Act of terror

The Sri Lankan government has declared a state of emergency after Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated on August 13 outside his home by sniper fire that struck him in head and chest. The police launched a massive manhunt for the killers, sealing off the capital and conducting house-to-house searches. At least seven people are reported to be detained over the killing. The assassination of a high-ranking cabinet minister even after repeated intelligence warnings speaks volumes for the security apparatus in Sri Lanka. This is also a signal to the Lankan military of the advanced deceptive capability of the terrorist groups in that country. The hand of Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) was immediately suspected in the shooting. The LTTE, however, has denied any role in the killing.

There has been an increasing concern among experts that the incident has put the country’s already fragile peace process at great “risk.” But the officials said that the government has not taken any action that would violate the ceasefire with the rebels. There is no doubt that the happening has pushed the war-torn country into another mess as it was only struggling to come out of the tsunami disaster. The Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. The civil war killed nearly 65,000 people before a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire in 2002 came into force. The assassination is bound to further strain the shaky ceasefire accord between the government and the Tigers. The truce, in place since February 2002, has been threatened by recent violence and the suspension of talks in 2003.

Kadirgamar, 73, had successfully campaigned in countries, including the US and Britain, to declare the LTTE a terrorist organisation. Even though he was an ethnic Tamil himself, he vehemently opposed negotiations with the LTTE at one point, but he participated in recent peace talks. He continued to oppose a number of key issues, including a separate Tamil homeland. He was considered a close adviser to the president. Irrespective of all the claims, the brutal murder of a senior citizen is a cowardly act. The world leaders, including King Gyanendra, have condemned the assassination as an “act of terror,” and terrorism in all its forms has to be condemned.