What that sea battle signifies
The skirmishes on Monday between the LTTE and the Navy came as no surprise. That the LTTE is using the on-going ceasefire agreement to replenish its military supplies is no secret. There have been reports of the LTTE taking delivery of arms shipments off the eastern coast. With the LTTE boats criss-crossing the eastern seas and making bold to transport even most wanted terrorists in full view of the security personnel, an encounter of this nature was something to be expected.
It has now been confirmed that a trawler carrying arms and ammunition for the LTTE and laden with explosives had exploded on being challenged by the Navy. Then LTTE had opened fire on the Navy from another craft, which was later destroyed. To those familiar with LTTE tactics, it is clear that the LTTE cadres on board the trawler committed suicide by exploding the vessel in a bid to efface evidence of arms smuggling. But the subsequent recovery by the Navy of a large consignment of ammunition including 12 mm and 81 mm mortar rounds and rocket propelled grenades provides unimpugnable proof of its arms smuggling operations under cover of the MoU.
A pertinent question in this regard is why the LTTE is stockpiling arms and ammunition after having agreed to talk peace with the government. These clandestine preparations for war once again demonstrate that the LTTE is keeping the military option open. The opposite of this is true of the government.
Mondays sea battle cannot be dismissed as one-off and the reports of LTTE arms smuggling operations as on dits.
Even the Norway-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has deemed secret LTTE boat movements as a violation of the MoU.
The LTTE arms smuggling has also caused concern to the US as manifest in the US Ambassador in Colombo, Ashley Wills call to the LTTE at Fridays Mines Action Programme at the Ministry of Defence to desist from such operations and to abide by the MoU. He has also reiterated the position of the US that Tamil Eelam is not attainable.
While Mr. Wills concerns and warnings to the LTTE are appreciated, he should be reminded that distant calls alone wouldnt make a battle hardened terrorist outfit like the LTTE with a global network fall in line. The LTTE, it should be recalled, didnt budge from its goal even in the face of direct military action by India. It is only wishful thinking that the LTTE will mend its ways in response to such calls.
The University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), which is well known for its factual reporting and bold comments, has brought to light once again the blatant violations by the LTTE of the MoU. (See The Island of May 2.)
Of these violations, the UTHR makes the following observations: 1) the MoU can be violated with impunity [by the LTTE] and the monitoring committee is powerless in defending human rights, even when a violation clearly contravenes provisions of the agreement 2) moral pressure alone is inadequate to curtail terrorising of the civilian population [Will Mr. Wills take heed?] 3) it is not adequate for the monitors to wait for violations to be reported. They have to proactively investigate the systematic violations. Passive monitoring function by itself is inadequate to protect the civilians in the East and preventive measure must be implemented to protect the civilians 4) The peace process while providing welcome relief to the war weary country has also entrenched and legitimised terror politics in parts of the country i.e. the issue of long term internal terror and its implications for society have been glossed over. Hence it continues to diminish whole political and social space in the community 5) If the Monitoring Committee and the international community allow this action to stand unchallenged it will undermine the credibility of all monitoring efforts and the peace process.
The UTHR urges all international and national civil society organisations to pool their resources not only to secure the release of Mr. Sithamparpillai [abducted and detained by the LTTE until he pays Rs. 2. 5 million as protection money] and other prisoners, but go beyond the MoU and address the human dimensions of the growing tragedy.
Coming as they do from an organisation like the UTHR, these observations serve as an indictment on the monitors, the government and the so-called international community pushing for negotiations.
The MoU has helped hopple only the government while the Tigers enjoy unbridled freedom. The only penalty that they have to pay for their crimes is to be warned or hauled over the coals once in a while by the international community.
The responsibility for ceasefire violations by the LTTE must be borne by the monitors and the international community who are handling the LTTE with kids' gloves.
Occasional warnings issued, concerns expressed and pious platitudes preached are of no avail in taming a ruthless terrorist outfit and making it amenable to a political solution. Stern action is called for.
The LTTEs flagrant violation of the MoU points to the need for the MoU to be underwritten by a powerful country capable of defanging the LTTE if it torpedoes the peace process. Having evinced so keen an interest in Sri Lankas problem and pressurised the government to talk peace, the US, the crusader against global terrorism, is all qualified for this role. And what the consequence would be for the terrorists would be in the event of scuttling the peace process must be spelt out. Without this kind of cast iron guarantee prospects for peace through talks with the LTTE are bleak.
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