Hunt them down

Immediately after the Tokyo Conference, the US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has hoped that Sri Lankans themselves would be able to solve their differences and added that ‘this will be a tremendous signal for the world’ (See interviews on this page.)

Mr. Armitage along with other foreign diplomats such as the Japanese Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi, who had put in great efforts to make the conference a success, is still hopeful that the LTTE will relent their decision to boycott the conference and commence negotiations with the government. But the LTTE leadership having been smitten by the decision of 51 nations and 22 international organisations to go ahead with the conference is behaving like a petulant child crying out aloud and refusing to budge from its original stand.

The Deputy Secretary of State made his position quite clear when he told interviewers: ‘The international community cannot be blackmailed by a group who refuses to take part in the peace process.... We expect the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to immediately come back to the negotiating table and delineate a series of steps, which would lead to peace. I don’t think the people of Sri Lanka will settle for anything less.’

Unfortunately, it is not the people of Sri Lanka that are holding back the peace negotiations but just one group of terrorists. The Tamils by and large were extremely supportive of the peace process and would certainly welcome with open arms the financial assistance pledged at the Tokyo conference-assistance of a colossal magnitude without which reconstruction and rehabilitation of their war ravaged regions will stretch to the unforeseeable future. The tragedy of the Tamils today is that that they do not have genuine representatives of their own but only those who can voice the opinion of those who are holding them at the barrel of a gun. Representatives of the donor nations should seek the opinion of independent Tamils on whether they are in favour of negotiations continuing or wrecking the peace process for whatever reasons of the LTTE.

The day after the conference the LTTE rejected the proposal of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe made in Tokyo for an Interim Administration which Mr. Armitage has said was very heartening. The new infrastructure proposed, he noted, ‘would be able to provide assistance transparently to all segments of society, very openly so that they can be audited very well’. Quite obviously Mr. Armitage was voicing the opinion of donors that funds cannot be handed over to an Interim Administration of which the LTTE, a clandestine organisation with no accountability, would be solely in charge.

With the demand for an Interim Administration, which would be politically and administratively under their control, the LTTE is pushing for an infrastructure for a de jure separate state. This is even before the core issues such as the nature of the state are decided on at the negotiating table. Once such an Interim Administration is in place with its kangaroo courts and illegal. police army , navy in operation, negotiations to determine the nature and structure of a quasi- federal or federal state will be futile.

On the other hand, there have been no comments on the Tokyo Declaration, particularly on the charter for human rights and other democratic rights in a future north east administration. What they have said in their statement of rejection is that they are not bound by the declaration since they were not involved in the deliberations and formulations of these declarations. Naturally, Velupillai Prabakaran and Anton Balasingham being signatories to a Declaration of Human rights will be as comical as Hitler and Mussolini doing so.

Slowly but surely the ‘ international community’ that helped nurture the LTTE, wittingly and unwittingly, is coming to realise the actual nature of the LTTE.

Mr. Armitage in answer to a question by the TBS-TV (Tokyo Broadcasting System) on the kind of role or initiative the US government is taking in the prevailing circumstances, has said: ‘The role of the US government is actually in a way to be the bad guy. We have designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organisation. They will not be able to visit our country or have visas etc. In fact we will hunt them down and try to stop their finances if we can catch them. We would like them to work into a situation in which they are no longer a foreign terrorist organisation. They could do that by giving up, once and for all violence as a political weapon.’

Indeed, bad guys, at times, could do very good things.

‘Hunting’ them down and not gentle persuasion through negotiations is the answer. Messrs. Rajiv Gandhi and Ranasinghe Premadasa wherever they may be, may be able to tell Mr. Armitage that. It will be recalled that the LTTE’s quest for peace commenced with international opinion turning against terrorism. But the pressure put on is not enough to convince them that they should forsake terrorism, as the United States is now demanding. LTTE representatives are living freely in the west. Anton Balasingham, who could be tried for war crimes, is roaming freely in London. There are many acknowledged leading LTTE members living in the US and having connections with the LTTE. All this conveys the impression that western governments are still tolerant of them.

Mr. Armitage in his interview has provided a solution: Hunt them down.

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