The rise of the LTTE as a formidable guerrilla outfit would not have been possible but for the backing it has received from the SLFP and the UNP from time to time. While the UNP was battling terrorism in the 1980s, the SLFP kept throwing a monkey wrench in the works. It was not only the war that the SLFP opposed but also the political solutions that the UNP government attempted. The SLFP went to the extent of joining forces with even the JVP in a bid to scuttle the 13th Amendment, which it has paradoxically become so enamoured of at present. The SLFP, in so doing, gave an impetus to the JVP`s violent campaign which began as a protest against the Provincial Councils. The war became `unwinnable` to the SLFP leaders, who advocated peace talks as the only solution at that time.
But, having won the 1994 general election on a platform of a negotiated settlement, the SLFP, before long, found itself fighting the very war it had condemned and dubbed `unwinnable`. The UNP pooh-poohed the SLFP-led PA government`s short-lived peace process and was jubilant, when it collapsed in April 1995.
Then, suddenly the UNP became an advocate of peace talks and its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe campaigned on a platform of peace talks at the 1999 presidential election. He lost. The following year, however, the UNP made common cause with the JVP to shoot down the PA`s Devolution Package which envisaged Regional Councils. The UNP literally set President Chandrika Kumaratunga`s proposed new constitution on fire in the House.
The UNP won the 2001 general election promising a negotiated settlement. It honoured its pledge and initiated peace talks. The LTTE derailed talks in 2003 by unilaterally suspending them and the SLFP, which had been trying to scuttle the peace process, sacked the UNP-led UNF government and captured power in Parliament in 2004. The LTTE kept on violating a fragile truce and torpedoed it in 2006, plunging the country back into war. The rest is history.
Today, the UNP, which used to be a hawk, has transmogrified into a dove and the SLFP, the pacifist of yore, has turned out to be a hawk! The military under present SLFP-led government has made unprecedented gains on the battlefield and the LTTE is on its last legs, as former LTTE military commander Karuna Amman has told the media in Polonnaruwa recently. And the UNP, like the SLFP in the past, is all out to put a spoke in the government`s wheel. Ironically, while the government is getting political mileage from its current military campaign, the UNP, which is opposing war, is trying to market the military track record of a former General to win the NCP polls!
While the military, having entered Kilinochchi, is forging ahead in the Wanni with the LTTE camps falling one by one, the UNP says the government has started negotiations with the LTTE `at a lower level` under pressure from India. The government has denied the UNP`s claim. Now, the UNP ought to substantiate its claim and prove the government wrong, if it can.
When the government took on the LTTE in the Eastern Province, the UNP claimed that war was being fought according to a secret pact. The government, the UNP said, refrained from going all out to kill LTTE combatants and the latter were only withdrawing. When Thoppigala was recaptured and the government made a song and dance about its victory in the East, the UNP said the government had provided the LTTE with a safe passage to withdraw into the Wanni. It said the real war had to be fought not in the East but in the Wanni and challenged the government to take war into that part of the country. The UNP also said the government would never take targets in Kilinochchi in keeping with the so-called secret pact. But, a few months later LTTE political wing leader Tamilchelvam was killed in an aerial attack on Kilinochchi. And now the troops have entered Kilinochchi and are overrunning LTTE camps. A clarification is needed from the UNP.
The UNP`s claim of secret talks between the LTTE and the government is likely to have a deleterious impact on the morale of the frontline troops risking their life and limb with a single-minded will to defeat the LTTE. Claims of clandestine talks at this juncture may cause them to think that the selfless sacrifices they are making will be in vain, as was the case in the past, when governments played politics with the war effort. Nothing damages the morale of a soldier more than the feeling that he is fighting in vain.
If the government is really under Indian pressure to conduct secret talks with the LTTE as the UNP claims, then India, by rising in defence of a beleaguered terrorist outfit, has made a mockery of the recently passed SAARC resolution to stamp out terrorism from the region, while ink on that agreement is still wet. The impression that the UNP`s claim has created in the public mind is that one of the reasons why Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was here recently was to coerce the government into talking to Tigers.
It will be interesting to know India`s response.
Now that the UNP has publicly announced that the government is having secret talks with the LTTE, it is incumbent upon it to reveal details thereof. It must disclose to the public the venue of the alleged talks, names of participants, dates, times etc., if it is to avoid being accused of resorting to cheap political tactics to put down its opponents at the expense of the morale of the military fighting a decisive war in the Wanni.