A Sri Lankan government spokesman said on Wednesday, that the LTTE is planning to declare independence unilaterally on January 18, 2008. But diplomatic sources told Hindustan Times that there was no evidence of any such move and that the statement made by government minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle could be seen as an attempt to prepare the common man for a further period of fighting in North Sri Lanka and the economic hardship it would bring.
Addressing the media at the weekly briefing, Highways Minister Fernandopulle said that the government did not know why the LTTE had chosen January 18 for the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), but it was aware that the LTTE was planning to send e-mails to the US President and the UN Secretary General justifying an UDI. And in preparation for the UDI, the LTTE had wanted the Human Rights Council in Geneva to pass a resolution against Sri Lanka.
No room for UDI
However, according to defense analysts, there is no room for a UDI now. "The LTTE has lost the East and is facing tremendous military pressure on the Forward Defense Lines in the North. And no country has said that it will recognize LTTE's UDI. In this context, one cannot understand why the LTTE should pitch for a UDI," a well known defense analyst said.
Diplomatic sources said that Fernandopulle would have made the statement to justify the military operations in the North and also prepare the people for a stepping up of the campaign and greater defense spending, which could raise the cost of living further. The people are already facing a 17 per cent inflation.
According to these sources, the military operations in the North are not making the kind of progress that was made in the East last year. Most of the current action is in the air, with skirmishes taking place on the ground. If the government is to secure ground, it will have to step up the campaign considerably, and prepare to take heavier casualties. The talk of an imminent UDI gives the proposed campaign both legitimacy and urgency.
Testing time for Rajapaksa
The Mahinda Rajapaksa government has to tackle the issue of the rising cost of living and lack of economic opportunities for the people through the annual budget in November. Besides that, the government faces a political challenge from the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the National Congress, a newly formed alliance of the opposition United National Party (UNP) and dissidents from the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
The Rajapaksa government has the support of a number of small parties in parliament, but it depends on the JVP to get money bills through without hiccups. However, the JVP will support the government only if it is seen to be keeping up the military pressure on the LTTE and gaining ground in the battle field.
This calls for an intensification of the military campaign, however costly. And for this purpose, the LTTE has to be publicly portrayed as a force poised to destroy the country through a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.