A war that co-exists with a ceasefire
By H.A. Seneviratne
The law of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), signed in February 2002
by the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government, has been superseded
by the law of an undeclared war. Gunfire, grenade and claymore
mine attacks and explosions in the North-East have become the
order of the day. At the same time, instances of civil disobedience
campaigns and hartals, launched by front organizations of the LTTE
appear to be linking up with its military actions. In fact, the LTTE
appears to be more comfortable in waging war while the CFA is on,
Meanwhile, there had been reports of the President “considering a
dramatic peace move” with the possibility of his Secretary going to
Kilinochchi for talks and the anticipated arrival of the Norwegian
special peace envoy Erik Solheim for a four-day peace mission from
January 23, “in a bid to save the peace process and review the talks
between the government and the LTTE”. (Daily Mirror, 4/1/2006,
However, the chances of any substantial success of such initiatives
on the part of the government, at this point of time, are extremely
remote, because the historic follies of all governments since the
commencement of the North-East war, in particular, are not yet
negatived, by any positive action thereafter. On the contrary, the gap
between the nationalism, felt with a sense of oppression, by the Tamil
minority, and the hegemonistic nationalism of the Sinhalese majority
had become almost unbridgeable in recent years.
This gap widened even more with the maximum utilization of
hegemonistic nationalism, mainly by the JVP and the JHU as partners
of the UPFA, during the campaign to win the Executive Presidency at
the last Presidential Election of November 17, 2005.
The stand-off thus created between the belligerents, the LTTE, and
the government – was heightened by the boycott of the last
Presidential poll enforced on voters in the North-East by the LTTE.
As a corollary of this boycott, the UPFA candidate, Mahinda
Rajapakse, managed to secure 50.29% of the valid votes cast, which
is just above the 50% of such votes required under the Constitution
to win the Executive Presidency and become the Commander-in-
Chief of the Armed Forces who has the power to declare war or
peace. His victory, therefore, understandably brought matters closer
to war than at any time since the signing of the CFA.
Now, the war has recommenced. The whole scenario perfectly fits
into the obvious and inevitable political cum military strategy of the
LTTE. Caught up in this situation, the government does not and
cannot have a flexible and viable counter-strategy at the moment.
The LTTE is also in a tight corner created by its own politics of
absolutism that had given rise to tactics of terrorism. This is the main
problem facing the LTTE vis-a-vis the Co-chair governments of the
Tokyo Donor Conference countries of Japan, Norway, the United
States and the European Union. In fact, this is a problem that the
LTTE would be ultimately answerable, one day, not only to the
oppressed Tamil speaking people in the North-East but to the
oppressed people in the rest of the country as well.
It is the Sinhalese bourgeois and petty bourgeois polity that provided
the LTTE with a feasible excuse for adopting its strategy and tactics.
LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s Hero’s Day message of November 27,
2005 is replete with reference of such instances of yesteryear, not to
speak of decades. For example: “There were sessions of
negotiations with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration and later
with Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government. The decisions,
regulations and agreements reached during these were never
fulfilled. During this process of negotiations we were extremely
tolerant and even compromised on several issues. Nevertheless, the
Sinhala political leadership refuses to offer justice to our people.”
(The Island, 28/11/2005, page 10).
The Hero’s Day statement of the LTTE leader also refers to the
dismantling of the tsunami aid distribution mechanism for the North-
East, the P-TOMS, in the same vein:
“With the demise of the tsunami mechanism the Sinhala-Buddhist
chauvinism killed the last hope of the Tamil people. Even the all-
powerful President Kumaratunga could not provide a simple
humanitarian project for the Tamils against the wishes of the Sinhala
racist forces. The tsunami mechanism was not devolved with any
political power, nor was it to have any administrative authority. If
there were so much opposition in southern Sri Lanka to a simple
provisional arrangement, then it is a daydream to expect to secure
regional self-governing authority in the Tamil homeland by
negotiating with the Sinhala political leadership. This is the political
truth that we have been able to learn from the four-year period of the
peace process. We hope that the international community, which has
been intensively observing this political drama, similarly understands
this truth”. (ibid, emphasis added).
The government, which is vulnerable without an absolute majority in
parliament, would find it extremely difficult to eradicate itself from the
critical support offered by the JVP and the JHU, with the deadly
embrace of the kind of shallow and hegemonistic nationalism, a stock-
in-trade of petty-bourgeois opportunism.
The government should find a way out to make a tactical retreat from
the opportunist stance of hegemonistic nationalism, before it finds
itself in political disaster that could even result in Sri Lanka coming
under the yoke of foreign hegemony.
As far as the LTTE is concerned, the overall situation calls for war or
at least military ventures amounting to war, camouflaged with mass
protests, even if it is prepared to settle matters for any kind of
political power short of a separate state within the state of Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, the LTTE is hemmed in by the Indian government’
s present stance of opposing separatism, through fear of the
possibility of similar trends being set in motion in various parts of
India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. For the same reason, the Indian
government could very well pressurize the Sri Lankan government to
accept a much worse political retreat, in any case.
No military strategy could be a substitute for a political strategy.
Military strategy should be based on a political strategy. This is, in
fact, how the LTTE operates. It has made a major political retreat in
agreeing to a settlement short of a separate state. By doing so the
LTTE has gained political leverage to even fight for a separate state.
In order to advance towards separatism or maximum power short of
separation, it is vital for the LTTE to gain military and administrative
control of the Jaffna capital even at the risk of losing the peripheral
areas in the North-East, over which it already exercises military and
administrative control. That is the upshot, in military terms, of the
following final passage in Prabhakaran’s Hero’s Day message of last
“This is our urgent and final appeal. If the new government rejects
our urgent appeal, we will, next year, in solidarity with our people,
intensify our struggle for national liberation to establish self-
government in our homeland”. (ibid)
Military actions launched by the LTTE now in widespread areas of
the North-East appear to be a tactic adopted to scatter the heavy
concentration of government forces in an around Jaffna. The LTTE
would surely have learnt from previous experience that a military
onslaught on Jaffna could result in direct Indian intervention. Attacks
scattered outside Jaffna, while launching civil disobedience
movements in Jaffna, would prevent a closure of the A 9 Jaffna-
Kandy highway and ensure continued inflow of some Rs. 20 million
daily into the coffers of the LTTE besides depriving the government
of its income from state establishments and banks in the area.
The other important reason for launching the kind of sporadic but
systematically intensified attacks is that the responsibility for such
attacks could be denied until it becomes possible to place the entire
responsibility for the outbreak of Eelam War IV on the government.
This course of action is necessary to maintain the continuity of the in
flow of financial assistance from the Tamil Diaspora in foreign
countries that have already imposed certain restrictions on the LTTE’
s fund raising apparatus by considering the LTTE to be a terrorist
Sri Lanka’s ruling class polity, as those totally responsible for the
current crisis, will have to find new methods of resolving the problem
of the political rights of the Tamil-speaking people in the North-East.
In that context, the government should, as a first step, not use
phraseology such as “unitary and federal states,” “undivided Sri
Lanka” and “maximum devolution which preserves the unity and
territorial integrity”, which have lost whatever meaning they would
have had, if at all, and ceased to be sustainable any longer,
particularly in view of the nature of the problem facing the country
today. On such a basis, the government should formulate and give
expression to a modern and unique concept of power-sharing, using
new and meaningful terminology, in order to resolve the present
If the government adopts such a methodology, it would not be difficult
to convince the LTTE that its own use of phrases like “traditional
homeland” are also outdated under the fast changing global
capitalist system and that political and other rights of groups of
people have to be granted and protected, in any case, whether their
homeland is traditional or not.
The government and the others among the ruling classes should
earnestly and quickly approach the problem with a modern and
futuristic outlook, before it is too late for them as well as the people of
Sri Lanka’s ruling class polity has either not understood or they
refuse to understand the politics of this war. None is so blind as the
one who refuses to see. There are historical reasons based on their
crass opportunism as a class for them to be so.
In the meantime, the point of no return for this country is almost
visible on the horizon! [Courtesy: DailyMirror]