Predictably, the SLG was unfazed by the speech and characterized it as "the same old song." Sri Lankan Minister and Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella charged Prabakaran with making a similar speech last year and promised a year of peace "but on the ground the LTTE resume military attacks within two weeks." He reiterated that the SLG "is committed to finding a political solution to the ethnic problem" and has acted with the "utmost patience" but said that "Duplicity is all over the speech" that would mean "Every word" and "every sentence." He also wanted Norway to clarify whether it will continue to play a role of facilitator of a resolution since Prabakaran has already declared that the LTTE wants an independent state.
Rambukwella drew the SLMM's attention to Prabakaran's reference to the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement as "defunct" and wondered if the LTTE no longer wanted the Norwegians as facilitators. Charging Prabakaran with trying to win international sympathy, he denied that the population is starving claiming that 300 tons of foodstuffs had been transported every month on an average since January but blamed the LTTE for threatening the distribution and sale of these goods through the welfare shops run by the Army. He said that the Tamils are also annoyed with the LTTE and cited an incidence in Vaharai where civilians protested against the Tigers for preventing people fearing their lives from leaving areas. He said the LTTE's intention is to use the people as human shields.
Rambukwella is bordering on truth by this claim. While it may be true that such shipment was sent to Jaffna, it is not clear if they include Army shipments. Further, by selling them through Army welfare shops, they seek to reduce the credibility of the LTTE and elevate themselves as the saviors. Besides, with most Tamils are victims of excessive force of the Sri Lanka Army in one form or the other it is highly insensitive to expect the Tamils to abandon their fear and flock to the Army barracks. Most importantly, the welfare shops are essentially on the outer fringes of Jaffna Peninsula as that area is still within the control of the LTTE. Hence, to say that the goods are there in Army welfare shops for those who want is true but whether it is accessible, affordable, or even obtainable is deeply suspect.
This is precisely why the Indian Government has urged Rajapakse during his visit to New Delhi to achieve "early progress in the peace process so that all ethnic communities in Sri Lanka can live harmoniously and are able to achieve their aspirations." This statement hints at four important points within the Indian establishment. Firstly, India expects the SLG to accelerate and reignite the peace process to save the CFA which it thinks the SLG can do unilaterally. Secondly, India believes in a unified Sri Lanka and therefore a rejection of Prabakaran's call for an independent Eelam. Thirdly, India did not believe in Rambukwella's assertion about humanitarian crisis in Tamil regions. Fourthly, India now believes that the LTTE is not the only or main spokesperson of the Sri Lankan Tamils-which is a position that the SLG has been trying assiduously to propagate and looks like it has hit a home run. In all, it seems like India is trying to be balanced and disengage the LTTE as the primary spokesperson for the Tamils.
Reacting to the Indian pressure on the SLG to resume peace talks and refusal to join the SL Navy in patrolling, Rajapakse threw out an impossible to achieve offer. He said he stood for "a negotiated settlement and for negotiating with the LTTE" even if it means a direct face to face with Prabakaran. Of course, this is not only impractical but also impossible. The first attempt at Oslo on the SLMM failed because the SLG feigned inability to guarantee safe passage for LTTE negotiators so where is the question of it providing safe passage for Prabakaran. Meeting outside the island is also impossible as the LTTE is now banned almost everywhere and Prabakaran is a wanted man in India.
Apart from the LTTE-Tamil identity, there is a question of LTTE-Prabakaran connection. Is it possible for the LTTE to outlive Prabakaran or even exist without him? Is Prabakaran part of the solution or is he part of the problem? Isolated financially, diplomatically, and politically, can the LTTE survive on the present course? If it cannot, then who speaks for the Tamils and what is the deal that may be acceptable for the SL Tamils who have seen 67000 dead and 3000 this year alone? These are questions that need urgent addressing by not just Sri Lanka and the LTTE but also by India and the contact world community.
The first step is to disengage the financial aid from the SLG and funnel them through a reputable agency such as the International Red Cross and make it accessible to the people. The second step is to initiate a scientific survey within the Tamil region asking for answers to these questions. Right now, the SLG claims the LTTE is not the only spokesperson for the Tamils and that people follow the organization because of fear and intimidation. The LTTE claims that it is the true representative of the people and cites response to calls for bandhs or hartals. But the truth is very elusive and that is what needs studying urgently because if the SLG were to discount the LTTE when it is viewed as the primary interlocutor by the Tamils the region risks slipping back to the times of the much maligned but well-meaning Indo-Sri Lanka Accord where the marginalized LTTE became a stumbling block to peace.