Sri Lanka meets tough Tamil Tiger resistance in north
A rush-hour bomb blast killed dozens near Colombo, Friday. Earlier, the Army announced it had recaptured a key church.
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"Winning the north is not impossible, but the costs will be very high indeed," says Jehan Perera, director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, a nonpartisan advocacy group. "And it's possible that however many men the Army is prepared to sacrifice, they won't get through. What I'm hearing is that when the soldiers begin to see the heavy death toll, they will become demoralized and that will be a big problem."Skip to next paragraph
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But the government will push on, he adds. "The problem is: The government is so determined to show results. It can claim the death of many Tigers; no one knows what to believe about those claims. What it really has to show is the capture of territory, as it did in the east."
Referring to the government's promise that it would take the Wanni by year's end, Mr. Ithas, the journalist, cautioned that the government had set timetables for victories in the past that it had failed to meet.
"In two-and-a-half decades of fighting, the government has set constant deadlines for the end of war," he says. "It is true that the Army has grown in strength and sophistication in recent years. But what it always seems to forget is that it is still dealing with a guerrilla force."
Meanwhile, the human costs of the conflict spread far and wide. Last week, a Roman Catholic priest and prominent human rights activist was killed in a roadside bomb blast in Kilinochchi, in the Wanni. Rebels said an Army bomb killed Father M. X. Karunaratnam, who headed the NorthEast Secretariat on Human Rights.
The island's dire human rights situation also shows no sign of improving. Activists have reported hundreds of abductions, disappearances, and killings blamed on one side or the other in recent years. But today, the country has lost many of the international human rights observers who, unlike domestic human rights activists, were guaranteed a measure of security as they unearthed abuses.
After the government formally scrapped a six-year peace agreement in January, it evicted the Norwegian group that had monitored it.
On April 15, foreign observers from the international independent group of eminent persons (IIGEP) – a group nominated by foreign countries to oversee a Sri Lankan government probe into abuses – said there was a "lack of political will to find the truth."
In March, the members of the IIGEP had complained the government was interfering in their work. They then themselves left Sri Lanka.
"The uncooperative atmosphere has rendered the task of [the panel], which approached its work in a spirit of cooperation and, at first, with optimism, disquieting and unpleasant," the report stated.
Meanwhile, the country's traditionally resilient economy continues to suffer. This year, the government earmarked a record $1.5 billion for the war effort. In March, Sri Lanka's year-on-year inflation exceeded 28 percent, the highest in a decade.