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Outrageous attack

Hindu Editorial of April 27

TERRORISM: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has once again shown that it is not interested in a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

If anything, the LTTE suicide attack on the Sri Lankan Army commander is further evidence that it actually fears the prospect of such a settlement fears for its own survival and future in a North-East Sri Lanka that has made its peace with the rest of the country.

This is why it is reluctant to participate in peace talks and instead repeatedly attempts to provoke the Sri Lankan Government into a military response that will shatter the four-year-old truce.

The LTTE hopes to then portray the Sri Lankan Government as a military machine that mercilessly crushes Tamil aspirations.

Holed up in the Vanni, the LTTE leadership believes the international community will ignore its ruthless terrorist record, its recruitment of child soldiers, and its intolerance of dissent and democracy, and, above all, recognise it as a legitimate force fighting for Tamil rights.

Winning legitimacy would help the LTTE cover considerable distance on the road to an independent Tamil Eelam where it wants to establish a self-serving rule over the Tamils. Thus does the LTTE hope to secure its future.

This was the reasoning behind the LTTE assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 2005; behind all its attacks on the Sri Lankan military that have claimed the lives of more than a hundred soldiers and sailors since last November; and behind its attempt to foment anti-Tamil ethnic violence in Trincomalee earlier this month. With each incident, the LTTE's motives only stand exposed further.

As the response to the latest developments indicates, the world recognises the LTTE for what it is a ruthless terrorist organisation.

But the question has to be asked if the dozen or so countries, including the United States, that are directly or indirectly involved in the Norway-facilitated peace process are putting enough pressure on the LTTE to stay the peace course and negotiate a settlement.

But for the Sri Lankan Government's exemplary restraint in the shadow war unleashed by the LTTE, the truce, which exists only on paper now, would have given way to full-scale hostilities months ago.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot be blamed if his patience is now wearing a little thin. Following the latest provocation, he ordered air and naval strikes in North-East Sri Lanka.

President Rajapaksa evidently wanted to send a message that he will not remain a silent onlooker as a terrorist group tries to take out the country's army chief. Still, restraint is the Government's best weapon against the LTTE.

The people of Sri Lanka, Tamil and Sinhalese do not want a war, but this could well be the outcome if the tit-for-tat attacks continue.

The Government's reiteration of its "complete adherence" to the ceasefire agreement gives some hope that war can yet be avoided.

But whether the peace process can survive and move forward depends to a large extent on what moves the LTTE is planning next and if the international community can influence this in any positive way.

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