Major crack in Tiger monolith

Topic started by Internet (@ on Tue Mar 16 04:29:36 EST 2004.
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Saturday, 13 March 2004

Major crack in Tiger monolith

On my watch by Lucien Rajakarunanayake

One advantage that the LTTE had in its strategy over the years was in maintaining its monolithic structure with Velupillai Prabhakaran as Supremo. How this structure was built and maintained is another bloody, gruesome and tragic story.

It was through the violent elimination of all opponents, whether in action or thought, in a trail of blood that left Tamil society bereft of all moderate leaders, and those who had taken up arms to win their aspirations. This story of the ruthless rise of Velupillai Prabhakaran's to claim "Supreme Leadership" of the Tamils is hardly a secret.

It took a long period of determined diplomacy by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar to achieve the first cracks in the support base of the LTTE in the West. While India had known the true nature of this particular Tiger, having learnt it the very hard way, the first opening of eyes in the West took place in the USA, which banned it as an international terrorist organization.

It took all the tragedy and international trauma of September 11, 2001, for some other countries to realize it was in fact giving succour to a ruthless agent of terror, with a separatist goal targeting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and also the security of all of South Asia. The United Kingdom banned it and so did Australia.

Canada increased vigilance about it. Yet, the rest of the European Union did not follow suit, despite a UN Resolution requiring member countries to ban organizations of international terrorism.

A combination of factors contributed to the LTTE agreeing to another round of peace talks. These included a strong international push against organized terror spurred on by the "War against Terror" of President George W Bush; the compulsions of post September 11, 04; its own war fatigue in Sri Lanka, and considerable disenchantment at the failure to persuade the Tamils of Sri Lanka to rise up in a massive liberation struggle, as admitted by Prabhakaran himself in his Martyr's Day speech in November 2000.

Yet, having successfully maintained its monolithic structure, literally killing off any opposition or dissent from within, the Tigers entered into negotiations with the UNF government of Ranil Wickremesinghe on the basis that it was the sole representative of the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

The obvious fallacy of this was noted when it insisted through the MOU of February 2002, that all other Tamil political organizations that had been issued with arms by the Sri Lankan Government for protection from the LTTE, had to give up arms within one month of signing the MOU.

After two years of a so-called peace, where the LTTE always called the shots, and the Government appeased it on bended knees, there is now a major crack in the Tiger monolith.

That such a crack was coming was seen by keen observers for some time. It lay in large measure to the extent of the area under Tiger domination, with the Supreme Leader in the Vanni appointing satraps to carry out his command in other areas. One such satrap now sees himself powerful enough as to challenge the Supremo. Karuna, Prabhakaran's chosen leader in the East, is now warning that the East is Red, in a manner that is not pleasant to the Supremo at all.

Karuna's armed dissent

The show of armed dissent on Karuna's part, with his well known leadership role in past military successes of the LTTE, is something that the LTTE's monolithic structure can hardly accept. We have reports of violence in the suppression of such dissent. There is news of killings on both sides; hundreds held prisoner by either side, and the dispatch of special cadres from the Vanni, including the LTTE's Intelligence Chief Pottu Amman, one of the causes of Karuna's opposition to the writ of Prabhakaran, to curb and possibly violently subdue Karuna.

The full import of all this is yet to be seen. The Government, including the President and Prime Minister, has taken the path of caution, despite their rivalry in the election campaign. Karuna's call for a separate MoU with him has been rejected. There are reports of some ethnic cleansing of Tamils from the East. A team led by the Catholic Bishop of Trincomalee-Batticaloa, Rt. Revd. Kingsley Swampillai is busy seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

But the rhetoric of Karuna is very strong and strident. The numbers of armed cadres he claims to have, and the fact that the East has been supplying a large part of LTTE fighters, including most of its suicide cadres, adds more than a little justification for his demand for equal treatment. Yet, there are other in-built dangers in his claim to establish a Southern Eelam. Whether it is with rivals, there is an actual danger of the Sri Lankan troops being drawn into a fight on two fronts, with two different groups.

The peace dividend

All this brings into question the peace dividend the UNP, and its leader Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have been talking of for so long, to an obviously unimpressed people.

With the initial euphoria of the absence of open warfare, and the roadblocks and checkpoints that bothered many gone, the question can now be asked quite boldly whether there is indeed any peace to boast of in this country.

Many see us as being on the threshold of violent clashes between the forces from the Vanni and those of Karuna in the East. Some have written off Karuna, with death staring in his face, in the wake of ruthless reactions by Prabhakaran to re-establish his power and unquestioned authority in all of Eelam. It is possible that all this may not affect those in the so-called South, who feel insulated from this "distant" fighting. But, can one genuinely talk of peace in the country, if there is raging violence in one major part of it?

Fear is already being expressed by those in Sinhala and Muslim villages on the borders of the possible new theatre of conflict. Many Tamils in these areas will also feel threatened. The words of Thamilchelvam that all this is an internal matter that will be settled soon, is only deceitful bunkum. The reality is far removed from this.

Although one cannot take pleasure in a resurgence of fighting and violence, anywhere in the country, the question is inevitable as to whether this is indeed the peace that the UNP delivered, after all its straining to appease the Tiger. Obviously its appeasing of those in the Vanni has not been to the liking of Karuna in the East.

The conventional wisdom about what Prof. G. L. Peiris, was repeating about peace and the peace dividend being mere eyewash, is now confirmed. The current advertising claims of what the UNP delivered in the past two years stand drained of any essence and meaning, in the face of this new crisis. The question today is whether the Government and the Prime Minister had bargained for this latest development in the East.

Delivery & betrayal

With the number of security forces informants and cadres of intelligence units whose heads were delivered on a platter to the LTTE's pistol squads after the betrayal of the Millennium City Safe House, it is hardly likely that there was sufficient intelligence on what was developing in the East. The crimes committed and betrayals carried out in the name of confidence building with the Tigers have begun to come home to roost, much too early for the UNP, and all too dangerously for the country.

Karuna has created a problem for the TNA and the international community that considered Prabhakaran's LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamils. With the welcome exception of India and the USA, for how long can foreign peace brokers, and would be donors of aid, keep up with their pilgrimages to Kilinochchi, on the convenient assumption that Prabhakaran's LTTE is the sole representative of the Tamils of Sri Lanka? Can they any more think of channeling funds to the LTTE direct?

Never is the fallout from any crisis always bad. The result of Karuna's revolt is uncertain. But it has certainly questioned the credibility of the LTTE's claim to represent all Tamils. It is not only the TNA and the donor countries that have to come to terms with this. As events unfurl it could become a major issue for whoever governs Sri Lanka, too.

If Karuna can hold his own, then not only is the monolith of the LTTE shattered, it would also show all of the UNP 's talk of peace and deliverance has taken us far behind first base in solving the ethnic crisis.

With the Tiger monolith cracked today, how seriously could the UNP's mantra of peace be taken? This is not anything to be pleased about. But it is a timely reminder of the failure of imposters to statesmanship in fooling the people about what they've done in the past two years. Have they in fact led us into another chapter in the bloody epic of the ethnic crisis of Sri Lanka? I sincerely hope not.


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