SRI LANKA CONFLICT.
The LTTE’s devastating cruelty lasted 30 years. It destroyed everything and carpeted the jungle floor with thousands of dead. When two prominent leaders decamped, Prabhakaran was hardly ever seen, living underground like a troglodyte, protected by four layers of wire fencing, each under different regional cadres who did not know each other. He instinctively chose total destruction when he switched from guerilla war to conventional.
The conflict put the SL clock back not 26 but 70 years. Although SL climbed out of the abyss repeatedly during the conflict, she plunged back four times, yet never wavered that its aim was death to the LTTE and never the Tamils. It mattered not whether they were living under the LTTE or as the majority was, in Colombo or in the Kandyan hills, unharmed and cared for.
Lanka had about 100,000 Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burghers dead, killed by the LTTE, supported by its political ally TNA. Nationalism and Determinism, now snidely called Triumphalism, have become a rallying call after the years of terror and sudden death. People believe, especially after 26 years of conflict that they are born into a nation not societies, associations, pacts and treaties that the present government adores.
Fortunately in SL the dead did not outnumber the living. Yet false reports ‘born out of collective perceptions that exist before its birth’ (Marc Bloch) stigmatize SL. Where do the graves of the improbable death toll of over 7,000 in the final battles exist? It is nearly 10 years since the war ended.
To soldiers, their regiment was their family. The LTTE desire to smash, crush and not just beat them, rebounded with a vengeance, finally. Which soldier in any army would fault them?
For nearly all of 26 years policy did not define or shape strategy. Instead barren thinking of strategy was given the freest hand by rhetoric. President JR Jayewardene, in fear of an invasion, ‘invited’ the Indian occupation forces called ‘IPKF’. Weapons, ammunition and US dollar payments to the LTTE by President Premadasa in 1989 did not bring a whimper of protest from his party favourites. They survived to thrive today. Kumaratunga far too readily accepted the recommendation of her Jaffna Security Force Commander, backed hastily by the newly appointed Northern Overall Commander, to abandon Jaffna to the LTTE. Fortunately the deservedly much maligned Deputy Defence Minister intervened personally in situ, and reversed the decision. The troops saved SL.
Today those responsible for 29,000 security forces dead in a national total estimated at 100,000, carry on regardless. They have with facile ease co-sponsored UN/US resolutions to bring battle winning SL commanders and their troops to face trial at international tribunes. SL’s agony continues under its own appeaser, a US dictated, reckless and spineless government. Was the conflict wasteful and futile only for those who did not take part? What is the limit to a peoples’ endurance? Are principles worth fighting for?
By A. PATABENDIGE