|KILINOCHCHI AND CONFLICT TERMINATION: A ROAD MAP|
|Friday, 09 January 2009|
We are at the last, most decisive and perhaps the toughest, most grueling stage of this war.
Sri Lanka has been fighting a war of self defense, to prevent the carving up of its small territory by a secessionist militia.
It has been fighting against an enemy that has deployed all forms of terrorism ranging from suicide bombings of civilian targets to the assassination of unarmed democratic politicians.
It has been fighting against an enemy that had many a chance at peaceful settlement but turned its back on every one of them, going to war against a neighboring peacekeeping force and a settlement mediated by the Prime Minister of India whom it went on to assassinate.
The victory in Kilinochchi brings Sri Lanka to a crossroads. From here on, there is a wrong way to go and a right way to go. The wrong way would be to halt or pause operations, either underestimating the enemy or hoping to negotiate from strength. This would give the enemy time to regroup and dig in, in their favorite jungle hideout of Mullaitivu. The right way to go would be to stay focused on the war and winning it, remaining on the offensive, retaining the momentum, pressing home the advantage, not giving the enemy breathing space and time.
There will be voices that urge the former, erroneous course of action. These will come from quarters that simply do not want a military defeat of the LTTE at the hand of the Sri Lankan state. We must ignore these dangerous Siren songs.
The Sri Lankan state and people must concentrate on the four tasks that remain after – and indeed arise out of – the liberation of Kilinochchi. These are:
* Firstly, the winning of the battle for Mullaitivu, trapping and destroying as much as possible of the LTTE’s human and material resources and decapitating its leadership.
* Secondly, the counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency phase, in town, village and jungle, which entails the elimination of LTTE guerrilla units, terrorist cells and infrastructure, preventing a buildup of the LTTE’s capacity to sustain or return to guerrilla and urban terrorist warfare.
* Thirdly, the political prevention of the sustenance or resurfacing of ethnic separatism and support for the Tigers through so-called peaceful political means. This requires stringent anti-separatist legislation along the lines that exist in India, Turkey and Spain.
* Fourthly, the holding of elections – parliamentary, provincial and local authority—in the liberated areas, so as to throw up a moderate democratic Tamil representation with which the Sri Lankan government can negotiate a final settlement of ethnic grievances, the outlines of which are already being chalked out by the APRC.
My emphasis on the primacy of the military aspect at this stage of Sri Lanka’s history does not derive from any kind of chauvinist militarism or neo-conservatism but precisely from a well grounded politico-philosophical perspective. In his critical Epitaph of Lenin (January 1924), Karl Kautsky observed that, “he [Lenin] grasped very well the significance of armed force in politics and could apply it ruthlessly at the decisive moment. When Bismarck stated that the great problems of the time must be resolved by blood and iron, this was also Lenin’s view.”
Those who criticize the Government for not moving fast on inter-ethnic reconciliation and radical political reform are making a methodological error of the most fundamental sort. In history as in life, not everything can be done or attempted at the same time. That is because “absolutely everything develops unevenly”. While things have to be seen as an interconnected process, every process has its distinct stages and every stage has its distinctive main tasks. Different stages have different priorities. The inability to identify priorities, focus on them and move onto the next one helps the achievement of nothing, of no task at all. This dictum dates from the Ecclesiastes – “a time for every purpose under heaven” —to Lenin’s Two Tactics and the writings of Mao and Ho Chi Minh.
This is the time for fighting the war to a successful, that is, victorious, finish. Normalization, reconstruction, economic development and progressive reform can come only in the wake of victory. None of this is automatic of course. There will be retrogressions and deliberate willful rollback by retrogressive forces. However, here is a powerful mechanism that will move the process along, and that is democratic competition; the compulsions of electoral marketplace.
Following the quasi-conventional stage of the war, there are two broad types of mistakes that Sri Lanka can make. We can win the war and lose the peace by one of two errors.
The first would be to permit the separatist project to continue to function, for separatist political agencies to function unchecked. We could thus peacefully jeopardize that which the armed forces have won for us on the battlefield. This could generate a seriously destabilizing backlash in the South.
The second, equal and opposite error would be a lack of generosity, flexibility, enlightenment and wisdom, due to which we fail to expeditiously remove the discrimination, frustration and alienation felt by the Tamil minority. That would cause the reactivation in one way or another, of the Tamil separatist struggle.
Either outcome – generated by a naive excess of liberal laxity or mean-spirited surfeit of cultural conformism – would betray the gains of military victory and continue to burden us, renewing the wretched cycle.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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