Appeal to save the Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone
Si Opus Sit Save Our Souls SOS - an appeal - in jeopardy the lives of approximately 360,000 innocent Tamil civilians caught up in the conflict, entrapped within 560 sq kilometer area of land region within the Jaffna Peninsula, excluding the islands, under the control of the Sri Lankan armed forces, the present theater of war. So far, either the Sri Lankan Government or the international community has not thought of any contingency plans, either to evacuate or safeguard the civilian population of the Peninsula, trapped in the war zone.
Cease-fire offer rejected
This urgent appeal to save the Tamils is made, taking into consideration the gravity of the unfolding alarming situation, when the Sri Lankan Government rejected on 8 May, a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) offer of a temporary cease-fire, to allow its troops to withdraw from the northern Jaffna Peninsula. Rejection of the cease-fire has confirmed that the war would be waged within the Peninsula, unmindful of the safety of the innocent Tamil civilians.
"We shall leave no room for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to again fasten their fascist grip on the... Tamil people living in Jaffna," admonished President Kumaratunga.
Sri Lankan Media Minister and Cabinet spokesman, Mangala Samaraweera, called the suggestion by the Tamil Tigers, "ludicrous," but added that, the government was still committed to a political solution. "We have already stepped up our international effort (for assistance) and that is why they are doing that," said the Minister.
As a new twist to the on-going military scenario, earlier in the day, the Tamil Tigers offered a temporary cease-fire that would allow an "orderly evacuation of troops" from Jaffna. The statement added, "The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wishes to state that, it is prepared to declare a temporary cease-fire suspending all armed hostilities against Sri Lankan armed forces, to facilitate the beleaguered government troops to be evacuated safely from the Jaffna Peninsula."
In conclusion, LTTE also extended a warning, "We also wish to indicate to the Sri Lankan Government, that it will bear total responsibility for the disastrous consequences of heavy military causalities, if it rejects our proposal for de-escalation and continues the war effort."
Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarantunga's constant ranting of peace, now proved mere empty words, merely for the international consumption and her callous rejection of the cease-fire, complicated the situation bad to worse.
By a surprised cease-fire offer, Tamil Tigers scored a decisive psychological victory over the Sri Lankan Government. By rejecting, Lankan President exhibited her chauvinistic approach to subdue the Tamils and her unshakable confidence in a military solution to the ethnic conflict, rather on the negotiated political settlement.
Sri Lankan Government has arrived at the crossroads of indecisiveness, whilst 25,000 to 40,000 armed forces are trapped within the Jaffna Peninsula. Already numerous military garrisons have fallen, as if nine-pins and thousands of the Government soldiers were made sacrificial lambs to the altar of an unjustified war against the Tamil ethnic minorities in the country. Chauvinism and ethnocentricity of the Sinhalese leadership have forced them to continue with the war of attrition without any consideration for the lives of those poor soldiers, as well as that of the innocent Tamil civilian population, entrapped in the war zone.
Innocent Tamil Civilians entrapped in the Theater of war.
Already, the Peninsula is completely cut-off from the other parts of the country. Nearly 2000 telephone's lines within the Peninsula is dead. Normally, whenever there was a loosing military campaign, Sri Lankan military authority's order, all private telephone lines to be switched-off, to prevent war news leaking the outside world. There is no land, air or sea transport facilities for civilians to escape from the deadly artillery and motor fire. Government has failed to provide the civilians with any community bunkers to protect themselves from the lethal fall-outs.
Hospitals in the Peninsula are empty, without any life saving medicines and there exist a dearth for doctors. Essential food and fuel supplies have come to a grinding halt. Shelves in the retail outlets of the primary cooperatives and of the private grocery and convenient stores are almost empty. Prices of food and medical items have sky-rocketed. Life in this region is so miserable. Civilians, whom is cut-off from the outside world, long for way of out to escape from the menace of war, whilst being in the constant telescopic suspicious watch-out of the armed forces.
Meantime, Tamils living outside the Peninsula have begun to flee from the iron clutches of the menacing war by boats to Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi, located in the southern coastal strip of the Tamil Nadu State of India. According to reports, a large number of Tamils from the Northern Sri Lanka are expected to flee in the coming days. There are about 90,000 Sri Lankan refugees lodged in 115 camps in different parts of Tamil Nadu, besides approximately 35,000 others living outside the camps, especially in Chennai, Madurai and Trichy. Moreover 140 persons branded as Tamil militants, are confined to three special camps. According to official sources, Sri Lankan Tamil refugee arrival in Tamil Nadu, since 1995 alone accounted for nearly 21,000, which shows an annual landing of an average of 5,000 persons.
Continuance of an unjust war
Abject war in Sri Lanka suddenly has brought about a turn-around in the political and military spectrum, to force the political leadership to take desperate measures. As the LTTE formation keeps on pressing and inching towards the city of Jaffna, the live-nerve center of the Tamils, the pressure groups within the People's Alliance Government - Buddhist clergies, Buddhist fundamentalists, Sinhalese owned newspapers, and the rightist Sinhalese groups, incessantly forced the President to seek foreign assistance to defeat the advancing Tamil Tigers.
Fratricidal war is fought without witness. Tamil civilian causalities due to the conflict have never been accounted, compensated or sympathy expressed. The war is a contest carried on by armed forces in a series of battles to subdue the Tamil Tigers and to bring about a military solution to the smearing, protracted, generations long ethnic conflict. War is not alone against the militants, but it is also waged against the Tamils.
Anti-Tamil posters are seen pasted all over the Colombo. "The Country is at the Mouth of the Tigers. Sinhalaas Awake." Posters in provocative languages might create communal backlash against nearly 1 million Tamils, temporarily residing in Mount Lavania, Dehiwala, Wellawatte, Bampalapitya, Kotahena and other parts of Colombo.
Racial discrimination against the Tamils was openly proclaimed by the rejection of their basic rights for equal status and their Right of Life. No amount of talks, peaceful protests and agitation succeeded. The country is under the Sinhalese majoritarian unitary form of administration, with a Sinhala dream of an Island that they would rule the Tamils, who live on the Sinhala sufferance. Majority ethnic group - the Sinhalese are supposed to be the followers of the preaching of Lord Buddha.
Progenitor for the spread of Buddhism in India, Sri Lanka and in many parts of Asia was the Mayuran Emperor Ashoka. In 260 BC, Ashoka undertook a military campaign against Kalingans and utterly routed them. A hundred and fifty thousand people were deported, a hundred thousand were killed, and many times that number perished in that military campaign. Destruction caused by the war filled the Ashoka with remorse. In an effort to seek expiation, Ashoka found himself attracted to Buddhist thinking. He became a convert to Buddhism, after a long battle to seek solace and peace of mind. It led him, eventually to support the cause of non-violence and consequently to forswear war as a means of conquest. Violence of any form, under any pretext whatsoever, is absolutely against the teachings of Lord Buddha.
Though Buddhism values human life as being the one and only condition from which Nibbana - extinction of greed, extinction of hate, extinction of delusion is called Nibbana - is attainable. Unfortunately, Buddhist clergies in Sri Lanka practice the contradictory norms preached by Lord Buddha. The Mahavamsa, constantly ranted as the one source of Sri Lankan Buddhist chronology, preached killing a virtue in defence of Buddhism, in its panegyric of the victories of the Sinhalese Prince Dutta Gemunu over the Tamil King Ellalan, in the war fought in the 2nd. Century BC, in which thousands of Tamils were killed
In a surprise move, Buddhist monks under the National Sangha Council, demanded Indian intervention to prevent the fall of Jaffna to the Tamil Tigers. The hard-line Buddhist monks, who earlier threatened to self immolate themselves, when Indian troops were sent to the island in 1987, to disarm the Tigers. They also agitated against the Norwegian initiative to broker peace talks between the LTTE and the Government. Buddhist monks led by Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, known for his extremist militant harangues, along with monk Elle Gunawansa, another hard-liner, met Shiva Shankar Menon, Indian High Commissioner in Colombo and appealed for military help to "crush the Tamil guerrilla outfit."
Tigers successful military campaigns.
Following a series of capture by the Tamil Tigers - 19 April - Masar, Soranpattu, 20 April - Iyakachchi military base, on 22 April made they announced the capture of the strategically important, Elephant Pass base. In a statement, the Tamil Tigers said: "The fall of this crucial base (Elephant Pass) at the gates of Jaffna, will help the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to gain its strategic goal of Liberating Jaffna."
The Tiger blitzkrieg led to another astounding victory, by capturing on 30 April, the garrison town of Pallai. The combat formation of the Tamil Tigers, overran the massive military base, located about 15 kilometers North of Elephant Pass, and took control of the town and it's surrounding villages. Tamil Tiger fighters advanced further north and forged a link with their cadres occupying the A9 highway at Muhamalai, nearly 2 kilometers south of Eluthumadduwal.
Chandrika Kumaratunge, was away from Sri Lanka for two weeks, whilst the Sri Lankan army was humiliated by the Tamil Tiger forces. She hastened her return to the capital on 27 April. On 28 April, she made an address to the nation. She asserted that the Government would relentlessly pursue the military option. The President emphasized, "We are resolutely committed fight this war to a finish."
Chandrika's appeal for India's help.
Following the military setbacks, Chandrika Kumaratunge began several rounds of talks with her armed forces' chiefs, government officials and her kitchen cabinet members, before sending appeals to various countries for help. The nature of the help sought was not disclosed. Subsequently, it became apparent that Sri Lanka sought air and naval support for a contingency plan to evacuate 25,000 to 40,000 Sri Lankan troops entrapped within the Jaffna Peninsula.
Meanwhile speculation mounted in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, that Chandrika Kumaratunge had already sought help from India, after meeting Ranil Wickremasinghe, the Leader of the Opposition. She is understood to have told him that the situation over Jaffna had reached crisis.
News emerged that, President Chandrika Kumaratunge contacted the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo and sought through him India's assistance. Suddenly on 30 April, Shiv Shanker Menon left for New Delhi, which led to confirm that, Chandrika Kumaratunge sought military assistance from India to either defeat the LTTE, or to evacuate troops in the event of a possible strategic withdrawal.
Requests and rejoinders.
This political side-show staged in Colombo was watched with amusement in India. In Chennai, Dr. Subramaniyam Swamy, the maverick politician and the Janata Party President, lambasted the militant Buddhist monk Elle Gunawansa and the entire Buddhist clergy for their chauvinistic approach. He retorted that, Indian army was not for hire or for fire fighting at the beck and call of Sri Lanka. He said, "What monk Gunawansa and the Buddhist clergy of Sri Lanka should recognize is that, the Island State has become non-viable, because of their untenable adherence to the concept of unitary state. Hence, it is better now in order for the Sinhalas to live with honor, that the present Sri Lanka parliament pass a resolution merging the Island State with the state of India."
As the comical circus was on, an anti-Sri Lankan sequence unfolded at the State Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Members of the Legislative Assembly cutting across party lines, came heavily on the Sri Lankan Government, holding it responsible for the killing of Three Indian Tamil fishermen from Nagapattinam, on 29 April. Members angrily denounced Sri Lankan Government and even suggested that India has to snap all forms diplomatic relationship with Sri Lanka.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Muthuvel Karunanithi whilst replying in the Assembly said that, within the last ten years, Sri Lankan Navy has killed more than 80 Indian Tamil fishermen fishing in the waters of Gulf of Mannar and in the other parts. He posed, "Who gave the Sri Lankan Navy the authority to shoot and kill the Indian fishermen? They have no authority to commit such a heinous crime?" Assembly members made explosive statements against the criminal and brutal slayings of the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.
On 3 May, Lakshman Kadirgamar, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, who was convalescing and underwent treatment at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi for the past eight weeks, called on the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Purpose of the meeting was not disclosed, but Kadirgamar said that Sri Lanka had not made a request for Indian intervention, but did not rule out making it later. It was the first confirmed indication that Sri Lanka might seek India's help. Sri Lankan Minister confirmed that Colombo had been keeping New Delhi posted over the past few days of the developments in Northern Sri Lanka.
Curtain began to unfold, preceding hectic diplomatic activities. India gradually modified its decade-long Sri Lankan policy, in view of the deteriorating situation in the Jaffna Peninsula, following the fall of Elephant Pass and other strategic garrison towns. On the evening of 3 May, Indian Prime Minister held an urgent session of the Cabinet Committee on Security, to finalize on the Sri Lankan issue. With the memory of the failed intervention by the IPKF weighing heavy on Cabinet Committee on Security, they resolved not intervene militarily in the Sri Lankan Civil War.
"Military intervention by India in Sri Lanka is ruled out," External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told reporters, arriving after an hour-long meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security. Asked whether India would provide assistance in the evacuation of the trapped Sri Lankan troops, Singh said, "evacuation of troops is not India's responsibility. It is purely a hypothetical situation you are talking about. In any case, Sri Lanka has not asked for it (assistance)."
Tamil Nadu factor.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee invited the Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister M.Karunanithi for consultations on the development in Sri Lanka, whilst the ruling Barathya Janata Party (BJP) allies in Tamil Nadu, voiced against any Indian military intervention in the Island. Meantime, V. Gopalasamy, popularly known as "Vaiko," the leader of the Marumalarchchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), was in Delhi to impress on the Indian Government leaders, stressing the need to keep in mind the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamils and not to take any decision on military intervention, because of the earlier IPKF experiences. Vaiko said that he was happy by the clarification that there will be no military action by India in Lanka.
Earlier, Dr.S.Ramadoss, the founder leader of the Pattali Makkal Kadchi (PMK), another ally of the BJP from the South, in a fax message to A.B.Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K.Advani, asked the Indian Government not to interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, especially in the prevailing situation. He recalled that, during the visit of the IPKF to Sri Lanka last time and the unceremonious way the Indian Peace-keepers were thrown out of the Island, after being invited by the former president J.R.Jeyawardhene. He added that the Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka raised hue and cry and wanted the IPKF to be withdrawn. He alleged that the same monks are now seeking the help of the Indian army to save their lives. When the decision not to interfere militarily was announced, Dr. Ramadoss said "Relieved," and India has to keep out of the "military mess" in Sri Lanka.
Following day, on 4 May, septuagenarian DMK leader and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, whilst replying to a spate of adjournment motions, on the issue, in the State Assembly, he urged the Vajpayee Government in the center, not to send the Indian army to help the Sri Lankan Armed forces in the ongoing conflict. He pointed out that, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam issue in Tamil Nadu and the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka should be viewed separately. He further said that, India should not supply weapons too. He stressed," This is the unanimous view of the people of Tamil Nadu, which is the most affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka."
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister added that, Sinhalese Army was hunting down Tamils in Sri Lanka and support by way of arms and ammunition would imply support for the killing of the Tamils. Therefore, he continued that, India should not be part of the Sri Lankan war effort that leading to the death of the Tamils in the Island.
Jaswant Singh, the External Affairs Minister of India, on 4 May, made a statement in the Rajaya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. He announced "Recent developments in Northern Sri Lanka are a matter of serious concern to India. The Government is closely monitoring the evolving situation. The Government of Sri Lanka has also been in touch with the Government of India. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka was therefore called to New Delhi earlier this week for consultations on the developing situation. The Government of India will be guided by its commitment to a negotiated peaceful resolution of the conflict within the framework of Sri Lanka's unity and territorial integrity; a united Sri Lanka where all communities can realize their aspirations."
On the same day evening, Indian Prime minister met the BJP's allies from Tamil Nadu and clarified that, India has no plans for supplying or selling arms to Sri Lanka to help the Island nation tackle the situation in the Jaffna Peninsula, in the wake of the on-going conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The hour-long meeting was attended on behalf of the Government by the External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, The Home Minister L.K.Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes. All the Union Ministers from the state - Murasoli Maran, Mohan Kumaramangalam, T.R.Balu, S.Ramachandran, E.Ponnusamy, and those representing their political parties, P.T.Elangovan (PMK), V.Gopalasamy (MDMK) and S.Thirunavukkarasu (MGR - AIDMK) were present.
Asked about the request from Colombo, the Prime Minister said "no agreed proposals were put forth our policy has been that we favor a united Sri Lanka."
When the Prime Minister of India met the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the Prime minister and other Union Ministers appraised him on the Sri Lankan situation and on how to deal with Sri Lankan Government's several requests for assistance. After a 90 minute consultative session, Karunanithi agreed that, it was "the Government of India's privilege to take any appropriate action in the interest of the nation." Karunanithi appeared to has endorsed the Indian Government's stand, "No military intervention, no arms assistance, but only humanitarian assistance."
Kalkat opposed Indian intervention
Lieutenant General A.S. Kalkat, commander of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), the army official in charge of the last Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, said, "Sri Lanka is again asking India to deal with the symptom and not the disease." He said there was another good reason for India to steer clear of the Sri Lankan crisis, and New Delhi should not send forces to Colombo in its latest battle with Tamil rebels. Kalkat said: "Ultimately the ethnic problem of Sri Lanka can only be solved by Sri Lankans themselves."
The IPKF fought a costly war between 9 October 1987 and 24 March 1990, in Sri Lanka, that left more than 1,200 Indian soldiers dead and more than 2,500 injured.
Kalkat said "Sri Lanka double-crossed the IPKF" by supplying weapons and explosives to the Tamil Tiger rebels, adding that the Lieutenant General claimed these weapons "were used against us."
Latest LTTE's position
On 2 May, the LTTE brought under their control a stretch of coastal road,12 kilometers in length, between Elephant Pass and Kilali. Presently, they are pounding at the Sri Lanka army's base at Kilali, on the Jaffna lagoon's southeastern coast This military complex is the headquarters of the 52-3 Brigade, consisting, a unit of the Sri Lankan Navy's Special Boat Squadron, trained by the US Navy Seals, a unit of the Sri Lankan Army's (SLA's) 53 division commandos and a section of the 54 division, which withdrew from the Elephant Pass base. This military complex, according to reports, is expected fall soon. Once ensconced at Kilali, the entire peninsula would undoubtedly come within the LTTE's superior fire power range.
Sri Lankan troops have now positioned themselves on the outer fringe of Eluthumaduval along the A-9 (Jaffna-Kandy) highway. Whilst their defences north easterly are linked to Nagerkovil, in the west it extends to Kilali where a Naval unit is also located.
Whilst the victorious Tigers continue to press and inches forward towards Jaffna, the remaining Sri Lankan armed forces would be surrounded reminding the fate of the 93,000 Pakistani's forces under General Tikka Khan's command in East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, who on 18 December 1971, surrendered unconditionally to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's Indian forces, subsequently taken as prisoners of war.
Country on war footing
Subsequently, the Sri Lankan Government announced its decision to "lead the country on a war footing to achieve victories by concentrating the energies of all." It said all non-essential development work would be suspended for three months to concentrate on the battle against the Tamil Tigers.
In Colombo, President Chandrika Kumuratunga told a meeting of her party members of parliament, that there were no plans to evacuate Jaffna. She said her government had asked for help from unnamed friendly countries, but gave no further details.
President Kumaratunga answering questions from her party MPs said that the government would get assistance, but did not elaborate what sort of assistance or from where. The President also said the fall of Elephant Pass was a serious setback. She hastened and said that it should not be considered a defeat. Any attempt to exaggerate or distort would be greatly prejudicial to the interest of the country, she said.
According to emerging press reports, Sri Lankan Government has sent out urgent appeals to India, Pakistan, China, Russia, United States Of America, Israel and host of other countries for arms as well as armed forces to fight the Liberation Tigers with the view to check the Tamil Tigers from seizing the entire Jaffna Peninsula. Already several countries including India and Pakistan have rejected to respond positively. Rejection is seen as a diplomatic debacle to the Government which spent millions of dollars in its propaganda campaign to justify its on-going war efforts.
Sri Lankan President Kumaratunge, as a face saving measures to offset her latest military, political and diplomatic debacles, placed the country on a war footing and promulgated draconian measures under the Public Security Ordinance, banning all democratic activities perceived a threat to national security. This measure, described a sequel to authoritarianism. Ranil Wickremasinghe described it, "A state of siege."
Already existed the press censorship of the local print and electronic media, but under the present stringent regulation, censorship law became applicable to the foreign media within Sri Lanka. Censorship laws have been strongly criticized by international and local media groups, while the opposition agitate against regulations banning trade union activities, marches, protests and demonstrations.
Another aspect is that, this censorship not alone be confined to reports of the war, also against any criticism on the President, constitution and judiciary. Censorship is imposed with the view to have the entire country under a smoke-screen, to prevent atrocities inflicted by the armed forces seeping out to the outside world.
Restoration of Diplomatic ties with Israel
The Sri Lankan Government made another surprise announcement, that it was restoring diplomatic ties with Israel, in an apparent bid to benefit from the defence industry of the Jewish state. The announcements about ties are to be established, came the day-after India ruled out any military aid.
Washington however has made it clear that it encouraged Sri Lanka to re-establish ties with Israel, after an absence of 30 years, but made no comment on the draconian laws enacted in Sri Lanka.
In retrospect, it is still fresh in the memory of this writer about the events that led earlier for the closure of the Israel Embassy in Colombo. It was in 1969, Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, the second holiest mosque outside Saudi Arabia was set on fire and the mosque suffered extensive damage. Arab and Muslim World were angered on the burning of the holy mosque by the Israelites, and in Colombo Muslim leaders protested and demanded the closure of the Israel Embassy. Dudley Senanayake, whom was the Prime Minister at that time, failed to appreciate the feelings of the Muslims.
Muslims' organizations in the country staged wide-spread protest against Israel and the UNP Government. Left leaders of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) T.B.Subasinghe, T.B.Ilangaratne along with Muslim leaders in the SLFP - Dr. Al-haj Badi-udin Mahmoud, Senator A.R.M.Hameem, Abdul A. Majeed, the first MP for Muthur, managed to include the issue of the closure of the Israel Embassy in the United Left Front's Election Manifesto.
The United Left Front Government, under the leadership of Srimavo Bandaranaike (mother of the present President) swept to power on 21 May 1970, and ordered the closure of the Israel Embassy. The break in diplomatic relation was on the ground that, Israel did not adhere to United Nations resolution No: 242 relating to Palestinians. Also, restrictions were placed on Israelis entering the country. Srimavo Bandaranaike also offered diplomatic recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
J.R.Jayawardene, then President, extended appeal to several countries for military assistance to combat the Tamil militants. He did not have any desired effects. He approached Israel in 1983. In August 1983, negotiations began with the secret visit to Israel by G.V.P.Samarasinghe, the Secretary to the Cabinet. The United States played a major role in the negotiations by providing General Vernon Walters to assist Sri Lanka in the drafting of the agreement it signed in May 1984. Subsequently, on 24 May 1984, the "Israel Interest Section" was opened in the US Embassy in Colombo. David Matnai, the Assistant Director of the Israel's Foreign Ministry, Asian Division, who had arrived in Sri Lanka in April 1984, took charge of the Interests Section. Ban on trade with Israel hitherto in force was lifted by a Presidential degree and Israelis were freely allowed to enter the country.
David Matnai disclosed that Sri Lankan Government had been in contact with Israel much before the July 1983 violence. Israeli security agency, Shin Beth and Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence agency personnel operated in the country and trained the Sri Lankan armed forces. Soon after the arrival of the Israelis, a marked changed was observed in the military activities against the Tamils in the North and Eastern provinces. Methods similar to those adopted by Israelis in the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip were used by the Sri Lankan security forces. Israel began helping Sri Lanka with weapons, attack vessels for the Navy and also trained Security personnel and Police.
It was very interesting to observe that, the provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act relating to detention, admissibility of evidence and applicability of Evidence Ordinance, are similar to those under Military Order No: 378 (Article 84 and 87) effective in the West bank and Gaza strip.
In 1990, President Premadasa ordered the closure Israeli Interest Section to please the Muslims lobby. J.R.Jayawardene who at that time was a retiree said that Premadasa's decision as ill-considered and uncharitable, abruptly and rudely to order the Israeli mission to leave the country. A farewell party was organized by the US Embassy when the Israel Interest Section was closed down. Not a single cabinet member was present on that occasion. The only government party MP who did accept the invitation was the Deputy Speaker, Gamini Fonseka. J.R. made it a point to be present and thank the Israelis personally for all the assistance they had given in helping the army to train its soldiers and officers at a time when such help was difficult to come by. When Sri Lanka announced the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel on 4 May, immediately, the Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy welcomed the move. With the resumption of ties, Israel now has diplomatic relationship with 164 countries leaving 26 mostly Arab and Moslem countries without official diplomatic ties. An Israeli diplomat who served in Colombo in the past said that, Sri Lanka reached the point where it felt it would be absurd not to resume ties with Israel, especially when most of the Asian countries around it had already done so. He added, Sri Lanka also knows that, it will not more easily be able to purchase Israeli arms for use in its long-running ethnic war against the LTTE rebels. It is reported that Israel has instantly and positively responded to provide Sri Lanka with military assistance. This writer learnt that, during the time, when the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister was convalescing in New Delhi, he initiated negotiation with the Israeli Ambassador in Delhi and laid the foundation for the establishment of ties with Israel. According to reports, the announcement of the resumption of ties was preceded by long months of quiet contact between the two countries, carried out on the Israeli side primarily by the Israel ambassador to India. This writer was in the Tunisian capital Tunis, till the middle of April. During my stay in Tunis I had the opportunity to visit the political office of the PLO. Unfortunately during my visit, the PLO's Foreign Minister, Farouk Quadomi was away in Havana and I only had the opportunity to talk to my other friends, Abu Jaffar Wajik Kanan - the Director Administration, Abdul Latif Abu Hajallah of the Asia Desk, and Rami Quuadomi of the Economic desk. They asked me why the countries in Asia are showing such a haste in re-establishing diplomatic ties with Israel? Earlier these were the very countries snapped ties with Israel to show their solidarity with the Palestinians. Unfortunately even before the State of Palestine was born, the Asian countries had begun to betray Palestinians, by establishing ties with Israel.
Following J.R's footsteps.
It becomes apparent that, Chandrika Kumaratunge follows the footsteps of J.R.Jeyawardene in handling the ethnic issue. Jeyawardene was the first president to adopt military measures to solve the ethnic conflict. It was on 11 July 1979, Jeyawardene declared state of emergency and dispatched the armed forces to Jaffna with orders to "wipe-out the terrorists spearheading the demand for the separate Tamil state." Again the same President Jeyawardene contacted the Israelis and sought arms and other military assistance to put down the Tamils' uprising. Similarly, Ckandrika Kumaratunge has now sought the assistance of the Israelis for the same mission.
Prabakaran and LTTE Chandrika Kumaratunge following Jeyawardene, constantly name-call the Tamil militants and its leader V. Prabakaran, ruthless terrorist. Prabakaran, 25 years ago, organized the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, with a handful of Tamil youths. Today it has grown from strength to strength to achieve its goal of Tamil Eealm. Tamils all over the world feel that Tamil Eelam is within their grasp, only a stone- throw away. Prabakaran's loyalist feels that his greatest achievement was the expression and direction he provided to the Tamil national will. How else anyone could explain the decision of countless mothers to have let their children to die for the cause. Prabakaran, through his grand illusion of Tamil Eelam, he has managed his most significant achievement,- wielding together a disciplined militant organization that more or less represent the aspirations of more than 80 millions Tamils all over the world. Today Prabakaran remains a Nation Symbol and a Revolutionary Institution of the Tamils. He has time and again insisted in his Martyr Day's speeches that, the door for peace is always opened.
For the first time, the Indian Government has said it would be prepared to mediate in the crisis if asked to by both sides. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, speaking after a meeting with political party leaders in Delhi on 8 May, said India wanted a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He said "We will continue to work for a peaceful negotiated settlement, within the framework of the Sri Lankan constitution." However, he categorically ruled out any military intervention. India has said it could offer unspecified humanitarian aid, but the offer has so far not been taken up by Sri Lanka. Already this writer wrote "India holds key to peace in Lanka?" "The Independent," Bangladesh, 10, December 1999. As stressed earlier, now India has come out of its bout of reluctance, to play a role in the on-going conflict in Sri Lanka. India understands the concerns of the Sri Lanka Government, as well as that of the Tamil Tigers and the Tamils. Therefore if India mediates, there is every chance that the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka would be dealt with thoroughly for a mutually amicable political settlement. Otherwise, the plight of the innocent Tamils caught up in between the saber-rattling Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunge and Tamil Tiger leader Prabakaran would be miserable, of something I shudder even to imagine.