With the attack on the Sri Lankan Army Chief by a suspected LTTE suicide bomber on the 25th , followed by attack on the Naval crafts of Sri Lankan Navy and the retaliatory air strikes in the Sampoor area off Trincomalee by the Sri Lankan Air force, the question arises whether the Cease-fire agreement brokered by Norway four years ago is coming apart?
It looks to be, unless the international donor body, India and other well meaning countries urge both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government to go back to the negotiating table and resume the talks in Geneva that has been indefinitely postponed.
It is said that in any militant movement, cold logic and analysis defy some of the actions of the militants. The recent suicide attack in Colombo which had all the signatures of LTTE’s involvement in the attack on the Sri Lankan Army Commander is one such example that defies all logic. At one stroke, all efforts made by the LTTE to legitimise itself internationally have gone up in smoke and it is a question of time before others like the European Union follows Canada which not only declared the LTTE a terrorist outfit but followed it up quickly with raids by the Royal Canadian Police on some of the offices of Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates.
These developments have come at a very inconvenient time for India, where the elections to the state assembly in May in Tamil Nadu are due. Besides a call of support to President Rajapakse, the immediate response of the Indian government was to condemn the attack and a formal carefully worded statement that said “violence is not the answer to any problem and that political dialogue is the way to resolve outstanding issues.”
On 25th April, a female suicide bomber dressing herself as a pregnant woman managed to enter the high security area of Army Headquarters and waited at the gate of the Army Hospital where many others were also waiting to attend the clinic. When the Army commander’s convoy passed the gate of the hospital, the suicide bomber threw herself on to the convoy. Eight persons including an Army major and two army motor cycle riders died in the blast and over 27 persons including many civilians were injured.
The Army Commander who was critically injured in the attack is said to be out of danger now after being operated for many hours.
It is said that a few hours after the incident, a naval craft was attacked near Sampoor area in Trincomalee area by suspected militants. This is however being denied by the LTTE.
The same evening, Sampoor area including Mutur was bombarded by Kfir fighters of Sri Lankan Air force on suspected LTTE positions. Mutur has also been hit by artillery fire and Naval gunboats. There are no reports of LTTE casualties, but independent sources say that at least ten civilians have been killed.
While Sri Lanka has declared that the air strikes would continue as a deterrent, it is the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission which has been placed in a difficult situation. The Swedish Major. Gen. Ulf Henricsson of SLMM has said that if air strikes continued, peace talks would become difficult.
It looks that the Sri Lankan President had no choice but to go ahead with retaliatory action. What is important is that he ensures that there is no Sinhala backlash as is already happening in Trincomalee. In his nation wide broadcast, President Rajapakse said “This country belongs to all its citizens….. who live here. Today’s crisis cannot be resolved by dividing this country.” It is not only his party, but also the JVP and the JHU that need to go an extra length to prevent attacks on Tamils. In the aftermath of a blast at the market place in Trincomalee, over 100 houses and business establishments of the Tamils have been destroyed leaving 3000 persons home less. This is just the beginning but more could follow if the situation is not brought under control.
It is unclear what made the LTTE choose a high level target which they knew would jeopardize not only the peace talks but the cease fire agreement itself. On their behalf it is said that the Govt. of Sri Lanka has been engaging in activities to put a noose round the LTTE, by openly going round the capitals of the world to prosecute the LTTE and stop their fund raising and that President Rajapakse has embarked on punitive measures against the Tamil community to bolster his own political position with other extreme forces in the south.
The attack on the Army chief would have required meticulous preparations and would have taken months to prepare. It is just a chance that the Chief survived. It is also likely that the LTTE has many more such projects and it is only hoped that it desists from such acts which would not only bring international wrath, but would make other few countries that are left to declare them as a “terrorist outfit”.
The LTTE has not yet understood that reviving the hostilities will not take them anywhere. There is no doubt that they have nothing to show to the people as peace dividend after almost four years of cease-fire. There is also the potential danger of more Karunas emerging. It looks that east is lost to the LTTE and any revival of hostility would only confirm that position!
There is no military solution for the LTTE and there could be none either for the Sri Lankan government. The Cease fire has to be continued. Sooner or later both sides will have to go into substantive talks. They will have to step back from their rigid positions and help Norway continue with the cease fire process.