War and Peace- LTTE way
12 June 1991
A spokesperson of the Tigers told the press in Jaffna some time
after the assassination of Gandhi, that they (the LTTE) have been in
touch with the government through the good offices of some concerned
parties. The spokesperson even mentioned the name of a senior
government official, as the person who would arrive in Jaffna to
These stories aside, there are some questions that would have to be
countenanced by the government in holding talks with the LTTE. In
such a dialogue does it accept the Tigers with their military assets
Would the thirteenth amendment, which provides for the Provincial
Council system, be relevent in the envisaged dialogue in view of the
LTTE’s position on the Northeastern Provincial Council?
Would the preliminary agenda include the question of the merger of
the north and eastern Provinces, colonization and district
Would it also include the status of the other groups and political
parties both Tamil and Sinhalese in the north and east if and when
any agreement on the prospect of holding elections is reached?
And finally does the state, if it is earnest about holding talks,
have an idea worth placing before the general public as to how a
mechanism for supervising and/or inducing the inevitable process of
disarming could be worked out?
These questions beg to be answered and answered in detail. The
essence of any possible settlement to the Tamil question is the
future of LTTE’s military assets. It has become integral to the
Tamil problem. The failure of the IPKF’s effort to disarm the LTTE
and the unprecedented military build up before the war began in June
have brought a new and perhaps confounding factor into the idea of
finding a solution to the ethnic conflict in sri Lanka.
This has also given rise to the notion of finding an ‘alternative’
system of security in the north and east. the military assets of the
LTTE cannot be ignored for too long in the event there being any
talks between government and the Tigers, for the status of the other
groups and political parties including the UNP will figure
crucially, may presume even in the preliminary stages.
This time the political and military leadership of the country
cannot but address the dual problem of alternative security and the
mechanism supervising and/or inducing the process of disarming. This
can be the critical area in which the intractable difficulties of
dealing with the Tamil question now will arise. If the desired
method on the part of the government is a peaceful one then it has
to inevitably countenance the constitutional and politically
sensitive problem of setting up a system of security in the north
and east which would be a sufficient incentive for the staggered
dismantling of the LTTE’s military organization.
The government it appears is thinking in terms of a system of
security which would be ‘indigenous.’ But again the question is, in
the context of a ‘peaceful dialogue’ envisaged, can this idea of
indigenous security- which means that law and order would
predominantly in the hands of the Tamils in the north and east- be a
sufficient incentive to convince the LTTE to agree to voluntary and
The crux of the matter however is this: that when everything has
been said and done, it would transpire that the LTTE would not allow
anyone else to be part of indigenous security arrangement and that
inducing disarmament would mean in that case, another protracted
war. The very essence of LTTE’s argument for physically eliminating
the other groups is that they cannot be entrusted with the security
of the Tamils. they have systematically and fanatically endeavored
over the years to arrogate the right of ensuring the safety and
security of the Tamils from Sri Lanka, India and the other groups.
Hence any solution envisaged by the government has to consider the
LTTE and its military assets and potential as comprising the law and
order system proposed to be set up under the terms of that solution.
If not it means war.
The whole thing has taken on the nature of a pointless conundrum. If
the government ruthlessly pursues the war while uselessly dragging
on the APC then it stand in danger of losing the other groups and
ultimately being left only with the LTTE to hold talks; an LTTE
which would still retain its potential to re-establish a better
organized and resourceful military system to wage a more successful
On the other hand if the government talks to the LTTE now and
earnestly pursues the process of drawing and setting up a suitable
form of autonomy including a security arrangement which would be
indigenous it would be again faced with the LTTE as the sole
political and military reality in the north and east, because even
if the LTTE agrees in principle even at a later stage to the idea of
holding elections in the north and east it would be a stage in which
the government accepts them as they are; with their military assets,
which in turn would mean that other groups will be non-entities in
the LTTE dominated areas.
These seem to be the reasons why the Tigers feel that it is easier
to advance towards thier goal through the studied and calculated
alternation of war and peace. The front page comment by the Editor
in the latest issue of the pro-LTTE TamilNation will throw some
light on these matters that inform the Tigers’ approach to t he
military and political methods for achieving their goal.
“It must be said to the credit of President Premadasa, that unlike
his predecessor, he is a politician with this ears to the ground;
and hence has the perspicacity to understand and respect the nature
of the new Tamil phenomenon. This is what perhaps gave him the
courage in May 1989 to admit armed Tigers into the city of Colombo
and host them in 5-star hotels, over which his Sinhala critics have
not stopped taunting him. If his recent convincing win in the local
bodies elections has given him the confidence to go back to his
original track, he now has the added benefits of two experiences- a
one year old pointless dialogue between May 1989 and May 1990 that
came to nothing, and the one-year old fruitless war between June
1990 and now, which had come to nothing either, but had left the
country weaker economically, and more exposed to strong-arm
pressures from western donor countries. In fact he has fewer options
now than what he had in May 1989.
President Premadasa is reported to have told a Sinhala audience
recently,- in a bilingual flourish- that while he was not prepared
to concede Eelam, but short of it he was prepared to give “ellam”
(all, in Tamil). That we think is a good beginning.
After all, one should be pragmatic enough to understand that no
ruler anywhere can concede anything that is not in his power to
give. New nation states are never given, they are always taken. The
General Yahya Khans and Bhouttos could not have given Bangladesh; it
was taken from them.