- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In response to mounting international criticism and restrictions, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have tried to change their methods in order to project a more palatable image of a political organization. But in yet another reminder that the Tamil Tigers’ only true commitment is to terrorism, the terrorist group launched an artillery attack against a diplomatic entourage that included U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake and envoys from Italy, Germany, Canada, France and Japan, all of whom were on a humanitarian mission to the Eastern part of Sri Lanka. Mr. Blake suffered only minor injuries, and the Italian ambassador was taken to hospital but not seriously hurt.

The Tigers’ previously effective PR spin has faltered, and they have become increasingly recognized as the terrorists they are. The United States has classified the group a terrorist organization and banned fund raising. India, Canada and the European Union have similar restrictions. The Tigers are trying to have it both ways: trying to disassociate themselves from the fact that they are a violent separatist group by, in part, trying to bribe others to carry out their attacks. The shelling, however, flies in the face of the group’s true image and it shows a surprising brazen act of defiance toward the international community.

The Tamil Tigers have started trying to absolve themselves and allay the fallout. The terrorist group went so far as to blame the Sri Lankan government, through some highly contorted logic, for not warning the rebels that the diplomats were traveling in the area. Even if this dubious claim were true, it certainly isn’t exculpatory because the Tigers have a history of targeting both high-ranking Sri Lankan officials and foreign diplomats. Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated in a 1993 bombing, the foreign minister (himself a Tamil) in 2005 and the deputy general of the peace secretariat in August 2006. Also in August 2006, Tiger guerrillas tried to kill a Pakistani official in a suicide bombing as his convoy drove through Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Pakistani envoy escaped; seven other persons died. Most prominent was the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi in 1991, which precipitated India’s crackdown on Tamil Tiger fund raising and operations.

The history of the violence that has wracked the small island cannot be told without assigning blame to both sides. But resolving legitimate grievances requires constructive dialogue, which can only happen under the auspices of a genuine ceasefire — something the Sri Lankan people, Tamil and Singhalese alike, would certainly welcome. The Tamil Tigers, however, have proved unwilling to talk seriously except when compelled by lack of resources. The essential role for the United States, Canada, the EU and increasing India is therefore to enforce their sanctions on operations and fund raising, forcing the Tigers into negotiations.

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