Morning Star (Jaffna)
Recently Dr. Anton Balasingham, LTTE theoretician, was quoted by ‘Tamil Net’ as saying, “The de-proscription of the LTTE will be a recognition of the legitimacy of the Tamil people’s struggle. It is not a concession (by the Government) but an acknowledgement of our position as the authentic representatives of the Tamil people.” Readers may well remember that the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) campaign was solely based on who the legitimate representatives of the Tamil people are. The LTTE has categorically stated that if it were to come for Talks the ban imposed on them locally should be lifted.
Much have been written during these days that the present ‘mood’ paves way for a lasting peace and that this opportunity should not be missed. The Honourable Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has also spoken to this effect, “We have no right to play around this last chance we have to achieve peace in Sri Lanka. We also have no right to indulge in narrow political aims making use of the ban on the LTTE.” The Liberation Tigers’ chief negotiator and political advisor, Mr. Anton Balasingham, has welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s decision to review its proscription of the LTTE so as to pave the way for future negotiations with the organization. He further said that the de-proscription of the LTTE was a long-standing impediment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, some, notably S.L. Gunasekara, are involved in ‘scathing’ attacks on the LTTE and also in trying to mobilize people against such a move. One may perhaps say what does a party that does not have a single seat in the parliament have in this context.
Let us not forget the history. In fact, the issue of banning the LTTE first arose in the year 1978 when the Tigers claimed several activities including the assassination of CID inspector Bastiampillai. The PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) took care of what was needed at that time. With the passing of the 6th amendment to the Constitution in 1983, ‘separatism’ was outlawed in the land. These draconian measures were used to repress the longings and aspirations of the Tamil people. Hence, the question that emerges is “Who is a terrorist?” According to the late Archbishop Dom Helder Camara of Recife, Brazil it is the violence of the state that evokes the protest or rebellion of the people who are suppressed and oppressed by the same state. Though the formal banning of the LTTE was done on the eleventh day of October 1987, soon after the war with the IPKF began; late R. Premadasa had to revoke the ban in order to have political dialogue with the LTTE. Once again, President Chandrika Kumaratunge imposed the ban as a result of the attack on the Dalada Maligawa in 1998. Remember that this was almost three years after the commencement of war between the LTTE and the government in April 1995. Needless to say that the government hesitated to do so fearing the impossibilities of any negotiations in future. One may also remember that the LTTE was not banned in Sri Lanka when the United States of America designated it as a terrorist organization in 1997.
In the context of aftermath of September 11, 2001 incidents the whole focus is on “Global Terrorism.” Countries like Canada and Australia have also imposed some restrictions on LTTE. A presentation on “The Making and Unmaking of a Terrorist” by Professor Kumar David provokes some reasonable thinking. “People-oriented” approach is necessary for any meaningful solution. Perspective of the victims of oppression is important. It is high time that the country realized the colossal amount spent on war, the money meant for development of the country. One may have to ask him or herself whether the LTTE is the “cause” or “consequence” of the situation. People have expressed through the ballot what the aspirations of the people were. It was an election to decide on “peace” or “war”. Hence, it is important to realize that making the LTTE sit at the table for talks is not a concessional but rather a legitimate invitation. Thus it is nothing but essential that they sit at the table as equal partners, and not just gathering crumbs from the table that falls from the government’s ‘favor’.
|Courtesy: Morning Star [8 February 2002]. Morning Star, a Christian Weekly published every Friday from Jaffna, was established in 1841 by the American Ceylon Mission, Vaddukoddai, Sri Lanka.