Open up Heart of Darkness
The abduction by the LTTE of a senior member of the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP), Selliah Paraman, who recently entered an LTTE-controlled area unarmed to visit his family, must cause serious concern to all those engaged in Sri Lankas peace process.
He had managed to escape from an LTTE dungeon and reach the SLMM office in Kilinochchi, where he sought refuge. The Tigers went all out to take him back so as to make him stand a kangaroo trial. But the EPDP, as we reported last Wednesday, stepped up pressure on the SLMM, which handed him over to the police.
Mr. Paranam told the media on Friday in Colombo that there had been many others with him in the LTTE prison such as members of anti-LTTE political parties. He said he had also heard some prisoners speak Sinhala, who, according to him, could be members of the armed forces.
From this incident it is clear that the much-flaunted MoU guarantees no freedom of movement for those who are opposed to the LTTE to even visit their families, let alone doing political work.
It is only the LTTE which has gained from the freedom of movement provided for by the MoU in that the other party, the government troops have no need to enter the LTTE-controlled areas for purposes such as political work, visiting families, attending weddings, etc. and as such this freedom means very little to them. They are also denied overland travel via A-9 highway though the MoU provides for the movement of unarmed troops between Jaffna and Vavuniya.
But the LTTE by exploiting the MoU to the fullest has sent in cadres under false pretexts to consolidate its power in the government-controlled areas and has established a de facto administration in those areas without firing a single shot - a task that it failed to achieve through years of fighting.
By detaining and harassing the EPDP member, the LTTE has sent a clear message to others who may wish to enter areas under its control: "Enter at your own peril."
This is a very serious situation.
The democratically elected Jaffna MC, it should be recalled, could not even re-open the re-built Jaffna Library due to resistance from the LTTE. If the elected members in the north are not capable of performing so simple a task, then their inability to engage in political activity against the LTTE goes without saying.
The LTTE is said to have agreed at the last round of talks to consider allowing the Local Government polls due shortly in that part of the country to be held in the areas under its control as well.
If elections are to be held under the existing conditions with the LTTE shutting out democratic parties, then only the LTTE puppets will enter the fray and get elected.
Moreover, the government is going to hold a non-binding referendum to consult the public on the peace process. With the LTTE preventing its opponents from entering the areas under its control for campaigning, how free and fair the referendum will be is the question. Even if election monitors were to visit the areas, they would be in the same predicament as the ceasefire monitors whom the LTTE has reduced to the level of a set of bystanders.
If the much-flaunted normalisation process is to take place in the northern and the eastern parts of the country, then the areas controlled by the LTTE must be made accessible to civilians, political parties and other organisations that wish to visit them. The freedom of movement must cease to be an exclusive right of the LTTE.
It is also imperative that the government and the international community probe the allegation by the EPDP that the LTTE is keeping prisoners including members of the armed forces despite its claims to the contrary. But here again, the problem is how to conduct such a probe without first gaining free access to LTTE-controlled areas.
Your comments to the Editor
|NEWS | FEATURES | OPINION | BUSINESS | CARTOON | SPORTS | MIDWEEK|