SITUATION REPORT - (2002-07-07)
By Champika Ranawaka

Peace Talks
LTTE maintains that there can be no talks until the armed forces vacate places of worship, government buildings and schools, as stated in the MOU. This is a condition that the government is finding it difficult to fulfil. The latest ploy of the LTTE is to erect crosses, Hindu tridents and Ghana statues in the vicinity of army camps and transform those locations to temporary churches, kovils and places of devotion. Among the 47 schools that the army is occupying, there isn't a single Tamil school, other than those that have fallen into disuse. Presently the SLMM is examining several places, which is expected to take at least 3 months. Therefore, the spurious talks would not take place even in the next two months. Yet, the situation can change if USA does intervene.

The LTTE administration
The LTTE is busy establishing the state of Eelam, with its own police, banks and courts. They have even requested AI representatives to work in their courts. A new administrative structure has been set up, wherein high officials like government agents and vice chancellors of universities have to report directly to the respective area leaders. What all this boils down to is, that the government has accepted the burden of maintaining Tamil Eelam until it can stand on its own feet. Therefore, those in the South who were expecting to enjoy peace dividends, have to now bear a peace burden.

The Muslim factor
Meanwhile, the LTTE and SLMC (Mr. Hakim) strategies over achieving of dominance in the East, have brought the two parties into conflict, to an extent that bars its peaceful resolution. The present Eastern province is the bane of the phoney Tamil homeland. Even in 1815 it was under the sovereignty of the king of Sinhale. Prabhakaran does not have there, the fertile land he needs for Eelam. Its three districts (Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee) adds up to 9624 square Kilometers. This is second only to the North Central province. According to statistics, the composition of its present population is as follows:

Ampara Sinhala 231,771 39%
Muslim 245,089 41.5%
Tamil 110,180 18.7%

Trincomalee Sinhala 75,710 36%
Muslim 95,760 45%
Tamil 17,512 17%
(About another 20,000 Tamils are living in the LTTE areas of Trincomalee)

Batticaloa Sinhala 2,289
Muslim 113,535
Tamil 168,593

Whole of Eastern Province
Sinhala 309,770
Muslim 454,384
Tamil 296,285

In spite of the repeated massacre of Sinhalese that drove away about 85,000 of them from the Eastern Province, as per the official statistics, the Tamils as a population, still occupy the third place. Therefore, in his phoney Tamil homeland, it is essential for Prabhakaran to consolidate the power of the Tamils.

The SLMC and Mr. Hakim were expecting the confrontation between the government and the LTTE to continue until both parties are exhausted, hoping that it would enable him to be the ultimate victor in this conflict. This is why he went along with Prabhakaran on the MOU. Prior to this, in 1988 there was an understanding between Kittu and Mr. Badiuddhin. Yet the LTTE drove away the Muslims out of Jaffna in October 1981. In spite of that bitter experience, Mr. Hakim entered into an agreement with Prabhakaran with the aim of;

1. Increasing his bargaining power with the Sinhalese,
2. Silencing the growing opposition to him in the Eastern province, and
3. Facing the threat of rising fundamentalism within the party led by Athaulla in the East and Thaufik in Muthur.

Now, Mr. Hakim is compelled to look up to the Sri Lankan forces for his protection. The Muslim Tamil conflict that started in Mutur is dragging on for weeks. It has caused the death of at least 9 Muslims and injured hundreds. Several mosques and over 200 shops have been destroyed. Now, the Muslim fundamentalists are demanding arms to protect themselves. In this conflict, The LTTE, which flagrantly violated the Ranil - Prabhakaran agreement, fired mortars at the Muslims. The security forces were cautious about responding because of the government's commitment to the MOU. They moved in only when it appeared that further delay would result in the situation escalating to serious proportions. What Prabhakaran and Karu, his chief man in the East, want is to drive away the Muslims from areas of mix population.

During the PA government, the counter attack on the Moslems at Mawanella (though on a much lower scale than at Mutur), following an attack on the Sinhalese, threatened the stability of the PA government. Yet, the Mutur problem did not stir the UNF government. This is because the opposition too is playing 'peace', out of its reluctance to displease the West, irrespective of its oft repeated slogan of a 'just peace'. Otherwise, the Mutur incident would have been sufficient to bring this hoax of a peace to an end.

In this incident, the Muslims showed that even without arms, Tamil racist aggression could be dealt with. This is an important lesson to the Sinhalese in the East.

Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe's worries
The UNF government of Mr. Ranil is facing a number of serious problems. One is the helplessness of the government in a situation where its hands are tied, to prevent it from acting militarily, in the face of belligerent acts freely committed by the LTTE. The other is that even six months after putting the UNF to power, the voters have still to feel the economic 'kick start' they were expecting. The prices of some goods have gone up by 100%. Road accidents, crime, etc., have also increased by 100% compared to last year. The dengue epidemic has also contributed to a 'nothing is right', sinking feeling in the society. The taking over of the Tangalle prison by its inmates, shows that the Sinhala society is turning itself to a mad house where law and order is taking a back seat. The economic growth for the first quarter of the year is only 0.1% ! There is no money even to meet the salary bill of August. The government is freely taking loans from private banks. Ms. Chandrika Kumaranathunga's remedy for the liquidity problem was also the same. Even though Mr. Ranil is stuck in a number of such military, economic and social problems, he is still not faced with a political crisis, thanks to the infighting among the SLFP leadership.

Be that as it may, the silver lining of the dark clouds hovering over is, that the Sinhala forces are getting organized like in 1995. The intelligentsia who pinned their hopes on the UNF in the 2001 election, have realised that their expectation of a galloping economy under the UNF is just a mirage. They are politically more enlightened now. As a result, it has become possible to defeat the JVP strategy of using Sinhala nationalism as a cover to stage a Bolshevik type revolution like in 1987 - 89. This is indicated by the coming into being of the Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya surpassing the JVP Bhikku organization (Jathika Bhikshu Peramuna). The highly successful district conference, held in a grand and impressive manner and attended by over 1000 monks, was its first step. (For details and photographs, please see the situation report of May 16). In the coming months, it would be taking its second and third steps.

SU cooperation with opposition parties against the cost of living
The SU has been invited by the leader of the opposition, Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse, to take part in the commemoration of the hartal of 1952. This event would also be made use of to protest against the increasing COL. The people too expect the SU to be vociferous against other national issues, apart from separatist terrorism, and not stand aloof from other political parties on such issues. However, at the discussions held so far, we have made our position very clear and objected strongly to attempts made by left parties, to make use of the event to bring in demands to support the bogus peace. Our participation would be out of the question if such issues are to be brought. An attempt has also been made by other interested parties, to show that we are prepared to enter into an alliance with the PA. There is absolutely no truth in this. However, we are open to cooperation with the opposition on specific issues, which would be decided on a case by case basis.


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