For an organisation that is known for its sharp strategic thinking, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) call for a truce without laying down arms is a no-brainer. It comes at a time when the Sri Lankan army has all but squeezed the militant outfit into a small area north of the island. There may be merit in the LTTE’s plea that thousands of Tamil civilians are facing death as the two begin their endgame. But given the violent and undemocratic history of the group, it will not find many sympathisers. For the Sri Lankan army, its gains over the past few months, no doubt which have entailed severe human rights violations, have emboldened it to fight to the finish.
The Tigers have, in the past also, sought such tactical truces, only to regroup and carry out vicious attacks. This time around, its condition that it will not lay down arms has doomed any possible truce outright. The LTTE’s plea that its arms are the only protection that the Tamil people have will not wash. It has ruthlessly used helpless civilians as human shields to protect its cadre. All this means that humanitarian aid is not likely to reach the suffering people and thousands of lives will be needlessly lost. The Sri Lankan army chief’s remarks that a desperate LTTE may carry out attacks on India seem quite needless at this juncture. We can only assume that this is a message to certain political parties in Tamil Nadu who seem to sympathise with the Tigers that the latter are no one’s friends. But after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, which even LTTE supremo V. Prabhakaran later admitted was a blunder, it is not likely to open up a front with India. All the more so, given that it has been badly mauled by a resurgent Sri Lankan army. The worry now is that with a military victory in sight, the Sri Lankan government may lose the incentive to hasten a political solution.
Hopefully, the UN and friendly countries will push to see that a viable political package to address the grievances of the Tamils does not move off the table. So far, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government has brought up the devolution package hammered out years ago as a way forward. But for this, the LTTE has to show some responsibility towards the people it claims to represent.