Rushing in where monitors fear to tread...

There have been reports that following the abduction by the LTTE recently of two members of the Norway-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), the monitors have asked for an insurance cover worth one million dollars each. A spokesman for the SLMM, contacted for his comments on these reports, has dismissed them. He has said that the monitors already have insurance covers and they haven’t asked for any more in the aftermath of the abductions at issue.

It cannot be impugned that the monitors are operating at an enormous risk to life and limb. The backing that they have from the so-called international community is no guarantee of their safety, for terrorists are no respecters of international opinion if they are confident of flying in its face to achieve their goals when the time is opportune for their sordid projects.

Given the tremendous risk that monitors are running in helping make peace in Sri Lanka, none should grudge them an adequate insurance cover.

However, the fact that they are insured for the purpose of monitoring the peace process here, points, as said earlier, to the risks involved therein. And this runs counter to the stand taken by the government and the peace lobby that everything is hunky-dory in the north and east and a lasting peace will soon dawn and the people will live happily thereafter.

There are thousands of civilians visiting areas under LTTE control and this, they are doing without any assurance of their safety other than the mere hope of same stemming from a fragile peace process hanging by a flawed MoU.

The LTTE, it should be recalled, has so far committed over 200 massacres of civilians such as, to name only a few, killing of 129 Buddhist devotees near the Sacred Bo Tree in Anuradapura in 1985, killing of 127 people at Habarana in 1987, killing of 114 people at the Central Bus Stand, Colombo in 1987, the mass murder of 121 people in Eravur in 1990, killing of 103 people in Kaththankudy in 1990, killing of 122 Muslims at Eravur in 1990 and killing of 161 civilians at Palliagodella in 1992.

The government has let down its guard badly, it is said, and the Opposition says that the LTTE infiltration in the city and other urban centres is heavy. As a Special Correspondent, who was once a combatant of a Tamil guerrilla outfit, pointed out in The Island a few months ago, specially trained LTTE cadres have been sent to Colombo and Jaffna. The LTTE sleeper cells, according to him, are all equipped and all that the LTTE has to do to wreak havoc in the country is to reactivate them. The LTTE cadres doing ‘political work’ in the so-called government controlled areas, as pointed out by him, would be combat-ready overnight in case of the LTTE deciding to torpedo the MoU.

What the LTTE is doing lends credence to this view. Arms smuggling by the LTTE, forcible conscription of children and others for its fighting units, abductions and extortion going unabated under the nose of the monitoring mission, its consolidation of power in the north and east under the pretext of setting up political offices, collection of ‘customs duties’ from those who enter areas under the LTTE control creating the impression that Eelam is already in existence, and the like, seriously question the LTTE’s intentions of a negotiated peace.

If the monitors themselves, who are operating in the conflict zone with the permission of the LTTE and the support of the so-called international community, feel so unsafe, the plight of the civilians vulnerable to LTTE terrorism and, worst of all, not supported by even their own communities let alone the international community, goes without saying.

The government and those who want peace at any cost must not lose sight of the fact that the LTTE has not yet made any commitment to eschew terrorism apart from merely being a signatory to the MoU which can be violated at will if the LTTE so wishes.

Let the ordeal of the monitors at the hands of the LTTE and their concerns of personal safety be an eye-opener for the government not to rush in where monitors fear to tread.

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