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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Interim Self Governing Authority & Aftermath > Deliberate Destabilisation:   Sri Lanka's military makes a move in the east

Norwegian Peace Initiative

Deliberate Destabilisation:
 Sri Lanka's military makes a move in the east

Tamil Guardian Editorial 26 May 2004

"..If Sri Lanka's military is tempted into exploiting  the rules of the ceasefire to shift the strategic balance in its  favour, the LTTE will be compelled, in the interests of self- protection, to respond..."

The killing Monday of a senior minority Tamil lecturer at the Eastern  University has understandably shocked and dismayed people in the  Batticaloa district. Mr. Kumaravel Thambaiah was shot dead in Sri  Lanka Army held Batticaloa town and although the assailant has not  been identified, the motive is clear. Mr. Thambaiah was a well known  supporter of the LTTE. Contrary to the deliberately misleading  suggestions by a major international news agency that he was close to  the renegade LTTE commander, Karuna, Mr. Thambaiah had been expelled  by Karuna's cadres along with hundreds of others from the district.  He only returned when Karuna's rebellion was crushed by the LTTE.

  But the killing of the senior academic has inevitably contributed to  the perception of a rapidly deteriorating security in the eastern  district. Citing just such a scenario, Sri Lanka's President  Chandrika Kumaratunga has dispatched a senior Army officer to the  eastern province. Maj. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda has been appointed  Overall Operations Commander (OOC) for the Eastern province.

The  violence in the east, according to the government, is between Karuna  loyalists and the LTTE. But the LTTE insists that the Sri Lankan  military is supporting Tamil paramilitaries - including Karuna  loyalists - in their attacks against their cadres. Several LTTE  cadres have been killed in the past few weeks. Last Thursday, for  example, gunmen ambushed a group of LTTE cadres, killing one. The  LTTE has repeatedly protested to international ceasefire monitors  that the SLA is complicit in the attacks on Tiger personnel. Meetings  between both sides organized by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission  (SLMM) produced agreements to cooperate in ending these 'criminal'  attacks. Yet the attacks, staged from SLA-controlled areas, continue  unabated.

LTTE officials in the region therefore suspect a wider strategy by  the Sri Lanka military: the creation of sufficient instability in the  east as to provide (internationally acceptable) justification for an  expansion of Sri Lanka's military control and influence in the  region. A clampdown on the LTTE's political activities in the SLA- controlled areas is already underway through the military's  intimidation of Tiger political cadres - two were recently shot dead.  LTTE supporters and family members are being threatened and attacked.  In the wake of the crushing of the Karuna's rebellion, Sri Lanka's  military is, on the assumption the LTTE's eastern organisation has  been weakened, seeking opportunities to expand its control. That Maj.  Gen Kottegoda is coordinating Sri Lankan military activities across  the eastern province as a whole - not just the Batticaloa district -  has to be seen in this light.

  But the dangers to the peace process in such a move are self evident.  The February 2002 ceasefire agreement which underpins the Norwegian  peace process is predicated on the prevailing balance of forces. Any  attempt to radically alter this could provoke confrontation and  potentially reignite the conflict. As the head of the LTTE's  political wing, Mr. S. P. Tamilselvan pointed out to the SLMM when  protesting against the attacks on the movement, "this gains more  significance in view of our commitment to the peace process and the  necessity to uphold the integrity of the [ceasefire agreement] in the  present political context."

The context he refers to is the inherent  difficulties in resuming negotiations. The Norwegian initiative is an  opportunity for both protagonists to negotiate an end to Sri Lanka's  ethnic question. If Sri Lanka's military is tempted into exploiting  the rules of the ceasefire to shift the strategic balance in its  favour, the LTTE will be compelled, in the interests of self- protection, to respond. Furthermore, as we have argued before, it is  in the volatile eastern province that those seeking to derail the  peace process stand the greatest chance of success and are likely to  concentrate their efforts. The SLMM, as an independent ceasefire  monitoring mechanism, will have a vital role to the play - and its  work cut out - in the coming days.



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