LTTE again

THOSE who thought things were turning for the better in Sri Lanka, vis-à-vis the Tiger rebel problem, are mistaken. The separatists have given display to their lethal air power for the second time, targeting a military base, killing a batch of soldiers, and letting off a series of explosions in its aftermath. Under the circumstances, the military’s claim that it has repulsed the attack cannot be taken in its face value.

The intensification of the rebel offensive comes in the context of an aggressive, somewhat successful, military push against the militants in the eastern region, even as the north remains fully under the LTTE command and control, a virtual state within a state. The 2002 truce brokered by Norwegian mediators is all but defunct; and the past 18 months have seen renewal of violence on a large scale yet again.

While President Mahinda Rajapakse had in recent months won some praise for his handling of the rebel issues, he is faced with hitches from within his own edifice: like, the increasing pressure for removal of his own brother from the post of Defence Secretary —a demand that the Opposition has strongly lent its voice to —in view of the fresh setbacks the military faced in the anti-rebel offensives. What is clear is that the government is not fighting fit in these critical times.

Peace should be a matter of first priority for Sri Lankans. Playing politics will in no way speed up the process. It was common knowledge that the former administration of Ranil Wikremesinghe had made considerable headway in effecting a turn-around, leading to the 2002 truce, yet, Sri Lanka’s politicians couldn’t stand united and rise to the occasion, which was how the rebels regained an upper hand.

Rebels wielding air power is a very serious matter. It shows how far things have worsened. What had started in the 1980s with land-mines and firearms, and progressed to the use of surface-to-air missiles to shoot down aircrafts in the 90’s, has reached this pass. That seriousness is compounded by the fact that Sri Lanka’s military is still in a weak state. It is high time the political leadership wakes up to the realities and act in concert.

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