'The Future Minds': A barometer of public opinion
The recently concluded Future Minds exhibition in Jaffna was a huge success. It drew thronging crowds for several days. The youth were ebullient and children frolicking. Enthusiasm that people evinced in that fun filled educational and industrial event bore testimony to the fact that the Taliban culture the LTTE imposed on Jaffna has given way to a democratic way of life. The exhibition had been preceded by a couple of mass protests against the LTTE in Jaffna.
This kind of public response is indicative of the fact that the army has won over the northern populace and the northerners are thirsting for democracy and a better life which they richly deserve. It has also given the lie to the claim that the LTTE still enjoys popular support and people are awaiting its return. Those who support terrorism from a safe distance and expect the LTTE to make a comeback and turn that part of the country into a hellhole are only hoping against hope.
There is a misconception that the LTTE is being targeted only on the military front. Hence it is claimed in some quarters that Sri Lanka is attempting a military solution to the conflict and therefore the LTTE will survive the on-going military onslaught and continue to function as a guerrilla outfit. The argument that the government will have to talk to the LTTE at some point is also based on this illogical reasoning.
It is not only on the military front that the LTTE is being fought. In the Vanni the armed forces are all out to defeat the outfit. They have already exploded many a myth that the separatist lobby had used to lionise the Tigers. The LTTE is about to face the worst ever military defeat in the very heartland of its militancy. Prabhakaran having a Humpty-Dumpty kind fall is only a matter of time.
He lost Paranthan to the army yesterday and now Elephant Pass and Kilinochchi are extremely vulnerable to a military assault which is imminent. His mistake of defending Kilinochchi at the expense of other strategically important areas has enabled the army to reach the outskirts of Mullaitivu with relative ease, and the loss of its main base on the Eastern coast will be unbearable to the LTTE, as it has already lost control of the vital littoral west of the A-9 highway completely.
The army won't stop at Mullativu and move northwards along the coast thus effectively cutting off the LTTE's access to the sea. In such an eventuality, Prabhakaran will find himself fighting on several fronts in a landlocked area. The fiercely fought battle for Kilinochchi won't leave the LTTE with so many cadres for future battles.
The LTTE has also got a severe beating on the political front. It has ceased to be a factor in the Eastern Province politics, though it is making a desperate effort to make its presence felt through hit and run tactics which it cannot sustain over a period of time without having a strong base either in the North or the East. The Vanni offensive will deprive the LTTE of all its remaining bases in the North. If the government sustains its development drive in the East and strengthens the newly formed PC by implementing the 13th Amendment properly, the eastern democracy will fully recover in record time.
The newly liberated areas are being developed fast. Rehabilitation of the A-32 highway will begin shortly and that arterial road will link the North and the South far more effectively than the A-9. Better roads, transport, education facilities, communication and so on will certainly deal a heavy blow to the LTTE, which created conditions similar to those in Pol Pot's Cambodia and made people go through hell by terrorising and exploiting them in every conceivable way.
A generation of Tamils the LTTE kept behind the iron curtain and brought up on a diet of racial hatred so as to maintain a pool of child soldiers and suicide bombers is beginning to enjoy freedom, which the Jaffna youth savoured during the past few days, especially at the musical shows which were part of the Future Minds programme.
Thus, it may be seen that there is much more to the on-going war than the military offensives in the Vanni. None are so blind as those who refuse to see the other prongs of Sri Lanka's anti-terror strategy and criticise her military campaign against terrorism.
What is needed at this juncture is not expending time and energy on some political pie in the sky. Over the past two and a half decades, all experiments with devolution have failed. Not even the Indian model took root due to the LTTE's intransigence. The LTTE has rejected, as the EU Parliament pointed out in its resolution to ban the outfit a few years ago, devolution at the provincial level (Provincial Councils), devolution at the regional level (Regional Councils) and devolution at the national level (federalism). What else remains to be offered to the LTTE? It is only a separate state!
So, those who are pressing for talks with the LTTE are, either wittingly or unwittingly, advocating Sri Lanka's dismemberment. If anyone is confident that the conflict could be resolved through a political solution without eliminating the LTTE, he or she ought to first get an assurance from Prabhakaran––and not from any lesser minion like Nadesan––that the LTTE is willing to give up Eelam.
The public mood in Jaffna as seen in the recent past is proof that the country's war against terrorism is paying dividends and the LTTE is fast losing whatever popular base it may have had in the North.