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Disarm them all!

The campaign to have the TMVP stripped of its arms before the May 10 Eastern PC polls, has got into Over Drive mode. Some civil society members have, we are told, even resorted to legal action to achieve that objective. They deserve public support as the intimidatory presence of any armed group needs to be obviated prior to any electoral exercise, if it is to be free and fair.

But, is it only the TMVP that needs to be disarmed? In a democracy, only the armed forces, the police and other state agencies responsible for public security should be allowed to carry arms. If it is the protection of democracy that one seeks, it is imperative that one campaign for disarming all other armed groups. Unfortunately, some civil society and political activists are being selective in their efforts to protect democracy against violent elements. While baying for Pillaiyan’s blood, they are mollycoddling Prabhakaran and his killers thus making a mockery of their campaign for democracy.

If two armed thugs are holding people to ransom while fighting each other, disarming only one of them is not the way to set about solving the problem. Stripping one thug of his arms is tantamount to according monopolistic status to the other to help him continue his terror campaign far more effectively sans rivalry.

It is being asked in some quarters if the Eastern Province is fully under government control, why the TMVP should retain its arms. This is a very cogent argument. But, in all other parts of the country where the government writ effectively runs, there are armed groups such as Tamil politico-military organisations and private bodyguards of politicians. Even some peacemakers have had armed escorts! So, the question is why they, too, should not be disarmed.

It is heartening that those who committed election violence and went all out to sabotage elections through terrorism in the not so distant past have become ardent campaigners of free and fair elections and disarming the TMVP. The two main parties, the SLFP and the UNP are responsible for the present pass the country is in. Their history is tainted with violence and polls rigging. The JVP went on a killing spree to disrupt elections in the late 1980s. Its death squads killed hundreds of voters in cold blood for exercising their franchise. The JRJ government issued thousands of guns to both the ruling UNPand the Opposition. Most of those arms were never returned.

The SLFP, responsible for the Wayamba vote looting, is silent today as it is in power while others are condemning the very offences that they themselves committed to their heart’s content. However, their transmogrification is salutary and needs to be admired!

The worst that can happen to a campaign for democracy is to allow it to be used by sinister elements as a Trojan horse to promote their hidden agendas. Most vociferous advocates of democracy, including some members of the international community, are mum on the situation in the LTTE-held areas. It looks as if they wanted only the other areas to be democratic so that the LTTE could operate therein freely while keeping the Wanni under its jackboot and trying to expand its shrinking dark empire.

The TMVP, in spite of all its sins, is an outfit struggling to wean itself away from terrorism and enter the democratic mainstream. Therefore, those who demand that it be disarmed—quite rightly so—must not lose sight of the fact that its violence is a corollary of the LTTE’s terrorism. Both the effect and the cause of violence in the Eastern Province—as well as elsewhere for that matter—must be tackled simultaneously without the TMVP being thrown to Tigers.

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