Hawks calling the shots in Sri Lanka: analysts

Aug 1, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s ordering in of war planes and artillery to open a minor irrigation canal blocked by Tiger rebels is an over-reaction and a sign hawks are calling the shots, analysts said Tuesday. “Water is the life blood and very important, but could this not have been settled through negotiations without sending war planes,” former Sri Lankan foreign secretary Nanda Godage asked.

Heavy fighting was raging for the seventh straight day Tuesday in the northeastern port district of Trincomalee, where rebels have mounted a blockade of a canal depriving water to thousands of farmers.

“The question that is now being asked is if this does not signal the hawks taking over the defense establishment,” Godage said. “This could lead to a full conflagaration and this becoming a prestige battle.”

He said President Mahinda Rajapakse himself has been calling for peace and that the military action went contrary to his public stance, giving the impression that some hardline elements may be exerting influence.

Analysts said the real reasons for the fierce fighting could run deeper than the government’s explanation that it has launched a “humanitarian gesture” aimed at ending the Tamil Tiger blockade