EU must not repeat its old sins

The EU call for a humanitarian ceasefire must be music to Prabhakaran's ears. He can now tell his demoralised combatants, who had to run away yesterday abandoning the Puthukkudiyiruppu township, that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. However, he is not without a problem. The EU wants him to lay down arms and renounce violence. He has already refused to give up arms. That he cannot eschew violence goes without saying.

When Prabhakaran forcibly evicted civilians and formed a human shield, he wanted to create a humanitarian crisis and jolt the international community into intervening in Sri Lanka to stop the war so that he could escape.

He succeeded in creating a huge humanitarian problem and attracting global attention but unfortunately for him, all foreign powers including the donor Co-chairs and India have been wise enough to ask him to disarm.

However, it is naïve for the EU to think that if the Sri Lankan government declares a humanitarian truce, hey presto, civilians in the Tigers' clutches will be able to walk to freedom. The so-called human shield is the only defence Prabhakaran is left with and he will never let go of civilians out of his own volition. The EU ought to realise that the ulterior motive of the LTTE in offering a truce is to regroup and rearm. That is why Prabhakaran has flatly refused to lay down arms. If he is really desirous of a ceasefire leading to a political solution, there is no reason why he should not give up arms at this juncture.

It is thanks to ceasefires that the LTTE has survived for nearly three decades and seen the backs of four presidents. Whenever it fought its way into a cul-de-sac, it took refuge in a truce. The price the country had to pay for ill-conceived ceasefires was the expansion of the LTTE's terror project. Prabhakaran would not have been able to acquire aircraft, set up factories to manufacture bombs and try his hand at building submarines etc but for ceasefires.

If the government agrees to a truce, the LTTE will cause it to drag on indefinitely by releasing civilians in small batches and Prabhakaran and his senior leaders will live to fight another day.

Sunday's massacre at Inginiyagala bears testimony to the fact that the LTTE still has death squads at its disposal. Last Friday, the LTTE by launching an abortive yet daring air raid demonstrated that it was still capable of suicidal terror.

If Prabhakaran manages to escape, his Eelam project will get a new lease of life. He will be careful not to provide any casus belli to the government until he is ready for Eelam War V. The LTTE propagandists are boasting that in the late 1980s, the IPKF had reduced the Tigers to only about 600 cadres but Prabhakaran made a comeback and rebuilt the LTTE as a formidable outfit capable of conventional warfare. They brag that Prabhakaran is still capable of such a feat!

The LTTE has committed over 200 massacres of civilians, ethnically cleansed the North of Muslims and the Sinhalese, murdered dozens of political leaders of all ethnic communities, destroyed property worth billions of rupees and forcibly recruited thousands of child combatants ever since.

All those crimes could have been avoided if the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa had allowed the LTTE to be decapitated at that time. Had he done so, he, too, would not have died a violent death at the hands of the LTTE.

Therefore, campaigning for a ceasefire at this hour is tantamount to throwing a lifeline to the sinking Tigers. Most of the EU nations have the blood of LTTE victims on their hands as they have harboured the outfit and thereby aided and abetted its crimes. Prabhakaran procured weapons to fight the military and massacre civilians with the funds raised on their soil. A guilt-trip may have prompted the EU to ban the LTTE a few years ago.

Only a fool or a Tiger backer may argue that a negotiated settlement is possible with the LTTE, which scuttled all the peace processes under different political dispensations. It rejected all the solutions offered from Provincial Councils to federalism, as the European Parliament pointed out in a resolution on Sri Lanka on Sep. 08, 2006. The US and the UK have unequivocally declared that they do not advocate talks with the LTTE, which is a banned terrorist organisation. In fact, there is nothing to be discussed with the LTTE.

What is unfolding in the last LTTE stronghold is nothing but a hostage drama. The EU and other members of the international community pressuring Sri Lanka to restore the rule of law and put an end to abductions, kidnappings etc. should have no difficulty in agreeing that a legitimate State is duty bound to rescue civilians forcibly held by terrorists, as India did in Mumbai the other day.

The LTTE has become the biggest obstacle to peace making because of its intransigence and violence. Unless it is eliminated militarily, there will be no democratic space for the root causes of the conflict to be addressed politically. The time has come for decapitating the monster of separatist terrorism in such a way that others of Prabhakaran's ilk will get the message that terrorism does not pay and the civilised world is capable of removing the scourge of mindless terror. It is now or never.

If the EU is convinced otherwise, it must tell Prabhakaran to disarm and declare that he is willing to give up Eelam before calling for a truce. That is the only way the LTTE can be made to prove it is amenable, if at all, to a negotiated settlement.

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