In an interview, Sri Lankan CEO of a multinational organisation attributed a number of characteristics as essential criteria for the success of organisations such as the one he is engaged in, and said ‘You have to be like Velupillai Prabhakaran’.
The Sri Lankan government is blamed for its inability to gain from the split between Karuna and Prabhakaran. Particularly, its failure to respond to Prabhakaran’s swift movements preventing Karuna from establishing his dominance in the east.
Recent UTHR report also referred to this matter. The truth is that the LTTE (V) activated its cadres so fast that the government and military had to let it go while being engaged in inconclusive procedural consultations and also in the fear that the LTTE will strike elsewhere, jeopardising possible future talks.
Karuna himself was baffled that Vanni knew his terrain better than him.
The bottom line is that taking a courageous decision such as establishing Karuna in the east whether it will backfire or not, is no longer practicable despite the massive presence of three State security forces in Sri Lanka.
The LTTE could do this tomorrow and the government will do nothing but be passive as the hierarchy of authority, chains of communication and political implications are far too complex in the South. The CFA continues with no additions or deletions to its clauses. The Norwegians are back. The JVP is signaling that they are opposed to the Norwegian involvement and ISGA. The LTTE said exactly the opposite. The government is once again helpless. What is inevitable is happening.
The LTTE’s parade moves on uninterrupted. The attempts of the past PA and UNF governments to break its drive towards its goal have ended in a muddle. Short-term, ad hoc approaches were not adequate to tame the LTTE. New political parties in Sri Lanka are unripe and cannot understand the present LTTE and its military and multinational dimensions that we see, being away from Sri Lanka. It is ignorance of one party representative to express the view that if the LTTE is not willing to come in line, the subject will be handed over to the three forces. Haven’t they done that on several occasions before, including the proclamation of a head of state in the 1980s to eliminate terrorism in the north in three months?
It is time they saw the veracity of the situation. Political tactics to capitalise on errors of others is no longer of interest to the public and the country. One party member said something optimistic in a debate. ‘We need to reorganise the entire system’. Interesting indeed, but he needs to elaborate how. Charity begins at home. We read a news item that prison authorities in Sri Lanka are building a magistrate court inside the Colombo prison premises as a remedial measure in response to the series of underworld killings of key witnesses in court cases.
Authorities have in other words officially accepted the inability to apprehend the underworld killers. Taking on the giant LTTE should be then`85 what?
To those who know the LTTE well, it is imprudent on the part of Prabhakaran to settle for anything less. The LTTE cadres who ambushed the Army wearing half sarongs and worn out rubber slippers with locally made explosives and galkatas years ago, are now marching in ceremonial uniforms offering the guard of honour to the national leader of the Tamils. Pallai defence and the airport raid have shown the South their muscle. Several shiploads of sophisticated weapons have been cleared by them from their own ships afterwards with no additional payments to commission agents in between. Some time ago they had an exhibition displaying the weapons captured from the Army. We too saw that on Tamilnet. LTTE has almost completed setting up institutions necessary for self-administration in areas held by them and these institutions are functioning far more efficiently than the government.
LTTE Police Chief Nadesan said ‘there is no corruption, mismanagement or bribery in our system’. Naturally there are no unresolved cases, law delays, red tape, underworld operators, bribery, traffic offenders or sex perverts in LTTE-held areas. True enough, the LTTE does this at gun-point. But this is a society that the underprivileged people in Sri Lanka were dreaming of since Independence. If Prabhakaran hadn’t killed innocent civilians in the south he would have been a model administrator for the whole country. Provided the south converts the gun-point culture to impartial implementation of existing laws.
The UNF government did what it was forced to do.
They took over at a time the state of affairs with the LTTE was at low ebb.
Before the formation of the UNF government, the international media had ‘praised the LTTE for its dazzling attack’ on the international airport as there were no civilian casualties compared to previous bomb attacks. Several Army camps and detachments had fallen and the forces had to donate most of their weapons to the LTTE. In spite of the assurance given by the Sri Lankan military leaders, ground forces were not ready for war again. When a detachment was attacked by the LTTE women cadres in the east, the inmates simply abandoned the camp leaving behind the weapons. This was before the Athurugiriya fiasco. At least the troops have become sensible not to stick their neck out and be called MIA.
So the LTTE was in a position of strength. The prospects for talks were open only on the LTTE’s terms. Appeasement was a way out for the government negotiators until such time, theoretically though, they could re-establish the apparatuses to meet LTTE challenges while kick starting the economy. The former was well in progress and the latter became a non-starter except for the efforts of the Sri Lankan private sector like the apparel and leisure industry giving a slight push to the ailing economy.
The UNF failed to take full advantage of the relatively peaceful two-year period. There were no Premadasa style go-getters in their party. Apart from political bungling, dependence of the UNF politicians on bureaucracy was far too heavy.
Regaining the position of strength if at all is probable with strategic, rational and honest thinkers in politics, bureaucracy and the military. Sri Lanka had a few such in these sectors and they have left the playground. The international community knows the basic weaknesses of Sri Lankan governments and so do the Norwegians. They know which party has the competitive advantage that will determine the outcome of the conflict. UNF, just as the PA ignored the need for overall organisation. The two-year period was good enough to illustrate sincerity for right and futuristic governance, indications of which would have passed on to the masses who would have then protected them at the elections.
The LTTE also smelt the rat when the UNF was trying to institute an international safety net as a short-term device. At the same time the process came to a point that the LTTE had nothing more to gain through negotiations.
The PA, before that, did no better except for allowing the war to become a lucrative business for cronies and being forced at the end to offer a cease-fire in a state of desperation after the airport attack. The LTTE’s repeated warnings against the air strikes were ignored as if the LTTE was frantically on the run for cover.
How the LTTE conducted itself demonstrating her operational strength while taking everyone for a ride politically is known.
After a period of honeymoon, during which they observe the precept ‘leave us alone and we will do the same’, they send the leader’s message. Demand for Eelam, and this time it came in writing. Thus the LTTE’s target from their leader’s vision remains unchanged. Only the devices will vary in their approaches with successive governments depending on situations and opportunities.
Authorities in the government, on the other hand, have not believed in fundamentals and basics. Basics that the LTTE in its own way secured from the day the movement was established.
Time and again it has been seen that numbers could not confront the LTTE as effectively as quality, right direction and long term planning could. Notwithstanding the magnitude of the problem, exploring these basic issues and finding long term remedies do not seem to be under contemplation in the present system in Sri Lanka.
Prabhakaran had one Mission. The Sri Lankan governments had several. Building a well trained, ruthless and powerful force through which ‘the demands’ of the Tamils can be effectively conveyed to the governments and then to establish mono ethnic Eelam was his one and only Mission. Government Missions shifted from ‘killing the Tamils in the early 80s’, ‘crushing the terrorists in the late 80s’, ‘war for peace in the 90s’, ‘negotiated settlement in 2000’ and afterwards ‘appeasement at any cost’. The LTTE leader has come a long way, not only becoming the ‘national leader of the Tamils’ but also a successful chairman of a financially powerful international organisation. Analysts say that there was no magic to his success story. He only practiced what the leadership and management trainers preach in universities and business institutes and the state also offered him a smooth sail due to the malfunctions of the government and security machinery. Training, productivity, profitability, leadership, motivation, performance and even ruthlessness and deception to their highest degree that most companies practice in competition, hostile takeovers etc. are the pillars that are holding the LTTE undefeated. We learn management through theories from Max Webber to Peter Drucker and Prabhakaran learned all that through trial and error and sheer practice. Pragmatism is his religion and commitment is what brought him the title of the most successful and ruthless terrorist leader in the world. The Pallai operation was planned by the military and Prabhakaran defended that successfully. The airport raid was meticulously calculated over for a period of 2 years. He could now fight a conventional warfare without an effort. Black tigers are only a bonus to the organisation. There is more, but I have made the point.
Seeking international community support with repeated utterances back at home to the local galleries that the government will never allow the country to be divided, is a folk tale. The country is physically divided already. The SLMM, the Scandinavian monitoring mission was the eyewitness for demarcation of territories. All Prabhakaran needs is a mechanism to deal with the international community direct. This will also materialise with the advocacy of the tilting international opinion. It is a matter of time. It is also wrong to say that the Tamils abroad are being brainwashed or duped on the pretext that funds collected are for humanitarian work. There is no need for brainwashing. We being expatriates know this well. Prabhakaran has performed. Shown ROI in business terms. People have changed the Sri Lankan leadership several times with no ROI within a foreseeable future. Among the capital invested in LTTE was a considerable ‘ resource’ of Tamil youth now in their war graves. So there is no back- or side-tracking for Prabhakaran now
Recruitment of children as soldiers is a crime. We agree. Denunciations have come from many quarters including international entities. Another view, however ironic to the recent UTHR report, is that most Tamil parents in the north and east will silently bear the fact that it is perhaps better for them to be trained as fighters and have their meal on time than become unwanted, frustrated, hungry and drifting youth depending on parents’ pensions without a future. That would have been their fate even without the war considering the rate of growth of the country over the last few decades as well as the cast minded discriminating society that existed in the North and East. (I have excluded the children who are in slavery as ‘domestic servants’ at mansions in the South). All otherwise they have is a couple of statements issued by Olara Otunu that have not translated into real action in a language that LTTE will understand.
LTTE will in any event take anyone by surprise with the release all the juvenile cadres just before or at the time of realising the ISGA. By then a good part of them who are now given special training will be above the required age limit. The rest will be in their ‘junior cadet list’. A simple formulae taking care of the issue as well as the image.
International community has clearly expressed that funding will turn up only if the peace process continues. They need not say on whose terms. Why should they when the parliamentarians repeatedly announce that this is an internal problem? Countries including the ones that have banned them are willing to establish channels of communication towards what is called rehabilitation and development of North and East. Delegations after delegations have gone to Vanni and have had dialogues with the LTTE without a word on LTTE’s truce violations. Why blame the peace envoy Solheim for that. This is the current trend with the International community in the west. Looking for a slot in promising greener pastures in Asian countries. The listing of LTTE as terrorists will soon be a few lines on their state documents while informal recognition is gradually but surely surfacing. Listing does not mean acting. LTTE may be now regretting the omission of the word Eelam in the ISGA proposals at a time their next delegation is packing up to board the plane to Europe.
Americans have stated their position. ‘Negotiate and settle the problem’. They have too much on their plate with terrorism and now with the abuse of POWs. This position wouldn’t change even if Democrats take over. Unlike Al Quaeda, diaspora support to the LTTE is far too wider. I need not elaborate that to you. Then Sri Lanka wants India to play a role. India has requested major parties to join hands for them to play a role. Tomorrow they will have something else to say. Obviously India is not going to provide seaplanes for Balasingham’s travel nor will Congress go after Prabakaran against the tide of southern politics. Suffice to mention the recent comment of the new Indian Foreign Minister on the extradition of Prabakaran which, according to him, is not their priority at the moment. Indian bureaucracy has however made their people rest assured with its own plan to curtail any future threat to India (not Sri Lanka) emerging from the ISGA - with a simple destabilising policy for the North and East of Sri Lanka. But this will not have a direct positive bearing for a political or economic relief to the South (except for what is explicitly offered by India through bilateral arrangements and whatever benefits accrued from the FTA). Sri Lanka has never been futuristic as India.
All LTTE failures had been lessons that taught them how to succeed. The Governments too had occasional successes but more failures. The difference is that those who were responsible for failures are still around. Some were rewarded down the line. This is not tolerated in LTTE’s style of management. The commanders as well as other non-military leaders under Prabakaran have literally earned their positions. The Military officers resentment to LTTE’s use of self-styled titles by cadres has no positive implication or meaning when LTTE has secured a large part of the island and kept stand-by a massive conventional force ready to onslaught.
This is how the Monitoring Mission views this. Evaluating people and institutions on performance has been a cardinal rule for LTTE. Not for the Government. The present accepted norm that performance is not considered as a factor anywhere in the Government due to politicization or whatever, is well reflected in the economy. It is in fact unfair to expect the LTTE to enter a system which is also corrupt, malfunctioning and on the verge of coming to a complete standstill. But if the performance is not considered as the most vital principle in the overall approach towards dealing with LTTE, Administrators would rather give up now before facing more humiliation in the near future.
While this being the status quo, Sri Lanka’s valuable human resources that had the capacity to work with the Government in all sectors got off the convoy and watched it move slowly without steadily and a destination. Brave youth, who were unfortunately half trained and left unattended in bunkers, laid down their precious life mostly for politicised military blunders. LTTE has no fear of the remaining effective players as they are way ahead in their corporate plan. Balraja’s next move for the HSZ will be a ‘salami take over’ with the help of civilians while Thamilselvam has come of age in international affairs. Most of our opinion makers, both rational and patriotic, with due respect for their concerns, are wasting time.
Defense pact with India will not prevent Pottu Amman from infesting Colombo with suicide cadres nor can the country kick the 4.5 b dollars package away calling it a ransom at a time the Government does not have funds to repair a culvert or a discarded CTB bus. Neither the politicians nor people understand the patriots anymore. It also goes for those expatriates like you who were prepared to work with the Governments out side Sri Lanka. Many of them are no longer accessible. The only link they have with Sri Lanka is once a year visit to show their children the places of interest and to take a break from the rush world. They will soon have other attractive places to visit while the pro LTTE Sri Lankans abroad are multiplying the support to their movement and buying properties in Colombo and suburbs, some of which are operative safe houses for black tigers.
While calling the conflict as Sri Lanka’s internal problem, Sri Lanka acts as if it is too late now to go by the notion that the solution is to be found within themselves even if it is long term. If LTTE is adamant to stay on with their demands, rational thinker will say that despite our present feeble state of affairs the country should start gearing itself at least to an extent where an opportunity will be created for the next generation to deal with the LTTE with a position of strength. All they need is to take measures to produce effective and efficient individuals and institutions. This is the only justice for the country. Country’s fundamentals were in disarray for a long time.
Neither PA nor UNF made attempts to correct them because such measures have to be made for long-term benefits. Vision of the politicians is survival until the year ends. If they start setting examples as against their discourses, our people in Sri Lanka, not the affluent of the elite, will always tighten the belts for the future. This does not mean absolute preparation for war. It means achieving position of strength which everyone knows, is a deterrent factor in a war tensed environment and a ‘competitive edge’ when entering negotiations.
LTTE on the other hand has done an exceptional job with their establishments and human resources. From effective management of funds within the movement, excellent communication, recognising performance, remembering those who were killed in operations, looking after their kith and kin to keeping a close brotherhood relationship with its cadres in all fronts, they are way above the standard of the Sri Lankan Governments. The recent episodes in the parliament were so entertaining and LTTE would have had fun watching the show of our lawmakers. It was all ‘amusing’ but these events make LTTE’s life easier in convincing the international community ( donor countries are already convinced) that a genuine and lasting solution to the ‘ so called Tamil problem’ cannot possibly come from the politicians of this class.
Prabakaran has to honour his undertaking to the Tamils both in Sri Lanka and abroad. They have funded the war for years and Prabakaran is not going to let them down. He too is running out time. Age is catching up for him as well as Pottu, Balraj, Soosai and others who will not have the same dynamism in the battle front in years to come.
The next runners haven’t had much real life combat training. So the march towards his goal needs to be accelerated. The consignments of weapons acquired by the LTTE during the ceasefire are well in place. These were shipments that would have reached LTTE whether UNF negotiators took them up at the negotiating table or not. After all, the Navy succeeded sinking couple of their ships and LTTE stomached this. One year later the same Navy allowed LTTE gunboats to enter Kadiraveli.
Expressed or implied directions and guidelines of the CFA can no longer be exercised. Sornam and Banu, able lieutenants of Prabakaran with proven track records are reorganising the East, this time with better military apparatuses. That is LTTE’s way of moving ahead. LTTE is a serious organisation which, apart from successful leadership and management also believes in ruthlessness as a language understood by people in that part of the world. Bearing in mind that it is the ceasefire assured by the LTTE that has relived the country for politicians to emphasis so much on economic growth, LTTE has become a force that will determine the stability of the country. Tomorrow they will be the trend-setters in Sri Lanka’s other social and cultural spheres too. LTTE is now at the juncture to say ‘give us the ISGA or we will take it’.
Representatives of the International community has a duty. They have their countries to represent. Sri Lanka does not pay their salaries. Norwegians have seen a full cycle of activities. They, as well as donors and others know well the standard of politics and bureaucracy in Sri Lanka. Norwegians are continuously accused of being partial and pro LTTE etc. This is incorrect. Norwegians have only seen the reality and who is winning at the end. We all individually or in groups tend to be with the winners. That is the nature with human beings, organisations or even governments, particularly the west. It is pointless therefore to criticise the Norwegians or the EU before weeding out the non-performers and white elephants in the Government, as none of these foreigners are responsible for the security of the country or guarding the airport. We, expatriates are aware that Norwegians were holding the LTTE so far from making a few more thundering blows that would have brought the country, under whichever Government, to its knees. If that happened Sri Lanka would have opted to offer them Eelam much earlier to save whatever remaining in the South.
The way the country is moving particularly after what we saw yesterday in the Sri Lankan national assembly, LTTE’s achievement is assured from medium to short term now. Isn’t it therefore time to look at a consequential futuristic plan which does not seem to have crossed any Sri Lankan minds yet.
This will call for going back to fundamentals in management and drawing up a plan as to how the houses can be put in order for results in the long run. That is to organise effective and efficient sectors in the south that would also have the capacity to deal with the LTTE in all fronts in the event LTTE continues with its dictatorship. Such a plan should invariably have a justification to the international community that country needs to be re-united in the name of democracy. This is a better and practical position than try to capitalise on the Oslo declaration. In fairness to the LTTE, certainly not for their atrocities against innocent civilians and more recently the intelligence officers, they insisted on the ISGA before the talks with the UNF commenced. UNF tricked them into the committees without having the know-how to activate them.
The dead committees for whatever reasons invalidated the Oslo declaration. But Democracy, no one can question. The country however badly needs the USD 4.5 billion now to look after the mammoth bunch of unproductive people in the government, provincial councils, commission agents, brokers including henchmen and the grand oldies (who wouldn’t let their subordinates grow), the country cannot live without. Prabakaran is a fine pistol shooter himself without a formal training and Nadesan was only a police sergeant before being hand picked to lead the LTTE Police. The ISGA is therefore becoming a reality for LTTE while the South is just above the water struggling to survive.
But in the consideration of a long-term plan, having the right people in the right place does not cost the Government a cent. Evaluation on performance is not difficult. Ideas will come from all quarters free of charge that are presently blocked by advisors and officials half way. Equality and justice to society are not concepts that are difficult to understand and implement. Expatriates will volunteer in expertise and funds. All these may take a while. But the country will be in a position to confront the LTTE and talk what is right and wrong.
Young, educated and decent politicians, without involving their parties can get together and initiate modelling of the future so that it will not be a complicated task for a united effort whenever they hold responsible portfolios in the future. If LTTE disarms its cadres and embraces democracy after securing the ISGA, let this plan also have a provision to learn from the LTTE - from politics to management, as ISGA will soon be a flourishing state within Sri Lanka. (Vast land, hard working people and discipline are sufficient factors for Japanese to invest). To do that, one needs to take a hard look at the LTTE. Find out how they did it. Use the same fundamentals to strengthen the sectors in the Government. They need not execute the non-performers like LTTE does. They can sack them. Army does not need to recruit child soldiers. The present exodus will stop leaving a sufficient number within.
Country needs politicians who practice their discourses. They also need implements to overcome public service lethargy arising from the usual excuse of rules and procedures which have not in any event produced effective decision making, (be it a political or a Government tender), that are sensible, transparent or for the best interest of the country.
It is only a Government which has a position of strength that can fight or negotiate with a separatists movement such as the LTTE. Sri Lanka has one hope now. That LTTE will not accept democracy even after securing the ISGA. That will be the only cause for the struggle against LTTE in the future. Sri Lanka’s present polity and bureaucracy will not support this. They will continue to seek quick fixes as organising the basics will take years. Until then all the present attempts to drag the process and hold the ISGA will fail.
LTTE is getting impatient. When the LTTE secedes with unilateral declaration of ISGA, most of the politicians, negotiators, advisors and other pundits will be out of this country with their families. The remaining politicians will hopefully have common sense, commitment, can live by examples, and show right ways of governance. The young politicians from all parties in the south could be the force to organise the post ISGA strategy. If they take the initiative now, some day with a single Government in the south, they could do the trick. After all, a period of 2 decades has gone down the drain and waiting for another 10 years can be taken as granted by the innocent people of Sri Lanka. Until then the price for the ‘sins committed’ is quite heavy. - That is the ISGA.
A paper presented by Dr Sarath Pitivahala, A retired Economist in Glasgow, to an audience of Sri Lankan professional expatriates in the UK on 9 June 2004. firstname.lastname@example.org