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 Post subject: Dignity of a killer outfit!
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:40 pm 
Dignity of a killer outfit!

by Ranga Jayasuriya

The LTTE's bid for legitimacy and international recognition against the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan State has always been a case for concern.

The LTTE strategy for winning international sympathy and recognition for its cause is multifaceted and can be seen in action in various forms depending on the circumstances.

The very conflict between the LTTE pursuit for legitimacy vs the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan State is the main reason for the deadlock in the proposed ceasefire talks between the two parties.

The LTTE leadership is adamant on its refusal to meet the government in the country, meaning in Colombo or the government controlled areas in the North-East and wants the government to meet them in Kilinochchi or abroad.

The government, this week, reiterated its position, ruling out a possible overseas venue.

"Our view has always been that the talks should be held in the island. At the moment there is no shift in our position," Cabinet spokesman Nimal Siripala de Silva outlined the government's stand at the weekly cabinet briefing.

The peace process, has, indeed, opened up new opportunities for the Tigers for a greater interaction with the international community, which the Tigers have, utilised to campaign for its cause, despite legal barriers in a number of western countries.

The British ban on the LTTE, when it was announced in February 2001 was a fatal blow to the Tigers, which had, hitherto, utilised London as a haven for its propaganda and fund raising activities. The British decision was unthinkable in Balasingham's perspective.

"This is a sad day for anglo-Tamil relations," Balasingham wrote in the immediate aftermath of the British ban on the Tigers.

But, with the revival of the peace process in December 2002, the Tigers would find many a destination as havens for their campaign.

Due to the proscription of the Tigers at home, Britain could not entertain LTTE leaders, who have been jet dashing all over Western Europe, but Scandinavian nations were eager hosts, though most times, it was middle level Foreign Ministry officials, who met LTTE delegations, usually headed by S. P. Thamilselvan.

The simple objective of the LTTE leaders touring Western Europe, dressed in designer suits was to portray to the international community that "we are more than a bunch of common terrorists". It worked. Such visits, to a great extent, helped the LTTE to redeem itself in the eyes of the international community.

Now, the LTTE leadership wants to go back to Oslo for talks on the ceasefire review. The LTTE political chief says that his movement chose Oslo as the venue as it is "one neutral location, where we are not banned".

The usual practice for meetings between the Security Forces and LTTE area commanders was that they met on no-man's land.

Monthly meetings between Security Forces commanders and their LTTE counterparts and chaired by Scandinavian truce monitors to evaluate the security situation were held on no-man's land. Such meetings however ceased as Tigers refused to meet the security forces top brass, charging army complicity with the Karuna faction in the East.

What is now proposed by the government is a meeting on a limited focus, i.e to discuss the practical implementation of the truce agreement.

And in the three years of the ceasefire, no-man's land was the venue for meetings of this kind. But the Tigers have ruled out no-man's land owing to security concerns.

Perhaps, the Tigers could argue that the security situation has worsened as a renegade Karuna faction was non-existent at that time.

But, more than, anything else, the LTTE's reluctance to accept the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan State and its pursuit for legitimacy are the reason for the Tigers' refusal to meet the government in Colombo.

And, by suggesting its de-facto administrative capital, Kilinochchi, the Tigers promote "Thamil Eelam," and campaign for the international recognition for it.

This is, however, not the first time that the LTTE is using the peace process to advance its goals. The peace process gave room to the LTTE for the interaction with the international community.

The implicit understanding of the government (both the Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga administrations) and international community was that such interaction would facilitate the LTTE's transformation from terrorism to democracy.

There was a time when western diplomats found that it was fashionable to meet Thamilselvan. What, however, forced the government to a re-think on this regard was the killing of Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, which, opened up new questions about the LTTE's commitment to rid itself of terrorism.

The government remains committed to the peace process, but, it will definitely be forced to take a tough line on the LTTE's pursuit of the international recognition.

Minister Kadirgamar's successor, Anura Bandaranaike must have been speaking of the government's line when he urged India to "be very emphatic to the free world that this (LTTE) is a terrorist organisation".

Mr. Bandaranaike, visiting New Delhi, on his maiden tour in his new capacity as the Foreign Minister said that the government wanted India to "try to influence the Europeans, in particular, who have been misled by the Norwegians".

It was Mr. Bandaranaike who said earlier that the government didn't want the diplomats other than the Norwegians to meet the LTTE.

Perhaps, the government may have found that the subtle approval which it has shown towards the increased interaction between the LTTE and the western diplomats are counter-productive and detrimental to the sovereignty of the nation.

The Sri Lankan peace process has been internationalised since its very outset. There were Oslo and Tokyo donor conferences aimed at galvanising international support to the peace process and attended by over fifty nations and international agencies. There are donor co-chairs who hold routine progress meetings.

But, despite all this, the international community has so far failed to send a strong message to the Tigers that terrorism is no longer acceptable.

Of course, swift and unambiguous international reaction against the killing of the Foreign Minister forced the Tigers to the ceasefire talks.

It is everybody's knowledge that Balasingham agreed to the ceasefire talks, only after the Tigers felt the heat of the international fury. Previous requests for such a meeting was turned down by the LTTE leadership, who insisted on the full implementation of the truce agreement.But the government wants the international community to take an active role, going beyond routine media statements expressing concern at the violations of the ceasefire agreement.

Moving back to the LTTE's side of the story; it is V.Balakumaran, none other than LTTE's chief motivator, who rationalized the shift of the LTTE strategy.

"Liberation Tigers recent response to emerging political issues are tactical, reflecting the organisation's political maturity and the need to further expose the Government of Sri Lanka's inability to effectively address the Tamil national question to the international community," Balakumaran, former EROS leader who amalgamated his party with the LTTE was quoted as saying in the pro-LTTE Tamilnet.

"The LTTE leadership will continue to take tactical decisions that will help advance the political gains the movement has made in recent times," he was quoted as saying.

Balakumaran says the LTTE leadership does not regard its agreement to participate the Ceasefire review meeting as a "blemish" on the dignity of the movement.

Not only the international recognition, local support also matters.

The Tigers are now giving military training to hundreds of volunteers who will form a civil defence force, which would act as an auxiliary force in case of the resumption of war.

Another Thousands thronged to Kilinochchi on Thursday in the LTTE organised "Tamil resurgence" celebrations.

"We, the Tamil people converged here today to reconfirm the resolution taken at the Vavuniya Tamil uprising conference that voiced the collective message of the Tamil people to the international community relative to the political void in which they are placed in the name of a ceasefire agreement and the peace process that has failed to deliver," stated the declaration read out at the rally.There it goes, as another election is round the corner and perhaps, strategies to win half a million Northern votes will dominate the political landscape in the coming weeks.

This would, ironically, lead to a greater North-South interaction in the weeks to come.

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