Scratch a dog and you have a permanent job, it is said. Tigers do just as dogs do, where scratching is concerned: they won`t let you put an end to it. The history of Sri Lanka`s peace processes has been one of scratching the Tigers, shampooing their fur coats and giving them an extra shine. Now the Rajapakse government has the Tigers turning their striped backs to it and demanding that they be scratched and brushed. They seem to ask President Rajapakse if Premadasa, Chandrika and Ranil could do it, why he can`t follow suit.
The Tigers are demanding that they be allowed to use a sea plane to leave Kilinochchi for the second round of talks in Geneva. They are making use of a bad precedent that the Wickeremesinghe government set by allowing Anton Balasingham to land on the Iranamadu Lake in a seaplane in 2002. The Tigers did what the burglars of yore used to do: They would make a hole in a wall at night and put a black pot stuck on a stick through it to see the reaction of the occupants. If the pot didn`t get smashed, they would enter the house through the hole. When the LTTE put the pot in, the UNF government opened the front door and invited the outfit into the parlour.
Had the UNF government plucked up courage and told Balasingham to come through Katunayake or forget about his trip, the LTTE would have abandoned his seaplane journey. For, the outfit was desperate for talks when the US launched its war on terror following the 9/11 attacks. The LTTE made a virtue of its predicament and took the na`EFve UNF for a ride. Balasingham tried all his tricks on India to gain passage through that country so as to make a mockery of the Indian ban on the LTTE but India proved it was too wise to fall for them.
The real objective of the LTTE in bringing Balasingham in a sea plane was to bolster its claim that it was running a separate state and needed unhindered access to it. The UNF again played in to the feline hands by allowing a shipment of communication equipment to be taken to the Wanni through the Colombo Port without duty, that being the procedure followed in ferrying goods to an independent state across a neighbouring country. The LTTE exploited the pusillanimity of the UNF to the fullest. Its delegates were not only whisked through the VIP lounge without any checks but also hosted to dinners at the official residence of a servile airport official. The LTTE even brought in several underwater scooters through the airport. The seaplane taking Balasingham back made a detour to fly over the Sri Lanka Navy gunboats engaged in an operation to intercept an LTTE arms shipment. But the UNF government took no action. How could an invertebrate stand erect, one may ask?
The LTTE is trying its same old trick once again. The government has reportedly shot down its plan and called upon the Co-Chairs to ensure the LTTE`s participation at the second round of talks. That is how a government with some self respect should act. But whether the government will stick to its guns is touch and go.
It is now up to the Co-Chairs to rise to the occasion. The LTTE mustn`t be allowed to hold the truce talks to ransom to further its separatist agenda. Making demands that are impossible to meet is the method the LTTE employs to scuttle a peace process. If one demand is granted, then another is made and there is no end to the process. It slapped the ISGA road block on the path to peace under the UNF government and unilaterally suspended talks, having got all other demands met. If the government allows a seaplane to land in Kilinochchi, the LTTE will be emboldened to demand that next time a fixed wing aircraft be allowed to land on its clandestine airstrip.
Why have the Tigers become averse to the Katunayake Airport all of a sudden? After all, that is the venue that the Norwegians initially chose for truce talks! The Norwegians wouldn`t suggest anything that is bad for the Tigers, would they?
Truce talks are essential and the peace process must be carried forward. That is the safest and surest way to peace. But giving in to LTTE demands by way of peace making is to put democracy on the Procrustean bed of terror. It is hoped that the Co-Chairs will realise the gravity of the situation and use their influence to make the LTTE fall in line.
If they choose to pamper the LTTE instead, perhaps the day might not be far off when the LTTE demands that the Air Force One be placed at its disposal to carry Balasingham and others for talks.