Prepare for the worst

While the government is pooh-poohing the warnings against the possibility of a sudden terror attack, the LTTE propaganda organ, the Tamil Guardian, in its editorial has issued not-so-veiled a threat to the government by claiming that the LTTE is at its tether’s end and will be justified in ‘retaliating.’ It says, "It would be foolhardy, therefore, to expect the movement [the LTTE] to tolerate such provocations indefinitely.

Growing desperation of the LTTE is not difficult to understand. Apart from the successful operations by the Sri Lanka Navy, which deserves laurels for its efforts to curb arms smuggling by the terrorists, the democratisation process now underway in some parts of the North and the East is inimical to the LTTE’s long term separatist interests however wish-granting the MoU may be in the short term.

Prabhakaran cannot be unaware that although the areas under his control remain the same terror cocoon cut off from the rest of the world, exposure of his cadres especially ‘commanders’ to the society outside will do more harm than good to his terror project in the long run. The peace process has put him in a strait jacket of sorts in that he cannot unleash violence the way he desires; he has to settle for small scale terror attacks, which will not embarrass the so-called international community too much, which is handling it with kids' gloves. He now finds, much to his resentment, the emergence of resistance to his terror regime as evident from defiance of the majority of TNA members led by TULF parliamentarian V. Anandasangari. Obtaining compliance from these dissidents is a matter that Prabhakran would have achieved overnight through sheer coercion but for the on-going peace process.

Prabhakaran has, no doubt, achieved more than what he ever dreamt of prior to entering the peace process as manifest in the withdrawal of deep penetration units of the Sri Lanka army which were closing in on him having killed key terrorists like ‘Colonel’ Shankar, his right hand man, gradual legitimisation of his terror outfit, amassing arms and funds, the elimination of intelligence operatives, and most of all time bought for reorganising. Yet, he has to balance these gains against the losses such as the sagging morale of his cadres increasing dissent the emerging resistance to its claim of being the sole representative of Tamils and doors being closed to its sympathisers migrating to the western countries under the guise of refugees as reports from Britain indicate. He also runs the risk of refugees in the West contributing to his war chest in no small measure being sent back if the absence of war here is going to last long.

He is desperately in need of a few spectacular attacks to punctuate the peace process so as to boost the morale of his cadres to help further the interests of asylum seekers and refugees and to impress upon his brainwashed human bombs that he has not abandoned his armed struggle. (Remember while addressing the media both local and international last year Prabhakaran renewed his call to his cadres to kill him if he gave up his goal of separation.)

Through experience he knows that water closes in on such swift and devastating attacks on the security forces and that he can get away with impunity as the government and the Opposition will blame not him but each other with the international community not doing more than condemning the attack and urging both parties to 'resume talks.’

We already see the government and the President at each other’s jugular over the sinking of the LTTE arms ship off Mullaitivu. A wily Balasingham is flaming the political flames in the south by supporting the government’s claim of a plot being hatched to ‘sabotage’ the peace process with attacks on LTTE vessels while establishing lines of communication with the PA. Now the focus is not on the serious ceasefire violation by the LTTE, which tried to bring in another shipload of arms but on who ordered its interception and why.

Balasingham’s tactics smack of the usual trick pickpockets employ while being pursued: When their pursuers give chase crying, "Pickpocket! Pickpocket!," the pickpockets themselves repeat the same cry and run for dear life so as to avoid capture by passers by.

Contrary to false hopes given to the people by the government, the LTTE will not incur the wrath of any foreign powers to the extent of their granting military assistance to Sri Lanka.

Last year, this strategy was adopted by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (fighting for a separate state in the south Sudan, where Christians and animists are in majority) which is negotiating with the Sudanese government. This peace process is also backed by Norway, the US, the UK, and Italy. Last September the rebels while being engaged in talks suddenly launched an attack and captured the strategic southern city of Torit, which was controlled by the Sudanese government at that time. But the ‘international community’ kept the Khartoum government under pressure to further negotiate with the rebels. Talks held in the Kenyan town of Machakos were suspended. The government took the city back a couple of months later and the peace process was said to be on the track once again. But the SPLA has issued its own currency and infrastructure for a separate state is being put in place.

The LTTE warnings must not be allowed to go unheeded. And it is incumbent upon both the UNF government and the President to set aside petty political differences and to do some ‘proactive’ thinking as to how to prevent Jaffna going the same way as Torit or naval vessels being targeted by the LTTE or troops coming under a lightning attack. Enough cause is there for the military to worry about the safety of its much treasured MBRLs, which the LTTE is all out to destroy and the security of key military installations in the conflict zone or elsewhere.

We may be accused of being alarmist by the dollar-hungry peaceniks to whom the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka are mere dross not worth thirty pieces of silver. But we stress that it behoves the government to exercise extreme caution at this juncture and prepare for the worst.

To those who argue that for fear of incurring the opprobrium of the powerful countries behind the peace process, the LTTE will not resort to a grave ceasefire violation, the following may serve as an eye-opener: After the Thimpu talks failed in 1985, the Tamil militant groups which had been there on India’s invitation were preparing to come back to Sri Lanka. The majority of them were stressing the need to maintain healthy relations with India, but Prabhakaran was not so well disposed to that idea. As the Tamil militant leaders who have survived LTTE terror say, Prabhakaran at that point asked Anton Balasingham how many Tamils would 'remain' in Jaffna if the LTTE took on India. Balasingham’s answer was that there were about one million people and only one half would 'remain' in such an eventuality. "That’s enough," was Prabhakaran’s answer. Two years later he was at war with India. That’s Prabhakaran and his ‘lateral’ thinking.

Hence the need for those who deal with Prabhakaran and his outfit to bear in mind that nothing is so certain as the unexpected. Negotiating with Prabhakaran is like playing chess with a madman; it is not only the moves on the board that one has to be mindful of. It is one’s safety as well! For one never knows when the board will be dashed on one’s cranium.

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