| First it was the appellation of a failed nation, next; among the lowest productive countries, then, a country where religious freedom is violated and now the most militarised nation in South Asia. These are the discouraging epithets Sri Lanka is receiving after studies supposed to have been carried out by various international groups. Although doubts have been cast on the competence and genuineness of these study groups by parties and organisations here, the world tends to believe the correctness of these assessments and thus the country`s reputation is lowered in the eyes of the outsiders.
The present report, said to have been prepared after a study conducted by the Mumbai-based Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), says the 25-year long military conflict between Tamil insurgents and successive Sri Lanka governments, has made Sri Lanka the most militarised country in South Asia. In this respect, the report says, Sri Lanka has dwarfed the much larger India and military- ruled Pakistan.
What is necessary, therefore, is to make an objective assessment ourselves of the conditions as they exist here and to make an effort to adopt remedial measures if these descriptions are substantiated and to set the record straight if they are unfounded. No useful purpose would be served if we react angrily to these reports and castigate their authors as some persons and groups are accustomed to doing in this country.
As for the latest report about our country being militarized there cannot, of course, be much dispute. With the recent escalation of the government-LTTE armed conflict after a four-year long respite, we see the weapons of destruction being activated on all sides. In addition to the clash of arms on the battlefront in the North-East region, the effect of militarisation could be observed and felt in other parts of the country as well. Not a day passes in this country today without killings, abductions, disappearances and other violent acts being reported in the media. Fear psychosis has gripped the nation today. The people`s movements are curtailed and are subjected to harassment and exposed to danger lurking everywhere.
This is the price that the people are called upon to pay as the government attempts to bring the LTTE to the conference table by exerting military pressure on it. So, until such time as the LTTE relents and chooses the path of peace, the country cannot hope to move away from the present state of militarisation. Most other ills and evils plaguing the country today earning us unpleasant appellations internationally could be identified as those directly or indirectly resulting from this unending ethnic conflict.
The effort of those concerned, therefore, is to find a quick end to the present conflict. This, of course, is easier prescribed than accomplished. The government has every justification for laying down the condition of a written statement from Tiger Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran about resumption of talks in view of the slippery nature of the organisation`s undertakings. But the prospects for a positive response from the Tiger leader are bleak. The LTTE spokesman Daya Master has already conveyed to the government that his leader will not write because he has authorized Tiger political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan to deal with all matters relating to the peace process.
So the government is now left with the choice of either going ahead with its offensive until the LTTE is completely vanquished or settling down to rely on Thamilselvan`s statements made on behalf of the LTTE. It is understandable that the Tiger leader has difficulty in exposing himself to public glare since he has earned the wrath of many for his criminal acts. But there cannot be any reason why he cannot put his signature to a document agreeing to the resumption of talks. He can do it in the same way he signed the Ceasefire Agreement in February 2002 with the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The international community that takes a keen interest in bringing peace to this land can intervene in this matter and exert pressure on the LTTE to accede to the government request.