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Better late than LTTE

We are likely to witness the end of the LTTE soon and for that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse needs to be commended for steering a ship in very choppy waters.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2009 21:00 IST

One has heard about the ‘beginning of the end’ of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) so many times in the past that one can be forgiven for wondering what the fuss about the ‘fall of Kilinochchi’ is all about. But this time around, the LTTE is not only in retreat and facing meltdown, but it is in the ‘middle of its end’. The town of Kilinochchi had been the Tamil Tigers’ operational headquarters since 1995 after Sri Lanka’s government forces had overrun Jaffna. In 2001, a ceasefire between Colombo and the LTTE had offered the first serious notion of peace between the two sides. Under its chief Veluppillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers announced for the first time that they were climbing down from their earlier demand of a separate State and would settle for a form of regional autonomy.

While optimists sensed a tiring down on the part of the terrorist group that would settle down in a permanent settlement, realists read the tea leaves as Mr Prabhakaran and his band of terrorists stalling for time in order to catch their breath both tactically as well as militarily. By 2003, the first signs that the peace was crumbling came with the withdrawal of the LTTE from the peace talks. Six rounds into the talks in the middle of a Norway-monitored ceasefire, Mr Prabhakaran announced that he, for all purposes, didn’t like the chit-chat going on in the talks. With military confrontations in 2006 and 2007, the ceasefire had become a sham and Colombo rightly realised that it was dealing with an entity that it could not trust. The capture of Kilinochchi is an important step in asphyxiating the Tamil Tigers, who are now most likely cornered in the jungles of Mullaithivu district. The deserted streets of Kilinochchi suggest that the LTTE have taken along civilians, numbering up to 150,000, with them and may use them as human shields when the final push comes. The final push, one hopes this time, is likely to come soon.

We are likely to witness the end of the LTTE soon and for that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse needs to be commended for steering a ship in very choppy waters. But Sri Lanka should also use this opportunity to engage with longstanding Tamil grievances. Let it not be said that with the demise of the LTTE, the concerns of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority were also boxed in the attic.