“Today’s terrorist is today’s and tomorrow’s murderer”: Resolving violent conflict in Sri Lanka
“There is a false and foolish and evil saying that today’s terrorist is tomorrow’s freedom fighter. Today’s terrorist is today’s and tomorrow’s murderer.”
These were the words used by the former Foreign Minister of Australia Alexander Downer while delivering the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture 2008 inÂ ColomboÂ on Wednesday (October 15).
In an era when some people are attempting to glorify the terrorists and justify terrorism as a means to achieve political ends, these words of Mr.Downer should get all right thinking people really thinking.
As Sri Lankan we all know the terrible toll the unleashing of terrorist violence has taken on this country. . It has not left anyone untouched whatever their hierarchy in society maybe. From the politically powerful to the man lowest down in society, terrorism has in some way touched their lives, irrespective of which race or religion they belong to.
The late Lakshman Kadirgamar was a victim of an act of terrorism. If I say “a senseless act of terrorism”, I would be stating the obvious because sensible people will not resort to terrorism on any grounds. Lakshman Kadirgarmar was not the run-of-the-mill politician we had got all too familiar with but was an exceptional person and was killed because he refused to compromise on his strong belief that terrorism should not be used as a tool to achieve political ends. Major General Janaka Perera, the most recent victim of terrorist violence was a decorated officer who spent his career in the military fighting the LTTE. They are just two in the long line of men and women this country has lost of terrorism and continues to loseÂ Â Â even now.
The fact that the LTTE has been the single largest perpetrator of terrorism inÂ Sri LankaÂ is well known. The notoriety that the LTTE gained since its first political assassination of the Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappa in 1975 has continued to grow over the years with its leadership showing no remorse for any of the heinous crimes committed in the name of gaining self determination for the Tamils of Sri Lanka. . They have not spared any Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslim leader that stood in their way of their outrageous claim of being the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people.
The Tamil people of this country have many grievances and they need to be addressed urgently and through the political process. But while every Sinhalese leaders that has lead this country maybe guilty of playing the race card as a short cut to gain political power and then failing to address the problems faced by minority communities, there can be no Sinhala leader or political party that is guilty of bringing upon the Tamil people of this country more suffering than the LTTE has done.Â The Group has eliminated one Tamil leader after the other, killed thousands of civilians and continues to conscript young men and women to fight a war so that the LTTE leader Prabhakaran can some day proclaim himself as the sole representative of the Tamils and sit on a throne and rule over his own kingdom.
Maybe President Mahinda Rajapaksa is thinking of his political survival when he beats the war drums and says”I will not stop till terrorism is defeated in the country.” But what ever our political differences maybe, if there is one issue on which all Sri Lankan need to unite, it is to end the terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE.
In the words of the Former Australian Foreign Minister , there is no political or religious causeÂ which justifies terrorism and no cause is so great that it justifies deliberately murdering innocent men, women and, in particular , children. “Here inÂ Sri Lanka, if those who use terror as a toll of politics think they can win, they will continue the struggle. If they are persuaded they can never win, eventually they will lose enthusiasm for the cause. All decent people must vigorously oppose terrorism as a tool of politics.” Mr.Downer said.
While it is crystal clear by now that no means of persuasion will make the LTTE deviate form his murderous path, the Government has a responsibility to dissuade people who may be sympathetic towards the LTTE, particularly the Tamil people by doing more to win them over. This cannot be done by high handed military tactics but by offering the Tamil people the right to live with dignity and self respect in areas where they are a majority. The political process needs top go hand in hand with the military offensive if people are to be convinced that the LTTE has brought nothing but suffering and destruction to people and that acts of terrorism will never pave the way for people win their political rights. Unfortunately, this administration has alienated the Tamil people by over zealously perusing the military drive and totally forgetting to address the underlying cause which allowed a group like the LTTE to win sympathy with the Tamil population and become a strong force.
If terrorism is to be truly defeated, this needs to change now.