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  A deadly election  Reality check on the CFA and its aftermath


 Return of the check points


Gotabaya Rajapakse, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, S.P. Tamilselvan and Charles

By Ranee Mohamed

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court in a landmark judgement in early December ordered the dismantling of all permanent security checkpoints stating they were illegal and a violation o f the fundamental rights to the freedom of movement.

 Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva said that waging war against the state is the severest of offences, punishable by death, and went on to say that members of the security forces have full power to maintain public order.

He went on to say that the Inspector General of Police himself had admitted that the effectiveness of these checkpoints was minimal stating that these 'illegal checkpoints' only serve to increase serious incidents of abuse of power, corruption and the harassment of innocent persons.

But barely one month elapsed when a different law was set in motion on the streets. Not only were there mobile checkpoints, but the permanent checkpoints too began to be manned with mobile units who changed their timings at these permanent checkpoints.

"We were asked to stop and our vehicles were searched. Not only was the briefcase in the vehicle opened, but the plate of rice that was covered with a napkin was also opened," said a member of the minority community, who is regularly subjected to checks.

Exasperating

Bus commuters who are more harassed due to the various checkpoints said that they have to get off the bus, show their identity cards and then walk a distance to get into the bus that is parked far away after it is searched. 'When this happens at office time, it is exhausting, exasperating and disgusting,' they said.

Meanwhile the burst of a new cluster of checkpoints is causing panic in and around the airport. One passenger complained that she was stopped at eight different checkpoints on her way to the airport last week.

 Criminal Lawyer Daya Perera when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that checkpoints are necessary. "But if we continue to have the same checkpoints day after day only an idiot will take a bomb through that route," noted this legal luminary.

"It is very necessary that we have mobile checkpoints. Undoubtedly, checkpoints cause hardships but if we are reduced to a state of war then we must buckle down and face it," said Daya Perera but insisted that these checkpoints ought to be mobile checkpoints.

Retired Supreme Court Judge C.V. Wigneswaran speaking to The Sunday Leader said  that two factors have been taken into consideration with regard to roadblocks - the rights of the users of roads and the security of the state. "I believe that the Supreme Court judgement has taken into account three matters - responsibility, accountability and utility, and it has been found that these factors have been absent in the maintaining of roadblocks," observed Judge Wigneswaran.

Extra source of income

He went on to say that it has been found instead that the roadblocks have been the means of an extra source of income and other wrongful activities for certain parties, thus not serving their purpose.

"When checkpoints were there, there have been instances of harassment of road users for the personal monetary gain of the men at the checkpoints. They have also been used to give vent to their social prejudices which appeared to be their motivating factor.

"I do not think the Supreme Court  was against genuine, on the spot, ad hoc investigations with sniffer dogs etc. to check actual transgressions of the law. But if the Executive has undertaken to reintroduce the same checkpoints, this act might unnecessarily collide with the Supreme Court judgement," pointed out retired Judge of the Supreme Court C.V.Wigneswaran.

He went on to say that such an act on the part of the Executive could open itself to the wrath of the people and compared it to the rice checking days of Sirimavo Bandaranaike which gave J.R. Jayewardene a 5/6 majority.

"Sometimes for 'security reasons' traffic is now halted for quite sometime. I hope your readers are aware that a very distinguished, senior, retired officer of the Central Bank passed away as his loved ones were unable to get him to hospital on time due to the long period of halting traffic," said Wigneswaran.

Responsibility, accountability and utility

He went on to say that now that the checkpoints have been reintroduced by a Presidential Order, the powers that be must take into account the three important matters that were considered by the Supreme Court - responsibility, accountability and utility.

The President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Nihal Jayamanne P.C. when contacted stated  "the rule of law must be upheld. The Supreme Court under the constitution is empowered with this task. The security of the country in a war situation is of paramount importance. The security of the state and of the people must be safeguarded in such a manner that the fundamental rights of the people  guaranteed under the constitution are not violated. The people of the country have a right to live without fear and the government has a sacred duty to protect that right and the Supreme Court of this country has always recognised that principle."

Lawyer Manohara de Silva, speaking to The Sunday Leader said that the Supreme Court has interpreted the existing law. "If the legislature wants to change it they can," he pointed out.

De Silva went on to point out that the function of the judiciary is to interpret and construe the existing law. "What the Supreme Court did was to interpret that law and if the legislature is unhappy about it, they can change it," said de Silva.

And this change brought about an influx of security personnel both to the permanent checkpoints and the mobile checkpoints.

People's right of movement

Executive Director, Transparency International Sri Lanka, J.C.Weliamuna speaking out as a human rights activists and an attorney-at-law said, "Whether there is a war or not, our constitution is not suspended nor is there emergency regulations promulgated on how checkpoints should be introduced. Also, the people's right of movement under Article 14 of the Constitution has not been specified, therefore the right of movement is a personal liberty which should be respected unhindered.

 Weliamuna said that the Supreme Court judgement ought to be viewed in that background.

"Undoubtedly the Executive may not be happy but it cannot be helped for that seems to be the correct legal position," observed Weliamuna.

  "The tussle between the Executive and the judiciary has been there in Sri Lanka from time to time. Having said that I must add that, for constitutional governance to prevail both the judiciary and the executive must act with self restraint.

"The judiciary should not introduce laws but should interpret laws and rule on violations of the law. On the other hand, the executive is not the law making authority nor the judicial authority to resolve disputes and it is important that these organs of the state - the executive and the judiciary - be separated and operate within its limitations," added Weliamuna.

Attorney at Law J.C. Weliamuna was making a point that the executive and the judiciary ought to be separated, for if they are joined together it will cause a tremendous accumulation of power, leading to anarchy or dictatorship. He pointed out that it is important that these two organs should respect each other but should not join together especially on civil liberties.

Snap road blocks

Military Spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara when contacted confirmed that checkpoints are back. "We have 80 checkpoints in Colombo," he said and emphasised that they are now called snap roadblocks or mobile checkpoints.

The Brigadier also said that searching of houses will take place during a certain time and not in the nights.

"We all know that we are under some threat. We ought to take action to protect the people. We are doing our best to prevent any break-in which may cause harm to the general public. This is all in the name of security," pointed out Brigadier Nanayakkara.

"If there were no checkpoints then anyone can go anywhere with a bomb. It would be easy for the LTTE to pass their bombs in and around Colombo," said a source who did not wish to be identified.

However, some members of the minority community when contacted said  that they experience fear at checkpoints and terror  when checking of houses is done in the night. A man in his 50s said that he experienced fear and humiliation when police and security personnel came to his home in the mid morning, the day after the bomb explosion in Nugegoda.

 "I believe that the checking was instigated by my landlord. These men, about 14 of them came and banged on my gate. I told them that I was coming and not to open the gate that my pet dogs may run to the road. But they pushed the gate and let the dogs out.

"Then they came to my house and went through all the clothes. There were some new sarees and some new unopened shirts. They asked me to whom the sarees and shirts belonged and whose jewellery was there in the house. There was some money in the house Rs.30,000 in one place and Rs.5,000 in another, and they asked me why the money was in the house."

Terrified

"I live with my sister who is also in her 50s and we were terrified.  After checking and ransacking the house, they made me walk up my lane with them, they took me along the main highway and all the way to the police station - about four kilometres. My neighbours were looking at me, all the people were looking at me.

"I was born and bred in Colombo and I attended Isipathana College, all my details were given in my National Identity Card, but I was marched along the road, like a convict. They took me from my house at 11 a.m  and it was 2 p.m when they reached the police station.

"On the way they stopped for a drink and tea. I stood in a corner, I was not given anything. I was too frightened to ask whether I can have something to drink," said this member of a minority community. He went on to say that neither the police nor the security personnel had  taken any money or jewellery from his residence or assaulted him.

He went on to say that now each time there is a knock on the door, he feels his chest tightening and his throat going dry. "We are living in absolute fear," he whispered.


A deadly election


Douglas Devananda, Karuna Amman, 
M.L.A. Hisbulla, R. Sambanthan, Dayananda Dissanayake and V. Anandasangaree

By Arthur Wamanan and Ranjith Jayasundera

Although the government is bulldozing ahead with plans to hold elections in the east after "liberating" the province with much ado and fanfare, the twin feelings of terror and tension pervade the entire Eastern Province. The months since 'liberation' have seen nothing but chaos. The province has been plagued with regular abductions and killings orchestrated by various mysterious paramilitary groups.

Although a date for the much anticipated eastern local government elections is yet to be announced, the nomination period for candidates contesting the nine local bodies began last Friday, January 18. Friday was also marked by a minor clash in Batticaloa between the military and "a group of terrorists" at around 4 a.m. after which troops discovered a claymore mine,  a role of tripwire and a detonator that the group was carrying.

One LTTE cadre was killed in the confrontation - the rest of the group escaped the army's clutches and now lurk in the shadows of the eastern jungles. With LTTE cadres still roaming the east - it was only 11 days ago that the STF hunted down and killed Batticaloa's "Senior LTTE leader Shankar" - the military has pledged to provide security for the elections.

Since it is widely known that government forces are working hand in glove with the TMVP and EPDP, independent political parties, both Tamil and Muslim, are wary of the prospect of an election marred by rigging, intimidation and bloodshed.

Joint patrols

Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) reports have regularly stated that the security forces and the TMVP operate joint patrols, joint checkpoints and joint searches of villages, despite strong denials by both sides.

One can imagine the bloodshed that would ensue if the TNA or SLMC attempted to employ "cadres" armed with T-56 rifles to roam the roads of the east with the same impunity enjoyed by the TMVP's Pillayan cadres or the EPDP's militias.

It is here that the fear lies for the TNA, SLMC, UNP and other opposition parties brave enough to contest these elections. They will canvass for votes in the east merely waving their bare hands, whilst their opponents in the EPDP and TMVP will dominate their territories armed to the teeth.

Thus it is bizarre that Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has allowed the elections to proceed, knowing that at least two political parties in the areas being contested also operate militias.

One may recall that after Ranil Wickremesinghe won the December 2001 parliamentary elections, EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda offered to join the UNF government and pledged the EPDP's "military support" to help defeat the LTTE, an offer that was spurned outright.

"Military support"

There is little doubt in anyone's mind that this same "military support" will go towards helping the EPDP in its election campaign. As for the TMVP, they were not so long ago part of the same LTTE that enforced its boycott of the 2005 presidential election by chopping off the finger of one man brave enough to vote, and set another on fire.

There has been scarcely any indication since Karuna split from the LTTE's main body that the group has strayed from its violent beginnings. The TNA's Parliamentary Group Leader R. Sampanthan addressing the Foreign Correspondents' Association recently dismissed the coming election as "totally undemocratic and fraudulent" due to the ground situation.

Knowing that the 245,171 eligible voters in the east may be forced to cast their votes based not on their preference of candidate but based on the affiliation of the men pointing guns to their heads, Sampanthan told the assembled foreign journalists that "the elections will be a disaster."

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree insisted that the ground situation in the east is not at all conducive for the conduct of elections since murders and kidnappings are continuing unabated. Asked about the prospect of an election in which some contesting parties bore arms, the TULF head surmised that a free and fair election could not be held without all contesting parties being made to disarm prior to the election.

Security by police and army

Anandasangaree recalled that as the Elections Commissioner has promised to ensure "maximum security" by coordinating with the Inspector General of Police, such a promise would be meaningless unless all contesting parties were disarmed, and security for the province provided solely by the police and armed forces.

Following a bloody coup that resulted in the TMVP's founder and leader Karuna Amman fleeing to England, the group has been taken over by his deputy, Pillayan. The group - yet to be recognised as a political party by the Elections Department - plans to contest the elections according to their Batticaloa Head, 'Pradeep Master.'

'Pradeep Master' told The Sunday Leader that the group was ready to face the elections and was confident that they would be "favoured by the people." The Batticaloa head of the paramilitary said he was 'excited' as this would be the first election contested by the TMVP. He dismissed recent reports of violence insisting that "the killings and violence cannot be considered as election violence as they have happened even before the  announcement of the elections."

Speculation that the TMVP will form part of a broad paramilitary coalition encompassing the EPDP and the EPRLF was ended by the announcement by the TMVP's official spokesperson Azath Moulana that the group will 'go it alone.' "It will be easier for us to know the number of people who are with us if we contest independently" Moulana has said.

Formidable military force

When asked about the possibility of widespread violence at the hands of the TMVP's formidable military force, Batticaloa Head Pradeep Master put the burden of ensuring peace squarely on the shoulders of the security forces. "We have told our cadres not to indulge in violence. But the security forces are also taking steps. These clashes would not happen if they ensure maximum security."

Pradeep Master's pledge of non-violence comes less than a week after the abduction of two Tamil SLTB bus drivers and one conductor in Batticaloa from their homes last Sunday morning by five unidentified gunmen. The news spread fast and by noon a strike had been launched by all SLTB Batticaloa bus depot employees.

The strike was called off the next day when the drivers were released. Batticaloa SLTB sources later blamed the TMVP for the abduction, saying that the drivers had been criticising the group whilst in conversation at their bus depot and were thus kidnapped by the TMVP in Gestapo style and kept overnight and released with a stern warning to not speak against the TMVP or its leader.

The TMVP too has had its share of setbacks. The group had asked the President of the Batticaloa District Volunteer Teachers Union, 31 year old Parasuraman Nanthakumar to contest in the upcoming elections on their ticket.

Outspoken Tamil leader

Nanthakumar was a politically outspoken Tamil leader and had served as a volunteer teacher for several years. On Monday, January 9, whilst he was standing near his house, a group of gunmen came in search of the young teacher and shot him dead before fleeing. Although the police are conducting an investigation into the killing, no arrests had been made in this connection as of this edition going to print.

A report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to the UN Security Council dated December 21, 2007 also accused the TMVP not only of having recruited over 150 children to their fighting force over the last one year, but also of providing a financial incentive to families to allow their children to be given military training.

The report states: "A further disconcerting trend has been the payment of monthly allowances to some of the children recruited upon completion of military training by the TMVP/Karuna faction. This may have the effect of stifling reports by impoverished families, who may actually encourage underage recruitment. Reports have been received that families of recruits are receiving a monthly allowance ranging from SL Rs. 6,000 to SL Rs. 12,000 (approximately $60 to $120). UNICEF has recorded 36 cases of recruited children who are receiving payments in Batticaloa District alone."

Re-recruiting children

The UN Secretary General also brought to the attention of the Security Council the fact that the TMVP has re-recruited children who were released by the LTTE. "An additional concern is the targeting of children previously associated with LTTE by the TMVP/Karuna faction in eastern Sri Lanka. Families of children who returned home from LTTE have been requested to report to the TMVP offices with their children. Reports were received that on several occasions, TMVP refused to release these children, claiming that they were holding them for inquiries.

"In a number of cases, this has resulted in the re-recruitment of children by the TMVP/Karuna faction. This raises concerns for the ongoing care and protection of children released from LTTE and demands increased attention to the security of these children from the government authorities, who have regained full control of the east."

One is free to wonder whether the same "government authorities" that are unable to rescue over 150 kidnapped children being held in known locations in the "liberated" east would be able to effectively suppress ad hoc violence, bloodshed, fraud and rigging during an election.

EPDP Leader, Minister Douglas Devananda, in a brief telephone interview with The Sunday Leader dismissed any political threat for the EPDP from the TMVP's decision to contest the elections independently. He and the TMVP both considered the LTTE to be the major threat as far as democracy was concerned in the east.

Election is a must

"We have faced worse problems. Election is a must at this time. The LTTE was the only threat for democracy," Minister Devananda said. The Minister did mention that there were some more obstacles to be faced in the east that stand in the way of democracy prevailing in the upcoming elections. "There are armed groups roaming around in the east. We have requested the Elections Commissioner to ensure that neither the people nor the politicians are threatened due to their presence," said Devananda.

Both the TMVP and the EPDP have pledged to respect democracy and allow the people to freely elect whoever they wish without facing violence or intimidation. "However, there are certain issues to be rectified and I'm sure that it will be done after the elections," Devananda added ominously.

Whilst the TMVP and the EPDP both stand a fighting chance with their own home-grown paramilitary units backing up their political operations, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is facing a dire situation with the security afforded to their MPs having been drastically scaled down after the party crossed over to the opposition.

Come what may

The party has decided to contest the elections come what may, insisted Supreme Council Member M.L.A.M. Hisbulla to The Sunday Leader. Hisbulla however made it clear that the party was steeling itself for a blood-marred poll. He related the story of how his convoy of SLMC members was surrounded and attacked allegedly by Disaster Relief Minister Amir Ali while he was on his way for a meeting in Valachchenai.

According to Hisbulla, the Minister had allegedly warned him that no one other than those supported by the government would be allowed to contest the election and vowed that anyone who contested on the SLMC ticket would face death. Hisbulla's convoy was turned away and smashed up by the Minister's gang.

The party's candidates for the Ariyampathi Pradeshiya Sabha have received a message demanding that they contest on the TMVP list in exchange for the post of deputy chairman. According to the SLMC, the offer was sent with a message that all non-TMVP candidates will be killed by the Pillayan group.

Hisbulla scoffed at the mere prospect of a free and fair election highlighting that although the army was expected to ensure security for the election, both the TMVP and Minister Ali (as a government minister) enjoyed the protection of the army to act with impunity.

Ensure a fair election

With a date yet to be set for the election, there is still time for the law of the land to prevail. Time has not run out for the Elections Commissioner to act to either ensure a fair election by insisting on disarming the paramilitaries and ensuring the neutrality of the armed forces or to postpone the polls until the situation becomes bearable.

It would be a tragedy if Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake chooses to turn a blind eye to the lawlessness in the east and allow the paramilitary groups to dictate the ultimate outcome of the elections - laying waste a perfect opportunity to allow the newly emancipated populace of the Eastern Province a true taste of democracy after several years of LTTE dictatorship.


Reality check on the CFA and its aftermath

By Ranjith Jayasundera

Last Wednesday, January 16, the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE officially expired, and with it any hopes of peace talks in the foreseeable future. To most Sri Lankans, the CFA has been effectively worthless for over a year now, ever since the LTTE and the government resumed hostilities in 2006.

To others, the CFA was the document that represented the peace the country enjoyed in the four years from 2002 up until 2006, and a document that bound the LTTE to the international safety net, and by extension, accountable at least to the Co-Chairs. It ushered in an era free of checkpoints, roadblocks and bomb blasts in Colombo or for that matter any other part of the country - an era that now seems long gone.

Opportunity for development

At its best, from the time the CFA was signed, it presented an opportunity for the Sri Lankan government to develop the north and east, to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people and destroy the LTTE's support and recruitment base from within. It also opened Sri Lanka's doors for greater investment and more tourism not to mention aid by projecting an image of a country no longer at war.

Even with such an opportunity long gone, of the first, most crucial clauses of the agreement is one that the government will surely miss dearly at the rate international pressure is mounting against it. Article 1.3 of the CFA reads: "The Sri Lankan armed forces shall continue to perform their legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka without engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE."

Article 1.3 was internationally recognised (and more importantly, Pirapaharan recognised) as giving supremacy to the Sri Lankan armed forces over the LTTE. It effectively denied the Tigers of the legal right to operate a navy or air force. The CFA only allowed armed LTTE forces freedom of movement on land they controlled, and allowed them no freedom of movement at sea or in the air.

It thus gave the navy and air force an internationally attested green light to destroy any armed LTTE craft at sea or in the air - a tool that could have been more effectively used at cutting off the Tigers' arms supply chain. It also effectively took away the LTTE's claim for a separate state by recognising the supremacy of the Sri Lankan armed forces to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

Callous disregard

With the CFA's demise however, there remains no international framework for recognising the supremacy of Sri Lanka's armed forces in this conflict in the backdrop of the LTTE's claims for legitimacy as a separate state. In the light of the recent spats between the government and the United Nations, and rising tensions between Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, the need for an internationally recognised declaration of the government's inalienable right to safeguard "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka" will become more apparent.

Despite the pressure mounted by nationalist forces to give the public the impression that the international community were against the military operations of the government, in reality the focus of most of the criticism levelled against this administration, both locally and internationally, has been the government's disregard for human rights in its operation, and the blind eye turned by the army to the spate of killings and assassinations taking place in the east.

That the government routinely denies the existence of armed paramilitary groups working under the cover of the security forces has also been a cause for much concern by foreign nations. Nobody likes being lied to, and few would tolerate being lied to routinely, especially a member of the United Nations as opposed to an organisation banned as a terrorist outfit by the Western world.

The ceasefire itself was declared after a string of military defeats during the tenure of President Kumaratunga's administration. By the time Ranil Wickremesinghe's UNF coalition won parliamentary elections on December 5, 2001, the country was reeling from the bloodshed and military defeat at the second battle of Elephant's Pass a year before.

Past attacks

The Elephant Pass debacle of April 2000 was followed in July 2001 with the Black Tiger attack on the Bandaranaike International Airport, which destroyed three SriLankan Airlines Airbus aircraft worth over US$350 million and blew up an additional eight military aircraft including Kfirs, MiG-27 bombers, and assault helicopters in what was the most monetarily costly attack ever suffered by our military.

The attack caused heavy 'war-risk' insurance surcharges for ships and aircraft travelling through Sri Lanka and this burden coupled with a 15.5% drop in tourism earnings for 2001 led to the country experiencing negative economic growth of 1.3% for the first time since independence. The CFA eventually led in 2003 to the Tokyo Donor Conference, where the now much touted Co-Chairs gained their positions.

Compliance

It was at the conference in 2003 that the "Tokyo Declaration on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka," chaired by Japan, the United States, Norway, the European Union Presidency and the European Commission, decided to pledge US$4.5 billion in aid to Sri Lanka - tied to substantive advancements in the peace process.

Specifically, the terms of the declaration tied the progress of aid projects to "full compliance with the Ceasefire Agreement by both (the GoSL and LTTE) parties" as well as "effective promotion and protection of the human rights of all people" amongst a set of 10 similar conditions including efforts to resettle internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Nearly 300,000 IDPs were returned to their rightful homes under the ceasefire, only to see another 220,000 people displaced by the government's campaign to secure the east.

The steady criticism levelled at the government now by the European Union, the United States and several branches of the United Nations, and the prompt labelling of such by the Rajapakse administration as "he/she is a terrorist" has had the effect of isolating Sri Lanka on the world stage.

Ever since President Rajapakse took office, the daily news reports are plagued with odd figures of a few Tigers or soldiers killed in sporadic clashes, as well as reports of casualties in the massive military operations launched to dislodge the LTTE from the Eastern Province.

Disparities

It might be more difficult to swallow though that the sum of these reports is that nearly 8,600 people have been killed between the time that Rajapakse took office and the end of 2007. The majority of this figure consists of LTTE cadres (5,678) but an alarming number of both civilians (1,536) and military servicemen (1,379) have had to make the 'supreme sacrifice' as the Defence Ministry likes to say, to sustain the government's war.

Compare this to the 415 people killed during the nearly four year period of relative peace observed before November 2005. Out of this number 201 were classified as civilians, 46 were military personnel and 168 were LTTE cadres. Most of these deaths also came after President Kumaratunga took over three ministries including Defence in November 2003.

Only about 70 people had died between the signing of the ceasefire and the SLFP's torpedoing of the peace process - and for the first time in decades Sri Lanka saw real peace. Now the country is paying the price of trying to solve a political conflict violently. The price of the Rajapakse Brothers' war has been on average the blood of two civilians per day and nearly two soldiers per day (nine soldiers killed every five days) as per the government's own data.

Against the current

By unilaterally abrogating the Ceasefire Agreement and sidelining Norway and the Co-Chairs and by publicly indicating his desire to have the peace process stewarded by India, President Mahinda Rajapakse paddled up the creek against a strong current, and having reached its source, flung away his paddle into the abyss.

At the mercy of the JVP for survival, the government is banking heavily on Defence Secretary Gotabaya to militarily defeat the Tigers by General Sarath Fonseka's August 1 deadline, a task that will surely cost many thousands of lives whether or not it is accomplished.

More recruitment

The Defence Ministry's energetic campaign to recruit 30,000 more soldiers into army ranks, and the Health Ministry's efforts at getting the public to donate blood in large quantities hint at an imminent large scale battle between the military and the LTTE. Humour was not lost in this macabre setting with some even asking whether only blood of the 'Sinhala Buddhists' will be accepted, lest the blood of the 'lions' be contaminated.

No doubt the administration's tactic of regularly unleashing the country's air force and artillery batteries to indiscriminately bombard targets in the north "based on reliable intelligence sources" will continue, further adding to the anguish and civilian death toll in the LTTE controlled areas, and thus building up more hatred against the Sinhalese amongst northern Tamil civilians.

Likewise, the LTTE too would unleash all its brutality by targeting civilians to put the government under pressure in the south and send a message what a full scale war really means not just for the north but also the south.

Thus should the Rajapakse campaign succeed to militarily wipe out the "remaining 3,000" LTTE cadres, one wonders how our soldiers will be welcomed by the civilians of Kilinochchi with the airstrikes and artillery shelling of their homes, schools, shops and hangouts fresh in their minds.

With the CFA gone and the APRC revealed to be all but a farce by the government to appease the international community, there remains no framework for a political solution to the ethnic conflict.

Desire to live in harmony

Every day of conflict that passes highlights the brutality of the LTTE and makes it all the more unlikely that this government will seek to address the plight of Sri Lanka's Tamils. And dare it be said the majority of Sinhalese also want to live in harmony with their Tamil and Muslim brethren, a hope drowned by a racist minority both in the north and south who have successfully muted the silent majority by their shrill cry of extremism.

The most frightening angle of the current situation is the government's August 1 deadline for the elimination of the Tigers. Since the war serves as the Rajapakse administration's lifeline, there is a distinct possibility of the military being ordered to send ceaseless waves of young soldiers to their deaths in a desperate attempt to meet an ill-conceived deadline with the sole aim of prolonging the government's survival.

Never in history have battles and wars been fought on deadlines for any purpose other than to meet politically expedient targets. 


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