How much will Tigers get?

The LTTE has predictably taken high ground on the Kausalyan killing. Everything said and done since it happened is that the government is to blame q.e.d. and the atrocity will surely affect the speedy revival of the peace process that the Colombo government and Sri Lankaís friends abroad are desperately anxious to resume. "A dagger in the heart of the peace process" is how one pro-Tiger columnist put it. The government certainly did not bump off Kausalyan and nobody would entertain such a silly notion. If there is room for the Tigers to grouse, the only score on which they can legitimately do so is to complain that the fact that Karuna and his people have been permitted to function in government-held territory enabled the hit. Prabhakaran can very well suspect a cozy relationship between the military and his erstwhile Eastern commander. How cozy it is (or was) Karuna learned to his cost when the government permitted the seaborne assault that decimated the breakaway groupís forces.

However much Prabhakaran may dislike the thought, Karuna is a citizen of Sri Lanka entitled to live in any part of the country. He and his men certainly are not free to bear arms, which they do like the Tigers, and summarily deal with their enemies, though less effectively, just like the LTTE do. Admittedly successive governments of Sri Lanka have been unable to impose the law of the land on the Tigers in their areas or ours with the LTTE killing with impunity on either side of the boundary. We do not know if Karunaís forces are permitted certain liberties in the Eastern Province, perhaps as a sop given the previous great betrayal. That may well be the case because even the thickest skull equipped with the meanest intelligence would well appreciate that the Sri Lankan State had only weakened itself by permitting Karunaís forces to be weakened.

However that be, the LTTE has never dragged its feet in seeking military escorts for its leaders and cadres travelling through government-held areas of the east. When those concerned are big enough, the Tigers request and receive military helicopters for their leaders to do their thing. It wasnít long ago that we were treated to television pictures of Anton Balasingham and his wife, Adele, enjoying this facility and just the other night we saw Tamilchelvan disembarking from a military helicopter to attend Kausalyanís funeral on our television screens. Military spokesmen are on record saying that no protection was requested and by all accounts, none offered. Kausalyan apparently thought that switching vehicles was enough to ensure his safety but such was not the case. Our defence correspondent anticipates that the LTTE having suffered the loss will now hit back and has speculated that the target could be anybody. A range of possibilities has been offered. Prudence dictates that precautions are very necessary but this country is notorious for being alert for a few days after which whatever guard thatís been mounted is dropped and everybody reverts to their laidback somnolent ways.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has correctly ruled that the Kausalyan killing was not a cease-fire violation, the truce being between the government and the LTTE and nobody else. They naturally will not say that the Karuna group was the killer but reading between the lines it is clear that the monitors have seen the incident in realistic light Ė that it was no more than part of the internecine war within the LTTE itself. Perhaps the single advantage the Tigers got from that whole business was UN Secretary General Kofi Annanís condolence message. That certainly raised some eyebrows with most analysts regarding it as a consolation prize for Annan not being allowed to visit Mullaitivu last time round. Whether the secretary general was as peeved as the Colombo office of the UN on that score we do not know.

But everythingís not been tickety-boo for the Tigers from the UN front. The useful Mullaitivu non-visit propaganda was countered remarkably quickly with some very negative sounds from Manhattan with the LTTE reported to the UN Security Council for their sorry record of recruiting child soldiers. Annan has said in a new report that the Tigers have recruited as many as 4,700 children, some as young as 11-years, to their ranks since 2001. The secretary general has called for "targeted and concrete measures" including an international travel ban on leaders, arms embargoes and restriction of the flow of funds.

We canít see Balasingham not being allowed to come here to sit by his leaderís side at important meetings as a result of these recommendations or the Tiger arms flow stopping. Such reports by Annan or anybody else will not change the status quo. The question for us is whether our president, eloquent with her accusations of appeasement of the Tigers by the previous UNF government, will be permitted by her JVP ally to continue the same policies. How far she will go and how much the LTTE will get are the questions confronting the country today. There is no doubt that she will go some of the way and the LTTE will get something. But whether CBK will go all the way and the Tigers get everything remain open questions.


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