When will we ever learn?– Part 1

By S. L. Gunasekara
Peter Hain is Britain’s Minister of State for Foreign and Gommonwealth Affairs - in our terminology the Deputy Foreign Minister and hence the counterpart of Harendra Corea, The National Newspapers have been full of the pronouncements of Corea’s British counterpart about the alleged inability of our forces to defeat the Tigers, the alleged legitimacy of the Tigers’ cause, the need to grant autonomy to the Tamils of the North and the East and the alleged imperative necessity of holding talks with the Tigers etc. Nothing is known about the extent of the knowledge or ignorance of this Deputy Minister of the British Government which imbued him with the confidence or naked arrogance necessary to make such pronouncements. However, whatever that knowledge or ignorance may be, he was even given an appointment with our Prime Minister and the British High Commission had the presumption to say that it fully understood the inability of the President, our Head of State, to meet this Deputy Minister!! What, one wonders, would have been the reaction of the British Government if Hain’s counterpart Corea went to London and made similar pronouncements about the military capability of the British armed forces and the manner in which Britain should solve the Irish problem. However that may be it is, to say the least doubtful that Corea would have got an appointment with Tony Blair!! There could also be no doubt that the High Commission of Sri Lanka would not have stated that it fully understood the inability of Her Brittanic Majesty to meet Corea!!! Be that as it may, the Government of Sri Lanka has, to its eternal shame, made no response whatsoever to the utterly boorish and presumptuous pronouncements of Corea’s British counterpart.

Before Hain pontificated about Sri Lanka’s internal affairs, another foreigner Erik Solheim, the Special Envoy of Norway, crept through the jungles of the Wanni to have an audience with the most wanted criminal of Sri Lanka and India, Velupillai Prabhakaran. Thereafter, with as much evident pride at having been the recipient of an audience with Prabhakaran as a seminarian would have upon receiving an audience with His Holiness the Pope, Solheim returned to Colombo and promptly conveyed to the Government the glad tidings that Prabhakaran was willing to have peace talks without preconditions. Soon after Solheim proudly made this announcement, the LTTE flatly contradicted him by issuing a Press Communique from its International Secretariat at 211 Catherine Road, London E6 1BU on the 1st November, 2000 stating:

"Discussing about the prospects for Peace Talks the LTTE leader suggested a process of de-escalation of the conflict as a necessary pre-requisite for a dialogue. By de-escalation Mr. Pirapaharan (sic) meant a cessation of armed hostilities the removal of military aggression and occupation. The withdrawal of the economic embargo and the creation of conditions of normalcy in the Tamil homeland. The LTTE leader also insisted that the Sri Lanka government should take the initiative of relaxing the conditions of war if they wanted genuine peace’.

Later, in his so called "Martyrs Day" Address of the 26th November, Prabhakaran said:

"We are not imposing any pre-conditions for Peace Talks. Yet we insist on the creation of a cordial atmosphere and conditions of normalcy conducive for peace negotiations. It is practically difficult for both the parties who have been involved in a savage and bloody war for the last two decades with mutual animosity and distrust to suddenly enter into a peace process, while continuing hostilities. It is precisely for this reason we propose a process of de-escalation of war leading to cessation of armed hostilities and the creation of a peaceful, cordial environment".

The key words in the pre-conditions imposed by Prabhakaran in his offer of alleged unconditional talks are, "conditions of normaalcy" and "de-escalation of war". What Prabhakaran meant by "de-escalation of war" has been lucidly explained in the statement issued by the LTTE International Secretariat quoted above. What Prabhakaran meant by "conditions of normalcy" were lucidly explained by Prabhakaran himself in his so-called "Martyrs’ Day" address of 1999 as follows:—

"We wish to reiterate ‘Peace’ Talks should be held in a cordial, peaceful atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill with the assistance of international third party mediation. By peaceful atmosphere we mean a condition of normalcy characterized by a cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of troops occupying Tamil lands and the absence of economic blockades."

If these are not pre-conditions, one wonders what pre-conditions are!! By his latest so called "Martyrs Day’ Address Prabhakaran has confirmed that the pre-conditions that he has set for ‘peace’ talks have not changed one whit.

What is significant about these contradictory statements of Solheim and the LTTE is that Solheim has not responded in any way to the statement of the LTTE. Clearly if the statement of the LTTE is true then Solheim’s statement that Prabhakaran was willing to engage in ‘Peace’ Talks without pre-conditions is a total, utter and absolute falsehood. On the other hand, if Prabhakaran did, in fact, tell Solheim that he was willing to engage in ‘Peace’ Talks without pre-conditions, the subsequent Press Communique of the LTTE proves that Prabhakaran has uttered a like falsehood to Solheim. That Prabhakaran is a fluent liar is a matter that is too well known to need any further proof. However, what of Solheim? He has either lied to the Government of Sri Lanka or, if he spoke the truth to the Government of Sri Lanka he has sought to cover up the lie uttered by Prabhakaran by a failure to refute the statement issued by the LTTE. In either event he, together with his team, have shown themselves to be a set of people who are utterly unworthy of credit on whom the Government and the People of Sri Lanka can place no reliance whatsoever. How then can the Norwegians play any role as mediators or facilitators or promoters of alleged ‘Peace’ Talks with the Tigers?

It is tragic that the Government and the UNP are willing to take whatever it is that the British, the Norwegians or for that matter any foreign country seeks to dish out to us with the same degree of abhorrent obsequiousness as was displayed by Deputy Minister Mervyn Silva who fell at the feet of Chandrika Kumaratunga and offered her a sheaf of betel leaves upon being given the minor post of a Deputy Minister. This obsequiousness and the failure to protest against the obnoxious conduct of the Britisher and the Norwegian assumes all the more importance when one considers the undeniable fact that however obnoxious or stupid the utterances of Hain and Solheim may be, they, by their utterances have given that virulent band of criminals called the LTTE some degree of credibility, because by their utterances they have made out to the world that the LTTE is not just a band of criminals but a set of responsible people with a legitimate cause with whom the sovereign government of Sri Lanka should have negotiations, and that a reasonable and peaceful settlement with them is possible. That ‘credibility’ will doubtless lead to more and more contributions flowing into the coffers of the LTTE and those contributions in turn being used to murder more and more of our citizens and destroy more and more of our property.

The stupidity of the utterances of Hain and Solheim apart, the Government and the People of Sri Lanka need to address themselves to the all important question of whether any useful purpose whatsoever could possibly be served by having purported Peace Talks with the LTTE upon a dispassionate appraisal of the evidence. This is particularly so, having regard to the tragic experiences of our country with previous talks, and because whatever the British, the Norwegians, the Americans, the Indians, the Australians, the Canadians or any other foreigner may say, it is we and we alone who will have to live with the consequences of having another set of Peace talks with the Tigers and many of us to die or be maimed because of them.

The above-quoted wards of Prabhakaran and his International Secretariat make evident the fact that normalcy to Prabhakaran means a situation in which the troops of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka are withdrawn from the entirety of the Northern and Eastern provinces (for by ‘Tamil lands’, and by ‘Tamil homelands’ Prabhakaran means the Northern and Eastern Provinces] and an abdication in his favour of the Government’s authority in those two Provinces. It is significant that Prabhakaran makes no mention of any surrender of arms or equipment by the LTTE or the disbandment of its armed cadres as one of the pre-requisites of a return to ‘normalcy’; or for that matter, as something that would happen even in the future. It follows therefore that to Prabhakaran, ‘normalcy’ means a situation in which his armed cadres constitute the only armed force in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and consequently a situation in which he becomes the absolute ruler of those two Provinces. In short what Prabhakaran demands by way of pre-conditions for ‘Peace’ Talk. Is the grant of a separate State of Tamil Eelam in everything but name so that negotiating may proceed from that starting point onwards!!! If this is not so what other possible interpretation could there be to these authoritative pronouncements of Prabhakaran and his International Secretariat made both before and after Prabhakaran was so ‘gracious’ as to grant an ‘audience’ to the Norwegian Solheim?

If there was any doubt about what was meant by these statements, that doubt could be laid to rest once and for all by a consideration of the following passage from Prabhakaran’s speech on the so called Martyrs Day’ of 1998:

"We cannot allow the Sinhala aggressive army to occupy even an inch of our homeland.

Nor will we permit Sinhala State administrative functions in the occupied Tamil lands. We are shedding blood and fighting a deadly struggle with the primary objective of liberating our motherland which is the very foundation of the national existence and economic life of our people. Therefore we cannot permit the footprint of the Sinhala aggressors to be embedded on our sacred soil."

Thus, clearly, Prabhakaran has no plans for any part of any sort or description whatsoever to be played by the Government of Sri Lanka in the administration of any part of the Northern or Eastern Provinces and consequently he has not deviated one iota from his goal of a separate state.

It is pertinent at this stage to cast our minds back to the previous sets of so-called ‘Peace’ talks with the Tigers. Apart from putting forward, together with the other so called ‘moderate’ Tamil parties, the farcical set of demands known as the Thimpu Principles’ in 1985, at not one of the official sets of alleged Peace’ talks held so far has Prabhakaran put forward any political proposals. The only proposals or demands put forward by the Tigers at the alleged ‘Peace’ Talks were demands for the removal of Army camps and Police stations, the removal of restrictions placed on the movement of strategic materials to certain parts of the North and East as well as on the extent to which fishing boats could go out to sea, which had been imposed purely for security reasons, as well as demands that his armed cadres be permitted to move around the North and the East freely with their arms. While some of these demands were acceded to with unbelievable stupidity by both the UNP and PA Governments, Prabhakaran did not at any stage make any corresponding’ concession’ which. would in any way have lessened his fighting capability

It would be observed that all the demands of Prabhakaran were made with the clear objective of lessening the military capability of our forces and increasing that of the LTTE correspondingly. Not surprisingly, every set of ‘Peace’ Talks were used by Prabhakaran to gain a military advantage, and at the end of every set of ‘Peace’ Talks, the Tigers were militarily, in a far stronger position than they were at the commencement of those talks.

In the aftermath of the Thimpu Talks, where Prabhakaran used the ceasefire occasioned thereby to build up his military strength, he felt so confident about being able to achieve a separate State of Tamil Eelam alone that he, having no idea of sharing power in that proposed State with anybody else, commenced murdering the cadres of the other Tamil separatist groups such as the TELO, PLOTE, EPRLF, etc.

Up to the time of the Premadasa ‘Peace’ Talks the Tigers had never been able to overrun a single Army camp. So strong did they get after the ceasefire occasioned by those talks and Premadasa’s profligate generosity to the Tigers with public funds that the Tigers were able to overrun several Army Camps even of brigade strength. Pooneryn, Mankulam, Kokavil, Janakapura, Vettilaikerni and Katupotha were some of the camps that fell to the Tigers in the aftermath of the Premadasa Peace Talks. Indeed the disastrous operation code named ‘Jayasikurui’ in which so many thousands of our troops died and were maimed which was launched to open the A9 highway became necessary because the LTTE was able to gain control of that road as a result of the Premadasa ‘Peace’ Talks.
(Continued tomorrow)