The LTTE's new dilemma
THE INTERNATIONAL `CAMPAIGN' against terror has caught the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a very awkward posture. Quite unusually but almost inevitably, the LTTE itself seems to have recognised how conspicuously untenable its position has become. Not surprisingly, therefore, the LTTE leader, Mr. Velupillai Prabakaran, has now demanded that the West define political terrorism in the light of a ``deep insight'' about the concepts of an armed struggle for self-determination and the like. Discernible beyond his painstaking attempt to educate the global community on this score is his plain discomfort, which borders on a deep concern, over the LTTE's unprecedented predicament. With Canada recently joining the U.S. and the U.K. among the Western powers in identifying the LTTE as an international terrorist organisation for their legal purposes, Mr. Prabakaran seems worried that his political game is virtually up in the wider global arena. The LTTE remains banned by India and Sri Lanka too. Given the stark reality of such a comprehensive isolation on the international stage, he still clings to the respectability that was arguably conferred on him by the recently failed Norwegian attempt to broker talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government. Not only that, Mr. Prabakaran is no less eager to plead with the prime movers of the ongoing `campaign' against globalised terror. His transparent objective is to try and define terrorism on his own terms. This being an impossible order though, he appears willing at the same time to moderate his style at the margins. This accounts for some of the politically `soft' statements that he made during his latest annual traditional ``Maaveerar Naal'' speech, dedicated to the memory of the ``heroes'' of the ``liberation struggle'' by the Tamil Tigers.
Mr. Prabakaran should, however, know that there is simply no place for self-serving definitions of either terrorism itself or even the concept of a struggle for political emancipation. This is not to suggest that all is well with the ongoing U.S.-led `campaign' against international terror. Yet, the fact remains that the global community is becoming increasingly cognisant of the immorality and irrationality of all forms of terrorist violence for political or ideological purposes. The litmus test is about the proven track record or the perceivable hidden agenda of the practitioners of terror. On this reckoning, Mr. Prabakaran and the LTTE can hardly hope to erase their infamy. However, if they genuinely choose to ponder over their past with a view to reinventing themselves now as agents for peace and stability in Sri Lanka and its adjoining region, the latest international `campaign' against terror may have been a good wake-up call.
On balance, the signs from the LTTE camp are not really encouraging at this time. Arguably, Mr. Prabakaran's `soft' politics centre on his apparent willingness to consider a settlement with Sri Lanka's Sinhala majority within a framework of some form of coexistence that remains ill-defined all the same. In fact, there is no definitive shift in his well-known stand about the political and economic rights of the Tamils with respect to their traditional lands. He is eager to avoid indicating a direction towards any prescriptive formula that might resolve the island- republic's existential ethnic problem. Within these self-imposed parameters, the LTTE leader has sought to portray the organisation's activities as the manifestation of ``reactive violence'' to Sri Lanka's ``state terror'' as also its alleged ``genocidal'' tendencies. By harping on such old themes in the new situation, Mr. Prabakaran cannot hope to whitewash his record of terrorising the Tamil political fraternity itself. The question, therefore, is whether his reported willingness to let the Tamils participate in Sri Lanka's parliamentary elections, scheduled for December 5, can mark a new beginning in his politics.
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