It's the ban stupid!
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has given the LTTE an ultimatum. Unless it releases the hapless civilians in its clutches before the end of this month, the government will ban it. There are hundreds of thousands of people languishing in the conflict zone, as the LTTE is using them as a human shield. The President's concern about the plight of the Vanni civilians is understandable and the LTTE deserves to be banned together with its criminal fronts.
But, it is doubtful whether the LTTE will let go of civilians under its jackboot for fear of a ban in Sri Lanka. After water reaches the level of your nose, it is popularly said in this country, you don't care however high it may rise. Similarly, Prabhakaran is facing the worst ever crisis in his struggle for Eelam with his outfit banned in many countries. He won't give two hoots about another ban here.
Prabhakaran is dependent on civilians for survival as never before. Ironically, the man who launched a grandiose 'liberation' struggle two and a half decades ago has had to hide behind the very people he vowed to protect! What a shame! If he allows people to flee to safety, where on earth will he find child soldiers and manpower required for fighting the war? Reports from the Vanni indicate that the LTTE is now dependent on the public even to look after its injured cadres.
It is only wishful thinking that Prabhakaran will stick to the President's deadline.
The LTTE may consider the presence of civilians a blessing at present but the day may not be far off when the captive populace becomes a huge liability for it. The LTTE will have a hard time keeping people under its thumb, when things begin to fall apart in a bigger way, the signs of which are already visible. It is inevitable that people who have suffered untold hardships and lost their near and dear ones at the hands of the LTTE will rise against Prabhakaran, who will find it impossible to contain an uprising while fighting on several fronts.
More and more people are joining anti-LTTE protests in Jaffna. In India, Congress activists have begun openly condemning the LTTE backers as was evident from Saturday's blockade in India. The Vanni people are likely to follow suit before long. Prabhakaran is aware of these vicissitudes and that's why he is desperate to get his Tamil Nadu allies to step in to put the brakes on the on-going military onslaught before it is too late.
Instead of setting deadlines for Prabhakaran, what President Rajapaksa should do is to solicit the help of India-especially Tamil Nadu-other members of the international community, the INGOs, priests et al who are pressing for a ceasefire, to secure the release of the Vanni civilians.
Let them make the best use of their influence over the LTTE for the benefit of those unfortunate men, women and children held in the war zone against their will.