Why throw a lifeline to sinking Tigers?

So, in the end the LTTE is suing for a truce in spite of all its bragging that it is capable of rubbing the nose of the military on the sands of the Vanni. Tiger proxies are working overtime to market their truce offer and have managed to get the Tamil Nadu politicians to back their campaign. Some local NGOs, too, have lent their voice to the Tiger lobby. Shortly, we will have the nosy parkers of the international community echoing that call.

Ironically, those who are trying to pressure the government to hold fire are the very ones who boasted a few moons ago that the military was making a terrible mistake by launching the Vanni offensive. They claimed the army would face the same fate as the Nazis in Stalingrad, though not even a schoolchild with a smattering of the world history took them seriously. They came out with all sorts of cock and bull theories to support their absurd argument. However, what really took the cake was the parallel they sought to draw between the treacherous Russian winter and the monsoon rains lashing the Vanni! They would have sounded less obtuse had they compared a cat with a tiger.

Such well propagated myths have served some purpose for the LTTE in that they blunted the nation's will to fight terrorism to a finish. But, today, the military has blown them sky high. The fall of Pooneryn and Kilinochchi is only a matter of time and thereafter the LTTE will have no alternative but to run into the jungles and get ready for the final battle. This will be a nightmare for Prabhakaran, who bragged a few weeks ago that President Rajapaksa was daydreaming of taking Kilinochchi back.

President Rajapaksa has, during a recent tour of India, rightly refused to fall into the LTTE's peace trap and reiterated that laying down arms is a prerequisite for talks. This country has had several ceasefires and they all stood the LTTE in good stead. They only led to the protraction of the conflict as the LTTE used them to rearm, regroup and infiltrate.

All our experiments with ceasefires have failed. The late President R. Premadasa had a Tiger ride thinking that he could wean the LTTE from violence and make it accept a political solution. He accommodated Tigers at Hotel Hilton and peace talks dragged on for months. Prabhakaran waited till the IPKF left to resume hostilities, having got arms, money, shelter and cement from the Premadasa government. He ended the ceasefire by massacring about 600 policemen in the East, who had surrendered to the LTTE on orders from President Premadasa, who was struggling to salvage a crumbling ceasefire.

In 1991, Prabhakaran assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who had saved him by forcing Sri Lanka to declare a ceasefire in 1987. The LTTE blew President Premadasa to smithereens two years later. President D. B. Wijetunga was wise enough not to have ceasefires with the LTTE and he, therefore, succeeded in clearing a part of the Eastern Province and holding LG elections there.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga plunged feet first into a ceasefire with the LTTE, as she genuinely believed she would be able to resolve the conflict peacefully. She was the ideal person for that purpose, given her unwavering commitment to a political solution. She may have been somewhat naïve at that time but all the measures she adopted such as her offer of the Northern Province to the LTTE without elections for ten years were in good faith and aimed at evolving a peaceful solution without any more bloodletting.

Predictably, she failed to strike a peace deal with the LTTE, which resumed war having got a breather. Prabhakaran almost succeeded in accounting for her in 1999.

The LTTE sought to achieve two objectives when it declared a unilateral ceasefire in December 2001. It made a virtue of a necessity. The world was turning hostile towards terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the LTTE wanted to go into hibernation and gain legitimacy. The newly elected UNF government, which apparently perceived President Kumaratunga as a bigger threat than Prabhakaran, readily reciprocated.

The LTTE abused that truce for nearly five years to smuggle in arms, debilitate the State intelligence network and assassinate political and military leaders like Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Col. Muthalif and Maj. General Parami Kulatunga, who was the third highest ranking officer in the Sri Lanka Army. The LTTE also made an attempt on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka's life during the truce. The city was infiltrated as never before.

Prabhakaran, as he had done to all those who gave him a hand, destroyed UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe politically for the services rendered, by calling a polls boycott at the 2005 Presidential Election.

There was an absence of war and the LTTE took peace talks all over the world to gain international legitimacy. In 2003, it walked away from talks putting forth the so-called ISGA demand which the UNF government could not meet because the interim administration Prabhakaran asked for was a halfway house between federalism and Eelam.

President Kumaratunga, who recaptured power in Parliament by sacking the UNF government, adhered to the ceasefire. So, did President Rajapaksa after his election in 2005. He also tried his best to save the truce without reacting to LTTE provocations which included killing of armed forces and police personnel with claymore mine attacks.

He however had to react in 2006, when the LTTE captured the Mavil Aru reservoir and deprived over ten thousand people of water for both domestic and agricultural uses. The country has been at war ever since though the government officially withdrew from the ceasefire agreement early this year.

Thus, it may be seen that ceasefires with the LTTE are useless unless Prabhakaran agrees to give up violence and Eelam. Those who are pressing for a fresh ceasefire ought to be asked to meet Prabhakaran and inquire from him him whether he is prepared to give up his separatist goal.

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