Colombo needs military victory before economy sinks - Aussie Don

[TamilNet, Sunday, 08 February 2009, 05:58 GMT]
Asserting that Tamils have suffered "systematic discrimination practised against them," by past Sinhala Governments, Prof. Sisira Jeyasuriya, associate professor of Economics at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia, in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation last week said that Colombo's military victories are unlikely to bring violence to an end, as the Tigers will resort to guerrilla warfare, and added that the Government is engaged in false propaganda to ensure its survival. The recent news stories of 300 Tamil civilians killed in the safe zone are likely true despite Colombo's denials, Prof. Jeyasuriya told the ABC.

Full transcript of the interview of Prof Sisira Jayasuriya with the ABC follows:

ABC interviews Prof. Sisira Jayasuriya
Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interviews Sisira Jayasuriya
ABC: Good morning. Thank you for joining us. Before we go to the humanitarian situation and talk about that in your view do you believe the end to the civil war there is now close?
SJ :No

ABC: why not?
SJ :I think there is going to another phase of the struggle by the LTTE, primarily because until now there is no indication that their main military battalions and so on have been destroyed in any way; and they are past masters in the art of guerilla warfare, they have done this before. I suspect that what will happen is they will loose territory, they will loose the capacity to control large areas major towns and so on. And they will melt into the jungles and go back into fighting.

ABC: They have lost their last stronghold in terms of a town in the country’s north. Surely after that they haven’t got anywhere to go.
SJ :I think there is not doubt that this is a significant military setback for the LTTE, but these are regions with lots of jungles where these people have been operating for a long time, the last 25 years or more.

ABC: The International Committee of the Red Cross is saying that about 250,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone. How dangerous is the situation for the civilians?
Associate Professor Sisira Jayasuriya
Associate Professor Sisira Jayasuriya
SJ :It is extremely dangerous, because it is a very small area, from what I see in the map, where they are trapped and it is not an area where there are facilities, medical facilities…food…all of that will be hard to get across, and with the fighting going on and the LTTE encircled out there, I suspect that these people would be like meat in the sandwich.

ABC: There are reports of 300 civilians dead, the Government is describing this as a hoax. What do you think the likelihood of that having happened is?
SJ :I suspect that it is very high that it has happened. I wouldn’t place my credence on the statement coming from the Government. I think it is a bit like what’s happening in Gaza, or Iraq or wherever, the ritualistic denial of civilian casualties.

ABC: Do you think it is likely in the last couple of weeks there have been 300 deaths?
SJ :It is very very likely. If you think of the area, and the fact that hundreds and thousands of people are trapped in the area, and the military is encircling and using heavy artillery and so on. It would be incredible if there aren’t major civilian casualties.

ABC: In fact you are quite aware of, and critical of, a propaganda campaign that the Government runs on this..
SJ :Indeed.

ABC: Tell us a bit about that.
SJ : In the last two years or so the Government has been engaged in this concerted drive against the LTTE and part of that has been the mobilization of massive resources. The economy is straining at the edges, and the Government absolutely needs to declare a major military victory before the economic crisis hits, already it is putting major strains. And in order to get that quickly they have to show that they are winning, which they are in many ways, and two particularly because of the sensitivities internationally, and certainly it is a major factor, not in India overall but in South India now, the very sensitive issue of civilian Tamil casualties. So they want to ensure that the whole operation is seen to be a very surgical operation. We have seen this before in other global conflicts. Civilian casualties are denied. There are no civilian casualties. Its all precision targeting of military installations. It’s just not believable.

ABC: How justified do you think are their claims to a separate state for the Tamils in that region?
SJ :I would phrase it differently in the sense how justified. In my view, I am a Sinhalese, In my view there is no doubt that the Tamils have had systematic discrimination practiced against them. At least since 1956. And majority Sinhala Governments never really accepted for the Tamils to live in a multicultural society that exists here for example. It was very clear just a few weeks ago the current Army commander made a statement that this is a country of the Sinhalese. Sinhalese are 75% of the population, and Tamils and others should recognize that they are a minority. We’ll treat them well but don’t expect equality. It is a Sinhalese Buddhist country. Under those circumstances I don’t expect even a major military victory at this time to mark the end of this conflict.

ABC: So the Tamils to continue to struggle for their homeland, what sort of humanitarian disaster do you think this will bring about?
SJ : In the immediate term what will happen is that these people are trapped. There will be, now there is much more international attention being paid. So I certainly hope that civilian casualties are minimized at least, but the continuing conflict will continue to inflict civilian casualties, and I expect that the LTTE once they loose territory will go back into more acts of random terror and so on which has been their hallmark in the past, and I just don’t see peace dawning.

ABC: Mr. Jaysooriya, thank you for joining us today.
SJ :thank you.

External Links:
ABC : Video of the Interiew


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