LTTE creating an impasse?

Anton Balasingham, the LTTE’s interpreter mudaliyar in London, says that ‘Sri Lanka’s new conditions for talks create an impasse’ .

The LTTE which switched off from its upbeat tone about three weeks ago to low key and now are sounding pessimistic notes are making an endeavour to show the world that the ‘peace process’ is being stalled by new conditions imposed by the government as well as because of the violations of the Ceasefire Agreement.

Whatever the causes for the LTTE’s change of mood may be, indications at the commencement of this week was that talks to be held in Bangkok may not commence in the first week of July as was expected.

Balasingham’s complaints are many. The latest grouse appears to be about Prime Minister Wickremasinghe wanting to take up ‘substantial issues’ at the talks as well as the Interim Administration whereas the LTTE want to discuss only the creation of an Interim Administration. It will however be recalled that Prime Minister Wickremasinghe had wanted first of all ‘talks about talks’ which meant that the agenda for the talks had to be agreed upon first. Thus, the LTTE cannot have any serious objections to the talks commencing unless they have drawn up a separate agenda to suit their own strategy.

The LTTE’s strategy for creation of a de facto separate state has been evident from the time the ceasefire became effective - December 25 last year. There have been continuous reports of forced conscription of children as soldiers of war since the commencement of the ceasefire.

It is estimated that over 2500 children have been conscripted from December to date. Evidence that this is an ongoing process is apparent from our front page report today that of the 35 people who had escaped from LTTE controlled areas into the Batticaloa area and surrendered to the armed forces on Monday and Tuesday, 20 were children. The reason for the people reaching government controlled areas along with their children was the fear of conscription of children by the LTTE. Security forces have already apprised the ICRC and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission comprising Norwegians of this incident.

The boosting up of manpower (or childpower?) of its depleted cadres is one prong of the LTTE strategy, it is said. Already, the LTTE is going ahead with building up its infrastructure with the creation of its own police force under an Inspector General of Police! As reported in a weekend newspaper, banks, schools, post offices, kangaroo courts and other infrastructure are all in place. As some foreigners in their enthusiasm proclaim: ‘The independent state is already there!’ The enthusiastic foreigners are however blind to the fact that this infrastructure of a separate state is being run by the Sri Lanka government through the North-East Provincial Council - a unique instance of a band of terrorists being supported by an elected government. According to latest reports, the LTTE now want the government to pay the widows and orphans of their fallen, some Rs. 18 million a month!

The Interim Administration would make it all legal, and a de facto government comes into place. After that Prabakaran has only to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

The essential question to be asked is why the LTTE is reluctant to discuss the core issues of the problem such as power sharing? Balasingham says that Sinhalese and Tamils have different perceptions with regard to fundamental issues and the Tamil problem and it was because of this that an interim administration was mooted to create the necessary time and space to consolidate peace and mutual trust.

The Provincial Council for the North and East (the equivalent for the Interim Administration of the North and East), however, came into being after the Indo-Lanka Agreement under the 13th Amendment, in 1987, which Prabhakaran refused to accept. A prime requirement was a referendum to be held later about the merger of the two provinces. All this however was not and will not be to the liking of ‘the sole representative’ of the Tamil people.

Balasingham’s complaints about forces occupying temples and schools have been replied to by Defence Secretary Austin Fernando in full (see The Island May 30 for report and comments). Besides the deadline for evacuation of public building under the ceasefire Agreement is on August 1.

Balasingham it appears has not been able to get the ceasefire monitors who have been very much sympathetic towards the LTTE to substantiate his charges.

All this raises the question why the LTTE is attempting to embarrass and pressurise the government, which has gone out of the way to accommodate the LTTE in the face of strong opposition, and taking grave political risks.

The bona fides of the LTTE are now in question.

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