False Trail

Opponents of the LTTE unite in action

[Tamil Guardian Editorial]

In the past two weeks, an explosion in violent crime has swept the Muslim dominated regions of Batticaloa, leaving residents fearful and outraged. That the youths involved claimed to be members of the Liberation Tigers has heightened anxieties and raised the spectre of communal violence in the district which, some latent animosity aside, has been devoid of serious violence amongst the Tamil-speaking peoples for a decade.

This week the LTTE formally intervened, assuring residents that its cadres were not responsible and cautioning people against the duplicitous actions of paramilitary groups operating with the Sri Lankan military. It is not the first time that agent provocateurs on behalf of the Sri Lankan military have attempted to sow the seeds of communal violence thus. If clashes were to erupt between Tamil-speaking Hindus and Muslims - ostensibly due to the actions of the LTTE - then the newly elected United National Front (UNF) government, which relies critically on Muslim Parliamentary support, could be forced into a unavoidable confrontation with the Tigers, thereby probably undermining the ongoing Norwegian peace initiative.

Little wonder then, that the widest publicity for the allegations against the LTTE has been provided by the Sinhala right-wing press. The alleged criminal activity, along with accusations of forcible conscription, has been aggressively promoted by other actors inimically opposed to the LTTE. The University Teachers for Human Rights, a small group of anti-LTTE activists long shunned by their former colleagues at their university, have been spearheading a determined campaign alleging that the movement is forcibly recruiting children for its war effort. Given the target audience of this crusade is the international community, the claimed forcible and underage aspects are key, even though it is patently clear from the staunchly pro-Tiger Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) sweeping election victory last December that the overwhelming majority of Tamils in the north and east are backing the LTTE. The closely integrated propaganda exercise, involving the publication of newspaper articles and reports at the same time a wave of crime swept the Muslim areas of the Batticaloa district suggest, as the LTTE alleged last week, that Sri Lankan military intelligence was coordinating matters.

That the Army chief, Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, a sycophantic supporter of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, whose hard-line People’s Alliance (PA) government was crushed by the pro-peace UNF in December’s polls, was a former head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) must deepen suspicion. As an aside, observers of Sri Lanka’s conflict may also recall the praise Kumaratunga heaped on the UTHR last November for its efforts against the Tigers.

If, as the UNF insists it is, the government is serious about resolving Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem, then it is inevitable that the LTTE will be taking on a significant political role in this regard - not least by virtue of its endorsement, by the vast majority of the Tamil community and polity, as their sole political representatives. To committed opponents of the LTTE, including the Sinhala far-right and self-serving entities like the UTHR, the notion is a particularly galling anathema.

It is hardly surprising that these actors will bandwagon with other, more powerful, forces opposed to peace with the LTTE - such as the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) and President Kumaratunga herself. In the coming months, as the UNF and the LTTE engage in Norwegian facilitated efforts to resolve the conflict, the opposition from the Sinhala far-right and other anti-LTTE forces can be expected to become increasingly shrill. But the encouragement the UNF again received this week from the international community for negotiations with the Tigers underlines - amid the domestic anti-LTTE howls - the political realities today.

Courtesy: Tamil Guardian [6 February 2002]