The government is in an unenviable position. It is under international pressure to do away with anti-terror laws and extraordinary security arrangements in the post-war period. At the same time, the peace lobby claims the LTTE threat is not yet over and devolution is the only way to bring about a lasting solution.
Some members of the government are also complacent about the security situation. They seem to think that the war is over and everything hunky-dory. Central Province Governor Tikiri Kobbekaduwa has, as we reported yesterday, called for reducing ministerial security and channelling funds so saved for national development. Most ministers are under no threats to their lives as such but have heavy security contingents at their disposal. Therefore, one may argue that their security should be scrapped or reduced.
But, Governor Kobbekaduwa`s view is at variance with the position of some prominent peace activists. Director of the Peace Council Jehan Perera, in his column we carried yesterday, said the LTTE had not fought on a single track and although its conventional capacity had been completely destroyed on the shores of the North, its guerrilla, terrorist and international capacities, albeit significantly reduced, could be believed to remain to some extent.
If so, the government may be justified in refusing to scale down tough security measures, though the war is over. In fact, the new leadership of the LTTE was planning to make a comeback with the help of hidden arms and ammunition in the Vanni but its problem was that the remaining LTTE cadres were either detained or hiding among civilians at the IDP centres. Self-appointed new LTTE leader cum notorious arms smuggler KP, unlike Prabhakaran, did not believe in direct confrontations with the Sri Lankan military. His strategy was to wait and target government and military leaders so as to spoil the country`s victory over terrorism and boost the sagging morale of the Diasporic Tigers. Naturally, KP had to be halted in his tracks. He was arrested overseas and brought to Colombo. The rest is history.
The war displaced must be resettled as soon as possible and helped to rebuild their devastated lives. But, it is not out of any love for these hapless people that LTTE sympathisers, their hirelings and countries sympathetic to the LTTE are demanding that IDPs be released immediately. That there are tens of thousands of mines in the Vanni and the area is almost devoid of infrastructural facilities is of no concern to them. What they are striving to achieve is the immediate release of the LTTE combatants masquerading as civilians before they are identified and the remaining hidden LTTE arms caches detected.
If the argument that since the LTTE retains some of its capabilities in spite of decapitation, State power needs to be devolved to neutralise terrorist threats, could be considered tenable, it should also be granted that the government has a reason to give full effect to anti-terror laws to ward them off.
Last May, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, during a visit here, in the aftermath of the LTTE`s defeat, asked the government why checkpoints could not be removed. That has been, more or less, the thinking of some foreign powers hostile to this country. They want Sri Lanka to lower her guard and step up the demilitarisation process regardless of the lingering terrorist threats, which they make an issue of only when they want to pressure her to find a `political solution` in a hurry, issue adverse travel advisories, and jack up insurance premiums.
A fair assessment of Sri Lanka`s security situation, in our opinion, is that although Prabhakaran and other key leaders have been eliminated together with the LTTE`s giant killing machine, the outfit is still capable of posing some threats, which, though manageable, should not be discounted lest they should become serious with the passage of time. Possible threats from the decapitated LTTE should also be factored in as regards the resettlement process besides other impediments, if civilians are to live in peace.
Peace activists and the international community cannot have it both ways: They cannot cite LTTE threats in justification of their call for devolution by way of a solution and in the same breadth advocate that the war is over and there is no need for anti-terror measures. They must be reasonable.