Monday, October 22, 2007

Sri Lanka and Eelam Tamils

The fledgling air arm of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) comprising two to five single engine, propeller driven Zlin-143s, is up against Sri Lanka's formidable air force comprising MIG-29 and Kfir fighter bombers, K-8 jet trainers, MI-24 helicopter gun ships, Bell-212s choppers, and Antonov troop and material carriers. And yet, the Lankan Goliath has been unable to tame the Tamil David, who has hit and run with impunity four times since March 26 this year.

On the night of March 26, the LTTE first sprung a surprise on the Sri Lankans, and indeed the world, when two locally converted Zlin-143 bombers flew over hundreds of kilometers of government-held territory from Iranamadu in the Wanni, dropped two bombs on an engineering facility at the Sri Lankan Air Force's main base at Katunayake, 30 km north of Colombo, and flew back without being detected and challenged.

On the night of April 28 and 29, while Sri Lankans were glued to their TV sets watching Sri Lanka play at the World Cup Cricket finals in Barbados, two Zlin 143s again attacked Colombo, this time, the oil storage tanks at Muthurajawela and Kolonnawa.

The Tiger aircraft had been re-designed by the LTTE's engineers in such a way that it could carry four bombs without infringing its aerodynamic qualities so critically needed for safe flying. They would have had to compromise on the fuel load, and therefore, the aircraft would have had to fly in and fly out using the shortest possible time and route.

It is feared that the Sri Lankan government has gone in for US$ 500 million five year sovereign bond issue at a whopping 8.25% interest to finance the rising defense expenditure. Therefore, the Flying Tigers may well be contributing to the parlous state of Sri Lanka's finances.

IMO: Of course it is all rather a pity. But, as I have noted in other connections, Buddhists tend to have a nice turn of phrase but often enough are not smart for practical matters, and are often enough wrong in fact and in morality. The present Sri Lankan situation has at its roots many years of misunderstanding, much of it seemingly brought about by US imperialism during the cold war. Not a nice situation. In practice, a proper if difficult secession arrangement for the Eelam Tamils could be mutually advantageous to all sides. And it could mean gains, rather than losses, for all concerned. But if the Sinhalese can annoy even Arthur C. Clarke, there is little current hope. To be perhaps somewhat simplistic, it is stupid against smart, and that is a matter not sorted out by bankrolling the stupid. Even well meaning India may eventually realise this.

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