TULF President V. Anandasangaree has rightly inveighed against the Sri Lanka Air Force for the loss of civilian lives in some of its airstrikes on LTTE targets in the Wanni. He has drawn the government s attention to a recent air raid on the Kiranchi Sea Tiger base, in which several civilians including children perished in the adjoining areas.
The LTTE propaganda machinery has moved into overdrive to have the world believe that the SLAF is deliberately targeting civilians. The Tigers, who abduct children and make cannon fodder of them, have suddenly become conscious of the value of life and are shedding buckets of crocodile tears for the civilians killed in airstrikes. Their propaganda is not to be taken seriously, as it is not possible that the SLAF is flying expensive sorties against heavy anti-aircraft fire from the LTTE for the sole purpose of harming civilians. Badly cornered and stewing in its own juice, the LTTE is desperate to have devastating air raids stopped, as it continues to suffer heavily at the hands of the SLAF.
But, the sober voices of Tamil leaders and genuine human rights activists must be heeded and the safety of civilians guaranteed. There is no reason to doubt what they say about civilians. Even if Prabhakaran were to be sighted in an area with a civilian presence, it behoves the Air Force to let him escape like a coward without endangering the lives of innocent men, women and children caught in the nutcracker of terrorism and counter terror operations.
As the military closes in on Kilinochchi, the LTTE will invariably step up using human shields. It has no other way of avoiding disaster, which is of its own making. It sowed the wind at Mavilaru in 2006 and is reaping the whirlwind in the Wanni. It should have known better than to embark on a suicidal journey. Prabhakaran is paying for his hubris and attendant military miscalculations. He cannot justify his failure. Nor can he afford to run back into the jungles, having wasted billions of rupees and sacrificed the lives of tens of thousands of youth in the name of liberation. It is not bombs in buses and trains or occasional ambushes in the southern jungles that he promised. He promised a separate state. If he retreats to the wild, he will have to start from scrap. He knows the best part of his life has been spent on a mission that has not paid any dividends. Even if he were to go on fighting for another quarter century, he would not get anywhere near his goal. He did not build a second level leadership and after him, no one else will be able to hold his fissiparous organisation together.
The day may not be far off when the LTTE will have a Humpty-Dumpty-like fall and not even the Norwegian King s or the British Queen s horsemen will be able to put it together again. Prabhakaran won t baulk at anything in a desperate bid to prevent the fall of his Wanni Reich, the be-all and end-all of his dream lebensraum. He will go to any extent to defend what remains of his dark empire, regardless of how many civilians will die in the process.
The biggest challenge before the armed forces will be targeting Tigers without harming civilians. Fighting an elusive enemy taking cover behind civilians is a daunting task and the selfless sacrifices that security forces personnel are making against tremendous odds need to be appreciated. But, they must be mindful of the fact that the difference between a professional military and a terrorist outfit is that the former respects and values human rights, while the latter resorts to wanton destruction of life and property to achieve its macabre objectives.
What is of great import in the present war is not so much quelling terrorism but doing that without harming civilians. The modus operandi of the Sri Lankan military must be different from those of President Lincoln s army during the American Civil War and the British Army in Wellassa in 1817 both of which gave full cry to the Scorched Earth policy and numerous massacres. The British, in fact, perpetrated genocide and gendercide against Sri Lankans in Moneragala. Nor should the armed forces battling the LTTE ever dream of emulating the US-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. If it is really the liberation of the people that they seek, then they must ensure their safety at all cost.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ananadasangaree has condemned the LTTE for killing civilians in the southern parts of the country without facing the armed forces in the Wanni. Every right thinking person cannot but agree with him. Lives of civilians are sacred, be it in the North or the South. What we witness in these parts of the country are deliberate attacks on civilians by the LTTE to maximise the collateral damage, which it is using to bring international pressure to bear on the government and to create political trouble or a backlash with a view to putting paid to the on-going successful military operations in the Wanni.
But, the LTTE s strategy has, besides exposing its bankruptcy, boomeranged on it. It has incurred the opprobrium of the civilised world and distanced itself even from its international allies, who obviously don t want to sully their image by openly supporting an outfit that is engaged in ethnic blood letting. Most of all, by causing the war to manifest itself in all parts of the country, Prabhakaran has done what successive governments have failed to achieve. He has placed the country on a war-footing!
Instead of frightening the people into submission or pressuring the government to abandon the war effort through brutal violence, Prabhakaran has bolstered the resolve of the people to stand up to his terrorism as never before. Even the near and dear ones of the victims of his violence demand one thing: `Wipe out terrorism!`
We only hope Prabhakaran will realise the futility of his terror campaign and opt for a peaceful settlement.