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Reality dawns – at last

When Stalin died, it is said, the ordinary people who had suffered silently under his jackboot refused to believe he was dead. They had been so scared of the red tyrant that they did not want to heave a sigh of relief in public and face the consequences in case he was not really pushing up the daisies. They found the news of his demise too good to be true. That is the way with all wicked men.

Time was when it was widely believed that Velupillai Prabhakaran was invincible. Even books were written by some well known authors subtly lionising the Tiger chief. When he breathed his last in the shallows of the Nandikadal lagoon last year, his victims refused to believe he was dead. Likewise there were some naïve foreign diplomats who, misled by the pundits of the so-called civil society, thought the LTTE terror machine would survive Prabhakaran's death. Their governments, therefore, did not consider this country safe even after the conclusion of war. But, today, one year after the crushing of the LTTE, the reality of the security situation here has manifestly dawned.

The US has lifted travel restrictions on its citizens visiting Sri Lanka. Better late than never!

Even some of the military superpowers did not want to believe that the Sri Lankan security forces were equal to the task of defeating the LTTE. Propaganda played a major role in the LTTE's terror campaign. Many myths were very effectively disseminated about the outfit. They were aimed at not only boosting the image of the LTTE but also demoralising the State and successive governments. They had worked almost perfectly until 2006, when Prabhakaran blundered by plunging the country back into war.

In fact, what had helped the LTTE survive different political dispensations and thrive for over three decades before being crushed was its adeptness at deception rather than its military prowess or anything else. It had mastered the art of inching towards its goal by making war and talking peace alternately. Nor were the past governments determined to go the whole hog to eliminate terror; they only sought to ‘control’ the scourge for political and economic reasons. They waged war haphazardly thus giving the LTTE time to regroup and strike back with renewed vigour with a devastating impact each time. Thus, governments came and went but the LTTE survived them bolstering its claim of invincibility. What befell the LTTE in the end is now history.

The LTTE's guerrilla arm, contrary to expectations of some western governments, did not survive the decimation of the outfit's conventional military capability and its top leadership for a number of reasons. The LTTE's plan for a guerrilla struggle was aborted at the initial stages of the Vanni operations. Prabhakaran had large quantities of arms, ammunition and fuel stored underground in the hope that he would be able to have the war suspended with the help of the international community and infiltrate those areas to resume a guerrilla war. But, the army succeeded in effectively countering that move by unearthing his weapons caches and fuel dumps and pinning down all the LTTE combatants at the front without letting them slip back into the newly cleared areas. Another reason why the LTTE cannot wage a guerrilla war at present is the absence of a base within Sri Lanka to operate from. It cannot use its overseas bases for this purpose because it has no way of smuggling in men and material across the sea. Its naval capability has been neutralised.

Most of all, the LTTE rump is too demoralised to resume terrorism, having pathetically failed to achieve anything after thirty years of fighting under a strong leader like Prabhakaran. Who is the surviving LTTE combatant who will want to fight for another thirty years and achieve the same result? By the time the LTTE launched its final battle, it had lost the sympathy of people under its gun. There were no volunteers joining its fighting units unlike at the inception of its struggle and it, therefore, had to forcibly recruit men, women and children thus further antagonising the people, without whose support no guerrilla group could operate. Successful rehabilitation programmes to reintegrate former LTTE combatants into the mainstream of society and the re-democratisation and development processes underway in the North and the East have also helped obviate many conditions necessary for the re-emergence of a guerrilla movement.

These are some of basic facts that a section of the international community did not care to factor in when they predicted that the LTTE terror would outlive the killing of Prabhakaran et al. Now, they stand corrected and that is what the lifting of the US travel restrictions is all about.

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