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
''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'
Reinforcing the tough Mutt approach, the Sri Lankan airforce systematically bombed
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
''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
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
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
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
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
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.''