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Canada ban won't hit LTTE materially

However, it sullies LTTE's international image, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 16:34 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

The Canadian ban on the LTTE, which came into effect on April 8, is unlikely affect the militant organisation materially, though it sullies its international image.

The ban does not curb fund raising in Canada. The law still allows contributions to the militant group's front organisations.

This has been made clear in the explanatory note attached to the official announcement of the ban issued in Ottawa on April 10.

But the ban does sully the image of the LTTE and enhances the stature of the Sri Lankan government in the critical period before the start of the second round of peace talks in Geneva on April 19.

From the point of view of the Sri Lankan government, the ban has come at the right time, when the credibility of LTTE is beginning to wear thin because of the many violations of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in recent weeks.

The Human Rights Watch report had lambasted the LTTE for extorting money from Canadians of Tamil descent.

Such extortions had been cited by the Canadian government in justifying the ban.

Meanwhile, the LTTE had been indulging in a rash of ceasefire violations, which too had the international community frowning on it.

According to Daily Mirror, the LTTE has violated the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) 67 times since the first round of Geneva talks in February this year.

It has killed 14 Sri Lankan soldiers in this period.

On April 10, even as the co-chair of the Tokyo donors' conference were meeting the LTTE's political wing leader, SP Tamilselvan, in Kilinochchi, the LTTE had set off a landmine in Murusuvil, killing five Sri Lankan soldiers and injuring a local Tamil aid worker.

The Co-chair are the US, EU, UK, Japan and Norway.

On April 8, the LTTE attacked an army point at Selvanagar in Mutur in the eastern district of Trincomalee, killing a soldier.

On the same day, a landmine took the life of an army soldier in Neerveli in Jaffna.

On April 7, the LTTE killed two Muslim Home Guards in Welikanda on the border between Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa districts in East Sri Lanka.

Retaliation for assassination

The LTTE's landmine attack on April 10 seemed to be a retaliation for the killing of Vigneswaran, one of its main political organizers in Trincomalee district.

The LTTE alleged that Vigneswaran was killed by one of the "Tamil paramilitary groups" working with the Sri Lankan Army.

The LTTE Supremo V Prabhakaran honoured Vigneswaran with the title "Maamanithar" (Great Man)

The government, of course, denied any involvement, saying that it had no Tamil paramilitaries.

Be that as it may, the LTTE was already itching to send a strong message to the Sri Lankan government after the latter refused to provide air transport to its eastern commanders to go to Kilinochchi for a meeting with the leadership in preparation for the Geneva talks.

The government argued that there was no obligation to provide chopper rides for such purposes. As an alternative, it proposed sea transportation.

The LTTE refused to take the option, and told the Scandinavian truce monitors to ask the government to restore air transport so that it could take a decision on going for talks in Geneva.

Though the LTTE had used mild language, there was indeed an unmistakable threat to boycott the Geneva conference if air transport was not provided.

Govt hopes LTTE wont boycott

However, the government seems to be hoping that the LTTE will attend the talks, if only to save its image in the light of the bad publicity that the Canadian ban is going to give it across the globe.

And interestingly, the LTTE has not reacted to the Canadian ban belligerently.

SP.Tamilselvan only said that the ban would strengthen the Sinhala majoritarian hawks in South Sri Lanka, who keep opposing concessions to the Tamil minority.

The ban would not help the peace process or the cause of securing justice for the minority Tamils, the LTTE's political commissar said.

Will Canada's expectation be fulfilled?

The Canadian government argues that the banning of the LTTE will contribute to the peace process in Sri Lanka, by encouraging both parties to the conflict to renounce violence and focus their energies on political negotiations leading to a permanent settlement.

But it remains to be seen if this contention is founded on a realistic assessment of the ground situation in Sri Lanka and the outer world.

As stated earlier, since the ban does not prevent people from contributing to the LTTE's front organisations, the group will continue to collect money running to millions of dollars for its war chest.

Therefore, the LTTE's vital interests are not affected by the ban.

The LTTE may indeed attend the coming round of talks, but it cannot be expected to take a soft line on issues agitating it.

In all likelihood, it will use Geneva II to corner the Sri Lankan government on the issue like the Tamil paramilitaries and the High Security Zones in the Jaffna peninsula.

There are a number of humanitarian issues, which it can raise to embarrass the government.

Slanging match expected in Geneva II

Since none of the promises made at Geneva I has been met, the two sides may have more things to quarrel over than agree on, in Geneva II.

This is the scenario the Norwegian facilitators fear.

Chief facilitator Erik Solheim said in Colombo recently that just having meetings would not suffice.

Meetings would be useless if they did not take the peace process forward, he contended.

And his colleague, Jon Hanssen Bauer, said that the need of the hour was a set of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs).

But sadly, no CBMs were taken by either side since Geneva I.

First Published: Apr 11, 2006 16:21 IST