Call LTTE's bluff

The manner in which the LTTE tried to thwart the efforts made by the government to infuse enthusiasm and vigour into the peace process on Saturday feeds doubts as to how serious it is about a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The LTTE brought civilian life to a halt in the northern and eastern parts of the country through a hartal, while the government was holding ceremonies to mark the first anniversary of the ceasefire agreement.

The LTTE, we are told, sought to achieve through its hartal ‘full implementation of the MoU.’ The discerning are, no doubt, puzzled by this demand. For the widely held belief fuelling Opposition protests against how the government is handling the peace process is that the government has already conceded too much to the LTTE by way of the implementation of the MoU. It is also ironical that for the purpose of staging the hartal itself the LTTE was taking cover behind the MoU: The protest was coordinated by the LTTE members from its ‘political offices’ set up in the government-controlled areas under the very ceasefire agreement, which they claim, has not been fully implemented.

The government finds itself in a paradoxical position. It has come under fire in the south for ‘bending over backwards to appease the LTTE’ while in the north the LTTE is blaming it for ‘not fully implementing the MoU’.

The government may try to counter the criticism of its opponents by arguing that the allegations against it that it has given in too much to the LTTE are baseless in that the LTTE as manifest in it hartal has got less than what it expected. But it is plain to see that the LTTE protests arise not out its frustration over the government not meeting its demands; but out of its disappointment over not getting all its demands met so quickly as its hidden agenda demands.

Peace negotiations are supposed to be a give-and-take process. But for the LTTE it has been a take-and-take process. For merely having refrained from attacking civilians targets in the south - such attacks would not have been possible, anyway given the growing international pressure on terror outfits after the 9-11 attack - and from launching offensive operations on military targets (which would have caused loss of men and material for the LTTE as well) what the LTTE has achieved is so immense as to evoke envy of its counterparts the world over.

Today, the terrorists like Karuna, who masterminded several massacres of civilians, enjoy VIP status not only here but also in foreign countries - Norway, Germany and Thailand. The terror delegates are accommodated at the World Bank meetings and they will also be there at the Aid Group meeting to be held in Tokyo. The LTTE despite having thousands of child soldiers in its fighting units and abducting thousands more to be trained as combatants is now in a position to get even the UNICEF to consider ‘sponsoring’ its projects for ‘children’s welfare!’

The terrorist leaders are also given rides in the same chopper as the Head of State!

The LTTE, thanks to the MoU, has a strong presence in government-controlled areas, which has helped it with its terror projects. According to a paper presented recently by M. Saravananthan at a seminar at the Jaffna University, the so-called political offices of the LTTE are used for: Recruitment of cadre, 2. Collection of ‘taxes’ 3. Commemorating dead cadres and 4. Harassing political opponents.

The LTTE has, according to the Monitors, so far committed over 2,000 violations of the Ceasefire Agreement, which it wants fully implemented, the most serious among them being child abductions, smuggling of arms, illegal taxes, kangaroo trials and executions and worst of all setting a weapon-smuggling trawler ablaze off the Delft island with two ceasefire monitors on board, who fortunately jumped overboard and escaped. On an earlier occasion, two Monitors who boarded an LTTE vessel for inspection were manhandled by LTTE cadres and now the Monitors are refusing to inspect LTTE vessels.

The LTTE in contravention of the MoU does not allow public transport between Omanthai and Muhamalai - this stretch is under LTTE control - on the A-9 highway and collects ‘taxes’ from those who use the road to the tune of Rs. 5 million daily according to Saravananthan. Unarmed troops and the police still cannot use this road though the MoU provides for their movement along the A-9 road. A soldier has been in LTTE captivity for two months and the LTTE wants the government to send lawyers to appear for him in ‘Tiger Courts’ obviously in a bid to gain respectability and recognition for its illegal courts. On Friday the LTTE ‘remanded’ a police constable, who had mistakenly ventured into an LTTE-controlled area. Last week the LTTE blocked the re-opening of the rebuilt Jaffna library organised by the Jaffna MC causing all councillors to resign en masse in protest.

It is while enjoying these dividends of the MoU and violating it at will that the LTTE faults the government for not ‘fully implementing’ the agreement. What else does the LTTE want? It is not prepared to even give a pledge that it will eschew violence - Balasingham told this to Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, who wanted the LTTE to do so in Oslo last December.

It is time that the LTTE was told enough is enough.

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