By Political Activist –
Successive diplomatic victories and the humiliation of both Rajapakse and elements of his military establishment in the West now ensure a steady flow of funds into organistaions, which are at the vanguard of confronting both. Furthermore, the diaspora have steadily built a formidable political infrastructure that the regime’s missions have failed to counter. Of particular note are posts in Washington DC and London whose senior cadre have been purged of capable professional diplomats. Morale which reached its lowest ebb within the diaspora on the 19th of May 2009 is now buoyant once again.
On the face of it there may be differences between nationalist diaspora organizations. However, equally obvious is that there is now a concerted effort to set aside these differences and work together. There is an earnest desire to avoid the damaging fissures of the past. Also, there is a coming together of those who viewed Tamil aspirations through a nationalist prism, and, as a rights’ based struggle. It was the manner in which the regime brought about the end of Eelam War IV that set this trend in motion. Many rights activists who had no love for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) now reluctantly agree with its argument that there is no possibility of a negotiated political solution with the Rajapakse regime.
Eelam War V will be very different in nature to that of IV. It will be a low-intensity conflict seeking to degradade specific elements of Sri Lanka’s economy with the objective of increasing stresses on its electorate; and, thus, undermine the popularity of the Rajapakse regime. What it will not be is a frontal assault on Sri Lanka’s military assets in the Northern and Eastern provinces, or, a sustained use of lethal force, which it is optimally configured to repel. Instead, it will involve military information support operations designed to influence emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of organizations, groups, and individuals among the Sinhalese populace. This Eelam War will in von Clausewitz words will be “not merely a political act”, which was a cardinal mistake made by the LTTE with previous ones, “but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means”.
Attacking Vulnerable Weak Points
Sri Lanka needs foreign exchange to remain economically viable. Its increasing reliance on sources, which are driven by sentiment, such as tourism, foreign direct investment (FDI), remittances, access to global capital markets and tic flows into its capital markets, necessitates at least the illusion of a stable political and economic environment. These are also its weak points.
If the assertions made by Sri Lanka’s former foreign minister in parliament are correct that “Sri Lanka has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the principal centers for money laundering east of Suez” its banking and financial system will already be under scrutiny by Western law enforcement agencies. Such action will deprecate any perception of Sri Lanka being a safe harbor and impede the growth of new FDI, remittances and tic flows. Sri Lanka also needs access to global capital markets to refinance its existing foreign currency obligations and fund its huge current account deficit. Such access will remain open only while it projects a veneer of stability.
The regime’s failure to control rogue elements which have inflicted physical and sexual violence on visiting tourists have resulted in negative travel advisories from foreign governments. Reactionary tendencies within its Buddhist clergy, targeting any foreigner taking a photograph with a statue of Buddha have made matters worse.
However, the greatest threat to these sources come not from pressures exerted by countries, including the use of oil sanctions against Iran, seeking to bring about regime change but by irregular warfare waged by Tamil militants; who will not seek to control vast swathes of land but attack Sri Lanka’s vulnerable economic weak points. It will involve the use of unconventional tactics to sap investor confidence, disrupt supply chains used to export to Sri Lanka’s largest markets and curtail tourism through severe adverse travel warnings. Such attacks will also seek to once again exploit Tamil civilians by drawing harsh reprisals from the regime’s military establishment, which has shown no inclination whatsoever to abide by the rules of war. Over the medium term it will seek to suck the lifeblood out of the Sri Lankan economy resulting in the erosion of popular support for the regime. On the other hand, hardliners who are part of the Rajapakse coterie argue that this is what the West is doing in Sri Lanka as proxies for the diaspora absent lethal force.
Either way Eelam War V is nigh and it will be waged in a way which is both nonconventional and unique from previous ones. And, once again Sri Lanka will have once again missed an opportunity to heal itself and fulfill its promise. It will also represent a failure for all of us who have strived for peace.