Isolation or Annihilation of the LTTE?
In his examination of the "Isolation of LTTE" hypothesis Durand Appuhamy makes many valid points but his analysis of what he calls the "national question" still falls short of a real understanding of this question. He seems to agree with the current consensus that the LTTE is at the centre of the problem and if the LTTE is annihilated, or at least isolated, the problem will be solved. The error lies in regarding the LTTE as the father of the problem when it is actually the child of the problem. The problem arose long before anyone heard of the LTTE and will remain even after everyone has forgotten about the LTTE. But the intervention of the LTTE has raised the problem to a new dimension and make its solution in a post-LTTE situation far more difficult than it would have been in the pre-LTTE period. The fact is the SL politicians blundered in the pre-LTTE phase, floundered in the LTTE phase and has no clue how to tackle it in a potential post-LTTE phase.
Appuhamy seems initially inclined to the isolation idea but thinks that Federalism is not the way to do this. Federalism is one way of devolution of power which is the negation of the unitary state. The idea of devolution seems to be accepted by most shades of opinion in Sri Lanka as a solution to the national question, the only difference lies in the extent of devolution, units of devolution and other technical matters. More importantly there is agreement that the devolution that is aimed at is racial devolution even though this is not openly acknowledged by its supporters. The whole idea of devolution is to give the Tamils a part of the country to rule as they please. The Sinhalese in the other provinces are not too keen of devolution and have never initiated a significant campaign to have devolution in their areas.
Appuhamy disposes of the isolation hypothesis by saying that the LTTE cannot be isolated because of the strong support that it gets from the Tamil Diaspora. What then is his solution? He sees the solution in what happened in the Eastern Province. In his words:
"The solution is manifest in what happened in the eastern province. There the LTTE was militarily defeated and chased out of their bunkers. The Tamils ran away from their homes and from the LTTE's dictatorship. Now they have returned home trying to rebuild their lives as free citizens of this country. There is peace there now despite efforts at disruption by LTTE cadres. This then is the solution."There is a lot of wishful thinking in this. Appuhamy is referring to what happened in Mavil-Aru, Sampoor and Vaharai. A great deal of fuss has been made about these military victories without recognizing that they were secured in the margins of LTTE power. We still do not have it repeated in a major LTTE stronghold like Killinochchi, Elephant Pass, Mullaitivu or Pooneryn. Unless some progress is made in these areas we cannot simply say that the Eastern experience can be repeated in the LTTE heartland conceded under the CFA. According to the Game Plan recently revealed by the Army commander (see Blogs ID 7.43- 7.44 of ACSLU) the aim is to "weaken" the LTTE so that it comes to the negotiating table. This is not what happened in the East.
Besides the notion that Tamils have returned to Vaharai etc. and are living like free citizens is not correct. Nobody in the East is living entirely free. Terrorism is constantly taking its toll. Now there are more terrorist groups with the splintering of the Karuna outfit. People are disappearing without anyone knowing which group is responsible. The lawlessness in the East is also seen in Colombo although on a much smaller scale. Besides Appuhamy seems to think that Northern and Eastern Tamils are eagerly awaiting the downfall of Prabhakaran. If this is so Prabhakaran would already have fallen even without the efforts of the SL Army. If a military solution is what is needed then GOSL should embrace the idea much more robustly than it has done so. Since such a solution will earn the disapproval of the West and India who will tighten the economic screws any credible military plan has to see how the economic problem has to be tackled. It is questionable whether the bumbling antics of the GOSL is capable of managing simultaneously both the economic and military efforts that are needed to affect a real military solution.
Despite the advocacy of what appears to be a military solution Appuhamy also has faith in the APRC process. He thinks that the APRC will (1) define the problem and (2) find a solution. Appuhamy says that the APRC has not even defined the problem. In fact not even the GOSL of MahindaR has defined the problem. As for the solution this is virtually an impossibility given the widely conflicting positions taken by the stakeholders. Leadership in this matter must come from the Government, not from the APRC. That leadership is not forthcoming. That is the central fact which explains the quandary the nation is placed and is forced to endure unending terrorism.
All I can say is that Durant Appuhamy like GOSL has lost his way.
The accepted political wisdom of our times appears to me to be the formulation of a strategy to isolate the LTTE from the Tamil community and the world at large. Almost everybody seems to accept that this can be achieved by installing a federal constitution in Sri Lanka. Thus isolated, it is assumed, that the LTTE will then either fall in line and become a democratic party fully participating in the processes of this new government structure; or simply wither away bereft of the support it enjoys and utilizes now. Hey presto! The national problem is solved for all times! I must admit that the theory of isolation of LTTE is attractive to me too though federation is not my means to achieve that end. In Popperian terms the above hypothesis is falsifiable because the LTTE cannot be confined to isolation just by mere constitutional reforms of any democratic type. This is because the LTTE simply does not accept any democracy of any kind nor can the LTTE survive in a democratic society.
Most Tamil political commentators accept that approximately one-third of the Tamil population in this country is hard-core Eelamists and will remain devoted to LTTE through all thick and thin. Of the rest, half is neutral and will side with the LTTE so long as it is winning and will desert it when the LTTE starts loosing; the remaining half is democratic, and has been anti-terrorist though not averse to fighting for their perceived rights. Thus, if these estimates are correct, then it is quite plausible to accept that there will always be substantial support for LTTE among the Tamil population in this country. In this situation complete isolation of the LTTE is an impossibility. Nevertheless the Tamils in the east recently demonstrated the conditions necessary to make them abandon the LTTE. When the security forces militarily defeated the LTTE and chased them away from their bunkers, the Tamil people abandoned the LTTE walked miles to get to government areas. And now they are happily returning to their broken homes under the guardianship of the security forces. There is a lesson here for those who advocate the isolation theory via federalism.
The diaspora Tamils are usually the most vociferous and strident supporters of the LTTE. They will use their wealth and contacts to nullify any attempts made to isolate the LTTE. In this age when money can buy support and influence, it is not beyond LTTE manipulators in the western world to install formidable barriers to prevent the isolation of the LTTE. They are doing so now in the UN and EU sub-units and in some state legislatures such as the British parliament These foreign LTTE devotees will find help for their project to save the LTTE among some Sinhala misguided politicians, Sinhala NGOs and some subversive international NGOs. It is quite possible that the LTTE could be even directly funding them to sing on their behalf. They will always find some reason or other to berate the government just when the government is gaining the upper hand over the LTTE.
The LTTE is today a billion dollar business accountable to no one and does not produce profit statements and balance sheets as per prescribed standards of accounting. The agents of the LTTE have their hands in almost every illegal yet lucrative business deal taking place somewhere in the world. Their Funds-Flow Statement, if available, would be the envy of any international legitimate business organization. This availability of funds to run their organization and buy sophisticated weapons alone is sufficient reason why the LTTE will not wither away as expected. As stated above they will simply use these funds to buy and retain support of people that matter in various countries for their Eelam project and continue to fight as long as they have the means to buy the weapons.
The strict social organization of the Tamil society in the Wanni is based on the complete acceptance of the hierarchy of the LTTE. The LTTE has had nearly thirty years to brain-wash everyone there that project Eelam is real and achievable with their support. At the dawn of the day this strict regime of compliance begins with the singing of praises of Pirapakaran at school and ends with military training of adults at twilight. The bonds thus established are not easily broken. As dissent is not allowed, fear of one's life is sufficient to keep the Wanni Tamils firmly tethered to the LTTE. These Tamils cannot abandon LTTE until the de-commission of the arms of the LTTE or the military defeat of the LTTE takes place. The east has amply proved this point.
Would India allow the complete isolation of the LTTE? There are some Indians like Dr.Subramanian Swamy, once a Union Cabinet Minister of India, who boldly tell us that "LTTE is a part of the problem, and cannot be part of any solution" ( his book "Sri Lanka in Crisis: India's Options"). But such Indians are few. He advocates three solutions for India to implement in Sri Lanka. One, an Indian type quasi-federation, two, the partition of the Sri Lanka, and three, the merger of Sri Lanka with India. He also argues that India is obligated to disband and eliminate LTTE and the use of Commando force to lift Pirapakaran and Pottu Amman from wherever they are hiding. In my view the de-commissioning of their weapons and the military debilitation, if not defeat, should top the list of practical steps for a solution to our military conflict. With no weapons in their hands to force others to submit to them, the gradual disbanding of the LTTE would inevitably follow suit. Perhaps then, like the IRA, they will become a political force.
There are many Indians in Tamil Nadu who will support the LTTE no matter what a few brave Indian politicians have advocated. This is why we have a continuous flow of illicit aid to the LTTE mostly originating from Tamil Nadu. Most Indian Tamil politicians would subscribe to Narayan's (Indian PM's National Security Advisor) doctrine of keeping Sri Lanka isolated by imposing restrictive prescriptions on our weapons purchases, and Raman's (a retired Indian Official) decree that India "should not help the Sri Lankan government in neutralizing the LTTE's ground capabilities". It is quite plain from the above that there are strong forces in India that will ensure the survival of LTTE and prevent it from being isolated from the Tamil people. Their agenda are not only inimical to Sri Lanka, but are also very dangerous to the long term survival of Akhand Bharat! (indivisible India).
As the "Political Watch" of the Sunday Island reminds us "in 1987 the Indian sponsored Provincial Councils system was accepted by every Tamil group other than the LTTE. A Tamil government was formed in the North and the East. At that time the LTTE was isolated with the entire world supporting the peace deal. Despite all the isolation the LTTE stood their ground and through sheer intransigence, managed to have their own way. Today Indo-Lanka Accord is no more, but the LTTE is still around. Trying to defeat the LTTE by isolating it, is a joke".
Given the reasons above, the hypothesis that LTTE can be isolated by the offer of a federal solution to the present conflict, is untenable. Hence the exasperating question, what then is the solution? The solution is manifest in what happened in the eastern province. There the LTTE was militarily defeated and chased out of their bunkers. The Tamils ran away from their homes and from the LTTE's dictatorship. Now they have returned home trying to rebuild their lives as free citizens of this country. There is peace there now despite efforts at disruption by LTTE cadres. This then is the solution. The defeat of the LTTE in the eyes of the Tamils under their control is what is required to isolate the LTTE from the Tamils. Though some might argue that military defeat of the LTTE is not possible and that they will resurrect themselves even after the defeat, yet eternal recurrence is not one of the attributes of any terrorist organization anywhere in the world. All of them usually go to the graves with their leader. In any case what I am arguing for is the perceived defeat of the LTTE in the eyes of the Tamils, who hitherto considered the LTTE as their saviour/messiah leading them to the paradise of Eelam. The virility of the LTTE is the force of its weapons and the willingness to use them indiscriminately. This is also the Achilles heel of the LTTE. The security forces are right to pursue the objective of irreparably damaging the LTTE's military strength in the eyes of the Tamils under their control. Our forces should supplement this by targeted information blitz on the very many failures of the LTTE including the fact that even after twenty-five years Pirapakaran has singularly failed to win the war and establish Eelam.
Does this mean that we should give up our search for a political solution? No. The APRC should spend more time on arriving at a definition of the problem first and then seek a solution based on the democratic principles of freedom and rule of democratically promulgated law. There is now a surfeit of solutions but no real perception of the problem!