Mr. Burns' candid remarks
THE wide-ranging remarks made by
visiting US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns at a press
conference in Colombo on Monday should serve to put in perspective the
worries and anxieties of all Sri Lankans who have been wondering what
the LTTE has been up to since the new Government took office.
While on one hand seeming to make gestures towards the Government's
own avowed commitment to peace the LTTE has been seeking to provoke the
armed forces into a confrontation by sending off claymore mines,
attacking the forces and mobilising civilians into a collision course
with the armed forces.
There is also a subtle campaign afoot to show the international
community that the new Government is preparing for a war and to paint
the LTTE as the wronged party.
In this context Mr. Burns has made two very salient points. One is to
urge the LTTE to give up violence and return to the path of negotiations
and the other to emphasise that the Sri Lankan Government is duty bound
to protect its citizens from terrorist violence.
On the first score Mr. Burns has certainly not held back his punches.
He has said that no government could have any relationship with the LTTE
as long as it believed in settling its grievances through the barrel of
a gun, perhaps unwittingly echoing the late Chinese President Mao Ze-Dong
who propounded the famous thesis that all political power flows from the
barrel of a gun.
On the second score the US Under Secretary has been even more
explicit and his observations are worth quoting in full. He said: "we
are trying to show our support to the Government by providing military
assistance and training for officers, military exercises between our
troops and the Government so that the Government can be strong and deter
future attacks to protect the people".
This is particularly timely in the context of the LTTE's concerted
global campaigns to portray the Sri Lankan State as militaristic. On the
contrary it is the view of the US Government that the Sri Lankan
Government should be strong so that if can deter the LTTE's future
attacks and protect the people.
It should then be clear that just as the LTTE as an anti-systemic
group should eschew violence, the legally-constituted Sri Lanka
Government is morally bound to protect its citizens from terrorist
From this flows Mr. Burns' further and very pertinent declaration
that there is no moral equivalency between the LTTE and the Government.
This too has to be taken in the context of the LTTE's attempts to
project themselves on par with the Government and portray themselves as
the "sole representatives of the Tamil people." Mr. Burns then has drawn
a clear demarcation between the Government and the LTTE and while urging
the need for renewed negotiations denied the LTTE the moral high ground.
That then is the lay of the land. No regime is perfect but the
gravamen of the US argument is the dividing line between regime and
There is no option but negotiations and here too Mr. Burns' remarks
deserve to be quoted in full. He says: "I think it is incumbent upon all
the friends of this country to band together and send a message to the
Co-Chairs group that we support peace and will do whatever we can
diplomatically to prepare the road for peace".
The message then is clear and straight forward. A combined effort is
needed by Sri Lanka's global friends and the Co-Chairs group to morally
persuade the LTTE to abandon violence and opt for a negotiated
settlement with an open mind. On the part of the Government the path is
open for a peace which will be honourable for all.