|Floods justify LTTE stand on Tokyo parley|
Massive amounts of relief aid is pouring into Sri Lanka in the wake of the floods that hit the central-southern parts of the island over Wesak. Since natural disasters are perhaps the least politicised of events, civilians rendered victim are being treated with utmost compassion and without prejudice.
In keeping with this trend, the international community has pledged generous quantities of aid, especially Norway (Rs.95 million), and India, which has rushed with not only relief supplies, but also equipment and personnel to assist in finding the marooned and the dead.
While not grudging for a moment these unfortunate victims (whose personal tragedies are seen in pictures in this newspaper) and the beleaguered government all the aid and relief they require at their hour of need, one cannot but compare what is happening in southern Sri Lanka from the floodwaters with that of the devastating war that has affected Tamils over the past 20 years. This comparison may be made on two counts: one, responses by Sri Lanka and foreign governments, and two, differing treatment of disaster victims.
If we take the enormous human and material cost in Sri Lanka’s northeast by the 20-year war, what foreign governments have offered as aid to its victims is negligible in comparison to the magnitude of the disaster there. Except for foisting international NGOs some of which also have dubious records in espionage, there is hardly anything that foreign governments have offered to the northeast through their ODA.
Now, after the Ceasefire Agreement, the same foreign governments apparently require a firm commitment on the cessation of hostilities evolving into something more permanent before releasing (and not merely pledging) aid to rehabilitate and develop the northeast.
Second come the victims – civilians. As mentioned above, the swiftness of the response to victims of natural disaster is due to the fact that in most instances (though not all) such disasters are seen as non-political and its victims as innocent sufferers from the wrath of the gods.
However, most of the dead, the maimed and the displaced Tamils in the northeast are as innocent as those who suffer the wrath of the gods in the south. Otherwise the LTTE should have an army of over 200,000 combatants, such is the enormity of the number of war victims.
The contrast between the treatments meted out to flood victims of the south and victims of war in the northeast show with exceptional clarity that Sri Lanka and foreign governments treat the Tamil civilians as combatants and not as victims of circumstances. And Tamils continue to be denied even the basic necessity of returning to their homes, jobs and environments after the Ceasefire Agreement because they supposedly jeopardise the security of the military in the northeast.
There is then a distinction assumed between Tamil civilians of the northeast and those of the south. It is demonstrated further by the Rs.95 million from the government of Norway to be disbursed in the south as relief for flood victims, but denying or restricting the free use of the Rs.72 million donated by the same country recently for rehabilitation of the northeast. And it is this perennial distinction between northeast and south in the unrestricted use of resources that is the crux of the LTTE’s reluctance to participate in the donor conference at Tokyo. And longer this distinction remains, more intransigent will the Tigers become.