Peace and Conflict

Attacking the North – Marching Forward or a Downward Spiral?

It has now become evident that the govt. is pursuing a silent policy of attempting to capture the Northern-held rebel territory (contrary to our travelling Foreign Minister’s remarks – no surprises there, of course). But a thinking citizen may ponder on a number of significant questions which arise out of this strategy.

First and foremost would be is ‘is our military – our Air Force, our Army and our Navy – capable of actually capturing the Wanni?’ In my opinion, the only notable credit to this govt. is the capture of the East and hats off to our Armed Forces for that. One, then, would not fully blame the govt. of being confident of doing the same in the North. Of course, I am assuming that the decision to attack the North was much more informed and also took into account various intelligence sources as well (well I’m hoping anyway). In light of this assumption I would fully back the govt. on this strategy but sadly it comes at a very, very high price.

Currently, inflation is rampant with the prices of basic goods being increased by unbearable proportions, corruption and malpractice in the govt. has become commonplace with the voices raised against it (eg. COPE Report) being effectively silenced, an over-sized cabinet has been handed generous salary increases and vehicle permits in spite of all this and the Treasury vault is all but empty.

Who will, then, finance this war? Well, there are 03 options open to the govt. - minimize corruption and curtail govt. expenditure and the savings would contribute to the war effort, tax the people or print money. Whilst the first option is the most desirable for any rational citizen, it seems more of a dream that any of our politicians (govt. or otherwise) would effectively endorse it. The second and third options are the most likely and this will spell disaster for a people whose real income is already dwindling and dwindling fast. Taxing the people would further reduce their disposable income and this will be made worse if the taxes are regressive (eg. an increase in the VAT rate). The third option which seems to be a hot favourite of this govt. is printing money – sadly the direct effect of this would be a further rise in inflation and futher burdens on an already weighed down public. So if economic growth is taken into the equation, one must not hope for too much in the near future.

Another question would be IF the govt. can actually capture the North, would this be the beginning of peace? Sadly not. The LTTE would be weakened but by no means defeated. Further, the plight of the Tamils discriminated would not be eased until concrete, deliberate steps are taken to ensure that such abuses do not take place. It has to have govt. and political will and this in itself would be a monumental step (a step forward, of course).

If you weigh the pros and cons, my personal suggestion to the govt. would be that pursuing a strategy of an all out war would not be in the best interests of the country at this moment – we are just not prepared for it. A better approach might be to consolidate its position in the East, focus on rebuilding it, effectively address human rights abuse allegations and concentrate on efforts to uplift the economy – in parallel to this the govt. should attempt to win International opinion to get the LTTE back to the peace talks – even if they do not agree we will save face for sincerely offering the olive branch. Waging a war with an empty Treasury vault and a heavily burdened public might just not be appropriate at this juncture.