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Report 13


There is little that is happening in the country today that could be understood without reference to the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for the year’s end. The ruling party is desperate to keep its hold on power and its nervousness shows daily in its actions. Not having any card to play for this election they may wish to use  war hysteria as the last one. They may like to push the military to do some manoeuvring on the northern front. But the ground reality seems to be very unfavourable and the Government continues to be mired in confusion.

The LTTE is also making some moves- a series of small but widely dispersed attacks over much of the North-East, renewed calls that it is ready for peace talks, and a concerted effort to curb dissent among Tamils in the West through a geographical extension of its terror. It is again a confirmation of its search for a ‘peace’ where its denial of accountability to the Tamils and its hegemony over them are given legal sanction and perhaps international respectability. We have always argued that such an arrangement would be internally contradictory and practically disastrous. It is an illusion of the kind of peace making that conceptually sees as important mainly the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE, and seeks an arrangement that would stabilise them through an apparently non-conflicting balance of their claims. The masses- be they Muslims, Sinhalese or Tamils -are practically left out in the cold.

The present conflict was no doubt begun by the state’s increasing identification with an exclusively  Sinhalese nationalism, leading to arrogance and an inability to represent the multi ethnic character of Sri Lankan society. Even  after its disastrous record of murder and mayhem it has not even conceptually grasped the need to made an independent gesture of good -will towards the Tamil people. Its continuing record is one of bombing and shelling Tamil civilians in the North, torture and disappearances in the East and lying to glory. Its actions are impelled far less by the merest hint of intelligence than by corruption and abuse of power in their multitudinous forms.

However things may seem on the surface, the grim reality confronting the state and the LTTE is a sobering one. In village after village in the interior of the Sinhalese South unemployed youth, often with their A Levels, are offered two unenviable choices: “ Join the army or work for some cause like that of the JVP”. On the other hand 3O% or so of the national budget that could have gone a long way towards their upliftment is spent on a war that owes much to political bankruptcy more than anything else. Parents whose sons are in the army often adorn their humble dwellings among other things with a picture of the late General Kobbekaduwe, one of their son, sometimes crippled, and even slogans circulated by anti-war groups. Their despair is made the worse through confusion.

We show in Chapter 6 of this report, “Time’s Wasting Hours”, that the seemingly solid ground is also shifting inexorably beneath  the LTTE. To a large extent its recent successes were Pyrrhic victories. The ordinary Tamil people are passively distancing themselves from the LTTE in different ways. One stark development is the sharp tapering off of recruitment in the East.

In Chapter 1, “Trends and Issues”, we summarise current developments and discuss issues arising from them. This includes a section on the armed forces. Also discussed are the emptiness of the claims and reasoning that lie behind the aerial bombing of Jaffna that has claimed nearly 1OO civilian lives since last October. This is another demonstration of political bankruptcy leading to military paralyses.

Chapters 2,3 and 4 discuss in some detail current trends in the East based on over a year’s monitoring. Chapter 5 deals with the North.

One problem that will have to be faced squarely is the kind of impossible situation created by this government in areas like Trincomalee [see 1.7]. The population balance has been deliberately shifted through murder, displacement and deprivation of Tamils on the one hand, and on the other the numerical rise of a Sinhalese population maintained by a diversion of public resources in various forms. To treat this as a fait- accompli would leave a wound so deep as to prolong disaffection in one form or the other. The problem also touches on ideological use made of ordinary Sinhalese who are themselves victims of war and misrule.

We mentioned in the preface to Report 12 that our work will undergo a radical change in form and emphasis. By now we have covered in some detail several aspects of the conflict and have also covered most of the North-East. We would allow our work up to this time to stand by itself as a record. Our future energies would be devoted much less to detailed reporting and more towards shorter special reports highlighting specific issues of current concern. Our comprehensive reports would tend to become an annual feature.[Top]

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