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Archive for June 24th, 2008

The sudden visit to Sri Lanka last week by a high level three – member delegation from India lasted around 36 hours. The unanticipated mission has brought in its wake a flurry of speculative news items about its aims and objectives.

With both sides remaining tight – lipped about disclosing details about the visit the official communiqués have been quite uninformative.

It has been the lot of scribes to garner bits and pieces of what transpired from diverse sources and assemble together a whole that would as far as possible shed some light on the matter.

The Indian trio comprised MK. Narayanan the national security adviser, P.Shiv Shankar Menon the foreign secretary and R. Vijay Singh the defence secretary.

MK. Narayanan led the delegation as in terms of protocol the national security adviser position is of cabinet rank. Moreover Narayanan has in recent times become the architecht of Indian policy towards Sri Lanka.

It is learnt that the mission itself was undertaken on the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh himself.

The composition of the special high – level delegation assumed greater significance by the inclusion of Indian defence secretary R. Vijay Singh.

Thus three important spheres namely defence, foreign policy and national security etc were inter – locked on a mutually integrated mission.

The visit by itself was consultative in nature. The objective was to ascertain the exact position of Sri Lanka towards some issues that directly affect India.

Through a frank exchange of views with different players New Delhi hoped to obtain an incisive insight into the direction that Sri Lanka was heading.

In the process of consultative discussions India once again emphasised through polite discourse some well – intentioned “advice” on relevant issues of mutual concern.

The Indian trinity conducted a series of discussions with several people including President Rajapakse, Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the service chiefs, senior bureaucrats,Tamil political leaders like R. Sambandan, Arumugam Thondaman, Douglas Devananda, D. Siddharthan and Mano Ganesan etc.

The important ones however were the two meetings with President Rajapakse, the meeting with the Defence secretary , the meeting with the TNA leader R.Sambandan and the candid discussions with the heads of the armed forces.

What was of immediate concern to the Indian delegation was the up – coming South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) scheduled for July 29th – Aug 3rd in Colombo.

While many issues were discussed the most immediate and important one was the SAARC summit. This columnist will therefore devote himself to that issue alone in this article.

The SAARC summit is of paramount importance for Sri Lanka as Premier Man Mohan Singh is expected to hand over regional leadership to President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka would not like any repetition of SAARC related happenings in the early nineties of the previous century where India pulled out of the scheduled summit in Colombo causing immense loss of face to President Ranasinghe Premadasa who had made a name for himself as an India baiter.

An immediate cause of concern and even anxiety for India is the security situation in Sri Lanka. With several heads of state including the Indian premier expected to attend security is indeed a major area of concern.

What is obvious to the outsider and even the enlightened insider is the growing deterioration of security in Sri Lanka.

While aerial bombardment and artillery shelling go on unabated in the battle front violence prevails in other areas also.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) accuses the deep penetration unit of conducting land mine attacks in tiger controlled areas.

Likewise the LTTE is charged of perpetrating many explosions in Colombo and other Southern towns.

Disppearances, Abductions, assassinations etc go on with unchecked impunity in Jaffna, Vavuniya, the Eastern province, Colombo and suburbs etc.

In addition Colombo and many southern towns are becoming “garrison states” with increased security arrangements.

These include mass scale cordon and searches of Tamil residential areas and detention without trial.

While the powers that be are unaware or blissfully ignorant of how exactly the world perceives this once resplendent Island , there is very little doubt externally that the country is in the throes of a serious self – made crisis.

Against that backdrop it is a legitimate question for Indian officials to probe and ascertain whether the “Colombo climate” is indeed conducive for staging the SAARC summit and also for the Indian Premier to participate.

While claims are made of “intelligence” breakthroughs and hundreds of arrests are made in the aftermath of LTTE attacks the fact remains that tiger activity continues on a widespread scale making inroads into strong “Sinhala” territory.

On the other hand the Tamil minority is being victimised both officially and unofficially without any seeming recourse to effective justice.

The progressive rulings by the Supreme Court in some instances being honourable exceptions.

Complicating matters further are the allegations that some of the perpetrators of anti – Tamil violence are closely aligned to agents of the state.

Sri Lanka remains a democracy with a popular president and mega – cabinet to get on with the task of good governance.

Sadly despite all the trappings of order and authority nobody seems in control and “functional anarchy “ seems to be the order of the day

Concern therefore by Indian officials regarding the Indian Premier’s safety is quite legitimate.

It cannot be forgotten that a lowly naval rating dared to strike a crippling blow with his rifle on a visiting Indian Prime Minister 21 years ago while inspecting a guard of honour.

Instead of being ostracised from decent society that naval rating went on to become a local hero and even embarked on a political career.

It also cannot be forgotten that the same Indian premier (now out of office) was brutally assassinated on Indian soil by a Sri Lankan Tamil organization.

In that context Indian apprehensions about their Prime minister’s safety in Sri Lanka cannot be dismissed lightly.

The situation has been compounded further by the recent anti – Indian campaign by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.

There have also been provocative utterances by government politicians about how India should conduct itself regarding Sri Lanka.

On the other hand the LTTE in recent times has been openly critical of India for aiding Colombo in the war.

This is a departure from earlier tiger practice where the LTTE has refrained from plugging an overt anti – Indian line.

There is also the emerging spectre of Muslim armed groups. Rightly or wrongly New Delhi suspects an Islamabad connection in this phenomenon.

In that context the security of Manmohan Singh during the Colombo SAARC summit is indeed a matter of grave concern for India.

New Delhi needs to be sure at the highest level that security can indeed be effectively guaranteed.

If necessary New Delhi may even break with protocol and precedent and provide its own enhanced security for its leader.

If the assessment is that the security situation is not “safe” then the controversial step of Manmohan Singh keeping away from the summit cannot be ruled out.

A SAARC summit without the Indian Prime minister is like staging the “Ramayana” without Lord Rama.

Moreover it could inflict heavy damage on Sri Lanka’s image globally.

There is rising global pressure on Sri Lanka about its unenviable human rights track record.

Indian support has been of crucial importance for Colombo to ward off western pressure in this regard.

But if India herself keeps away from the SAARC summit in Colombo the international fall – out could be disastrous for Sri Lanka.

Of all the SAARC leaders only the Indian premier is subject to “unique” pressure vis – a – vis Sri Lanka.

This is due to the domestic factor of Tamil Nadu being home to sixty – five million Tamils.

Events in Sri Lanka affecting Tamils could have an impact on Tamil Nadu. We saw this in the eighties of the 20th century.

Thanks mainly to the irresponsible and arrogant conduct of the LTTE the earlier support in Tamil Nadu for the Tamil cause is not prevalent.

Though the LTTE is banned and many Tamil Nadu Tamils hate the LTTE there is still much concern for the overall plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

This Tamil Nadu concern is very much a case of “Neeru pootha neruppu” (embers amid ashes) and the placid ashes could erupt into flames.

So far New Delhi has managed to “contain, manage and divert” Tamil Nadu on this issue.

Yet ethnic passions are a sensitive issue and some major event can whip up people into a frenzy. The New Delhi establishment is quite aware of this situation.

With the sole exception of a reputed media organization most Tamil Nadu media are highlighting the problems of Tamils in Sri Lanka without touching on the LTTE much.

Several organizations and political parties who were hesitant to talk about the Sri Lankan Tamil plight are boldly doing so now.

Already the pro – tiger lobby in Tamil Nadu has criticised the Indian government for aiding Colombo in prosecuting a “genocidal war” against the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

In a recent development the MDMK leader Vaiko has written to Manmohan Singh urging that he should not go to Colombo for the SAARC summit as that would amount to an endorsement of the Rajapakse regime’s war.

There is little doubt that this demand would gather momentum in the weeks to come.

In such a situation it would indeed be a bold gamble for Manmohan Singh to participate at the Colombo SAARC summit.

The danger in this is that if there is a serious conflagration affecting Tamils in Sri Lanka while Manmohan Singh is attending the SAARC summit the political fall – out in Tamil Nadu could be very serious.

This is the 25th anniversary of the July 1983 anti – Tamil pogrom. Escalating violence against the Tamils in recent times is increasing Tamil insecurity.

What most people do not understand is that the Tamils in Sri Lanka are now in a beleaguered state of mind about their safety and security.

The confidence that Tamils had during the times of Premadasa, Kumaratunga and Wickremasinghe that July 1983 will not be allowed to repeat itself is no longer there.

This columnist being a Tamil knows for a fact that such a fear prevails among many members of the community.

Sadly no meaningful steps have been taken to dispel this fear psychosis.

In such a scenario the outbreak of anti – Tamil violence during the time of the SAARC summit is the last thing India would want to happen.

Adding further worry to the Congress led government is the recent string of political success by the chief opposition Bhartiya Janata Party.

In a surprising development the BJP scored in the Southern state of Karnataka and has formed a government (albeit minority).

With parliamentary elections looming on a national scale the Congress would be wary of the BJP making inroads into the Southern state of Tamil Nadu also.

If Tamil Nadu starts boiling over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue there could be a re- configuration of political forces in the state.

This may not necessarily be of benefit to the Congress.

It is possible if not probable that the flashpoint of tension triggering off an anti – congress wave in Tamil Nadu could very well be an issue affecting Sri Lankan Tamils.

It may indeed be a stroke of ill – luck if some event related to the SAARC Colombo summit marks the beginning of this process.

Thus for Manmohan Singh there are two considerations in ensuring relative stability at least for a specific period in Sri Lanka before , during and after the SAARC summit.

Firstly there is the personal security factor and secondly the risk of political fall – out.

Administrations with myopic mindsets focusing on the security dimension alone could respond to this situation in two ways.

One is to provide additional input and enhance security. This however may be an impossible task given the wide- spread scope and scale of violence in Sri Lanka.

The second is to keep away from Colombo citing legitimate security concerns.

Both options may however not be acceptable to India as its recent style of governance has been to “work around things”.

India is indeed the “pivotal” and “pre- eminent “power in the South Asian region and it has duties and obligations it cannot afford to shirk or ignore.

The third alternative in creating a conducive climate for SAARC could be one relying on diplomatic dexterity.

It is in this regard that the sudden visit to Sri Lanka of the three Indian “wise men “ assumes greater significance and importance.

A wise, humanitarian and statesmanlike approach towards the issue could be that of ushering in a climate of relative peace and violence free atmosphere before , during and after the SAARC summit.

Given the commitment of the Rajapakse government to wage relentless war against LTTE “terrorism” and the ferocious determination of the tigers in resisting it there is practically no hope at this juncture of the war being called off.

What seems feasible is to bring about a gradual de – escalation of hostilities by both sides.

Again there is little chance of such a “ de – escalation of hostilities” being a formal one. It has to be a de – facto and not a de – jure agreement

What is in the realm of the possible is that both sides scale down their offensive operations on a staggered basis.

If the levels of violence are brought down gradually the SAARC summit could take place in a period of lull without mishap.

While the Rajapakse government would be reluctant to go in for an “official” temporary ceasefire or de- escalation of hostilities the prospect of an undeclared, unacknowledged scaling down of violence leading to a lull could be something it can live with.

Besides there is the added incentive of being in the good books of New Delhi and deriving support in withstanding western pressures.

More importantly Colombo could stage a summit without any hitch with the Indian premier attending. It is imperative for President Rajapakse to don the SAARC leadership mantle smoothly.

If the Government is indeed amenable to such a course of action there is also the need to obtain LTTE consent to adhere to related parameters.

Again only India is capable of prevailing upon the LTTE to agree.

India has cracked down really hard in the recent past in more ways than one.

A relaxation by India could be a welcome respite if not a reprieve for the LTTE.

Having banned the tigers New Delhi cannot deal directly with the LTTE at this point of time. But other connections and back channels are always available.

Firstly there is Norway the India approved facilitator.

Secondly there are Tamil Nadu politicians close to the LTTE and acceptable to Manmohan Singh like Vaiko.

Thirdly there the unorthodox contact personnel handled by intelligence agencies like a flamboyant Hindu “God man”.

Fourthly there are also the more senior members of the Tamil National Alliance like Rajavarothayam Sambandan and others.

The meeting with Sambandan alone in Colombo and the invitation extended for a TNA delegation to visit New Delhi are by themselves significant developments.

If India is able to persuade the warring parties to agree temporarily to an “unofficial de – escalation of hostilities “ and if both sides implement it sincerely a comparative lull in violence could prevail.

This in turn could pave the way for the successful staging of the SAARC summit in Colombo.

While it would be premature to speculate now such a lull could also be the first step on the long road to peace.

There is no doubt that the coming days would pose an immense challenge to the diplomatic prowess of Kautilya’s land.

A Sri Lankan peace process that has India’s backing has the greatest chance of success.

Whatever the ultimate result of the Indian trio’s visit one thing has emerged through the mission very clearly.

India will no longer adopt a laid back stance regarding a durable peace in Sri Lanka.

While it may not be a visible “hands on” approach it would not be “hands off”either.

This then is a harbinger of good news for all those yearning for a just and durable peace in Sri Lanka.

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An LTTE operative who posed as a film director and is suspected to be the mastermind behind recent bomb attacks on civilian targets in and around Colombo was arrested by a special police team in Kotahena on Friday, a spokesman said yesterday.

The man is suspected to have acted as the handler of “suicide bombers” and was the main distributor of explosives for the terrorist network outside the north and east, Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said.

He was tracked down following information gathered from a “Black Tiger” suicide squad member who was arrested a few days earlier in Wellawatta, Senior Superintendent Gunasekera said.

The man had been in possession of an identity card issued by the National Film Corporation identifying him as film director. The man owned a shop in the first floor of the Kotahena supermarket and he used this shop to give shelter to suicide cadres before they were sent out on their missions, the SSP said.
Police believe it was this ‘film director’ who sent the female suicide bomber on the mission that killed 14 people including 7 school boys of the D.S. Senanayake College at the Colombo Fort railway station on February 3 on the eve of the Independence Day celebrations, he said..

Earlier police had also found 9.5 kg of high explosives, a stock of detonators, steel balls weighing 1.5kg, and batteries with the suicide bomber arrested in Wellawatta.

He had also revealed that he was engaged in reconnaissance operations on VIP movements close to the Government Information Department at Narahenpita in the past few weeks.

The “Film Director” during interrogation had revealed that he was to participate in a cultural show at BMICH on Friday. The show was attended by Prime Minster Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Media Minister Mahinda Yapa Abewardane, the spokesman said, adding that the suspect had manipulated matters to get an invitation from the Director of Cultural Department for this event.

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LTTE’s intelligence wing leader for southern Trincomalee district was killed by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) yesterday. The LTTE cadre who was identified as ‘Thangan’ was shot and killed by the army in Neelapola, on the 19th. Although the LTTE does not have permanent bases in the Trincomalee region, members from their intelligence wing are known to maintain presence in the area.

Meanwhile the SLA operations into LTTE held Wanni are progressing gradually. The operations, continuing on 3 fronts (Vavuniya, Mannar and Weli Oya) are pushing LTTE defenses to their limits. Apart from the conventional units, army is using special forces and commando units to conduct deep battlespace operations. A week ago, a team of army commandos ambushed LTTE’s Mannr district leader inside LTTE held territory. The leader, who was traveling in a motorcycle, managed to escape the blast however his bodyguard (who was traveling in another motorcycle around 50m away from the target) was caught in the explosion and killed.

Meanwhile more than 30 LTTE cadre have been killed in fighting in the Northern province for the last 3 days while 5 soldiers laid their lives and another 15 more suffered injuries.

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An LTTE plan to launch air raids in Colombo by bringing in dismantled aircraft and assembling them in Yatiyantota in the Kegalle area has been uncovered by police.

SSP Yatiyantota Wilfred Mahanayake made this disclosure at a workshop held to educate the estate sector in the area on security. He also noted the air force had noticed some mysterious aircraft flying in the area before and asked people to report any such activity to the police. The workshop was jointly organized by the Police and Caritas SL, the social service arm of the Catholic Church.

Mr. Mahanayake also pointed out the Yatiyantota- Colombo road had become a key route used by the LTTE to bring explosives in to Colombo. He therefore requested estate workers to be vigilant and inform the police of any suspicious movement of strangers coming into the area and any suspicious objects. He said disasters come in many forms and people should be ready in order to avoid them.

Minister of Science and Technology and Chairman of the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) Tissa Vitharana said the TMVP will also be a part of its next session which will be held shortly. He said all other parties which did not participate earlier will also be invited. He was confident that the Committee would be able to come up with a solution to the crisis taking place in the country. The Minister also reminisced the very first sessions of the APRC was also stormy and he had thought that was going to be the first and last meeting they would hold. However we were able to hold 75 sessions since then and make good progress, he added

The workshop was organized following the discovery of C4  explosives at a line room in an estate located in Yatiyantota area recently.

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LTTE oldguards worry about Charles Anthony build up

Charles Anthony is proven to be a psychopathic megalomaniac like his father Velupillai Prabhakaran and the senior leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) worry about the meteoritic rise of the son.

According to intelligence reports Charles Anthony has developed a new chemical weapon capable of such a shock wave that could kill, permanently damage vision and hearing and also make women barren.

“Now that the war is in the northern theatre, use of this lethal weapon could make the Tamil women barren and reduce the birth rate in a drastic manner,” an analyst said. “Father used to kill the innocent Tamils and other civilians. The son has now gone a step further. He is determined to make the Tamil women – mothers, daughters and sisters barren. – Chip of the old block”

Sources revealed that Charles Anthony developed his crude Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) as answer to LTTE’s plan to stop the troops from marching into Vanni.

Latest military reports revealed that Sri Lankan Government forces have started surrounding the LTTE’s Vanni stronghold, and menacingly advancing into the Tiger power centre. This situation has made them to realize that the 122 MM big guns of theirs has become something of an inappropriate lethal weaponry to rely of, as the enemy is so close and near, unable to fire effectively with a firing range of 25 KM.

When the inability to stop the advancing forces became a life and death issue, heir-apparent Charles Anthony, it is said, has come up with two Improvised Explosive Devises Sandai 500 Kg– (Fight) and Samathanam 500 Kg (Peace).

It is learnt that these two new Improvised Explosive Devises are not something new, but yet another version of the “Pasilan 2000” of the 1990s, the home made explosive type used to threaten the enemies with a loud explosion. The sound when exploded is heard for a long distance and those in close proximity have been affected with their hearings and also it was told that blood used to ooze out from the ears of the enemies when this crude devise explodes. Pasilan 2000 had a range of 200 meters.

Pasilan 2000 was introduced in the LTTE military hardware, known as a mortar or artillery, like the 122mm canon, successor to the ‘Baba mortar’ used by the LTTE for ground operations in the late 1980s.

However the two newly devised explosives are said to be capable of carrying a war head weighing 500 Kg to a distance roughly to 1 Km against that of 200 meters of Pasilan 2000.

Experts revealed that casing of these two explosives are cast out of aluminium metals and it has a tendency to melt and when it lands it looses force and cracking down is limited against TNT grenades made with the iron casings.

On trial explosions it became apparent that many pregnant women within a radius three kilometres aborted on the on the peculiar loud noise of the explosion, and the doctors in the Vanni have warned that explosion of these two crude explosives – Sandai and Samathanam would cause permanent barrenness in the midst of women.

Though the after-effects of this crude explosive devises are alarming, but the heir-apparent has ordered the field commanders to use this dangerous explosive in the battle field. He also had told that the women cadres in the field to be withdraw to three to three four KM before theses explosives are fired. Though women cadres might have very remote chances of being saved, but the plight of women in Vanni faces the danger of turning barren in the near future.

Sources also revealed that senior leaders of the LTTE have expressed concern over Prabhakaran’s overt and covert strategy of promoting his son over above the seniors who sacrificed the entire youth for the movement. “Soosai, Bhanu, Baby Subramanium, Illantherian and many others are worried about this development,” the source said. “They argue that Charles Anthony lacked experience to take such a senior position and his inhuman methods could be harmful to the image of the LTTE, which is currently trying to whitewash its image keeping in mind the international community.

Even (Intelligence Head) Pottu (Amman) has warned Prabhakaran against giving too many responsibilities to young Charles Anthony,” he said.

(Asian Tribune)

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After three and a half decade of Nation State systems a group of self-appointed watchdogs” better known as NGOs are challenging the status quo? Who are these NGOs? How do they function? Who funds them? Are they transparent? To whom are they accountable? Do they have any legal right to question and  issue ultimatums to democratically elected Governments? Are they really free of the corruption, mismanagement they accuse others of? Can anyone dare to contest them, query their work and  demand why they wish to break down age-old cultures, traditions and  territorial boundaries? These are perhaps some of the questions that emerge no sooner the topic of NGOs enters discussion and  debate. Thus, these NGOs break the rules of non-intervention, established by the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and blur the lines between domestic and international affairs. They take advantage of the porous nature of the geographic and national borders and challenge state sovereignty. Are we exaggerating the argument? Obviously traditionalists are in contention with the modern system of governance that is being espoused through the NGO league!

The advent of Globalization has brought with it a host of worries  and  problems, most of which have provided fertile reasons for NGOs to stake their claim as better suited to offer solutions through their experience and efficiency. Influential Governments have been influenced and  have opted to choose NGOs to channel aid  and  funds. Why should we be surprised when these NGOs in turn begin to dictate terms to national governments and  have of late even demanded greater prominence at UN negotiations and  even in the General Assembly.

This is what makes the difference in the two entities. The binding element still for all remains where nation states are concerned especially those that are elected democratically into governance but where NGOs are concerned their “meritorious” claims to society and its betterment cannot be questioned and  vilified at international levels. What makes NGOs immune from a lot of the problems plaguing governments under the influence of globalization of financial markets are some of the very virtues that NGOs are excluded from. Being a global actor, they do not face any of the problems that countries have to deal with while taking care of their citizens.

No longer are NGOs mere institutions of the state, by the state and for the state. They have emerged global players, creating global constituencies, directly connecting with people and obviously ending up undermining a state’s hitherto preserved credibility. Once again we see a jolt to Westphalian world order no sooner these NGOs begin to collaborate with regimes, terrorist groups or even in sensitive issues like human rights, refugees, arms control, democracy etc. thus sparking the interference factor into debate where NGOs are seen to meddle in the affairs of internal crisis.

This does make scope for a possible dominance of non-state players that would essentially question traditional cultures, national boundaries, language, currency, political and emotional alliances of people belonging to over three and a half centuries of nation-state systems.

Arguably with so many non-state players performing miracles globally we wonder why world peace seems so aloof and  why miseries faced by people even before the entry of NGOs still very much exist!

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The main Opposition UNP urged the government yesterday to make a statement explaining the reasons for the ˜sudden visit by a top level Indian delegation to Sri Lanka.Senior UNP MP, John Amaratunga said yesterday there was a ˜crucial aspect behind this visit especially at a time when the country was at crossroads in economic and war fronts.

MP Amaratunga said there were various talks going on with regard to this visit, and therefore the government should make a public statement in the greater interest of the country.

Today, India is concerned about what is happening in Sri Lanka. The ongoing military campaign is having serious implications from Tamil Nadu on the Indian government at this year’s election.

Why did Indian

So, we are eager to know about the true position of the visit,” he said.

The high level Indian delegation visiting Sri Lanka included Foreign Secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Defence Secretary Sri Vijay Singh.

Meanwhile the JVP charged that the Indian delegations visit was similar to what happened during the Vadamarachi operation in 1987 and called on the government to disclose the nature of the discussions the delegation had with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other officials.

JVP parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the government should tell the country what proposals were made by the Indian delegation and the government’s response.

It is the responsibility of the government to disclose the details of the visit of the high-powered Indian delegation as conflicting reports have appeared in the media, he said.

Mr. Dissanayake said even in 1987 India intervened to halt the Vadamarchchi operations by the security forces and later forced a peace accord on the then Sri Lankan government.

(more…)

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