Sri Lankan President Rajapakse seems to be smarter & more efficient in dealing with LTTE and handling the ethnic issue, unlike Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickramasainge.
|President Rajapakse-Wiping out terror|
In December 2006, he announced the decision of reimposing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which was previously in place from 1990 to 2002. He has also increased the allocation of defence budget by 20%. At the same time, he also reiterated his readiness for peace negotiations. Unfortunately the LTTE has not made use of the long rope given by Sri Lanka during the peace negotiations and left it abruptly in Geneva and since then over 10.000 people have been dead in the intermittent conflicts.
|Karuna - From terror to democracy|
The Sri Lankan Army has also been aided by a splinter group led by Vinayagarmoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna to drive the LTTE out of the eastern province. Before that it was reported in the Sri Lankan media that the LTTE Chief Prabhakaran had been badly injured in an air raid during the last week of November and that the outfit was contemplating of sneaking him out of Sri Lanka for treatment abroad. It was also reported that the raid has taken the lives of 116 of the 200 personal guards of Prabhakaran. Later the Sri Lankan Army Chief Lt.General Sarath Fonseka, fired a salvo saying, ‘the Defense Forces have surrounded the Wanni base and the LTTE’s Forward Defense Lines from all directions and the LTTE would be wiped out in another six months, as it is left with only 3000 cadres and there is no assurance that Prabhabakaran would survive this final attack’. It came as little surprise when in January 2008 the government announced the termination of the ceasefire and its intention to defeat the LTTE on the battlefield.
In the last week of January, VCK leader Thirumavalavan, addressing a conference labelled ‘Redeem the freedom of expression’ organised by his party in Chennai said, ‘any move to suppress those expressing moral support to Tamil Eelam and the LTTE is violation of all tenets of democracy and humanism, and will border on fascism’. He thundered on: ‘Condemning the continuing genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka by the Lankan Army and condoling the death of innocent people cannot be portrayed as anti-national’. Then again in the first week of February 2008, while speaking at a public meeting organised for pressurising the Indian government to wage a war against Sri Lanka, he said that the government must conduct a referendum among the sixty five million people of Tamilnadu on the extension of LTTE ban.
During the third week of February, the Tamilnadu Chief Minister approved the statement of Thirumavalavan that there was nothing wrong in extending the moral support for the LTTE. He averred that the Supreme Court had observed that mere expression of support to a banned organisation like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was not an offence. He also referred to his detailed reply to Jayalalitha’s charges in the assembly. The state unit of the Congress party was also not happy with the way things were going on and they made their displeasure obvious. Even Union Finance Minister Chidambaram told that the LTTE activities in the state must be nipped in the bud, for which Karunanidhi replied that the LTTE would not be given a free run in the state and asserted that his government would not allow such a thing to happen.
In the meantime, Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner’s Office in Chennai released a book titled ‘Tamil Tigers in the eyes of Tamilnadu’, which carried local media reports too. As the book reported, based on the local media, that the people of Tamilnadu were not in support of LTTE, PMK leader Ramadoss demanded the closure of the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner’s Office itself. Ramadoss also charged that the Sri Lankan office had collected the telephone numbers, residential and office addresses of film personalities and politicians, who are supporters of LTTE.
Prabakaran addressing tigers on Commemoration Day of Black Tigers
Meanwhile Congress President Sonia’s daughter Priyanka Vadra’s meeting with Nalini in the Vellore prison came as a shock to the nation. A visit, which was supposed to be secret, had come out in the open, thanks to the Lawyers of Nalini and the alert media. Priyanka had met Nalini on March 19 after a visit to the Golden Temple. While her visit to the Golden Temple was flashed across the country by the media, her meeting with Nalini was out in the open only on 15 April, when Priyanka herself confirmed the news broken by the media. The Chief Minister, who maintained silence on this sensitive issue for some time, referred to it on 23 April on the floor of the Assembly in due course of a debate. Though Priyanka maintained that it was her personal decision made in order to come to terms with the loss in her life, it is believed that Sonia had sent Priyanka to meet the LTTE terrorist Nalini and the ruling DMK, which is a known LTTE sympathiser had facilitated the meeting. In the aftermath of the exposure, Janatha Party President Dr. Subramaniam Swamy demanded that the DMK government must be dismissed and Sonia and Priyanka must be questioned and brought to book for hobnobbing with the killers of the former Prime Minister.
On 14 May 2008, the central government extended the ban on LTTE for another two years by issuing a notification from the Home ministry.
Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, even while the Army was moving forward inside the Northern part, which is the strong hold of LTTE, the outfit’s Chief Prabhakaran had observed the commemoration ceremonies of the ‘Black Tigers Day’ on 5 July 2008. In course of his address to his ‘soldiers’, he emphasised the demand for Tamil Eelam and vowed to continue his fight for it.
On Saturday, 12 July 2008, the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in London took out a ‘Pongu Thamizh’ rally, which was celebrated across the world to express their dream of ‘Thamizh Eezham’. More than 25,000 Tamils have gathered as a show of solidarity and took part in the rally, many of them taking placards in support of LTTE and carrying posters of LTTE Chief Prabhakaran. The point to note here is that all the LTTE supporting parties in Tamilnadu have conveniently forgotten to celebrate this important event.
Now, the Eastern Province has come under the total control of Sri Lanka and the government has successfully conducted a reasonably fair election resulting in a former LTTE leader and Karuna’s paty functionary Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan becoming the Chief Minister of the province. Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapakse, who was upbeat particularly due to the advancement made by his Army inside the LTTE territory and the moral support, which he was getting from the Indian government, had reiterated again that he was ready for peace talks with the LTTE provided the organisation gave up terrorist activities. At the time of SAARC summit both sides refrained from engaging in conflict and immediately after the successful completion of the summit, President Rajapakse declared that the war would be over when Prabhakaran is made to surrender. Sri Lankan Army, for the first time in around 10 years, entered the last two northern bastions of the guerillas where the Tamil Tigers run their own de facto state. The security forces have entered the Killinochi region amidst stiff resistance from the LTTE.
The fighting has escalated to a large extent since then and the LTTE has been suffering heavy damages. The escalation of hostilities since 2006 has added to existing numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) totaling to over 0.5 million. In the absence of any national legislation recognising the rights of IDPs, the UN Refugee Agency has expressed its deep concern for their welfare. While the government has vowed that it is in the last phase of exterminating the LTTE, the rebels indulge in preventing the civilians from leaving for military-controlled areas. It is also reported that the LTTE has been using the IDPs as shielding covers in their covert operations.
On 11 August, at least 49 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed when confronted by advancing government troops in Sri Lanka’s Wanni battle front. Then on 27 August the Sri Lankan Air Force bombed the LTTE’s Naval base in Trincomalle and destroyed it completely. The Tigers, who were literally under siege at their last bases in the Wanni region, attacked the Vavuniya base of the Armed Forces near Killinochi on 8 September. The Air Force retaliated and destroyed a lightweight aircraft. The LTTE is believed to have five.
Czech-built Zlin-Z-143 light-wing aircrafts and one has been finished now. Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi are the only two districts in Sri Lanka, which the LTTE totally controls. Mullaitivu, a dense jungle area which is considered the base for LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, is located 352 km northeast of Colombo and lies nearly 100 km north from Vavuniya.
As the Sri Lankan Armed Forces are reportedly closing in on Prabhakaran, the Tamilnadu political leaders have been busy concentrating on local politics, forgetting totally the plight of their Sri Lankan Tamil hero, probably under the realisation that his end may be imminent. As far as this ethnic issue is concerned, which Tamil leader will write what sort of a script, is a million dollar question! One needs a great analytical mind to judge the future course of action of these leaders.
(To be contd…)