LTTE women cadres on their 20th anniversary
climb down for talks on truce
Norwegian facilitators have made the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) climb down from their rigid stance of not wanting to
discuss the three-and-half-year-old Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).
have now agreed to sit down with a Government delegation and examine
how this agreement, signed in February 2002, could be better implemented.
Earlier, LTTE Political Wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan insisted there
could be no discussion on the CFA until its provisions were first
move is the direct outcome of talks Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan
Petersen and his deputy, Vidar Helgesen held with LTTE's chief peace
negotiator, Anton Balasingham in London last Wednesday. They stopped
over in the British capital en route to Oslo after attending the
state funeral of Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar. They also
had a round of talks with President Chandrika Band-aranaike Kumaratunga.
to reports from London, the Norwegian duo handed over to Mr. Balasingham
a written note addressed to the LTTE. In this, Norway had expressed
concerns over reported ceasefire violations whilst the peace talks
had remained in limbo for the past five years. The LTTE ideologue
had made contact with the LTTE leadership in Wanni. Concerns had
already been raised there over the hardening of Sinhala opinion
in the south. This was after the death of Mr. Kadirgamar.
had also been concerns among the LTTE hierarchy that the southern
polity had joined hands to support the declaration of a State of
Emergency. Hence there is a significant change in stance though
a multitude of questions over the CFA still remain to be resolved.
They are knotty and not going to be easy. Both the Government and
the LTTE have equally serious concerns.
Government has become hyper active only after the assassination
of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar. As the Presidential Secretariat
announced this week, the Government had asked the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission (SLMM) to arrange a meeting between senior level military
personnel and senior guerrilla cadres "to devise ways and means
of ending the political killings…"
But the matter gained higher priority after President Kumaratunga
raised issue during talks with Messers Petersen and Helgesen. Norway's
Ambassador Hans Brattskar was on hand. It is only thereafter that
she wrote to Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik asking
Norway to summon a meeting with the LTTE under the aegis of the
facilitators and the SLMM.
said the impending meeting is to review the "implementation
of the Ceasefire Agreement in order to find practical ways of ensuring
full compliance by both parties". Though in different words,
this is exactly what President Kumaratunga also wants Norway to
do. She says the meeting should be to "review the practical
functioning of the Ceasefire Agreement with a view to preventing
further killings and other violations."
According to Ambassador Brattskar the venue, date and times for
the talks would be worked out only next week. Special Envoy Erik
Solheim, now busy with elections in his country, believes there
would be an open agenda for the talks. The LTTE is in favour of
it being held abroad and has suggested the Norwegian capital of
Oslo. But the Government is not averse to such talks taking place
in Sri Lanka, even in a stretch of "no man's" land that
divide Government held and guerrilla dominated territories. Modalities
apart, there are some critical issues.
Government has been propelled into an urgent mode by the assassination
of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar after the LTTE violated the ceasefire
agreement more than 6,000 times. A protest has already been lodged
with the SLMM over this. Until June this year, the Government complaints
of CFA violations totalled 5970 but the SLMM upheld only 3006 of
them. Of the 1122 complaints from the LTTE, only 133 were upheld
by the SLMM. The thrust of the Government is to prevent "further
killings" by talking to the LTTE. The Government is armed with
a catalogue of killings and evidence in the form of intelligence
reports about impending attacks on a host of important political
and other personalities.
effect to a mechanism to prevent killings can be only through strengthening
the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. Writing in new provisions to the
CFA would be of no avail if the implementation mechanism has no
teeth. Former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who signed the
CFA with the LTTE, admitted during an oration in New Delhi last
week that when the Monitoring Mission was set up, no one envisaged
the present situation in the East where many factions operate. Pointing
out that the monitoring mechanism had no power to police and was
not a peace keeping mission, he said, "we would have to find
ways and means of operation for the Monitoring Mission so as to
make it effective."
the East, the problem has now spilt over to other areas too. Any
"effective measures" could only be agreed upon with the
mutual consent of both the Government and the LTTE. What is good
for one side may turn out to be bad for the other. This could lead
to protracted delays. If the peace dialogue itself has remained
deadlocked for nearly two years, accord on the P-TOMS (Post Tsunami
Operational Management Structure) came six long months after the
catastrophe. Like summoning the joint meeting, the onus would therefore
be on the Norwegian facilitators and the SLMM to ensure quick decisions
are made. If the past is an example to go by, it is a daunting task.
of the biggest concerns for the LTTE remains the allegation that
Military Intelligence was acting in collusion with the renegade
Karuna faction and was responsible for killing of several guerrilla
leaders. The LTTE wants the Government to invoke Article 1.8 of
the CFA. This provision states: Tamil paramilitary groups shall
be disarmed by the Government of Sri Lanka by D-Day plus 30 at the
latest. The GOSL shall offer to integrate individuals in these units
under the command and disciplinary structure of the GOSL armed forces
and for service away from the Northern and Eastern Province."
Government continues to disown any link or association with the
Karuna faction. It has argued that this faction was not a paramilitary
group and hence the need to disarm does not arise. For over 18 months
the LTTE has documented actions of the Karuna faction and the Government
side to the talks will no doubt face some tough questions to answer.
These relate to the early days of Karuna and his group's exit from
the LTTE. These relate to the early days of Karuna and his group's
exit from the LTTE followed by a string of incidents including those
in the City and suburbs. This is particularly in view of the Government's
position repudiating the claims made by the LTTE. In such a situation,
expediting the process to find quick decisions becomes difficult.
the Kadirgamar assassination has made the issue of the CFA critical.
But the question that begs answer is why the UPFA Government did
not focus attention on strengthening the agreement and the monitoring
mechanism after it was voted to power in April 2004. The question
is being raised in the national interest for a number of reasons.
The parliamentary general elections came months after then Government
took over the defence, mass communication and interior portfolios
from the then United National Front (UNF) Government. This was on
grounds that national security interests were deteriorating. Some
of the contributory factors for this situation arose from flawed
or not properly defined provisions of the CFA.
for example Articles relating freedom of movement. Here are some:
Article 1.10: Unarmed GOSL troops shall, as of D-Day plus 60, be
permitted unlimited passage between Jaffna and Vavuniya using the
Jaffna-Kandy Road (A-9). The modalities are to be worked out by
the Parties with the assistance of the SLMM.
three and half years of the ceasefire, neither the previous UNF
nor the ruling UPFA Government chose to avail itself of this position.
No doubt, such passage would have been carried out under the supervision
of the SLMM. But senior military officials felt that despite the
CFA, this was a risky proposition. There was always a possibility
of Tiger guerrillas taking a group of military personnel hostage.
the previous practice of air lifting them from the south to the
Jaffna peninsula continues. Others are being ferried from the Trincomalee
port by ships. This is why huge troop transport helicopters are
being hired by the Air Force to move them when the Palaly airport
closes for runway re-surfacing. This is why corrupt military officers
and their cohorts play brokers to procure giant ships for troops
and supplies transport and skim a fat commission. It is with such
an enemy, on whom there are serious apprehensions that assurances
are now to be sought not to kill.
The parties agree that as of D-Day individual combatants shall,
on the recommendation of their area commander, be permitted, unarmed
and in plain clothes, to visit family and friends residing in areas
under the control of the other Party. Such visits shall be limited
to six days every second month, not including the time of travel
by the shortest applicable route. The LTTE shall facilitate the
use of the Jaffna-Kandy road for this purpose. The Parties reserve
the right to deny entry to specified military areas.
The Parties agree that as of D-day individual combatant shall, notwithstanding
the two-month restriction, be permitted, unarmed and in plain clothes,
to visit immediate family (i.e. spouses, children, grandparents,
parents and siblings) in connection with weddings or funerals. The
right to deny entry to specified military areas applies.
1.13: Fifty (50) unarmed LTTE members shall as of D-Day plus 30,
for the purpose of political work, be permitted freedom of movement
in the areas of the North and East dominated by the GOSL. Additional
100 unarmed LTTE members shall be permitted freedom of movement
as of D-Day plus 60. As of D-Day plus 90, all unarmed LTTE members
shall be permitted freedom of movement in the North and East. The
LTTE members shall carry identity papers. The right of the GOSL
to deny entry to specified military areas apply.
the billion dollar question is who monitors them for the Government
of Sri Lanka. The question is being raised not to fault any individual
or political party but to highlight a serious situation in the national
interest. Even at this late stage it could help take some corrective
result of some of the above provisions was the LTTE's ability to
expand and consolidate its positions in areas which were previously
under total Government control. This is both politically and militanly.
One of the biggest credits in favour of President Kumaratunga and
even her former Deputy Defence Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte, has
been the re-capture of the Jaffna peninsula from LTTE control in
1995. By default neither she nor her party stalwarts drove home
this point effectively in the years after the capture. Otherwise,
for then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe entering into a Ceasefire
Agreement and holding peace talks with the LTTE would have been
a hollow exercise. The LTTE would have found itself in a more dominant
position holding the peninsula in addition to parts of Wanni and
what has happened in the Jaffna peninsula today? Government's own
intelligence agencies admit that there are over 2,000 military and
political cadres. Weapons are aplenty and their radio communication
network well entrenched. Even if the Security Forces and Police
are said to be in control of this area, the guerrillas have a free
is how a conscientious police officer, Charles Wijewardena, SP who
went to do his duty, was brutally assaulted until he died. This
is why a team of detectives probing his death met with gunfire when
they arrested a guerrilla cadre suspected to be the culprit in Kondavil.
One is still critically ill. How did a so-called resurgence group
encompassing several civilian front organisations become powerful
in the peninsula?
same fate has befallen the East. There is both a guerrilla military
and political presence in the "controlled" areas of Trincomalee,
Batticaloa and Amparai. This is in addition to territory dominated
by the guerrillas in the first two districts. Both in the North
and East, intelligence gathering activity has been badly hampered,
or even stalled after operatives and their informants have been
killed. It has come to a point where operatives have been officially
advised not to venture out. This only means a lesser intelligence
output than what was received.
one blame the Norwegian facilitators, the Ceasefire Agreement or
the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission for this? On the other hand, can
one continue to blame the former United National Front Government?
It is because of some misdeeds, again by a few, that the people
placed their full trust in a UPFA Government and voted them to power.
What has been done to monitor some of the vital aspects of the CFA
agreement since they came to power?
not the absence of such checks and balances lead to an unimpeded
growth of the LTTE military machine? Overseas procurements of military
hardware - mortars, artillery (122, 152 and 130 mm), arms and ammunition
- have continued unabated. A Sea Tiger cadre who fell into security
forces hands have given new details of how this has been continuing.
Contrary to earlier reports that the guerrillas had hired Taiwanese
ship operators to ferry military cargo to north eastern seas and
ceased operating their own vessels, there is now evidence that they
were using them too. The Sea Tigers have been transformed into a
formidable unit with new boats. They have been built in an Asian
country and towed by ships to international waters off the North
East. Some of them have also been built in the Wanni.
the ceasefire they have succeeded in establishing a 1.2 kilometre
long runway and acquired light aircraft. Only two have been identified
so far. It is known that at least one more light aircraft packed
in knocked down condition in crates disappeared from an Asian port
after Government got wind of the news. It was the late Lakshman
Kadirgamar who spoke to the Defence Minister of that country to
apprehend this consignment.
It is now a known fact that the LTTE is making war preparations.
Last week pictures on this page showed how civilian militias were
being trained to help in a future war. This week, they marked the
20th anniversary of their women's corps. See pictures on this page.
week, in the LTTE controlled East there was jubilation over the
killing of Mr. Kadirgamar. Police say there were at lest two musical
shows in guerrilla-controlled areas. Radio intercepts of communications
between LTTE bases in the East spoke of the lessons the UPFA Government
had learnt with men like Kadirgamar, one caller said. There were
joyous and sarcastic remarks.
the Wanni, the LTTE brought down flags flying at half mast in the
United Nations offices there. This drew condemnation from the UN.
But all this was done by the LTTE which declared it had nothing
to do with the assassination of Mr. Kadirgamar.
they not say they had nothing to do with the assassination of former
Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991. How many denials
were issued? Didn't the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in
India crack the case and indict Tiger guerrilla cadres for his murder?
Why did LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, during his news conference
on April 10, 2002 describe Rajiv Gandhi's slaying a sad event. Was
it mea culpa?
Friday, Police Chief Chandra Fernando spoke to investigators probing
the Kadirgamar assassination. He said he hoped for a quick breakthrough.
That no doubt would call a halt to the LTTE bluff.