Thursday, July 12, 2012

HSZs, special ‘sea lane’ and Indian factor - War on terror revisited:

Defence Minister Tilak Marapone, MP, PrimMinister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Deputy Leader of the UNP Karu Jayasuriya and Minister S.B. Dissanayake about to release pigeons in Colombo to mark the first anniversary of the CFA on Feb 22, 2003, while the LTTE backed by the TNA called for a general shut down in the North and East.

In the wake of the GoSL obtaining the services of two retired senior Indian military personnel, Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar and Vice Admiral, P. J. Jacob, one-time Chief of Naval Staff to advise the SL military on two crucial issues, namely the Jaffna High Security Zones (HSZ) and a special sea route for the Sea Tigers, the government of India distanced itself from the project.

The then UNP-led UNF government contacted former Indian Army Chief-of-Staff shortly after then Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka emphasised on Dec. 28, 2002 that gradual phasing out of HSZs to facilitate resettlement of civilians shouldn’t be at the expense of military deployment in the Jaffna peninsula. Maj. Gen. Fonseka pointed out the catastrophic consequences of the removal of existing security mechanism in a report, which sent shock waves through the GoSL(Army on HSZs in Jaffna with; Govt. forces appreciate need to resettle civilians––The Island of Dec 29, 2002).

SF stands his ground

In spite of heavy criticism of the Maj. Gen’s stand on the HSZs, the Sinha Regiment veteran stood his ground unwaveringly. The Jaffna commander pushed for disarming of the LTTE as well as the de-commissioning of its long range weapons, particularly directed at the Jaffna peninsula. He insisted that the Norwegian-led five-nation Scandinavia truce monitoring mission should be in charge of de-commissioned of the LTTE arsenal.

At the behest of the LTTE, the TULF-led Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which in the run-up to Dec 5, 2001 general election recognised the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil speaking people, called for the immediate transfer of the Jaffna Commander .

All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) President, Appathuray Vinayagamoorthy on Dec 30, 2002 wrote to then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in this regard. Vinayagamoorthy suggested that the government replace Maj. Gen. Fonseka with an officer who would toe the government line with regard to resettlement of civilians (TNA wants Jaffna commander out – The Island of Dec. 31, 2002). The ACTC leader made his move close on the heels of Hindu Affairs Minister, T. Maheswaran demanding the removal of the Jaffna Commander and Northern Area Naval Commander, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, to facilitate the peace process. Shortly after Maheswarn’s call, Rear Admiral Weerasekera was named Director General of Naval Operations, a headquarters appointment, though the navy insisted it was a routine transfer. Rear Admiral Nandana Thuduwewatte succeeded him. President Chandrika Kumaratunga received a briefing from army commander, Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle and Maj. Gen. Fonseka as regards the security situation, with the focus on Jaffna, at President’s House (TNA wants Jaffna Commander out – The Island of Dec 31, 2002).

Lt. Gen. Fonseka publicly endorsed the Jaffna commander’s prerequisites for vacation of HSZs. The government obviously erred in assuming that the army top brass wouldn’t have a contrary view on the decision to review HSZs in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula. The assessment was based on the fact that the military never in public opposed political decisions as regards crucial security matters, regardless of their implications. The government felt that even giving up of some of the territorial gains would be necessary at some point of time to facilitate the peace process (Tough stand by forces on HSZs unprecedented––The Island of January 5, 2003).

Harim’s bombsehll

In spite of a section of the press asserting that President Kumaratunga wouldn’t accept the vacation of Jaffna HSZs without proper security guarantee, her spokesman, Harim Peiris dropped a bombshell in the immediate aftermath of the army setting pre-conditions for civilian resettlement; he declared that the President wouldn’t take a stand on the HSZ issue. Peiris, who had negotiated with the LTTE on the President’s behalf, strongly denied media reports that she was against dismantling of the HSZs (CBK dumb on HSZs––The Island of January 9, 2003).

In spite of the PA having talks with the JVP and other nationalist groups to decide on a common strategy against the UNP-Norway-LTTE project, the PA cooperated with various NGOs, amidst a simmering dispute over the Jaffna HSZ issue. Four PA MPs, Sarath Amunugama, Ferial Ashraff, John Seneviratne and Ven. Baddegama Samitha left for a ten-day tour of four European countries to study existing federal models. Two senior LTTE representatives, too, joined the joint parliamentary delegation, which received funding by German NGO, Peace Talk (PA in Govt-Tiger delegation––The Island of January 12, 2003).

The HSZ issue was definitely the first major obstacle faced by the UNP and the Norwegians, as they stepped up pressure on the military to give in to LTTE demands.

Exit of Tigers

Close on the heels of the army’s pre-conditions for civilian resettlement in Jaffna, the LTTE quit the 18-member Sub Committee on De-escalation and Normalisation. The LTTE also refused to meet the army on January 14, 2003 to discuss the HSZ issue under the auspices of the Norwegians. In a bid to influence the army, the government brought in Maj. Gen. Nambiar. Those spearheading the peace process felt that the Indian could compel the army to change its tough position on the HSZs. But Maj. Gen. Fonseka steadfastly refused to compromise his position, which thwarted a catastrophe.

A naïve UNP leadership went to the extent of formulating a plan which envisaged a joint government-LTTE committee reviewing HSZs in Jaffna. The plan had to be dropped following protests. This was followed by the setting up of a Sub Committee headed by Defence Secretary Austin Fernnado and Ampara Batticaloa Commander, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan aka Karuna. That, too, died a natural death, following the army refusing to give up HSZs without adequate security guarantees. The decision to use Nambiar to get over the contentious issue was made during tripartite talks in Thailand, where they agreed on an Action Plan for an Accelerated Resettlement Programme for the Jaffna District.

Eye brows raised over Nambiar’s appointment

Many an eyebrow was raised over the appointment of Nambiar, with a section of the Opposition asserting that the country’s security couldn’t itself be decided by an outsider whatever his background. India quickly distanced from the project with the Indian High Commission in Colombo declaring that Nambiar’s appointment had nothing to do with India (India has nothing to do with Nambiar appointment with strap line HSZ review fuels fresh controversy––The Island of January 19, 2003).

Under the sponsorship of the Norwegians, the government and the LTTE agreed for a series of meetings beginning Jan. 2003 to discuss ways and means of strengthening the CFA (Defence Secretary to meet Tigers on truce violations––The Island of January 20, 2003). The first meeting took place at the Divisional Secretariat in Vaunativu, Batticaloa on Jan. 30, 2003 (Many contentious issues on agenda; Austin Fernando-Karuna pow wow tomorrow––The Island Jan. 29, 2003).

Amidst the crisis over HSZs, the UNP made a fresh attempt to win over the LTTE. On the instructions of UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP Chairman, Malik Samarawickrema met LTTE Political Wing leader, S. P. Thamilselvam in Kilinochchi during the first week of February 2003. The meeting was the first of its kind since the signing of the CFA in February 2002 (Govt. expands political links with the LTTE––The Island of Feb 9, 2003). The UNP strategist used the opportunity to emphasise the pivotal importance of adhering to the CFA as it would be beneficial to one and all. Unfortunately, the LTTE believed its objectives could be achieved through military means. For the LTTE, the CFA meant a temporary respite, which enabled it to build-up fighting cadres for the next confrontation. The outfit wanted to bring in as many ship loads of arms, ammunition and equipment as possible though the navy remained on a heightened state of alert.

First anniversary of CFA

The first anniversary of the CFA was celebrated with the LTTE flexing its muscles. While the UNP-led UNF leaders gathered at Independence Square on Feb 22, 2003 to celebrate the event, the LTTE brought life in Batticaloa to a standstill. Alleging that the government had failed to implement the CFA, the LTTE ordered people to remain indoors in all Northern and Eastern districts, though their action wasn’t successful in Trincomalee and Vavuniya. The TNA backed the LTTE to the hilt. (Ceremonies in South, hartal in N&E to mark first anniversary of truce––The Island Feb. 23, 2003). . No one wanted to appreciate measures taken by PM Wickremesinghe even at the expense of his political career to promote the CFA. Had there been civil society support for the government, the LTTE would have been compelled to review its strategy.

Govt. releases 1,000

Tiger suspects

In the wake of the LTTE and the TNA accusing the UNP of failing to implement the CFA, the government revealed that over 1,000 terrorist suspects had been released since the CFA came into operation in February 2002, and not a single arrest was made under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), though the LTTE carried out a spate of killings (Over 1,000 terrorist suspects released since MoU no arrests under PTA––The Island of March 7, 2003).

The suspects released from prisons re-joined the LTTE. Among them were many intelligence wing cadres, who resumed operations after a short break. But, the Jaffna HSZ issue remained with the government trying to settle it with the help of Nambiar. Meanwhile, the navy confronted ‘MV Koimer’ belonging to the LTTE, which we discussed in our July 11 issue. The confrontation off Mullaitivu on March 10, 2003 resulted in the destruction of the ship. The government, in consultation with the Norwegians, sought the expertise of Vice Admiral Jacob to explore ways and means of avoiding similar incidents in the future. The government had no option but to seek an external opinion after Navy Chief Vice Admiral Sandagiri strongly objected to the LTTE-SLMM initiative to create a special sea lane for the Sea Tigers. The navy’s position undermined the very existence of the CFA, with some government members accusing the navy of playing politics at the behest of President Kumaratunga and Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Defence Secretary, Fernando said that the LTTE had sought a sea lane on the high seas 200 nautical miles off the north-east land subsequent to incidents involving the Navy, though he rejected it as it infringed on the country’s sovereignty, the CFA and international law. According to Fernando, the proposal had been only known to him, Peace Secretariat chief Ambassador B. A. B. Goonetilleke and SLMM chief Maj. Gen. Triggve Tellefsen (Negotiating Peace in Sri Lanka: Efforts, Failures and Lessons).

The government and the Norwegians, struggling to overcome the Jaffna HSZ issue, suddenly realised that a second attack on an LTTE ship by the navy could prompt the LTTE to quit the CFA. Strangely, they didn’t pressure the LTTE not to traverse Sri Lankan waters as it could jeopardise the CFA. Instead, they brought in a retired Indian Vice Admiral to negotiate a deal. The Navy didn’t take the government initiative seriously. Jacob held a series of talks with PM Wickrmesinghe.

Army, Navy oppose  appeasement

The Navy top brass and the SLMM chief tried to assess the situation while the Indian High Commission said that India wasn’t responsible in any way for the GoSL decision to obtain the services of Nambiar and Jacob (Indian security chiefs not representatives of India: HC––The Island of May 11, 203). The Indian statement couldn’t have come at a worse time for the GoSL and the Norwegians, whereas it strengthened the hands of those who felt that the LTTE couldn’t be allowed to take advantage of the situation. Lt. Gen. Balagalle and Vice Admiral Sandagiri asserted that it would be suicidal to make further concessions without the LTTE giving up violence. Although the SLAF didn’t adopt an overtly hostile approach, the army and the navy strongly opposed the GoSL-Norwegian initiatives to appease the LTTE. President Kumaratunga, too, received the retired Indians at President’s House as the government pressed for agreements on Jaffna HSZs as well as a special sea lane for the LTTE. (President, Nambiar pow wow on HSZs––The Island of May 16, 2003). The UNP went out of its way to appease the LTTE, though the latter was violating the CFA. The GoSL made arrangements for senior LTTE cadres to receive medical treatment in Colombo or go abroad. In the middle of simmering disputes over Jaffna HSZs and the sinking of ‘MV Koimer’, the government arranged for 38-year-old Kandaiya Balasekaran suffering from a serious heart ailment and two others, Gnasunderam and Shivakanthan to leave for Singapore (More Tigers leave for medical treatment abroad––The Island of May 18, 2003). Bakasekaran was one of the top LTTE frontline commanders known as ‘Balraj’ responsible for some of most devastating attacks on the military. He was credited with spearheading an amphibious force, which played a crucial role, during the battle for the strategic Elephant Pass base in early 2000.

Neither the LTTE nor its supporters had any sense of responsibility. In the wake of the deepening crisis over Jaffna HSZ and an agreement on a special sea lane, the LTTE made another demand with the backing of the TNA.  It called for the immediate creation of an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This was  several months before the de-merger of the Eastern Province from the North on a Supreme Court directive). At the behest of the LTTE, the TNA made representations to the US Embassy in Colombo. The TNA assured the US that the LTTE would participate at the two-day Tokyo Donor Conference on June 9 and 10, 2003 if the GoSL agreed to the proposal. The TNA declared that the proposed interim administration should be outside the country’s Constitution. US Ambassador Ashley Wills refrained from commenting on the LTTE/TNA proposals (TNA wants US to pressure SL on Interim Administration––The Island of May 24, 2003 issue). The PA strongly opposed the move, with PA spokesman, Dr. Sarath Amunugama alleging that the Norwegians had allowed the LTTE to keep on making new demands as part of its strategy. (PA opposes latest Tiger stand–– The Island of May 21, 2003).

The PA gradually stepped up pressure on the UNP, with President Kumaratunga refusing to issue a statement in support of the Tokyo Donor Conference, which was scheduled to begin on June 9, 2003. She also cancelled a scheduled meeting with Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi in protest against what she called a deepening Japanese role in the peace process. She also turned down PM Wickremesinghe’s call for a meeting between them before the June 3 meeting. The LTTE, too, boycotted the Tokyo meeting making the whole process meaningless. (CBK snubs Japan: refuses statement backing confab––The Island of June 8, 2003).

While the GoSL and the international community were busy discussing ways and means of post-CFA economic recovery, the LTTE made another attempt to replenish its arsenal.

(Next installment on July 13 will deal with the sinking of ‘MV Shoshin’ also off Mullaitivu).

Monday, July 02, 2012

Pakistan in the extreme by Sayeed Hasan Khan and Kurt Jacobsen

Too many Westerners view Pakistan as a dark fantasyland populated by nothing but duplicitous politicos and religious fanatics. This faraway country of which most Westerners know precious little is, the media assures them, a "sanctuary" for rabid terrorists.

The term "sanctuary" implies that mountainous areas were created for the single nefarious purpose of threatening innocent Westerners.

That even the British empire long ago learned to leave inhospitable border regions alone is a fact omitted from many a sputtering indignant account. So reputed analysts get away with peddling any fear-mongering image they please in Western mass media. In his latest book even the estimable Ahmed Rashid sadly has given in to hysterical images of Pakistan.

Pakistan contains plenty of whopping woes and afflictions from which to take your pick for the very worst one. True. But meddling external actors rarely are deemed to be major contributors to the plight that these well-paid and well-positioned experts decry. So the horrific flourishing of ‘Kalashnikov culture’, drug dealing and jihadis since the 1980s is regarded as having absolutely nothing to do with the whims of fickle US foreign policy.

 Americans, like imperial elites earlier, love to say to the world, and to each other, that everything is your own fault. It’s a handy device by which elites manage to pretend today that the economic crisis was caused by a greedy public and not by slick financial manipulators, such as themselves.

Obama accordingly reckons that Pakistan’s border region "the most dangerous place in the world", while the CIA chief and former General, David Petraeus, dubbed it the apparently everlasting headquarters for al-Qaeda. A RAND report links several utterly loony post-9/11 attempts to bomb Manhattan to Pakistan-based plotters (RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy through research and analysis).

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also opined that most plots against Britain had Pakistani origins. Apparently, masterminds in Pakistan are absolutely essential to conjure the procession of thoroughly bungled and amateurish plots since 9/11, usually nursed along by planted informers and spies. If so, the West ought to feel extremely secure indeed. It’s been all downhill for Islamic terrorists since Khalid Sheikh Muhamed allegedly boasted that he trained the 9/11 hijackers. The enemy the West faces is not often a cut above the sorry lot of goofs in the satirical film, Four Lions.

The main US interests in the region are to: (1) destroy the al-Qaeda; and (2) stabilise the area. That a ruthless pursuit of the first aim endangers the second remains the American/Nato quandary. At the end of Bush’s administration in 2008, the US National Intelligence Council warned that escalating commando and drone attacks in North-west Pakistan generated more enemies than they eliminated and risked "destabilising the Pakistan military, which might divide over the policy."

Only the Taliban (and the US weapons and energy industries) thereby prosper. That, for a refreshing change, was an intelligent intelligence report. But a typical way the foreign policy elites solve this kind of problem is by defining it out of existence.

RAND experts, for example, decided that militant groups represent a constant threat to Pakistan, as though cruel counter-insurgency tactics were not a factor in recruiting sympathisers. Yet what actually are Pakistani public attitudes towards extremism? You would never guess from reading most experts that recent elections repudiated extremist parties.

Highly welcome then is a recent study of Pakistan political attitudes, part of a series of academic investigations, which might dispel obstructive and unhelpful Western beliefs. The survey, deftly conducted (if not always admirably interpreted) by Princeton and Georgetown University researchers, in conjunction with local Sedco, punctures a ballooning myth.

The researcher surveyed 6000 people across the four provinces with tactful and tactically worded questionnaires. What they found won’t be news to astute local observers but it is revelatory to most outsiders.

They found that the mass of poor people, especially the rural poor, in Pakistan are not inclined to support religious militants. The poor acutely suffer the consequences of the Islamic militants’ actions, and suffer the reprisals by authorities afterwards, at no discernible gain to themselves. So they accordingly are not queuing up feverishly to enlist in vengeful jihadic enterprises. This is not the same thing as saying the rural masses would not change their conditions if they could. Islamic forms of militancy offer no such hope.

The sober finding, however, is bound to be misread as the lesson that punitive actions will force the population into line, which is a perpetually popular notion in higher circles. Many moronic studies of the Vietnam War said exactly the same thing about the South-east Asian peasantry, who were regarded as stupid or stolid, or both. Those disgraceful analysts of course were wrong, though it usually didn’t hurt their careers.

So poverty allegedly does not contribute to militancy, Islamic or otherwise, even if an unspecified portion of recruits, the study allows, do come from these strata. The vast majority of poor Pakistanis are not aching to conquer, convert, and enslave Nato powers, they just don’t want to be bothered by the latter (which appears to be too much to ask).

The researchers find that "poor and wealthy districts are less supportive of militants on average than those from middle-income districts." Violence is "heavily concentrated in urban areas", if one skirts major exceptions such as campaigns in Swat, Baluchistan and the Frontier.

The minority middle class, brimming with educated under-employed people, are more likely to be supportive of religious militants, in word if not in deed. In developmental studies this strata has always posed a worry because, if growing, they are tinder for radical solutions. This phenomenon deserves attention. Yet the study concludes that "it is unlikely that improving the material well-being of individuals will reduce support for violent political organisations."

The study answers not to concerned Pakistanis but to the agenda of outside powers. They advise their audience not to indulge in poverty programmes. For these researchers a broad consensus on the link between poverty and violence is proving elusive: though we recommend they consider, for example, James Scott’s incisive studies of peasant resistance to get a few clues.

Whether aid reaches the intended people, after everyone in between has taken a cut, is a different question. (In our reading of the voluminous counter-insurgency literature, by the way, it is anything but a truism that poverty is linked to discontent.) Poverty is briefly mentioned and swiftly whisked away to focus on military means.

Clearly, corruption, poverty and exploitation are not problems to authorities until they become opportunities for militants to exploit, which tells one a lot about the mindset of both analysts and authorities.

The writers are freelance journalists and researchers.


Why not use it to secure a country that belongs to all rather than Eelam for some?

Sampanthan’s change of strategy:

The TNA leader R. Sampanthan’s recent speech at the 14th annual ITAK convention has raised a lot of public interest. After many years in the political arena and a mouthpiece of the LTTE, Sampathan used the Batticaloa platform to remind that his group was still relevant, active and invigourated, particularly after the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka. People should not therefore discount him and his group as a spent force. His speech comes at a time when the young Tamils generation is beginning to question the old guards: some more openly while others tacitly, calling for a new strategy and leadership to advance Tamil cause given the changing socio-political realities and circumstances in the country and internationally. Changing Eastern Province political climate over the past six years has diluted ground aspirations compared to the time when this province remained merged with the Northern Province to demand a separate Tamil homeland. Mr.Sampathan’s speech served a purpose; recharging confidence among the party members and sympathizers within and outside the country that he is still strong to occupy the leadership.

Outside Unitary Lanka

What his party aspires for is now clear when Sampathan said "Our expectation for a solution to the ethnic problem of the sovereignty of the Tamil people is based on political structure outside that of a unitary government, in a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil people have all powers of the government needed to live with self respect and self sufficiency. We believe that only within such a structure of government Tamil people truly enjoy the right to internal self-determination that is their inalienable right"

Immediately, Sampanthan also spoke of "The position that the North and East of Sri Lanka are areas of historical habitation of Tamil speaking people cannot be compromised in this structure of government". What is more confusing is the context in which he used Tamil speaking people (in which Muslims presumably are also included) and Tamil People. From his assertions "Any solution to the ethnic problem concerning the Tamil people must be acceptable to the Muslim community of Sri Lanka" and " The structure of government in Sri Lanka must also allow the Muslim community to fulfill their social, economic and political aspirations" one gets the impression that not all component groups of Tamil speaking people will be in the structure of government that the Tamil people desire to truly enjoy the right to internal self-determination which is considered their inalienable right. By this Sampanthan seems to advocate separate arrangements for Tamil speaking people (i.e. Muslims) outside that of the Tamil People. What happens if any arrangement only with the Tamil people in the North and East is unacceptable to the other Tamil speaking people? What happens if arrangements that will enable internal self-determination as in Sampathan’s proposal is not acceptable to the Muslims? Has there been any discussion on common positions between the Tamil people and the Tamil speaking people and, if so, what are they and when did this happen?

Muslims also discriminated

Like the Tamils, Muslims in Sri Lanka are also a minority, and they too periodically have complained about being marginalized and discriminated. However, Muslims had not taken the position that only North and East are areas of historical habitation but always maintained that they too are rightful citizens of this country. Therefore, they are entitled for equal rights and treatment constitutionally accorded to any other citizen wherever they choose to live. Historically, while maintaining religious identities, Muslims have blended with other communities socio-culturally. In spite of long years of cordiality between the Muslims and Tamils, the LTTE did not hesitate to declare Muslims unwanted in their ‘homeland’.

Given the vast Tamil exodus in the past seeking refuge and citizenship in other countries – a practice that continues even today in spite of stringent legal barriers and life threatening circumstances- the number of Muslims in this country, as of now, may even outnumber the Tamils. Nonetheless, Muslims will be very uncomfortable with an arrangement that Sampanthan is calling for; self determination someday that he hopes for with or without the international support.

Betrayed by Muslim politicos

Muslims of this country do appreciate Sampathan’s concern for them. Almost every Muslim member elected to parliament has deserted promises made to the voters and joined the government to toe its policy lines, even supporting constitutional amendments meant to perpetuate power and control by one group. As such, genuine grievances of the Muslim community are now underplayed or unattended to. Unfortunately, Muslim parliamentarians have repeatedly shown an affinity to cross over to other political camps for personal gains, and the Muslim community may have to put up with such representatives for a long time to come. Under these Circumstances, Sampanthan’s plea for Muslim interest is a welcome development. However, given LTTE hostility towards Muslims, bitterness and trust deficit between the Tamil/Muslim communities arising out of events like the expulsion of the Muslims from the Northern Province, massacre of worshipers inside mosques, confiscation and demolition of Muslim villages and properties, besiege of Muslim villages and civilian displacement from time to time as it happened in Muttur 2006, heavy sale taxation and boycott campaign against businesses with Muslim ownership, outright objection to the inclusion of Muslim representation in the post-CFA peace talks and TNA’s silence when it could have diffused tension between the two communities do not give credence that there is now an attitudinal change and Sampanthan’s concern for Muslims is genuine. Such goodwill positions had been bartered in the past between TNA and SLMC, and no one took them seriously then and no one will take them seriously now.

No one doubts Sampanthan’s intent and commitment to serve the Tamils. Also, there is no doubt that the Tamil community has suffered. Some argue that the Tamils had their prime time under the British, and because of the socio-development disparity caused during pre-independence other communities had some catching up to do. However, post-independent government strategies to achieve it were discriminatory and largely benefitted one group. Violence as a strategic choice by the Tamils to rectify post-independent discrepancies in governance caused even greater human suffering and impeded development throughout the country. What seems important today is to reconfigure our thoughts and actions to move away from a position of hurting stalemate and concentrate all energies rebuilding this country for all. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

No hate attacks

A country focused on reconciliation and rebuilding cannot allow hate attacks on people and their places of worship. Land grabbing, kidnapping and proliferation of symbols of one religion in places predominantly inhabited by followers other faiths are now on the increase. Continued and strong military presence in war affected areas, increasing crime and breakdown of law and order, pervasive corruption and waste of public resources go unabated. After the war, child abuse has become a menace everywhere. These are not positive signs for a country on a recovery path. Anti-social activities and hate crimes were once blamed on the insurgents but, such crimes are now being openly used with impunity to solidify party positions or frighten dissidents. These may have contributed to hardening TNA position as prospects of a home grown solution for Tamil grievances fade, while the government seems to harden its position to ensure that terrorism cannot raise its head again and separate homeland cannot be justified on the basis of group-affinity numerical strength.

Consider other options

Time has come to consider other options, and starting from a ground zero is one of them. This will mean everyone in this country to openly accept that mistakes have been made by all sides and make a fresh commitment for a new Sri Lanka, laid on a foundation which will truly internalize and respect ethnic diversity, freedom of worship, meritocracy ensuring the best person for the right job, rewarding professional excellence, independent public service, judiciary and law enforcement agencies, revised legal systems and penal codes to facilitate justice even to the weakest and strengthen deterrence and civic consciousness that encourage corporate responsibility to ensure safety and security of the present and future generations. All post-independent constitutions had provisions but, we couldn’t use them effectively to shape a country that belongs to all. Thus, without an attitudinal change, no new constitution will lead to a better Sri Lanka. Can Mr. Sampanthan adopt his new strategy - a ground zero option - in which the past is put behind, and the demand is to concentrate on rebuilding the country with stringent constitutional safeguards against misuse of governance in order to deny equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens. Can the government reciprocate this demand in good faith, and carry along with it the majority community, particularly its hardcore that sharpens its saber against the minority every now and then? As the legislators and those in the executive arm have benefitted immensely by propagating dysfunctional system of governance for so long there may be resistance for any change? What will it take to make the attitudinal transformation to accept a ground zero strategy?

The world entrusted the politicians far too long to determine destiny of the respective countries. Politicians have arrogated in their positions, and left the people astray in moral, financial, territorial and environmental crises. It will take a rare kind of visionary leadership to rebuild a country but it can only happen if there is genuine willingness to build a more caring and integrated society. Dasaraja Dharma may have been practiced in the past and, unfortunately today, Sri Lanka does not have it.

Three spied on STF movements for Tiger detainees

Vavuniya police last Friday arrested three persons, who were said to be LTTE spies. They are alleged to have been passing information on STF movements to the LTTE suspects detained in the Vavuniya prison.

A woman and two men had been arrested, Headquarters Inspector Vavuniya Police, Chief Inspector Erick Perera said.

He said that as some lawyers were recording the operation to rescue three guards held hostage by the detainees there, their phones had also been taken into custody and the footage deleted.

Special Task Force (STF) Commandant, DIG R. W. Chandrasiri Ranawana yesterday revealed that about 28 LTTE prisoners, detained in the Vavuniya prison, had satellite phones to pass information to the Tamil Diaspora abroad. Those phones were detected during the operation to rescue the three prison guards. The STF seized a total of 57 mobile phones during the raid on the prison.

He said that ASP Silvester Wijesinghe had been rushed to Vavuniya with special weapons and Tactic Unit commandoes on June 28 with 40 elite commandoes. Approximately 80 commandoes participated in the rescue of the three prison guards. The operation commenced at 12.00 noon on June 29 and was over at 12.45 p.m. All the prisoners were transferred to the Anuradhapura prison immediately afterwards.

Ranawana added that of 200 prisoners at the Vavuniya prison, 28 were LTTE detainees. The Vavuniya prison was located near the Court complex.

He said that the reason for taking three prison guards hostage was because they were transferring three detainees to the Anuradhapura prison on a Court order. The inmates were demanding that they be retained in the Vuvuniya prison. As the authorities refused to do so they staged a hunger strike. But food items adequate for six months were found inside the prison.