play with civilians
In the clash of arms -- laws may be silent -- as
we see in the US-UK backed Israeli assault on Lebanon. The death
toll and sufferings of the population there have made the headlines
in our newspapers too and rightly so, but we seem to be more horrified
by the violence there than the atrocities taking place on our own
All killings are inhuman, but the killing of 17
NGO workers ranks on par with the killing of Muslim civilians fleeing
the fighting in Mutur in terms of barbaric acts. And these are only
the latest in a host of such massacres of civilians in all these
near 25 years of what has been dubbed Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict.
With military offensives being mounted on both
sides, the death toll has been rising day by day. All those who
are bent on ensuring that this conflict does not spiral into a real
ethnic conflict must guard against the temptation of picking easy
targets like unarmed civilians, pumping an overdose of racial hatred
into the victims' side. Forces that see this as a 'terrorist problem'
must restrain their men from what we called last week a 'no-holds-barred
conflict' in this country. It will only make a bad situation worse.
The LTTE seems to be resorting to old guerrilla
tactics in using human shields for its defences as well as its advances.
Its digging in at Mutur on the grounds that it was preventing Security
Forces ground troops from capturing the Mavil Aru anicut resulted
in more than 40,000 civilians being dislodged from the area.
Likewise, the LTTE has now asked civilians to vacate areas in the
Jaffna Peninsula on the grounds that it is preparing an assault
into the region. The end result would be that these civilians will
also need to end up in refugee camps.
It would seem quite obvious that the civilian
refugee issue is what the LTTE is trying to trigger to get international
support on its side -- and if the LTTE finds the situation going
badly for it, it will hope the International Community (IC) will
urge a ceasefire.
The IC is believed to be sending signals to the
Government to halt the fighting -- but it might also do well to
send the same strong signal to the LTTE.
A year ago, this country lost one of its greatest
sons in contemporary history; Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar a man who
personified - and worked relentlessly towards - a united, multi-ethnic
The nation - certainly a vast majority - genuinely
grieved at his death, yet another victim of terrorism that has engulfed
this island for nearly a quarter of a century. But the Police inquiry
into his assassination, for instance, has, by all accounts, gone
into limbo. Too much work, probably. There was a flurry of activity
this week to mark Mr. Kadirgamar's first death anniversary.
One of these events has been the renaming of the
Sri Lanka Institute of Strategic Studies, (introduced in 2000 following
a Committee report headed by ex-Ambassador Neville Kanakeratne)
as the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations
and Strategic Studies.
Placed as we are geographically in the world,
there are always some who overplay our geo-political importance,
while others equally are dismissive of it. As a Foreign Minister
who understood the evils of global terrorism long before 9/11, Mr.
Kadirgamar saw such an Institute as a sine-qua-non to a vulnerable
state like Sri Lanka required to survive in a turbulent world.
A think-tank is what it is - where research and
study and coordinated action on a national scale and long-term basis
could be undertaken instead of the patch-work strategies that have
been adopted all these years. It is incredible that for 50 years
and more since Independence such a National Institute never existed.
Mr. Kadirgamar studied similar institutes in the
West, in West Asia (Middle East) and Asia before he personally spearheaded
the formation of a new Strategic Studies Institute, and it has rightly
been named after him.
Sri Lankan Governments are famous for renaming
existing institutions - the General Hospital became the National
Hospital for instance, but slow to bring in improvements; Colombo's
only International Airport has been renamed thrice over, but we
haven't even been able to construct a second runway there. The list
Even this Institute never got off the ground after
it was established in 2000 partly because of the change in Governments,
and each Government's aversion to carrying through what the other
Let us therefore hope, that this 'new' Institute,
albeit with some minor deficiencies will not be a mere name change
- nor a place as is customary nowadays to lump and dump political
cronies - but will serve this nation truly and sincerely; and in
the process serve the memory of a man who loved his country so dearly.