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Tigers in sheep's clothing

Two LTTE propagandists surrendered to the army yesterday. They are known as Daya Master and George Master––a former schoolmaster and a retired postmaster respectively. Interestingly, Daya Master, a one-time LTTE spokesman, was rushed with a police escort to Colombo for treatment during the UNF government, which earned notoriety for its shameless appeasement of the LTTE. Six or seven years on, the LTTE has collapsed like a ton of bricks under military pressure and key Tiger cadres are surrendering or perishing in their numbers––a feat that many thought was impossible until about two years ago. Is any more proof needed that appeasement does not pay in tackling terrorism?

What successive governments had been doing until 2006 was to try to cure a malignancy with mere placebos. Some governments tried their hand at surgical operations, but half-heartedly as well as haphazardly and therefore ineffectively. The present government for want of a better alternative opted for a life-saving surgery after initial dithering and its effort has manifestly paid dividends.

The same method yielded impressive results in 1971 and in the late 1980s, when the South was plunged into a bloodbath. An SLFP-led government successfully put down the first insurrection and a UNP government crushed the second one 18 years later. There were, of course unspeakable excesses on the part of those governments, but the fact remains that hadn't they defeated the southern terrorism militarily, the JVP would have turned Sri Lanka into country like Cambodia under Pol Pot. It was their failure to eliminate the LTTE militarily that paved the way for the emergence of a Pol Potish regime in the North and the East under Prabhakaran's jackboot.

The Eastern Province is limping back to normalcy after anti-terror operations. Of course, there are teething problems such as violence resulting from residual terror and the thuggish behaviour of the TMVP cadres. But, only the LTTE sympathisers will deny that the situation has improved tremendously in that province.

Children can go to school without fear of being abducted on the way. A massive development drive is underway, vast extents of abandoned paddy land are now under the plough and the Eastern economy is reviving slowly but surely. One cannot expect an area that was under a terrorist outfit for nearly thirty years to transform itself, so to speak, into a Switzerland within months of liberation. A patient who has undergone a major operation cannot perform gymnastics immediately after leaving hospital. There is a convalescence period.

The same is true of the North. Some people who did not make a whimper while the LTTE was committing all sorts of human rights violations in that part of the country, today want democracy to return and resettlement to begin even before fighting is over.

Surprisingly, foreign governments are allowing LTTE supporters to desecrate their soil by holding pro-terror demonstrations.

It is a supreme irony that London, which suffered a devastating terrorist attacks less than four years ago, has chosen to tolerate Tiger backers waving the flag of the LTTE banned in the UK. They are trying to protect an outfit responsible for over 200 civilian massacres, blasting scores of civilian targets, child abductions and political assassinations. The toleration of such terrorist events amounts to aiding and abetting terrorism.

The same goes for Canada, where the LTTE backers have made a mockery of the Canadian law by displaying the LTTE flag and emblem in their anti-Sri Lanka protests in spite of a ban. France realised the danger of giving the LTTE free rein, only when terror activists demonstrating against Sri Lanka grew violent and began to hurl bottles at passing busses the other day just like their masters trapped in the Vanni, who are bombing, shooting and shelling civilians trying to escape from their clutches.

Why the French police arrested just only 200 terror activists defies comprehension. All those demonstrators publicly supporting terrorism deserve to be thrown behind bars. Would either the UK or Canada or France ever allow Al Qaeda or Taliban activists to hold such protests?

The western countries mollycoddling the LTTE sympathisers must not make the mistake of considering them all civilians. There are thousands of LTTE combatants smuggled into the Occident to run human smuggling, arms procurement and extortion rackets. Some of them have fallen out and are at daggers drawn, as could be seen from their violent encounters reported from time to time. They are the carriers of the germ of terrorism.

Those anti-social elements may be behaving themselves in the host countries for the time being, but they remain a potential threat to democracy like the Al Qaeda activists mingling with the British Muslims. It was those Tigers in sheep's clothing who used bottles as missiles in Paris.

It is time the West cracked down on the LTTE activists on the rampage, if it is desirous of helping resolve Sri Lanka’s conflict. For, the LTTE is the biggest obstacle to peace in this country. They must read what former Netherlands Ambassador to Sri Lanka (1992-96) Bastiaan Korner wrote in the International Herald Tribune recently in response to an editorial in that newspaper. While blaming successive Sinhala-dominated governments for not being 'resourceful in trying to solve the complicated ethnic conflict', the diplomat said: "However, it should be pointed out that in the past many efforts for peace and peace negotiations have been tried with the Tamil Tigers, but that they all have been violated and/or thwarted by the Tigers, a very ruthless terrorist organisation, quite comparable to the Taliban."

This is a reasonable assessment of Sri Lanka's problem. The EU Parliament, too, faulted the LTTE in a resolution in 2006 spelling out reasons for banning the LTTE, for having rejected devolution at the provincial, regional and national levels.

So, what could Sri Lanka resort to in dealing with the LTTE other than war?

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