A Woman of Steel

‘Fragile femininity shot through with steel’, is how a British journalist has described Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed on Monday after 19 months of house arrest by Burma’s military junta. In the history of the fight for democracy and against dictatorships, in recent times, there is, perhaps, only one other parallel and that too being a woman: Benazir Bhutto. Much of that feminine heroism of Bhutto, however, disappeared on taking over the reins of power and today is in exile being accused of corruption.

The struggle of this Burmese woman, however, is not over. She is battling a tough and corrupt military regime that shows no inclination to give up power. Although Suu Kyi in 1990 won a landslide victory despite the opposition by the military, they ignored the tremendous support extended to her and once again placed her under house arrest.

For sheer determination and courage, she is truly an exemplary woman, even refusing to leave the country for her husband’s funeral because of her fear of not being able to return and continue her fight for democracy and the rights of the people.

In contemporary history, there have been women who took to politics not only to avenge the killings of their fathers or husbands, but also to throw out military dictatorships. Cory Aquino, Benazir Bhutto, Begum Khalida Zia and Sheik Hassina are some of them. Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike, too, avenged the death of her husband but she did not face a dictatorship or military junta. Suu Kyi’s father was the legendary Burmese freedom fighter and founder of the Burmese army. Ironically, she has to fight that very army.

Despite sympathy and occasional support from the west (she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991), there has been not enough support extended to weaken the military regime sufficiently for the people to take over. In an age where massive military support is extended to overthrow dictatorships and in the name of human rights, such as in the Balkans and now Afghanistan, Myanmar now deserves help from outside. Suu Kyi has called for sanctions to be brought against the military regime. Her appeal deserves earnest consideration. Even the apartheid South African regime gave up only after the United States applied trade sanctions. Suu Kyi needs such help.

The country that is blessed with the most abundant resources in South East Asia deserves a much better fate than the jackboot of military dictatorship, which it has been under since the sixties.

Sri Lankans who have had very close ties with this country will be hoping that this Woman of Steel will soon be leading her people into freedom.

Why Tigers are cocky

The LTTE stands proscribed by the powerful nations of the world -United States, India, Canada, Britain and Australia. The Special Resolutions adopted by the Security Council of the UN make it obligatory for member states as well to take action against terrorist organisations and their members, such as the freezing of their assets.

When these powerful nations banned this terrorist organisation, most Sri Lankans were hopeful that it would not be mere legal proscription that would be limited to paper, but that effective action will be taken in accordance with the laws enacted in those countries against international terrorist organisations. Proscription could have been made only because the LTTE was found to be a threat to the security of those nations as well. But has such action been taken against this Sri Lankan terrorist organisation?

The Island has not heard of or read any such reports where positive action had been take by these nations against the LTTE. Some diplomats when questioned have said that such action was taken, but failed to specify the instances. United States spokespersons have categorically said that their priority in the War Against Terrorism was the Al Queda and only after that would they consider other terrorist organisations. And why has no other nation although bound by UN Security Council resolutions not banned the LTTE? No such action has been taken after the Ceasefire commenced on December 25 last year. Only US Ambassador Ashley Wills has issued some stern warnings to the LTTE about their conduct, but that does not seem to have had much effect.

Are these nations once again adopting a benevolent attitude towards the Sri Lankan terrorists who have outdone other terrorist organisations in their savage inhuman behaviour? The indulgence shown to Balasingham and his wife, who travel the globe by land, sea and air, indicates that the translator/theoretician of this terrorist group is not considered a terrorist. Is it that the ceasefire now on and the proposed negotiations have softened the attitude of the west towards LTTE terrorism? Is it that they don’t want to rock the peace boat by taking stipulated action under their anti-terrorist laws?

That would be a mistaken notion because pressure applied by these nations, on whom the terrorists depend on for the guns, bullets, thosai and vaddai, rather than looking away would be a better way of inducing them towards peace negotiations. Is this apparent indulgent attitude the reason why Prabhakaran carries on disregarding one and all?

The ceasefire monitors have made it quite clear that their functions are only that of monitors - to observe and report. Given the vast area to be covered and the numbers required they can hear very little, see very little and do very little even if they bring in a two dozen more monitors.

Meanwhile, who cares about reports such as that of Amnesty International published in The Island yesterday, where they named 13 children, all under the age of 16 years, who had been forced to join the LTTE? Do not international human rights organisations and countries that have human rights written into their constitutions and other laws, care? If this kind of indulgence is shown, the initial effects of proscription on the LTTE will wither away.

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