When will they learn?

The LTTE has once again laid bare its true face as a savage terrorist outfit through a dastardly attack on a sports event, killing Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, the National Athletics Coach Lakshman de Alwis, Olympic runner K. A. Karunarante and a number of others including sports enthusiasts at Weliweriya yesterday.

It was such indiscriminate rabid terror that plunged the Munich Olympics into a bloodbath in 1972. Yesterday’s attack came despite an LTTE pledge that it would not target sports events. Will the world take serious note of the incident and act accordingly in dealing with the LTTE?

Prabhakaran, hiding in an underground bunker somewhere in the Wanni and dying many times before his death, may boast he has silenced Jeyaraj, an indefatigable campaigner against terrorism. But, he has no reason to brag. Jeyaraj chose to be among his people braving an elusive enemy known for cowardly attacks. However, such pluck bordering on rashness doesn’t pay in dealing with a pack of hyenas masquerading as Tigers. Survival of LTTE targets depends on their ability to think like terrorists—short of acting like them—and to take precautions without exposing themselves to terror strikes unnecessarily. Unfortunately, most of them walk right into the jaws of death, as if affected by taedium vitae.

Jeyaraj's assassination, it may be argued, had an element of suicidal tendency. For, knowing that he was a prime target of the LTTE, he lowered his guard to flag off a marathon in an area with heavy terrorist infiltration, throwing caution to the wind. Terrorists have to be lucky only once.

President Ranasinghe Premadasa threw his life away in a similar manner. On May Day in 1993, his impetuosity prompted him to be on the street, mingling with party supporters, only to be blown to smithereens by an LTTE suicide bomber. President Chandrika Kumaratunga was taking a stroll up to her car across the Town Hall lawn around midnight after a political rally in December 1999, when the LTTE struck, almost accounting for her. It was while Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was relaxing at his private residence in 2005 that death came through a window of a nearby house.

But, no political leader seems to draw lessons from others' tragic experience. President Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to flirt with danger. His movements are rather predictable. Recently, he visited an exhibition at the BMICH and declared open a tunnel in the upcountry and a flyover in a Colombo suburb. There is no end to his foreign travel.

Prabhakaran, fighting as he does a last-ditch battle for survival, will not baulk at anything in his desperate effort to stall the on-going military onslaught in the Wanni. He will spare none and strike anywhere. He has bombed Buddhist temples, desecrated Mosques and Kovils and shelled Christian shrines. His latest victim, Jeyaraj was a leader of the Sri Lankan Catholics and former Minister of Christian Affairs. Having failed to mobilise international support to stop the government, Prabhakaran will escalate the conflict to unprecedented levels before going down.

Prabhakaran doesn’t have to go for his targets. They come walking to him. The government is preoccupied with peacetime activities, while the war is raging and the LTTE is all out to wreak havoc. It is mindboggling why so many motoring events, exhibitions, marathons, bicycle races, political rallies should happen at a time when the war has reached a crucial juncture. Any other country would have been on a war footing by now.

Success of the current politico-military campaign against terrorism consists in the government’s ability to deny Prabhakaran opportunities to offset his battlefield losses with devastating terror strikes elsewhere. If the government leaders lower their guard the way Jeyaraj did yesterday, they will certainly provide Prabhakaran with an escape routes via the political front, where all pro-LTTE forces are gathering.

But, the question is: When will they learn?

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