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A dastardly act

The killing of seven soldiers in a landmine explosion in Jaffna has sent shockwaves around the country and even around the world. It is apparent that the LTTE has carried out this dastardly attack with scant regard to the Ceasefire Agreement.

Apart from the cold-blooded assassination of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, this is the biggest violation of the ceasefire by the LTTE. As a Government Communique has stressed, such acts by the LTTE demonstrate a lack of sincerity towards negotiations and a political settlement.

The LTTE is testing the patience of the Security Forces and trying to provoke them into retaliatory measures. The Security Forces are aware of these LTTE tactics. Prudence and restraint are vital at this critical juncture.

The harsh reality is that the LTTE has violated the February 2002 ceasefire with impunity. It has killed military informants, intelligence operatives, political opponents and civilians and engaged in the recruitment of children in spite of their avowed commitment to the ceasefire. It virtually disenfranchised nearly half a million of voters at the recent Presidential Poll.

All these point to the inevitable conclusion that the LTTE has not given up its terrorist ways. The international community has observed the LTTE's despicable behaviour. As we reported yesterday, Amnesty International (AI) Director Irene Zubaida Khan has urged LTTE's political wing head S.P. Thamilselvan to put an end to LTTE inspired political violence and uphold human rights. She also expressed her concerns over recruitment and training of underage youth in the outfit.

Apart from Amnesty, the European Union, the United States and Australia have taken action against the LTTE without merely confining themselves to words of condemnation. The international community must now prevail upon the LTTE to respect the ceasefire agreement and take steps towards peace talks.

The latest incident exemplifies the need for revising and strengthening the ceasefire and giving more powers to the monitors, who now have to watch helplessly as ceasefire violations continue unabated. They should ideally be given powers of enforcement.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has extended an open invitation to the LTTE to commence peace talks. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran too has described the President as a realist committed to peace. Notwithstanding the latest incident, both sides should seize this mutual understanding and opportunity to first strengthen the ceasefire and later start substantive peace talks leading to a final solution.

Initial reports from the North indicate that both the Army and the LTTE, along with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, are working to defuse the tension that has been building up in the North during the last few days. This must be used as a starting point for regaining a peaceful atmosphere in the peninsula.

President Rajapakse too will appoint a three-member committee to submit a report on the situation in Jaffna. They must probe the issue deeply and recommend corrective action. New Army Commander Sarath Fonseka and other Forces Commanders must also urge the troops to guard against the LTTE's vile and provocative actions.

These are testing times. But we simply cannot afford to go back to war. The President has reiterated that his Government does not consider war as an option.

A negotiated settlement is the only way forward. However, one needs both hands to clap. The LTTE must give up its violence-centred mindset and demonstrate its commitment to the peace process.

The present path of violence will only lead to the ruin of the very people that it claims to represent and liberate.

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