The writing is on the wall. Tamil armed groups are back. There is no denying that. However, for political reasons government and the Ministry of Defence refuse to admit it. Living in denial is very dangerous. Four months ago three Sinhala traders were stabbed and seriously wounded in
. Just a few weeks ago a Hindu priest and his sons were shot in Jaffna and now the deputy zonal education director of Jaffna has been shot dead. It is the same clear pattern of violence that was seen in the 1970s. For political reasons the then Sirima Bandaranaike government refused to take action after her government was blamed for excesses in putting down the 1971 insurrection. Delay costed the country dearly. When open war started it was far too late. Jaffna
What are the real reasons behind these incidents?
Attacking Sinhala traders was part of a big plan to keep Sinhalese out of
. It’s the same thing that happened in the 1970s. There were more than 25,000 Sinhalese in Jaffna in 1971 but by 1981 more than 20,000 of them were chased away bringing their number down to a mere 4,000. Jaffna
Shooting a Hindu priest and his sons just a few weeks ago is a definite eye opener. Pro-LTTE elements prepared to celebrate what they call Maveerar Nal. They instructed all Hindu temples in the
peninsular to toll the bells on November 27 at a given time. However, Sri Lanka Army took timely action to cripple this plan. The particular Hindu priest, like others, refrained from following instructions of pro-LTTE groups earning their wrath. He and his sons were attacked which was seen as a warning against anyone not obeying orders of pro-LTTE groups. Jaffna
Tsunami remembrance was held in
on December 26. Tamil students in the north were required to sing the National Anthem in Sinhala. Education department personnel were under pressure from pro-LTTE elements not to comply with this requirement. However, they refused to take up the matter and complied with the instructions from the government. The result was revenge from pro-LTTE groups killing the deputy zonal education director. Jaffna
Blaming the government while achieving their goal
The other part of their actions is to blame the government for their crimes. It is totally absurd to blame the security forces for these heinous crimes. Old records show this was how they did things in the 1970s when violent incidents including the assassination of Alfred Duraiappa were blamed on the government. Blame for LTTE leader’s first victim was laid on SLFP internal politics in
. While these rubbish claims are used to fool the unsuspecting public, terrorists achieve their goal of terrorising the people in the north to submission. Terrorising and getting the people in the north to take instructions from the LTTE is the ultimate goal. Once people stop resisting the LTTE, its cadres are going to use them as a cover to attack security forces. Jaffna
It is worthwhile to note that there were no direct attacks on security forces in the north during 1970s. First it was Tamils associated with the government who became victims of LTTE terror. Once people were subjugated, Tigers moved to harass and attack the army.
We are back to the days when Tigers were growing. Unless they are stopped in their tracks using military means, there will be no end to this.
The third ingredient - extortionists at work
Terrorists don’t aim to engage in an all out war. What they want is to exert enough pressure on the government so that separatists and pro-Tamil racist politicians can extort various favours from the government. It took less than a day for this to happen after the latest attack in the north. Tamil United Liberation Front (the party that took up the creation of Tamil Elam at the 1977 election) leader - V Anandasangaree - making good use of the attack started making race based demands. Clearly the pattern of pressure, terror and extortion is established.
Soon TNA and other Tamil racist political groups will jump in the bandwagon and make many Tamil-only demands making good use of the pressure created by pro-LTTE murderers. If the government yields to pressure, it becomes a habit for these groups to secretly collude and openly criticise each other while benefiting both ways. Soon people in the north too will be convinced that ‘a little bit of pressure using violence’ is the way to win demands. When things deteriorate to that level, it is far too late.
The trap the government is in
Unlike during the war, the government cannot go all out and destroy these terror elements. Firstly, because they function stealthily from within the people. Secondly because it is embarrassing and humiliating to accept that the LTTE threat is still there. Thirdly, the propaganda effect is pushing the government for a less aggressive response. LTTE groups around the world made a huge noise against the humanitarian operation that ended in remarkable success in 2009. Due to international pressure, the government is reluctant to use force against remaining LTTE elements in the north for the fear of further arousing the LTTE Diaspora. All these reasons combined have created a very dangerous atmosphere which is exploited by the LTTE.
Counter Insurgency (CI) strategy as specified in textbooks clearly indicate what needs to be done under these circumstances. Though unpleasant and unpopular in the areas they are applied, these tried and tested CI strategies must be applied to contain LTTE terror. In all fairness General Sarath Fonseka when serving in the army was quite good at CI strategy and the absence of his expertise is also going to cost the nation badly. The absence of his CI expertise must be overcome by tapping into the expertise of many other competent CI strategists in the army. Appropriate retaliatory measures must be taken without delay. Failing to do so will convince the northerners that LTTE is gaining control. Once these splinter groups show they can ‘deliver the goods’, the LTTE Diaspora is going to reward them with millions of dollars of money.
Sadly Sri Lankan leaders rarely recognize threats in time. By the time they decide to take action it is far too late costing lives, money and public support. If the guarding lights of the nation are awake 24/7 as it is believed, they must not keep silent on current developments; nor should they deny the resurgence of the LTTE threat. It is important to eliminate it using whatever means that work before the LTTE cancer spreads again. Tough cancers call for hard medicine and tough therapy. The duty of patriots is not to immerse in victory celebrations but to keep eyes and ears open to emerging threats all the time and force national leaders to take timely action.