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Sri Lanka heads for civil war
December 29, 2005
On the likely scenarios involving the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the face of the repudiation by President Mahinda Rajapakse of the commitments made by previous governments to work for a political solution of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem within a federal set-up, I had stated as follows:
'What are the likely ground scenarios involving the LTTE?
Scenario 1: The LTTE pockets its pride and agrees to the new conditions (sought to be imposed by Rajapakse). Percentage of likelihood of the scenario: 25% or even less.
Scenario 2: The LTTE resumes its conventional war against the Sri Lankan army. Percentage of likelihood: 50%.
Scenario 3: The LTTE steps up its acts of terrorism directed against important political targets: 60%
Scenario 4: The LTTE steps up its covert war against important strategic and economic targets: 70%.
The future does not bode well for Sri Lanka.
While continuing to proclaim its adherence to the ceasefire agreement -- which will shortly be four years old -- with the government of Sri Lanka and expressing its willingness to hold talks for a review of the agreement under the auspices of the Norwegian facilitators anywhere in Europe, preferably in Oslo, the LTTE has at the same time stepped up guerrilla attacks against the Sri Lankan army and navy in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
These guerrilla actions have been of a classical nature, focused on combatants and not involving suicide terrorism, in which the LTTE specialises. They have involved tactics such as the use of claymore mines and handheld weapons.
Since the beginning of December, about 70 people -- about 40 of them from the army and the navy -- have been killed as a result of the LTTE's guerrilla actions. The Sri Lankan armed forces have not so far been able to find an answer to these guerrilla actions.
The LTTE continues to follow its past policy of denying any responsibility for these actions. Instead, it has been projecting them as spontaneous acts of resistance by autonomous cells of Tamil resistance unconnected to any central command and control, in the Tamil areas under the occupation of the Sri Lankan armed forces. This tactic is in emulation of the psychological warfare of the Iraqi resistance fighters.
The responsibility for some of these actions has been claimed in the name of an organisation calling itself 'Roaring Tamil Force' or 'Roaring People's Force'. These actions have come in the wake of intensified 'search and capture' operations mounted by the Sri Lankan armed forces after Rajapakse assumed office.
To pre-empt any attempt by the LTTE to resume its 'war' because of his hard line, the armed forces had allegedly mounted strikes against suspected pro-LTTE Tamils living in the areas under the control of the government.
The Iraqi resistance has been directed as much against the Iraqis collaborating with the US occupation troops as against the US troops themselves.
Similarly, the resistance movement in the Tamil areas is being projected as against the Sinhalese occupation troops as well as against the Tamils collaborating with them, such as the Eastern Province's dissident group led by 'Colonel' Karuna.
It has not yet been directed against the Tamil-speaking Muslims collaborating with the government, but there have been isolated acts of violence directed against the Muslims.
The LTTE, which is capable of carrying out terrorist strikes in Colombo, has not so far stepped up its operations in the capital. This is apparently because there could be difficulty in projecting them as operations of autonomous Tamil resistance cells not under the LTTE's control.
But it is only a question of time before it resorts to spectacular terrorist strikes in the capital.
The rigid stand taken by the government as well as the LTTE on the question of the venue of the proposed talks to review the ceasefire agreement has led to a deadlock.
The government, which was initially insisting the talks should be held in Sri Lanka, is now prepared to accept their being held anywhere in Asia, but it continues to reject the LTTE's demand for Europe.
The government is apparently afraid if high-profile talks are held in Europe, the LTTE can exploit them for once again softening its image in Europe. The LTTE had come in for considerable negative publicity in Europe after the ruthless assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar, the former Sri Lankan foreign minister, in August.
The LTTE has been strongly suspected in the assassination, though it continues to deny responsibility for it. After the killing, the European Union governments have taken a decision not to receive any visiting LTTE delegation.
The principal sponsors and co-chairs of the so-called donors' conference held in Tokyo in 2003 -- Japan, the US and the EU -- have taken a much stronger line against the LTTE for its recent violations of the ceasefire agreement than in the past. They have conveyed their concerns in strong terms to the LTTE.
It is doubtful whether this would have any impact on the LTTE unless and until they pressurise Rajapakse to reiterate the government's commitment to finding a solution to the Sri Lankan Tamil problem within a federal set-up.
Despite the sharp deterioration in the ground situation since Rajapakse assumed the presidency, he still seems to be confident that he can ultimately enforce his hard line against the LTTE.
His apparent calculation is that since the assassination of Kadirgamar, the international community has been disenchanted with the LTTE and his hard line is unlikely to be opposed by the international community.
While strongly condemning the intensification of guerrilla actions by the LTTE, India and other members of the international community should equally strongly reiterate their support for the formula followed by former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and former prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, of seeking a solution within a federal set-up.
There cannot be a solution within the present unitary set-up. The longer Rajapakse continues on his hard line, the greater will be the bloodshed.
Since Rajapakse took over as the President, the Sri Lankan intelligence agencies and security forces also seem to have stepped up their covert actions directed against the LTTE -- not only through the Eastern Tamil dissidents headed by Karuna, but also through Sinhalese extremist elements which had formed part of the coalition which had supported Rajapakse during the recent election.
The needle of suspicion for the brutal murder of Joseph Pararajasingham, a pro-LTTE member of parliament, at Batticaloa in the Eastern Province on December 25 -- while he was attending X'mas services in a local church -- points to these elements and not to the LTTE, as alleged by some official sources.