Daily Archives: October 28, 2006
By Henry Chu Los Angeles Times COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — In what could be the last, best hope for averting all-out war, the government of this island nation and the rebel Tamil Tigers are due to sit down today for their first face-to-face talks in months over one of Asia’s most intractable conflicts.
Both sides have been stung by heavy losses and international criticism in recent weeks, following a surge in combat that has left hundreds of people dead and thousands more refugees in their own country, forced to flee homes and livelihoods to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.
In such a charged atmosphere, no one is predicting that any substantive advances will be made at the negotiating table. But so fierce has been the fighting that getting the two longtime adversaries to meet today and Sunday in Geneva is being trumpeted as achievement enough.
The violence threatens to engulf the whole of this teardrop-shaped island, spilling over from the north and east, where the fighting had, until recently, mostly been confined and where the highly armed, highly motivated rebels want to establish an independent homeland for Sri Lanka’s ethnic-minority Tamils.
Military checkpoints now ring this capital, in the southwest, amid fears of further attacks like the mine explosion that nearly killed the Pakistani ambassador in a brazen assassination attempt two months ago. Last week, Tamil Tiger suicide bombers aboard fishing boats shocked the Sri Lankan navy by mounting an assault on a naval base at Galle, a southern port city popular with tourists and far from the traditional theater of war.
Both sides, their casualty counts spiraling since July, are now licking their wounds. They are also under intense diplomatic pressure, much of it from major donor countries, to go back to a cease-fire deal inked in 2002 but rendered defunct since late last year, when fighting broke wide open again.
Earlier this week, Sri Lankan officials unveiled seven areas of discussion they want to pursue with the rebels, including human-rights violations and the recruitment of children as fighters, a tactic for which the Tamil Tigers are notorious. Also on the agenda are issues of economic development and greater autonomy in the north and east. -Global Order-
`Let us make it clear. Does the LTTE want peace and, if so, what sort of peace’ The answer seems clear, the LTTE wants peace on its own terms: the terminal division of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka with two thirds of the coastal and half of the landmass ceded to the LTTE in perpetuity`.- (Paul Harris former Janes Defence correspondent).
Pro-LTTE media and agents are creating a general psychosis of fear, undermining the government`s efforts to enhance the living conditions and flow of Humanitarian aids to the Jaffna peninsula. It is the LTTE that is determined to sabotage all avenues of help to the people of Jaffna but despite these, essentials are being shipped to the peninsula.
These efforts by the LTTE are made to defy the International community and facilitate procurement of military hardware inland and also enable the terrorists to infiltrate into the government defences.
LTTE has identified the Humanitarian issue as its only winning strategy during the discussion tables in Geneva.
Despite being crucified as a terrorist organisation the LTTE in their bid for international sympathy and recognition are thriving to rule out the terrorist tag.
The A-9 road, the Jaffna – Kandy trunk road became a major issue since 11th March after the flaring up of eruption between the SL security forces and the LTTE.
This road remains to be the main source of local income to the LTTE who patrol a stretch of this road from Muhamalai to Omanthai in the Northern Province. LTTE is profound to levy taxes and tolls on goods, children and vehicles passing through the stretch of this road.
It is believed that the LTTE daily collects more than Rs.900,000 in the form of illegal tax and other revenue in this road. From Omanthai in the cleared area, an average of 7000-8000 civilians and 1000- 1200 vehicles cross the stretch of land daily.
The LTTE terrorists are in the verge of precipitating a humanitarian crisis which does not truly exit. In fact the terrorist outfit have gone berserk unable to extort large sums from the civilians crossing the A-9 road at Muhamalai in the un-cleared area.
Records revealed that the LTTE extortions to be an estimated sum of Rs. 200- 300 million from Jaffna bond cargo passing from its entry exit point in Pallai.
The estimated illegal tax revenue for the LTTE from the goods sent to Jaffna through A-9 road from June 01st to 19th is Rs.65, 721,821.
LTTE also earned Rs.285 million from goods to Jaffna, during March -April, on the festive eve on the Sinhala Tamil New Year.
A-9 road is at present opened from Omanthai for civilians and transfer of essential food items to the peninsula. The truth in the closure of the A-9 road is that although the Omanthai entry/exit post is open by the Government to facilitate day to day needs of the Wanni civilians, the LTTE is not permitting the people to leave the un-cleared areas through Muhamalai. Especially those between 15 & 38 years of age prohibited by the LTTE from leaving the un-cleared areas.
Meanwhile the civilians in the area have taken measures themselves not to take the route through Pallai-Muhamalai entry/exit point to cross into the government controlled areas in the south.
Many Tamils parents fear that their children would be abducted by the LTTE. So they have opted for other alternative modes of transportation facilitated by the SL Government. They (LTTE) are running out of man power and indeed will not hesitate to take our children if given a leeway.
The A-9 issue was brought upon to give a breathing space to the LTTE to finish off hundreds more of the Tamil youth by having the chance to force them into the Tiger forces. Desperate Tamil parents said that they would not allow the terrorists to continue with their extortion activities.
If the LTTE are genuine in facilitating movement of civilians and goods along the A-9 Road in the un-cleared patches, then the LTTE must move at least three miles away from either side of the road and should not engage in any activities on this stretch or molest those who use this highway stated a Tamil civilians who fears that the terrorists will avenge every Tamil in the process.
Meanwhile some civilians said that they were discouraged to take the land route through the A-9 due to the indiscriminate mortar and artillery shell fire from the terrorists towards the FDL`s at Muhamalai.
Earlier an LTTE agent Marai S. Senathirajah said for unknown reasons they keep the entry/exit positions of the Muhamalai FDL closed depriving movement of people and traffic in and out the Jaffna peninsula.
Meanwhile a Tamil source form Wanni, stated that the LTTE delegates will want the A9 Highway issue and will state in support the `people of the north are starving`. Despite the harsh defeat encountered in the face of Security Forces retaliation, the LTTE continues with its sporadic artillery and mortar attacks at the Security Forces` FDL, almost on daily basis.
According to the civilian sources in the area, the attacks are launched in order to entrap people who are desperately hoping to come in to the Government controlled areas. The closure of the A-9 road has become the main theme of the LTTE propagandists to mislead the world by blaming the government for the shortage of essential food items in Jaffna and Wanni.
They will also have something to say about other anti LTTE groups whom they want to decimate once they are disarmed like what they did within hours of the CFA being signed with PLOTE, TELO and the EPDP. They will talk about human rights violations at which the Tigers are experts with impunity.
Interestingly, the LTTE has already taken its aggression towards the free media in its legacy of banning newspapers and magazines belonging to the other Tamil groups and opposition political parties in the East.
According to the precedent set out by the LTTE, an unnamed armed group has already banned two Tamil newspapers published from Colombo.
Furthermore, recently on 23 October it had banned another Tamil daily `Veerakesari` by burning down copies of the paper taken in the van from Colombo for distribution to the news agents in the east of the country under government control.
Government of Sri Lanka has deplored the recent burning of the `Veerakesari` News paper bundles sent out for distribution in the East by an unknown group in Batticaloa. -defence.lk
By Walter Jayawardhana
Los Angeles:- Dr. Palitha Kohona, head of the Peace Secretariat in Sri Lanka now in Geneva for peace talks, as a delegate of the government team with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) delegation asked what is there to discuss about A9 High Way when vehicles are constantly reaching Kilinochchi and Mulathivu along that.
The LTTE delegation head S. P. Thamilselvan has threatened to quit the peace talks if the government did not open the highway. The Norwegian facilitators have assured the Sri Lanka government that the LTTE delegation would impose no conditions for the peace talks like last time when they quit and walked out of the talks eight months ago in Geneva.
Speaking to the BBC’s Sandeshaya in Geneva the LTTE military spokesman Rasiah Ilantheriyan said since the A9 highway is impassable the price of commodities in Tamil areas is very high.
When told that all problems could be solved when there is no war and therefore it was necessary to give priority to stop the war Ilantheriyan said stopping drinking and irrigation water to Mavil Aru farmers was a kind of a strike like a work stoppage and it was the Sri Lanka government that used military intervention for an action like an industrial strike.
When asked from him what would be the result if the A9 problems was not resolved to their satisfaction Ilantheriyan warned people to wait and see.
The LTTE is more keen in telling more than fifty journalists assembled in Geneva to cover the peace talks the usual rhetoric than getting involved in serious peace talks, observers said.
Kohona told the BBC Sandeshaya in Geneva that the Sri Lanka Government came to Geneva with the serious thought of finding a a final solution to the continuing strife in Sri Lanka.
When asked from him what he has to say about LTTE allegations of humanitarian problems allied with A9 Kohona quipped, “Is there any problem with A9 when vehicles are constantly reaching Kilinochchi and Mulathivu along A9. However, until the opening statements are read at the talks one cannot respond to them accurately, Dr.Kohona said.
Dr. Palitha Kohona said the Sri Lanka government wanted to take up some of the serious problems faced by the Tamil people with an intention of resolving them in the interest of the Tamil people. Foremost of all is restoring the democratic rights of the Tamil people since today those people are being ruled under the dictatorship of one man. He said the government also wanted to restore multi-party democracy to the Tamil people of the area through the talks. He said another determination of the government was to restore the human rights of the Tamil people and put a permanent stop to the forced recruitment of underage children to military groups.
Meanwhile Defense Ministry sources in Colombo said, “the government has not closed the A-9 road and civilian and goods transfer is continuously underway through Omantahi, Government controlled area. It is the LTTE who are hampering the general transportation across Muhamalai.”
Tags: Sri Lanka
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has, according to a report we front-paged yesterday, written to UNESCO opposing the appointment of former Sri Lanka President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as a senior consultant. The AHRC wonders why there is no international outrage over her appointment. "If Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines or Suharto of Indonesia had been given such a post," it says, "there would have been international outrage." The AHRC presumes that UNESCO may have taken that decision, unaware of ‘her past acts’.
Among the allegations that the AHRC levels against Ms. Kumaratunga are: corruption under her regime, abuse of power, reneging on her promise to bring about a peaceful solution, denial of rights of the families of the disappeared to justice. There are more serious allegations, which we were compelled to omit in our report on legal advice.
We don’t intend any quarrels with the AHRC or a brief for Ms. Kumaratunga. The Island is one of the few newspapers that took her on when she was in power and she targeted us for scathing attacks whenever she had an opportunity. But, we believe that the allegations against her must be probed before UNESCO is urged to, if at all, strip her of her new post with her being given a chance to counter them in keeping with the principle of natural justice.
She must not be painted raven black without being allowed to tell us her side of the story. The AHRC doesn’t seem to get its facts right when it accuses her of not having made any attempt to deal with the so-called ethnic issue. Despite all her shortcomings, she was an ardent advocate of devolution by way of a solution. She braved the JVP violence in the late 1980s in campaigning for the Provincial Councils. She also brought the LTTE to the negotiating table and offered Regional Councils (2000). Before that she had offered the entire North to the LTTE without elections for a period of ten years! She was vilified in Parliament when she presented her draft Constitution envisaging devolution at the regional level. She may have inserted some provisions to aggrandize herself in the transition period but the fact remains that she took a bold step. She also risked losing power in Parliament by offering to share the distribution of tsunami relief with the LTTE through her Joint Mechanism. It is not her failure but the intransigence of the LTTE that has prevented the resolution of the conflict peacefully. The LTTE has rejected devolution at the district level (District Development Councils), at the provincial level (Provincial Councils), at the regional level (Regional Councils) and at the national level (federalism).
Her election in 1994 led to democratization of society to a considerable extent, though she resorted to undemocratic acts later on such as the large scale rigging at the Wayamba Provincial Council election. No TV channel other than the state owned electronic media was authorized to carry local news bulletins at that time. She changed it all and the credit must not be denied to her for that. Those who have turned out to be her bitterest critics today were eating out of her palm in those days. They must be asked why they campaigned so hard to burden the country with Chandrika.
She is a twice elected President of a sovereign country despite all the allegations against her. There are others who have never ever faced an election but claim to represent a community and are going places internationally. For example, the LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham, who is responsible for the violence of the LTTE—especially political assassinations, massacres, ethnic cleansing and the recruitment of child soldiers—is operating openly in London, in spite of a ban on his organization in that country. Some foreign diplomats from those countries that are trying to export democracy and human rights to the rest of the world are more in Kilinochchi meeting with LTTE leaders than in Colombo. But, we have not yet seen a serious attempt by any human rights group to prevent those envoys from sanitizing and romanticizing the LTTE.
The Norwegians some months ago had the gumption to roll out the red carpet for an LTTE delegation, though they were responsible for the assassination of a Sri Lanka President and a Foreign Minister and an attempt on another President’s life. Not a whimper of protest from the human rights groups!
If an ex-president of a democratic country should be denied a UN post because of allegations against her, why should VIP treatment meted out to those who represent a person who is wanted by Interpol go unopposed?
We are not short of politicians holding elected office despite allegations of murder, torture and abduction of the youth in the late 1980s. They too need to be probed if justice is not to be denied to the families of tens of thousands of youth who disappeared during that period. What about those who were part of the JRJ government which sponsored barbaric violence against the Tamils in 1983? Why are the human rights groups silent on them?
It is against the tenets of democracy to find a person guilty by suspicion and demand that she or she be punished. In campaigning for human rights, media and kangaroo trials must be avoided and proper process and procedure followed.