Ripples of the
Gen. Satish Nambiar, the retired former Deputy Chief of Staff of
the Indian Army, tasked both by the Government and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to report on re-settlement of displaced
persons in the High Security Zones (HSZ) of the Jaffna peninsula
arrived in Colombo yesterday on a week-long visit.
he met India's High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Nirupam Sen. Today,
he is expected to meet Minister Milinda Moragoda, Defence Secretary
Austin Fernando and later confer with the three service commanders
- Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle (Army), Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri
(Navy), Air Marshal Donald Perera (Air Force) - and the Inspector
General of Police, T.E. Anandarajah.
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Defence Minister Tilak
Marapana at tea after addressing top rung Army officers.
The event took place on Friday at the Armys 21 Division
Headquarters in Anuradhapura.
flies to the northern capital where he will spend the next few days
meeting Security Forces Commander, Major General Sarath Fonseka,
other senior military and civilian officials.
Lt. Gen. Nambiar's
assignment over the HSZ has assumed much greater significance in
view of a number of reasons. Firstly, the Sub Committee on De-escalation
and Normalisation (SDN), one of the instruments agreed upon by the
Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the ongoing
peace process becoming defunct - the result of Maj. Gen. Fonseka's
five-page document titled "De-escalation Plan" being forwarded
to the LTTE, as the UNF Government now admits, without being "sanitized."
In this secret
document, the Army called for the disarming of Tiger guerrillas
and de-commissioning of their long-range weapons in return for re-settlement
of displaced persons in the HSZ.
At the last
round of peace talks in the Thai tourist resort at Nakorn Pathom,
where the LTTE ruled out any future participation in the Sub Committee
on De-escalation and Normalisation, both the Government and the
LTTE agreed to seek the help of a neutral international advisor.
That was in the form of Lt. Gen. Nambiar.
in these columns (Situation Report - January 19), Lt. Gen. Nambiar
made two previous visits to Sri Lanka, one in September and the
other in December, last year, both at the invitation of Prime Minister,
sources who spoke on grounds of anonymity told The Sunday Times
following these visits, Lt. Gen. Nambiar, handed over a ten-page
report encompassing three different aspects. They related to the
role of officer level cadres in the Army (under the proposed defence
reforms), the working of High Security Zones and how their existing
structure could be reviewed to facilitate the peace process and
a possible long term incorporation of Tiger guerrilla cadres in
the military/police when a fuller peace settlement is arrived at.
After a leading
Sunday newspaper published highlights of Lt. Gen. Nambiar's recommendations
last week, the LTTE appears to have not only reacted with an angry
response but also formulated a string of other measures thus further
heightening the significance of the HSZ issue and Lt. Gen. Nambiar's
on reports on the observations made by Lt. Gen. Nambiar, LTTE Chief
Negotiator Anton Balasingham, has declared they will not accept
recommendations linking what he calls the "critical humanitarian
issue" of resettling displaced persons to disarming of guerrilla
cadres. "Some elements of his (Lt. Gen. Nambiar's) assessment
were based on false premises and therefore totally unacceptable,"
he told the London based Tamil Guardian of January 27.
that the LTTE is "not demanding demilitarisation or dismantling
of camps or reduction of troops," Dr. Balasingham says "what
we are asking the Government of Sri Lanka is to allow our people
to return to their homes.
It is the unconditional
right of our people. The denial by the state of the right of refugees
and IDPs to return to their homes under conditions of peace constitutes
a gross violation of human rights."
He has observed
that "It is interesting to note that General Nambiar's attempt
to link the humanitarian problem of resettling the refugees to a
militaristic issue of balance of forces giving over-riding precedence
to an imaginary security vulnerability of the Government troops
is clearly reflected in the statements by Jaffna military commander
General Sarath Fonseka and SLMM's chief, General Furuhovde."
Balasingham's assertions, Lt. Gen. Nambiar's report in question
is only a reflection of his views to the Government of Sri Lanka.
As UNF Government sources explained, "it is only an input that
we obtained to help us as we continue the peace process." Hence,
these sources explained, his (Lt. Gen. Nambiar's) thoughts are neither
"specific recommendations" nor a "bargaining position"
for the Government. "Therefore, Lt. Gen. Nambiar's study this
week will look at all aspects bearing in mind the peace process
and the important need for both sides to resolve the thorny issue,"
the sources added.
Lt. Gen. Nambiar may raise what he calls "tough terms and conditions"
for relaxation of the HSZ has prompted Dr. Balasingham to tell The
Tamil Guardian that they would be rejected. The LTTE has not stopped
campaigns this week through various citizens organisations in the
One was a planned
protest by a "Jaffna District People's Forum" (JDPF) against
a scheduled visit to the northern capital by Jayalath Jayawardena,
Minister of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Resettlement last
website said on Friday that Dr. Jayawardena cancelled his visit
"as residents and members of people's organisations announced
in advance to hold black band demonstrations to protest his visit."
However, military officials in Jaffna, who were co-ordinating Dr.
Jayawardena's visit, had been informed that he would not arrive
in view of Parliament sittings on Friday. In his absence, his Secretary
A. Jeyaratnam, presided over at a conference at the Jaffna district
secretariat where re-settlement of displaced persons was the topic.
Not to be outdone,
Dr. Jayawardena flew to Jaffna yesterday to meet Government officials.
The move appears to have caught the citizen's group and the LTTE
by surprise. He chaired a conference at the district secretariat
yesterday where re-settlement issues were discussed.
however, no protests by any civilian groups yesterday.
in addition to a demonstration by groups wearing black arm-bands,
Tamilnet said residents held a protest campaign "demanding
that the displaced should be allowed to settle in the high security
zones." It added "JDPF sources said they reject Indian
defence expert Nambiar's report on the HSZ issue, as it was one
sided in favour of Sri Lanka security forces."
backed citizens group that has come out strongly in favour of re-settling
displaced persons in the high security zones is a Vadamaratchi People's
Forum (VPF). This "Forum" has declared it would launch
protest campaigns against Government Ministers, Opposition leaders
and members of the diplomatic community visiting the peninsula.
Tamilnet, among the demands listed by this VPF is a call for urgent
action on State forces occupying residential places and agricultural
lands of displaced people in the name of HSZs. Demanding that they
quit the area, the VPF has said armed forces should vacate houses
and other public buildings in areas that are not declared as HSZs.
of civilian organisations and formulating agitational campaigns
over the HSZ issue through them when Lt. Gen. Nambiar is to undertake
his assignment is significant indeed.
moves are clearly intended to highlight the LTTE's consistent demand
that HSZs should make way, sooner than later, for the re-settlement
programmes that are under-way.
Even if the
issue is currently on hold, negotiators will undoubtedly have to
clear the HSZ hurdle to talk about core issues.
If it is going
to be a challenging task for Lt. Gen. Nambiar this week, his findings
will be equally challenging for the UNF government. Later, next
week Lt. Gen. Nambiar is expected to call on Premier Wickremesinghe
before his return to India where he is Director of the United Services
Institute. His report is to be forwarded thereafter.
On Friday, a
day ahead of Lt. Gen. Nambiar's visit, Premier Wickremesinghe, addressed
a group of nearly 100 top rung Army officers at the Officer's Mess
of the Army's 21 Division Headquarters in Anuradhapura.
He flew there
from Colombo after taking part in the concluding day's debate in
Parliament on the peace process. The Army officers came from the
former battle areas of the North and East.
explained the peace process his UNF government has embarked on during
the past one year. He said there were several difficult areas but
asserted his Government was determined to go through with the process.
Tilak Marapana, who also addressed the closed door meeting paid
tribute to the sacrifices made by the Security Forces.
He said it
was because of their contribution that it has been possible for
the government to indulge in the ongoing peace process.
asserted the need for the Security Forces to be prepared at all
times to meet any threats to national security or if anything were
to go wrong. Such steps had to include training to maintain a high
level of preparedness.
On hand at
the meeting were the Commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and
the Navy. Security Forces Commander in the North, Wanni, General
Officers Commanding the Army's 22 Division (Trincomalee), 23 Divi-sion
(Batticaloa), Brigade Commanders and Senior Staff Officers. It was
the first high level meeting addressed both by Premier Wickremesinghe
and Defence Minister Marapana since the Ceasefire Agreement of February
22, last year.Meanwhile the LTTE delegation to the next round of
peace talks in the Norwegian Embassy compound in Berlin, Germany,
will arrive in Colombo tomorrow and depart the same day for Germany.
team is led by the leader of its Political Wing, S.P. Tamilselvan
and include S. Prabakharan alias Pulithevan and Vinayagamoorthy
Muralitharan alias Karuna.
The team is
to be joined in Berlin by chief negotiator Anton Balasingham.
Both Gen. Nambiar's
study of HSZs in the Jaffna peninsula this week and the upcoming
talks in Berlin will no doubt be very crucial events in the search