Japan kicked in the pants by the LTTE
Yashushi Akashi, one of the four Co-chairs (Norway, EU. USA being the
other three), represents Japan's diplomatic arm extended across Asia to
make its presence felt in the region as a significant player. Japan's
role was made more explicit in the latest editorial of Japan Times (May
In a rather assertive tone it editorialized: "Japan has a central
role to play in Sri Lanka. It is the largest single donor to the
country, providing 45 percent of all external aid.
Former U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi has been appointed
Japan's representative for peace building and reconstruction." Clearly,
Akashi comes highly recommended to play Japan's "central role". In fact,
the Japan Times, added: "Mr. Akashi has a long record of work on peace
building and can, with real support, help bring the sides together.
"He already has the incentives he needs. Now, he and the other peace
negotiators need sticks. If the violence continues and the talks remain
blocked, other governments should declare the LTTE a terrorist group,
refuse to have contact with the group, and block remittances from Tamils
overseas that can be used to support its activities.
The government too must be isolated and sent a clear message that it
must end its support of militias that fight the Tamils and halt the
violence against civilians. Enough is enough," it concluded, quoting
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's words.
It is reasonable to assume that this reflects Japan official policy.
Akashi's actions so far too confirm this. Two main issues arise from
this statement: (1) the validity of Akashi's role since there are no
visible gains on the ground to prove his expertise in conflict
resolution and (2) Japan's intention of using "sticks" to the worsening
situation caused by the LTTE tactics of increasing its demands
(accompanied by violence) each time the Government moves to accommodate
The second aspect has to be separately. But first it is important
deal with the role of Akashi's "long record of peace building" in Sri
Lanka and his "help to bring both sides together," as lauded by the
The Vanni shrine
Akashi, no doubt, has a long record of going on pilgrimages to the
Vanni shrine and returning empty handed. Sometimes, he is not even
received by the decision-making Vanniar. Without the Vanniar's consent
no peace-builder can get both sides together.
Apart from the Vanniar's declaration made in his last annual speech
to go to war (there is no ambiguity about that!) his sign language alone
is sufficient for Japanese readers of Sri Lankan politics to understand
the extent to which the Vanni leadership is committed to negotiate
peace. But Akashi never fails to visit the Vanni shrine despite his
repeated failure to persuade the LTTE to either meet him or come to
To all intents and purpose the Vanni shrine is similar to the
infamous Yakusini Shrine in Japan. It is a military burial ground that
contains the remains of the top Japanese war criminals responsible for
atrocities in China and Korea in the 1930s and 40s.
The right-wing Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi's defiant visits to
this shrine repeatedly to pay tribute to the Japanese war criminals have
invariably outraged international opinion. Ichida Tadayoshi, head of the
Japanese Communist Party's secretariat, condemned this tendency to
commemorate the imperialist horrors of Japan, saying: "Far from
expressing remorse for the war of aggression, the current prime minister
visits the Yakasuni Shrine [with] some exhibitions actually glorifying
He added: "To resolve the differences between Japan and China, it is
necessary to put an end to the arrogant and belligerent attitude of the
Koizumi cabinet." Asian neighbours too who have been victims of the
atrocities committed by the invading Japanese forces view these visits
as a sure sign of the resurgence of Japanese militarism.
So is there a difference in Koizumi's visits to a shrine of war
criminals in Japan and Akashi's visits to the Vanni shrine? It seems
that the Japanese Foreign Ministry is yet to advise Akashi that Amnesty
International, in its latest report on Sri Lanka (February 3, 2006), has
listed the war crimes and the crimes committed against humanity by the
Vanni leadership. It points to Prabhakaran as a war criminal for (1)
forcibly abducting children and (2) abducting adults and torturing them.
Does Akashi care? On the odd occasion he met Prabhakaran he came out
grinning to praise the crab curry he shared with him.
Of course, he would argue that he does it in the role of a "peace
builder with a long record." But what have his visits to the Vanni
shrine achieved other than Akashi sharing crab curry once with
Prabhakaran? So far the public has only seen the unmistakable footprints
of the Vanniar in the seat of his pants each time he comes out of Vanni.
So why does Akashi keep on going back to Vanni when he knows
beforehand that nothing is going to come out of it? With his long record
of peace building he could not even persuade the Vanni leadership to
visit Tokyo (no obstacles there of Government providing transport!) to
get a share of $4.5 aid for the Tamils.
If Akashi could not get the Vanniar to visit international donors in
Tokyo distributing goodies for the welfare of the Tamils what chances
has he of bringing him to Geneva? The last visit last week was the same
as his futile visits before.
Will his future visits make a difference? Why then does he keep on
going to the Vanni shrine? Is it an exercise in sado-masochism where he
enjoys the kicks in the pants? Or is it an exercise to lengthen his
futile record in peace-building? Does he realise that each time the
Vanni leadership kicks Akashi they do it to humiliate not only him but
also the pride and dignity of Japan.
But does Akashi care? Why should he? After all, if the history books
of Japan are wiping out the shame of the infamous "rape of Nanking" in
1937, in which up to 300,000 Chinese were systematically slaughtered by
Japanese imperial troops on the orders of Emperor Hirohito why should
Akashi have any shame about visiting Prabhakaran? The Japanese can
always rewrite their history to cover up their shame.
The stark facts of the so-called peace process are staring in the
face of both Akashi and Solheim. After all their failed attempts to
convince the Vanniar to abandon violence this pair should know by now
who is for peace and who is not.
Their appeasing haws even emboldened the Vanniar to demand that the
Truce Monitors should not board the Naval vessels. After issuing this
diktat and after the latest naval clash off the coast of Jaffna Truce
Monitors came out saying: "This sort of reckless behaviour can only lead
to a dangerous escalation resulting in growing hostilities and
jeopardising any possibility for future peace talks."
So what have the two experts done to curtail "the reckless behaviour
jeopardising any future peace talks? Neither the international community
nor the general public - both in Sri Lanka and the diaspora - believe
that the LTTE has been genuine about pursuing peace through
The opinion poll of the Asian Tribune concluded yesterday with 83.23%
saying that the LTTE is NOT genuine in achieving peace through
negotiations. Simultaneously, 75.99% agreed that the Sri Lankan
government is genuine about achieving peace through negotiations. Indian
media too reported that Delhi had told Mangala Samaraweera, in his visit
to the Indian capital last week, that the LTTE is not genuine about
Unable to face this reality Akashi, like Erik Solheim, has washed his
hands off saying that the "ownership of making peace is with both
parties" and not with the intermediaries who come with boastful claims
of having excellent expertise in conflict resolution. Each time they hit
a stumbling block in Vanni both Akashi and Solheim back off palming the
blame to the Sri Lankan government.
In other words, their role has been to put pressure on the Sri Lankan
government to win concessions to make them look good. Their success
depends not on pushing the Vanniar to advance towards peace but in
forcing the Sri Lankan government to concede.
They came as equal stake holders in the business of making peace and
when they fail they blame the government.
They even repeat the Vanni excuses. So does Sri Lankan need experts
like Akashi and Solheim to repeat the Vanni excuses? Both are in the
habit of imitating Pontius Pilate when things go wrong, or their way.
Both say that they are there only as a go-between and they are not
responsible for failures arising out of the intransigence of the LTTE.
But whenever there is a dubious success (notorious example: the failed
Ceasefire Agreement) they crow as if they are the experts in conflict
Solheim and Akashi come with highly advertised claims of knowing the
art and science of negotiating peace. They even go around the world
touting for jobs in peace-making. Now Solheim has moved into Nepal.
Has he moved into Nepal to play a positive role in peace-making or to
lie back passively for both parties to get together and talk? And how
many more times will Akashi visit Sri Lanka to pay pooja to the local
Yakusini Shrine in the Vanni?