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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 9, 2006).

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 them.

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 Japan Times.

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 talks.

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 the war."

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.

Peacemakers

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 negotiations.

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 peace talks.

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 resolution.

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?

 

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