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After Killinochchi

[TheMorningLeader.lk, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 07:52 No Comment]

Killinochchi has fallen and there is great rejoicing. It is worth, however, to remind ourselves that the war still goes on, that there are three hundred thousand IDPs still in the Wanni and that the APRC is still in labour, with no sight or sound of imminent delivery.

 

The significance of the fall of Killinochchi cannot be minimised by reference to the fact that it has changed hands before and that it came into prominence as the politico-administrative capital of the LTTE quasi-state only because Jaffna was denied to the LTTE.

 

Political struggle

 

This is a political struggle as some of us do not tire of opining and as such, the loss is a blow to LTTE pretensions. Perceptions do matter in politics and from the Karuna split to the fall of Killinochchi – ghost town ceded to the military though it may be – the LTTE has yet to see glad confident morning again. It is on the defensive, acutely so and as its military muscle is decimated the question arises as to whether its political project too, is kaput.

 

The Rajapakse regime on the other hand is riding high. It will milk this one for all the political capital it can get. This type of thing does not happen often and by any yardstick must constitute the solid basis for regime consolidation. Elections are therefore in the offing until the full electoral cycle is exhausted, the second term secured and the dynasty established to boot.

 

End of story?

 

Dashed thing is that it may well not be the case. There is Mullaitivu and Elephant Pass to be captured. Territory once taken has to be held and even though the real estate business is back in military fashion again, there is the strategic question of destroying the LTTE as a fighting force – the objective projected at the beginning of 2008.

 

This means, that if and when and once Mullaitivu and Elephant Pass are in the bag, the security forces have to go after the remnants of the Tiger military menace. This means more men and more resources in these cash strapped, credit crunch times.

 

Furthermore, there is the unanswered question as to whether the hardcore LTTE is still intact and as to whether the real resistance is to be mounted in defence of Mullaitivu, their military hub.

Killinochchi took near five months. How costly has it been and can the security forces move swiftly to press home the advantage? Remember too that India is into electoral mode soon and the space for the IDPs in the Wanni has been shrunk further – they are more in the way now or more needed to be so, depending which way one looks at it — than ever before.

 

More havoc

 

The war can get messier before it ends and accordingly it can end, but not as expected. There could be more havoc along the way. And as always, there is the economy, stupid!

The greater tragedy however is the danger of the regime snatching political defeat from the jaws of military victory. Believing that winning the war is synonymous with resolving the conflict, could well see a return to war during Mahinda Rajapakse’s second term. What is happening in the east does not give one cause for optimism.

 

There is no escaping from investing the search for a political and constitutional settlement beyond the current confines of the unitary state, with commitment, urgency and a sense of the utmost priority. The President should take the lead on this and drive the process to a successful conclusion if the taking of Killinochchi as he has said, is a victory for all of us – all of the peoples who inhabit this island and call it their home.

 

Simple formula

 

Be they bereft of Killinochchi, Mullaitivu, Elephant Pass, the peninsula and the east, the LTTE banks on the sources of the conflict to be sustained and accordingly to keep them alive politically and militarily. It is a sad, simple yet sure formula for protracted conflict into the future.

 

Secession has to be defeated politically and this requires a profound and fundamental amendment to the Chinthanaya in the name of peace, democracy and unity.

 

It also requires the Tamil polity to begin to think anew and afresh in terms of dealing with a political reality in which the LTTE is no longer the dominant force it once was. This columnist and at least, one other, have made this point. In terms of a spectrum of views articulated in that polity there is nothing between the full implementation of the 13th Amendment and the ISGA! This is not just bad politics; it is no politics at all.

 

Federal idea

 

There has to be a re-articulation of the federal idea and the location of Tamil political aspirations within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. And if there is no faith in the APRC forum then why wait till another is set up? Why not take the lead, inform and shape the debate?

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