’t bring the conflict to an end. Only a credible political solution acceptable to the Tamil people of this country will deal a death blow to the rebellion in the north. The killing or the capture of LTTE leader Prabhakaran won’t end the conflict, unless the government offers a meaningful devolution package to address the grievances of the Tamil people.

BY AMEEN IZZADEEN
15 January 2008
Copyright © 2008 Khaleej Times


SINCE the dawn of 2008, Colombo has been rocked by big bombs and small bombs. The big bombs bore the hallmarks of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

But many people are sceptical of the claims that the small bombs sans the usual steel balls are the works of the Tigers. If not Tigers, who could it be? So we continue to build conspiracy theories, not knowing who the suspect is. The war has made most of us cynics. It is not unusual in a country which boasts of a literacy rate of over 95 per cent.

Apart from the LTTE, there are counter-insurgency units, intelligence outfits and various paramilitary groups. There are also criminal gangs with politicians as their patrons. In such a milieu, we look for clues to make our deductions.

When the war resumed in December 2005 amidst a shaky truce, police discovered claymore mines in various locations in Colombo. The first discovery was greeted with accolades, but when more claymore bombs were discovered in the city, questions emerged as to why the LTTE, an organisation known for its ruthlessness, masterly planning and precision, should place bombs in such a way to be discovered by police. One classic example was when security forces on December 3 found a bomb outside a Tamil MP’s official residence in a Colombo high security zone protected by barricade after barricade. When the bomb was discovered, not many people believed the official line.

It appeared that the same claymore bomb had reappeared in several places, one wag quipped. Another accused those responsible for our security of planting it, so that they could take tough -- and sometimes unpopular -- security measures, such as extending the parameters of high security zones, imposing parking restrictions, carrying out house-to-house searches and even evicting Tamils.

But in spite of such tough security measures, big bombs go off. Last Tuesday, Nation Building Minister DM Dassanayake, a soft target, was killed in a claymore bomb explosion set off by the LTTE, which appears to be under tremendous pressure from the Tamil Diaspora to show its hit-back capabilities in the face of a series of setbacks it has suffered in recent months. The bomb was the second big blast to rock the greater Colombo area in the first eight days of this year. The first was on January 2nd, when a claymore bomb targeted an Army bus carrying wounded soldiers in Colombo.

The many explosions in recent months have caused apprehension in government quarters. Ministers have cut down their public appearances while President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered security forces personnel to return to permanent checkpoints which they abandoned after a supreme court ruling. The supreme court in a recent fundamental rights case ordered the dismantling of the permanent checkpoints, pointing out that they hampered the people’s freedom of movement. In another fundamental rights case, the court ordered security forces not to check houses in the nights unless in exceptional cases. When it was argued that there was a terrorist problem in the country and tough security measures were necessary, Chief Justice Sarath Silva said, “In 1997-1998, too, we had this problem of arrests. At that time, there was an enlightened administration. Today we have a blind administration.”

Commenting on these supreme court rulings, a senior minister accused the judiciary of carrying out a contract for the LTTE and said the bombs were going off in Colombo because of removal of roadblocks and the stopping of checks on houses and lodges.

Amidst terror and turmoil in governance with the executive and the judiciary on a collision course and with the legislature in a muddle, life goes on. Colombo’s Nippon Hotel, which is famous for its Chinese rolls with minced mutton, chicken and beef fillings made to a well-guarded secret recipe, is back in business although it was damaged in the January 2nd bomb attack on the army bus. Soldiers are seen walking up and down not only outside the Nippon hotel but also on every street. Their prying eyes catch every suspicious-looking person and item. But the deployment of a large number of troops in areas away from the war zone is a major strain on the security establishment as it hampers the war efforts in the north where the security forces have been trying to break into the rebel-controlled Wanni since July last year.

To overcome the situation, the government has stepped up recruitment to the armed forces. Unlike in the past, this time around, a stream of youths is rushing to recruitment centres to swell the army by another 35,000 men and women, because they believe the government is on a winning streak. But is it? It may appear to be so. Eliminating the Tigers militarily won’t bring the conflict to an end. Only a credible political solution acceptable to the Tamil people of this country will deal a death blow to the rebellion in the north. The killing or the capture of LTTE leader Prabhakaran won’t end the conflict, unless the government offers a meaningful devolution package to address the grievances of the Tamil people.

When Kuttimani, a leader of the Tamil separatist struggle in the 1970s and early 1980s, was killed along with 34 Tamil prisoners during the 1983 ethnic riots while he was awaiting his death sentence in a prison cell in Colombo, the separatists’ slogan was that “you may kill one Kuttimani, but thousand Kuttimanis will rise”.

This is why even the international community, including Sri Lanka’s biggest donor Japan, says there is no military solution to our ethnic conflict. But the government is in no mood to listen to such counsel.


Ameen Izzadeen is a Sri Lankan journalist based in Colombo


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