Editorial

Deproscription

The United States government assuring the Sri Lanka government that deproscribing the LTTE in Sri Lanka will not ease international pressure on the terrorist group, is a shove to get going negotiations aimed at resolution of the North-East Conflict.

The LTTE while proclaiming loud and clear to the world that it is for peace negotiations is virtually blackmailing the government to deproscribe it with the threat—de ban or no talks. At his press conference, the LTTE leader Prabhakaran, made it quite clear that their objective of calling for removal of the proscription as a terrorist organisation was the initial step to have the proscriptions placed on it by western nations lifted.

While assurances of the United States, by a very high ranking official of the US State Department, Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Richard Armitage is very reassuring, it has to be pointed out that the State Department cannot, by itself, keep the ban going, if it wishes to.

The LTTE has on two occasions gone before the United States Supreme Court to have the ban lifted and had a former Attorney General of the US pleading their case. The LTTE appeals were dismissed on both occasions but it is likely that each year they will be appealing to the Supreme Court.

Western nations have proscribed foreign terrorist organisations, including the LTTE, on evidence that they pose security threats to those nations. Such evidence will have to be produced before the Supreme Court on each appeal. Of course, it has to be admitted that the current attitude in those countries is to take a very strict and hard view of terrorist organisations. And the LTTE has given no indications at all of its rejection of terrorism as a way to achieve their political objectives except to propose negotiations and that on the condition that they be deproscribed as terrorists!

It has been argued that deproscription of the LTTE will have very little bearing in curbing the activities of the terrorists because they never did give a damn about abiding by the law and still does exactly what they want. Last Friday’s report about an 85- year-old Tamil lawyer of Batticaloa being kidnapped is just one instance of proof of the LTTE, despite its claims to respectability and an entry into politics (they don’t say democratic politics), is continuing in the same way of a fascist regime. The only visible change is the attire of Prabhakaran, from his blood stained jungle fatigues to a clean Safari suit.

For the sake of peace, the peace lobbies in Colombo and now the UNP supporters are going for the jugulars of those who dare question the peace loving intentions of Prabhakaran and his murderous cohorts. If a blind eye is turned to this sadistic terrorism, with neither the so called international community nor their monitors in Sri Lanka doing—or incapable of any positive action in terms of the Ceasefire Agreement— it is obvious that the LTTE will continue with their unbridled terrorism. All they need is an interim administration to establish their de facto Eelam without firing a shot! And thereafter proclaim a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

The Island is bound to be accused by ‘peace at any cost’ lobbyists in Colombo and abroad of creating ‘Doomsday Scenarios’. These lobbyists should also ask those living in LTTE controlled areas whether the scenario there is one of a democratic nirvana? Is the abduction of peace loving citizens for nonpayment of ‘taxes’ (in reality extortion) a foretaste of the democracy the people of the North and East are likely to get? Is this what we are all striving for?

The question is bound to be raised whether the assurance of the United States on deproscription is not sufficient for the Sri Lanka government to deproscribe and go ahead with the peace negotiations. While we have to thank the US for this assurance it has to be pointed out that superpower patronage and guarantees do not necessarily pave the path to peace. What is happening in Palestine right now is a tragic example. We had in 1987 India with claims to status of a regional power enforcing such an agreement, which was backed by a military force that at times went beyond 75,000 troops. What followed is now history.

There are cosmetic suggestions proposed such as temporary deproscription. Of course that provision is always available to the government. It can proscribe or deproscribe any organisation at a given moment. But the issue here is the sheer timing of it in the context of internal politics and the international situation. It cannot be denied that there is a rising tide of opposition against deproscription among the people and whatever measures taken to suppress such opinion can be disastrous, experience has shown.

What the government and foreign well-wishers can do is to impress upon Prabhakaran that he too has to make sweeping concessions such as initially making a public declaration disavowing terrorism.


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