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Lanka in a lurch

The wave of violence in Sri Lanka can only point to one thing: the island nation is on the brink of civil war again.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2008 21:33 IST

The wave of violence in Sri Lanka can only point to one thing: the island nation is on the brink of civil war again. Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels bombed a civilian bus in Uva province on Wednesday, and gunned down the fleeing passengers, killing 31 people and leaving scores injured. That there were several children among the dead adds to the horror.

Coming close on the heels of a series of tit-for-tat slayings by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the
security forces, this could lead to an all-out war if neither side backs down. The bombing was obviously carried out to coincide with the Mahinda Rajapakse government’s move to trash the six-year-old ceasefire, which technically expired on Wednesday. It is another matter that the ceasefire agreement was flawed to begin with, given the absence of any provisions to ensure its implementation. No wonder that soon after it was signed in 2002, the LTTE started violating it with impunity, and the security forces soon followed suit. But as long as it existed on paper, so too did hopes of somehow reviving the peace talks. With that option gone, the conflict could now spill over into civilian areas. Going by the mindless savagery of its terrorist operations, the LTTE is clearly on the run and desperate to recoup its losses in the east. Sadly, the government forces may be no less guilty, showing scant regard for the mounting human cost of their operations.

While the international community appreciates Colombo’s declared intent to militarily crush the LTTE before resuming the peace process, Sri Lanka’s government should not forget that military strategies can only control insurgencies. Ultimately, it is up to the people to defeat them. And that can happen only through a political process that makes people feel secure and confident of the government.