Needed: A fool-proof solution

T. J. Jayasinghe has responded to my ‘Point of View’ published in The Island of Aug. 21, 2006, under the title, "Terrorists, Freedom Fighters and Arafat’s friends".

The letter writer indicates that I am trying to whitewash CNN. Even a cursory reading of my ‘Point of View’ will reveal the intent behind my providing the CNN as an example. It was to buttress my argument that the leader of a free country does not interfere with the media’s function in delving into the various aspects of a story. In any free country, it is the media’s function to present the news and also to probe and dissect the news. This function will be hamstrung if the leader of a free country feels constrained to suggest to the media on who should be interviewed, and whose views shouldn’t be publicised in the media.

At present, for instance, the most wanted and most reviled man in the United States is Osama bin Laden. There is an enormous reward awaiting anyone who turns him in. This fact didn’t deter CNN from airing a special feature programme titled, "In the footsteps of Osama bin Laden", just a couple of weeks ago. And this is in spite of the fact that it was painfully close to the fifth anniversary of this despicable deed. And to the best of my knowledge, and I follow the news with some intensity, President Bush didn’t, metaphorically speaking, hit the ceiling on learning of this feature on bin Laden.

Jayasinghe also states that I have failed to accept the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. I clearly stated in my ‘Point of View’ that "I personally don’t think there is any difference whatsoever between the terrible tactics employed by Prabhakaran and the late PLO chief, Yasser Arafat, such as the use of suicide bombers, etc."

The fact is that Jayasinghe’s views abundantly prove my point that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter when he states, "Yasser Arafat was considered a freedom fighter".  Yet Arafat’s PLO, like Prabhakaran’s LTTE, used suicide bombers, in addition to other methods of despicable terrorism. And isn’t the use of suicide bombers one of the vilest forms of terrorism?

Furthermore, Jayasinghe shouldn’t overlook that a couple of decades ago, it was revealed that Arafat’s PLO provided training to LTTE cadres in PLO camps. I remember a report on the then Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin angrily querying, "What are Sri Lankans (LTTE cadres) doing in PLO camps"?

And shortly after this, Israel provided assistance to both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government at the same time. This was revealed more than a decade ago by a former Israeli intelligence officer in a book he authored.

All these facts also should suggest how complex this problem is becoming and why a resolution should be explored in earnest. And all these problems arose from the fact that certain politicians wanted political power, regardless of the consequences. The slogan, "Sinhala Only in 24 hours" was just one aspect of a lack of sensitivity that has now snowballed into the current monumental mess.

On the subject of terrorism, I also stated, "No one should defend the scourge of terrorism. But we also need to realise that terrorism can be eradicated only by courageously dealing with the root causes of the problems that have, unfortunately, given birth to terrorism."

Furthermore, I go on to indicate that in order to root out the causes of terrorism in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue has to be resolved. And, of course, this has to include the Palestinians’ acceptance of the reality of Israel, and Israel’s acceptance of the reality of a Palestinian state.

And that similarly, in Sri Lanka, the root causes of the problems have to be dealt with in order to reach a resolution. Also, that it was the abject lack of statesmanship among leading Sri Lankan politicians after independence that has resulted in the current bloody impasse.

On the failure to effectively maintain the ceasefire agreement, my point was that President Rajapakse, new in office, had fallen prey to certain hardliners in the military who felt that a military solution is possible. That this was an erroneous presumption is clear from President Rajapakse’s own observation recently that a military solution was not possible.

Jayasinghe also urged me to read the article by K.Godage. The subject of this article has absolutely no relevance to the issues I dealt with in my ‘Point of View’. My reference to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert was merely to point out that though Olmert clearly considers the Hezbollah a bunch of terrorists, he didn’t, to the best of my knowledge, advise or suggest to CNN that they not interview Hezbollah cadres because they are a bunch of terrorists.

I will fully concede that the LTTE are not saints. But we shouldn’t overlook that the LTTE is a creation of the southern politicians. If the southern politicians had handled ethnic issues as statesmen would have handled these issues, the LTTE would never have been born.

The trust that the Tamils had at the time of independence, and as a consequence of this trust the feeling that constitutional guarantees to ensure fair play in ethnic matters were sufficient, proved to be a mirage, as my elders told me. The current British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka has conceded that the British had, unfortunately, failed to ensure the provision of all the needed constitutional protections for fairplay in ethnic matters.

Thus a final solution, obviously, must include fool-proof guarantees to ensure that important legislation cannot be overturned or passed by legislators in just the South, but also must have the approval of a certain percentage of the legislators in the North and the East. This is reasonable in order to maintain the unity of the country.

The following is a good example to indicate why trust is at a low ebb on all sides.

I recently saw on an internet site, an interesting exchange between two Sinhala guys. The view of one guy was that the SL government should give the Karuna faction all the arms and ammunition they need in order to wipe out the Wanni faction. But, hey, look, the other guy points out:

"President Premadasa gave arms and ammunition to the LTTE to fight the Indian troops, and once the Indian troops retreated, the LTTE used the guns given to them by the SL government to fight the SL government. So what if the Karuna faction then turn on the SL governemnt after they wipe out the Wanni Tigers?" " That’s a problem, agrees the other guy. "

Thus the solution? Give the Karuna faction all the arms needed, but as soon as the Karuna faction wipes out the Wanni Tigers, the SL government should quickly wipe out the Karuna faction.

SThere was no discussion on why if the SL government can quickly wipe out the Karuna faction, it has been unable to wipe out the Wanni faction in more than two decades.

I will desist from commenting on the sheer brilliance of people who discuss possible military stratagems on the World Wide Web. But this exchange and the divisive policies since independence, indicate why the Tamils will now insist on a fool-proof solution that will enable all communities to live in peace and harmony.

An Observer
San Jose


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