The American Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr. Robert Blake, and British High Commissioner Peter Hayes are now firmly on record asserting that neither of their countries advocates that the Government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE. They have said that what they desire is that GOSL engages in `` discussions with non-LTTE Tamils, both inside and outside of Sri Lanka, on the elements of political settlement to ensure lasting peace and reconciliation. This is all to the good and we are happy that this unequivocal position was elicited by an The Island editorial on Friday dealing with the joint statement issued last week by US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary David Milliband.
Hopefully, neither the US nor the UK will regard members of the Tamil National Alliance, widely considered to be an LTTE proxy, as non-LTTE Tamils. As recently as Feb. 4, Mr. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, a TNA MP, on behalf of his party s foreign relations committee, declared that `` it is only the LTTE that is resisting the ..genocidal designs of the Sri Lanka State. He has also said in that statement that the LTTE is the ``authentic representative of the Tamils. Where the TNA, which believes like the LTTE that two ``nations (Sinhala and Tamil) inhabit this island of Sri Lanka, stands vis- -vis the LTTE is clearly revealed there. As far as the Tigers and their fellow-travelers are concerned, despite the bloodiness of the final phase of this brutal war in which civilians are admittedly trapped, global opinion by and large is turning against them although the LTTE is not without its backers. But the Tigers will continue to clutch at whatever straws that comes their way and do their propaganda best to buy such time they can on the back of the civilian shield that is now their last resort.
As President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in his Independence Day speech, the end of the war is now only days away. The quicker it is over and with least cost to the unfortunate civilians held prisoner by the LTTE in the daily diminishing area under its control, the better it is for everybody. There is no point in pretending that civilians are not at risk in the fighting. While the government looks to zero cost casualties among civilians, nobody can reasonably believe that such a lofty ideal is achievable. That is why the final phase of this war must be swift and sharp, whatever the cost. Lt. General Sarath Fonseka has candidly said that the army has paid a tremendous price in the fighting and that is particularly true of the last few months and weeks.
This became clear when the authorities, for good reason, stopped releasing details of military casualties from around October. When the Emergency was renewed in Parliament last week, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake did not list figures of military dead and wounded as has been customarily done in previous months. The reason is obviously that the numbers are high and it is inappropriate to demoralize both the armed forces and the country at large by revealing such figures. But it behoves on every one of us Lankans to appreciate the fact that while we live in the comfort of the secured capital and other parts of the country outside the theatre of the fighting, that those fighting to preserve the integrity of the Sri Lankan State as well as the civilians trapped in the Vanni are paying a very heavy price. As reported elsewhere in this newspaper, the LTTE last week through a massive suicide attack which inflicted many fatalities made a last ditch attempt to reverse the tide of the war. Despite the international pressure on the score of civilians under risk, the military threw its all to sustain the momentum that will end this phase of the war perhaps before this week is over.
There is no doubt that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a consummate politician, is maximizing the political advantages accruing from the military victories whatever the price. That is why he has dissolved the Western Provincial Council, where the UNP which is particularly strong in Colombo may, together with the JVP, have had a fighting chance of outnumbering the ruling coalition. Given the advantages he commands as incumbent president, with the ability to dispense unlimited patronage, Rajapaksa may very well dissolve parliament with three more provinces under his belt and knock an opposition already in semi-disarray into a cocked hat. But it is useful for this country to remember that the two worst governments that Sri Lanka had since Independence in 1948 are those of 1970 when Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike and her United Front coalition took a two thirds majority and the UNP government of President J.R. Jayewardene did better with a five sixths majority in parliament. The country then had to suffer the tyranny of absolute majorities believed no longer possible after the advent of the proportional representation method of elections.
As Rajapaksa told a group of newspaper editors recently, a government that could not elect its nominee as speaker was able to pass the last budget with a majority of 42 votes! But the president is no politician if he would not like to improve on these numbers. The defections which gave the president a comfortable parliamentary majority, of course, became possible not without consideration. All those who changed sides were rewarded with office notwithstanding public opinion on the size of the cabinet. It is the nature of politics that the ability to ride a wave is a major factor of success and the president is not going to let this wave pass him by despite his strength in the legislature. Nevertheless the war cannot be won at the cost of losing the peace and this is something that the president and, particularly, the more thoughtful members of the ruling hierarchy must keep in mind. The LTTE had hoped to hold out until circumstances change particularly externally. It is Sri Lanka s good fortune that Tamil Nadu was unable to pressure New Delhi to intervene. It is now incumbent on Sri Lanka to convince the non-LTTE Tamils, the Diaspora and the world at large that this country treats all its citizen alike and that everything possible will be done to ameliorate the conditions of those who have lived and suffered all these years in the war-torn areas of the island.