The LTTE is asking for forgiveness, but is offering nothing in return
The LTTE says it is sorry. In the words of its Anton Balasingham, its smooth public face, assassinating Rajiv Gandhi was a ‘great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy’. Further, he has called upon the Indian government and the Indian people to magnanimously let bygones be bygones, and ‘approach the question in a different perspective’. What he is saying, in effect, is that now that the Tamil Tigers have put their chestnuts in the fire by provoking the resumption of civil war in Sri Lanka, India should help pull them out.
Seen from a purely legal perspective, this apology does not mitigate the crime. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s leader, remain a fugitive under Indian law. The court that sentenced Prabhakaran is unlikely to be impressed by an long-distance expression of regret delivered by a proxy. Neither should the Indian people, in principle, show any magnanimity towards unreformed terrorists, whose professions of regret come out of the barrel of a still firing gun.
But the timing of Balasingham’s discovery of conscience has more to do with politics than with sincerity. It recognises that the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was a ‘monumental historical’ mistake because it alienated the Indian people from both the Tamil Tigers and their ostensible cause. The apology is an attempt to work its ways back into the good books of the Indian people. More importantly, the professed apology provides pro-LTTE Indian politicians with a degree of cover as they attempt to confuse support for the Tamil Tigers and with that for the Sri Lankan Tamils. It is merely a new salvo in the LTTE’s propaganda battle aimed at winning over public opinion in India in general and Tamil Nadu in particular.
The minimum the Indian government must do is to reject Balasingham’s apology and insist that the LTTE will be held responsible for the resumption of Sri Lanka’s civil war and the consequent harm that it will cause to the Sri Lankan Tamils. The best way to respond, though, would be for the Indian government to insist that no apology from the LTTE will be considered sincere until it surrenders all those convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Those handed the death penalty can appeal to the President of India for clemency. He is empowered to decided on behalf of the Indian government and the Indian people whether it is deserved. The LTTE’s bluff must be called.