Amnesia of the Tigers

The blood-splattered Tigers are attempting to metamorphose into purring kittens in the eyes of the world. In a statement issued from the Wanni jungles and released through the LTTE headquarters in London to Tamilnet, they call upon 'the international community to use its good offices to persuade the Sri Lankan government to abandon its hard-line posture and to seek a negotiated settlement in a climate of peace and goodwill'.

Despite Velupillai Prabhakaran's assurances to the Norwegian government representative Eric Solheim that they were not laying any preconditions for peace talks, the Tigers are now unequivocally calling for a ceasefire before the commencement of the talks. In its statement the LTTE says: ' The Government wants to continue with the irrational and contradictory policy of waging war and making peace to placate the Sinhala-Buddhist racist elements locally and at the same time appease international governments that demand a peaceful resolution of the conflict'.

The terrorist organisation, striking a metaphysical note makes an erudite pronouncement: 'War and peace are antithetical, mutually opposing forces and therefore cannot be reconciled to bring about a harmonious order. The history of our armed conflict has demonstrated that the fact that peace talks without a stable ceasefire cannot succeed'.

Vellupillai Prabhakaran and his fellow felines appear to be suffering from severe amnesia. They appear to forget—perhaps rather conveniently— that on previous occasions when the Sri Lankan government held talks with the LTTE, ceasefires had been on but the talks collapsed. And on the last two occasions, with disastrous consequences to the government forces.

It will be recalled that there were 14 months of peace talks with the Tigers during the presidency of Mr Premadasa with much of the time the terrorists being hosted by the Sri Lanka government in Colombo's five star hotels. It has been now revealed that President Premadasa's desire to please the LTTE was such that he had even committed a treasonable offence by handing over armaments of the government forces by the lorry -load to the LTTE. When the talks appeared to be breaking down, his desire to save it was such that he gave implicit orders for the ceasefire not to be violated. Even when it because crystal clear that the treacherous Tigers were about to attack all police stations in the Eastern Province, the government gave the police orders to surrender to the LTTE!

Thus, the ceasefire was not violated and 700 policemen obeying orders surrendered to the terrorists. What followed was the most gruesome massacre in the history of the18-year-old conflict. Seven hundred policemen were lined up by their graves and shot dead. This horrendous crime remains uninvestigated. International human rights organisations so concerned about mass graves such as in Chemmanai and now at Bindunuwewa were stone-blind and dumb about this horrible massacre. That horrendous crime, this so-called International Community—to whom Prabhakaran is now appealing to—should remember is the price 700 Sri Lankan policemen paid for observing a ceasefire.

Does the LTTE have no memories of the 100-day ceasefire it had in 1994 immediately after the Peoples Alliance government assumed office? They sat down for talks with the flag of the terrorists on the negotiating table and with a ceasefire on. For one hundred days they negotiated with no fixed agenda or timetable. Prabhakaran wanted to discuss alleviating the difficulties faced by the people in the North. Talk they did and the government of President Kumaratunga acceded to many requests. And after one hundred days the country woke up to hear that the LTTE had unilaterally broken the ceasefire and sunk two of the navy's gunboats in the Trincomalee harbour. This was soon followed by airplanes being downed with missiles and a full-scale war was on.

And now from the Wanni jungle, Prabhakaran proclaims: 'We are amused to note that Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar claims that the war can go on with full force as the talks proceed. This is a clear manifestation of his ignorance of the tragic history of previous negotiations, the savage nature of the war, the deadly repercussions of which can topple the peace process'. The Sri Lankan people will certainly be amused at the collective amnesia of the LTTE on the history of ceasefires and the perfidious ways in which they were violated by the LTTE.

The LTTE in its statement (published in full in today's editions of The Island) calls for creation of conditions for normalcy by which it is meant the restoration of normal civilian life in Tamil areas by removing ‘the stringent economic blockage imposed on the Tamil people’. What the ‘International Community’ and the world outside have failed to note is that this Sri Lankan conflict is unique in that governments throughout this conflict have used maximum possible resources to provide basic amenities to the people in enemy--controlled territory. Most of the basic amenities are sent except for some items that have potential to be deployed for military use. Schools, hospitals and even government administrations are run and paid for by the government in areas controlled by the terrorists. And what does the LTTE do. It tries its damnedest to disrupt these services by sinking ships, boats and ferries carrying these supplies by plundering them for the use of their cadres. These acts are not unknown to Sri Lankans although the world outside has not been apprised by do-gooder NGOs, human rights organisations or foreign powers.

The entire resistance in these areas could have been broken and the conflict ended had Sri Lankan government decided on such brutal measures. But that they cannot do because by attempting to punish terrorists they will be starving their own citizens. Undoubtedly the people in these areas are suffering due to the restrictions placed but it is the doing of the terrorists themselves.

It is clear the LTTE is playing to the international gallery. They want to discredit the Sri Lankan government in the eyes of foreign powers. The Tigers want a ceasefire to consolidate and regroup their forces and then break-off the ceasefire on a flimsy excuse as they did twice before and go on the offensive.

Once bitten twice shy, it is said, but twice bitten only idiots will repeat the same folly.

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