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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

The tactics of Jeff and Mutt

January 1994

It appears that the Sri Lanka government has embraced the tactics of Jeff and Mutt in its continuing efforts to avoid direct talks with the Liberation Tigers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe plays the soft spoken reasoning Jeff role.

The state controlled Sri Lanka Sunday Observer reported on January 16 in its front page, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe had extended an open invitation to the LTTE and its leader, Velupillai Pirabaharan to make representations to the Select Committee on Constitutional Reforms.

''The Select Committee will obtain public representation at the widest possible level and the LTTE can make their own representations to it'' he said.

At the same time, Sri Lanka President D.B.Wijetunga cast in the role of the tough talking Mutt continued to reiterate that there is no ethnic problem but only a 'terrorist' problem.

Reinforcing the tough Mutt approach, the Sri Lankan airforce systematically bombed hospitals, churches, temples and other civilian targets in the Tamil homeland.

Three religious leaders in the North, Bishop D.J.Ambalavanar, Bishop Thomas Saundranayagam and Nallai Thiru Sampandar Atheenam protested on 17 November 1993:

''A close statistical study of the air raids carried out by the Sri Lankan airforce in the North will show that the victims of the raids have almost always been innocent helpless civilians. When this is the case how could any one avoid concluding that this is organised State terrorism.?''

Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Saundranayagam told Sri Lanka President Wijetunga:

''Please instruct your forces to abide by international law and respect civilian population centres and sacred places of worship.''

Sri Lanka's new Army Commander, Lt.General Gerry de Silva weighed in with his own aggressive contribution. He declared in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times on 16 January:

''We have made our plans and discussed them with the Ministry of Defence... The thrust of our approach, I can say, is two fold. The short term strategy is immediate offensive action... Certain (long term) strategies are (also) being worked out. Ofcourse this needs a lot of material, arms, ammunition, vehicles.''

It will not be surprising therefore if Prime Minister Wickremasinghe's 'invitation' to the LTTE to join the general public in making representations to the Parliamentary Select Committee for Constitutional Reform will be seen by many as a disingenuous propaganda ploy.

It appears that whilst the Sri Lanka government prepares for a military onslaught on Tamil Eelam, it is also anxious to show the international community on which it is dependent for 'materials, arms, ammunition and vehicles'', that the Government is not intransigent.

The pressing bottom line is that the Sri Lanka Government needs to replenish the Rs.750 million losses incurred in the recent Janakapura, Killali, Devro and Pooneryn debacles. But some Western Aid Donors may have begun to question the wisdom of pumping in more arms to secure stability in the island. Again, the Sri Lanka Army's recent track record may not have engendered much confidence in its ability to secure the so called 'military solution'.

At the same time, it appears that President D.B.Wijetunga's tough Mutt act, is intended to secure victory for the UNP at the forthcoming polls by out doing the other Sinhala political parties in the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism stakes.

The point made by the late Sathasivam Krishnakumar, the charismatic head of the International Secretariat of the LTTE in July 1991 bears repetition yet again:

''Whilst Sri Lanka talks peace it continues with its military efforts. If we look at the past we can see why. Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has been institutionalised in Sri Lanka and today it has become more powerful than the politicians themselves. Indeed even if some Sinhala politicians seek to settle the conflict, Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism will seek to prevent such a settlement... This Sinhala chauvinism which was nurtured by Sinhala politicians for their electoral advantage, has grown into a Frankenstein monster which now has the power to destroy and make Sinhala politicians. This we understand very well.''

For three long years, the Sri Lanka government put forward the Parliamentary Select Committee on Ethnic Affairs as the forum for the resolution of the conflict. Before that it was the All Party Conference. Now it is the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Reforms.

The true intent of Prime Minister Wickremasinghe's 'invitation' was revealed by the place where he made it - to a Sinhala audience at a public meeting in Marambe, Akuressa in the deep Sinhala South. And presumably Prime Minister Wickremasinghe wanted to be taken seriously.

He said it was a canard spread by the LTTE that the ''government is not interested in a political solution after Mr.D.B.Wijetunga took over as President.'' Prime Minister Wickremasinghe even tried to pass off the 'invitation' to the LTTE to join the general public to make representation to the Select Committee as 'discussions' with the Government. He said:

''Several opportunities were given for the LTTE to come for discussions with the Government. But the LTTE has failed to come forward.''

The Sri Lanka Sunday Observer went one better and headlined the news story: ''Ranil invites Prabha for talks''!

Though the political compulsions which led the Sri Lanka Sunday Observer to mislead its readers may not be without significance the fact remains that Prime Minister Wickremasinghe was being economical with truth when he declared that 'several opportunities were given for the LTTE to come for discussions with the Government.'

The truth is that the Sri Lanka government has, at every turn, refused to sit and talk with the LTTE on equal terms. The truth is that the Sri Lanka government has used and continues to use the Parliamentary Select Committee mechanism as a way of avoiding direct talks with the LTTE.

The trouble, however, with the tactics of Jeff and Mutt is that, though directed to serve the same end, they are mutually contradictory.

If there is no ethnic problem, what is the so called Select Committee on Constitutional Reforms about and why invite the LTTE to make representations to it? On the other hand, if the Government cannot or will not enter into direct talks with the LTTE because it categorises the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people led by the LTTE as 'terrorism', why does it invites the very same LTTE to make representations to the Select Committee? Is it that, that which is so called 'terrorism' to Sri Lanka's President, is not 'terrorism' to Sri Lanka's Prime Minister?

The Sri Lanka government is naive if it believes that the 'tactics' of Jeff and Mutt will not be seen for what they are: tactics meant to avoid direct talks with the LTTE and at the same time, further Sri Lanka's continuing genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people.

The words of Velupillai Pirabaharan on Maha Veerar Naal on 27 November 1993 will focus Tamil minds and hearts on the task ahead:

''I do not believe that there will be a radical change in the hardened attitude of Sinhala chauvinism. Without such a radical change there is no hope for a peaceful resolution of the problem. Because of the rigid and hardline attitude of Sinhala chauvinism, the creation of an independent state is the only path open to the Tamil people. We have no alternative other than to proceed along that path.''

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