Colombo, Democracy, English

How will the War end?

By Victor Ivan

The government of Mahinda Rajapakse stood for a triumphant war against the LTTE. It carried on a merciless war against the LTTE and was also able to effect a considerable change in the balance of power. The aim of the entire military project is to root out the LTTE.

The military project pursued by the government in the midst of the allegation leveled against it on waste, corruption and mismanagement was attractive to the ordinary people. The general opinion of the ordinary people was that, whatever faults the President and the government had, he was teaching the Tigers a good lesson.

In a war what the rebels look for is one weak gap from amongst several hundred gaps. From a military angle, the LTTE’s attack on the air force camp at Anuradahpura and inflicting a major damage on it was clever. According to some commentators the financial value of the damage was 30 million dollars. What they probably wanted to convey by such an attack was that the LTTE had not collapsed and that they were still capable of waging well planned surprise attacks.

Their investment for this destruction, too, was considerably large. It is not easy to put a financial value on a suicide bomber. Aeroplanes can be purchased but suicide bombers are not available in the market. It is significant that this was the largest group of suicide caders used in a single attack in the entire war.

Although with this attack the LTTE has been able to effect a change in the perception that the group has lost its fighting capabilities, it is still in a weaker position than at the beginning of eelam war IV. This attack has been able to blur the victorious image of the security forces, but still the balance of power is in favour of the armed forces.

And this they proved in no small measure with the killing of the LTTE political wing leader Thamil Selvan. In similar vein to the Tiger attack on the air force camp at Anuradhapura the SLAF air raid on a suburb of Killinochchi on November 2nd, which killed Thamil Selvan and five other top ranked rebels was a surprise attack and it shows the SLAF also have the capability to attack their targets. With deadly accuracy. The loss for the LTTE in this case is heavy. It also proves that the SLAF is getting sound information on the LTTE. It is indeed a bad signal for the Tigers.

It is not necessary for the country to go back to the position where Ranil Wickramasinghe stopped .Although there were positive and strong features in Ranil Wickramasinghe’s transactions with the LTTE there were negative and weak features too. The cease fire agreement can be considered an agreement reached on the basis of the political requirements of one party. The government needed such a strategy to retain its position in a context where the executive powers were in the hands of its opponent and the LTTE itself wanted a temporary agreement in order to achieve some acceptance for itself. In such conditions Ranil Wickramasinghe’s government had to function on the basis of a policy of pleasing the LTTE. The agreement reached was attractive from the outside but empty inside. As a consequence of that very fact Ranil Wickramasinghe was prevented from becoming the President by the LTTE itself, and a strong minded, President who would not easily succumb to the LTTE came to office. Thereafter the transaction between the two sides proceeded not by dialogue but by war. Now the balance of forces is not where it was at the time when Ranil Wickramasinghe started the discussions, but elsewhere.

Now the LTTE and the government are at two vital turning points. They are in fact in a position where discussions can commence on a political solution. The present position is not disadvantageous to the government, nor is it disadvantageous to the LTTE. The present position of the government is more favorable than that at the beginning of the war. The LTTE too is in a better position than thay were before the attack at Anuradhapura.

This is one of the best times where the government can present its proposals for a solution. An approach similar to that adopted for the solution of the Aceh dispute may be adopted for Sri Lanka too. What happened in Aceh was that an agreement was reached on a constitutional reform in the future, and while the guerillas surrendered their arms by stages and disarmed themselves, the government withdrew the security forces sent to Aceh, to the pre-conflict level. What suits our own country is such a solution that brings quick results rather than protracted negotiations.

If, instead, the necessity of finding a political solution is rejected and action is taken on the premise that there is only a terrorist problem and not an ethnic problem, then the government will be pushed from the present complex position to a position of utter chaos.

(This article first written for Montage, published by Counterpoint. To get in touch with or to subscribe to Montage, please email montagesrilanka [at]