Daily Archives: December 5, 2006

JVP gives an ultimatum to government to de-merge

By Walter Jayawardhana

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) parliamentarian Jayantha Weerasekera addressing a meeting in troubled Eastern Province said his party was giving an ultimatum to the government of  Sri Lanka to implement a verdict delivered by the Supreme Court to de-merge the administrative provinces of Eastern and Northern areas of the country.

Addressing a meeting at Ampara , the JVP parliamentarian from Trincomalee District said if the verdict of the Supreme Court, delivered October 16, is not carried out by the end of the year the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa will have to face the consequences of a political agitation the JVP would organize all over the country.

The meeting at Ampara was held to pay tribute of the people and felicitate the three lawyers who argued for the case H. L. de Silva, S. L. Gunasekera and Gomin Dayasiri and politicians of the JVP who worked for that cause.

 Weerasekera said the whole nation is indebted to the three lawyers who argued out this case very doggedly and skillfully to save the  rights of the majority of the voters in the Eastern Province .

India on the insistence of varied Tamil guerilla groups and the political party, Tamil United Liberation Front in the 1980’s forced the merging of the two provinces and made it a condition of the Indo-Lanka agreement of 1987.

At the time the majority of the province, namely the Sinhalese and the Muslims argued against it. Since then the breakaway Karuna group from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who hail from the Eastern Province have also joined the club since they are opposed to the Vanni faction of the LTTE led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, who mainly hail from the Northern Province . The cultural differences between the two Tamil groups may have contributed to the schism, some have pointed out.

But still Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) led by government minister Douglas Devananda and political parties like People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam led by Siddharthan and Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) led by Ananda Sangaree, all of them of Northern Province origin keep their faith in the India imposed merger.

Jayantha Weerasekera said according to the Supreme Court verdict two governors should be appointed and two provincial councils should be elected to serve the two areas immediately to fulfill the wishes and aspirations of the majority of the people of Eastern Province .

Junius Jayewardene who signed the Indo Lanka agreement from the beginning had his public reservations about the merger since the he thought it would ease the LTTE to secede if the two provinces were kept merged.

So he included in the 1987 agreement a clause that a referendum would be held in the eastern wing to decide if the merger should become permanent or a de-merger should take place.

But Prime Minister Gandhi promised Sri Lankan Tamils that the merger would in effect be permanent and that the proposed referendum would never be held, despite that being part of the agreement.

Jayewardene also publicly included a condition in the Provincial Councils Act, the enabling legislation for merging the north and east, that all weapons held by Tamil militants should be given up before a merger can be proclaimed. As expected the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) never gave up all its weaponry. Relations between the LTTE and the Tamil speaking Muslims have also soured in the east, so much so that Muslims who once were sympathizing with the Tamil militant movement now resent any Tamil domination.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna has also made inroads into the Eastern Province and this situation was not available at the time of 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord. Since then, major demographic changes also have taken place in the area not very much to the liking of those who support a permanent merger Like New Delhi or some State Department officials in the U.S. who try to appease New Delhi (EOM)

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Subramanian Swamy wants LTTE to be kept out of any peace solution

By Walter Jayawardhana

The Janatha Party leader of India Subramanian Swamy said any step taken to resolve the Sri Lanka problem has got to be done leaving the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) out of it since the terrorist group is part of the problem.

Writing in the December 10 issue of the New Delhi publication of “Organiser” Swamy said any solution that includes the LTTE is doomed to failure since the group is nothing but the part of the problem.

Even if a solution is found including the LTTE, Swamy argued, it is against India ’s long term national security interests.

“It is my considered view,” wrote Swamy, “ that any alternative solution that includes the LTTE is doomed to failure, and more importantly, even if such a solution is found, it is against India ’s long-term national security interests. For India , I contend that a solution is feasible or viable only if the LTTE is excluded, and that LTTE has to be dealt with as a part of the problem, and not part of the solution.”

Subramanian Swamy argued the international facilitators Norway has floundered since they do not have a clue about the problem. “But for India to play a role, the genesis of the Sri Lanka crisis has to be clearly understood,” wrote Swamy. “At present international facilitators such as the Norwegians have not much clue about the cause of the crisis. Hence they flounder.”

In his “Organiser” article Swamy strongly proposed ,“There are today as many alternative solutions as there are parties to the strife. A feasible solution can however only emerge by first agreeing to who should be considered as the legitimate parties in the current crisis. Obviously, the easy answer is that the democratic elected government of Sri Lanka is one of the parties. The difficult question is who should represent the Tamils: Whether it should be the LTTE, which seeks to be the sole representative of the Tamils, a claim surprisingly accepted by the fumbling clueless interlocutors from Norway, or whether there should be a composite negotiating partner of all Tamil parties as the present Government of India appears to favour, or that it should be a Tamil rainbow coalition but minus the LTTE, as this writer suggests.”

Subramanian Swamy said in the article that the conflict between Sri Lanka ’s Tamils and the Sinhalese is not at all and ethnic conflict and argued thus: “Thus, the problem in Sri Lanka , and why the island has been in crisis for five decades, is not at all ethnic since there is no ethno-heterogeneity in the people. Nor is the problem religious because Hinduism and Buddhism, the two main belief systems of theology are, at the very least, not mutually antagonistic. The latter is a reform of the former and respected as such. The Sri Lanka problem is instead a hangover of the British colonial mischief, and because the Sinhala community appears to bear a grudge against the Tamils for having got ahead by collaborating with the British colonialists.”

Attempting to find out the core of the problem Swamy said, “When Independence came in 1948, the Tamils dominated most of the admissions in institutions of higher learning in professions, and the government administration. The disadvantaged Sinhalas resented this progress made by the Tamils as the comprador class in the colonial period. Independence of Ceylon enabled the 75% Sinhala population to attempt closing the gap by a policy of autocratic reverse discrimination. This short-sighted policy is at the core of the problem today.”

 Swamy also said the minority complex of the Sinhalese because of the overwhelming majority of Tamils in the neighbourhood of South India is also causing the problem: “There is also a deeper subconscious apprehension in the Sinhala psyche about the Tamil demand for greater devolution: their own ‘minority complex’. Though the Sinhala community constitutes over 75 per cent of the population of Sri Lanka, it views the Tamils not as a minority but as part of the looming Tamil political and demographic presence to the north of the island in Indian peninsular area of Tamil Nadu, which has a population of 65+ million, and seen as the natural support base for Sri Lankan Tamils. This makes the Sinhalas feel threatened by a possible dismemberment of their country—a division which could be initiated by India under pressure from its own Tamil citizens.”

When Sri Lanka adopts a federal constitution Swamy suggested that India should intervene in the following fashion:  “ India has an obligation to intervene on the side of the Sri Lankan government and destruct the LTTE. Either Sri Lanka adopts this solution on its own, or India prods it in ways known to all. There is not much time to lose because India has to fix the LTTE for the following reasons. First, India had trained the LTTE in 1980s and created the Frankenstein monster. Hence, India has to atone for it by actions to disband and wind up the LTTE.

“Second, despite enjoying India’s hospitality for years, and after welcoming the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement in 1987, the LTTE teamed up with the Sinhala hardliner President Premadasa and betrayed India by killing more than a thousand Indian army personnel of the IPKF sent to the island to enforce the said Agreement. The betrayal and loss of lives of our valiant jawans have to be avenged to keep up the morale of the Indian armed forces.

 “Third, as the Home Ministry 2005 Annual Report to Parliament states, LTTE has been targeting pro-Indian Sri Lanka politicians and assassinating them. For the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, an Indian trial court has already declared accused no-1 the LTTE chief, V. Prabhakaran as a proclaimed offender, and the Interpol has issued a Red Comer Notice for apprehending him. India is thus obligated to search for Prabhakaran and to teach the LTTE a lesson in a language they will understand, and to immobilize them enough to deter them in the future from engaging in any murderous and terrorist activities against India and Indian interests.

“Fourth, the LTTE interferes in the internal affairs of India by financing stooge Indian political parties, in providing training to Indian militant and extremist organisations, and by extending insurgency infrastructure to bandits such as Veerappan and his forest gang. It also launders black money of Indian politicians through it’s illegal Eelam Bank in the Jaffna area. India cannot allow such erosion of law and order within it’s own borders.

“Fifth, the LTTE is a part of the international terror network of Al Qaeda and is aided by ISI of Pakistan to smuggle narcotics into India, circulate fake currency notes to buy medicines and diesel, to smuggle out antiques to Italy, and engage in passport fabrication, and hawala operations.

“Time is at hand, therefore, for India to effectively contribute to the war against terrorism and in promotion of democracy by targeting the LTTE sincerely and effectively, which is also in the larger national interest of security and national integrity.

“There is today a window of opportunity due to international consensus against the LTTE, and we must seize it now, provided the Sinhala majority overcomes its silly resistance to devolution, and takes the Tamils as equal partners in building the future of Sri Lanka as a democratic and peaceful nation.” 

Contrasting performances in India

by Dayan Jayatilleka

"…as long as they accept, as we have previously said, our condition of being a country that will not tolerate shadows over its independence, and based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, non-intervention and mutual respect."- Raul Castro (Dec 2, 2006) 

Most Sri Lankans would be greatly relieved that war veteran, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse escaped the Tigers’ suicide terrorism. The lesson is clear: unless we pre-empt them, they will come for us and decapitate our nation. Of course preventive self defence does not mean doing so in the ill-thought out manner of Jayasikuru/Agnikheela/Muhamalai.

Mahinda’s Innings

Any patriotic Sri Lankan would also be pleased with the performance in India, of President Rajapakse and his team, including, prominently, Minister Douglas Devananda, who turned 50 just a few weeks before. (This despite Mahinda’s alleged marginalisation of Tamil democratic allies). On Indian soil, Mahinda Rajapakse held his ground, refusing to be cowed or crowded, declining to retreat from his representation and defence of the Sri Lankan position that:

(i) The LTTE has been waging a war of aggression, eschewing chances for a negotiated peace.

(ii) The democratic Sri Lankan state has the inalienable right to self-defence and prioritisation of national security.

(iii) The state is doing its best for Tamil civilians, and casualties among them have been inadvertent – due to the LTTE’s human shield tactics and "the fog of war"; some episodes are under investigation

(iv) The Sri Lankan government’s position is not militarist, the door is open for negotiations; with or without the LTTE the political reform component is maximum devolution either within a unitary state or a state that is neither unitary nor federal in nomenclature.

(v) Having learned from the fiasco of the domestically de-stabilising Indo-Lanka accord, this political reform will and must issue from a broad-based, multiethnic and multiparty consensus, which is already on the horizon.

Ranil’s spin

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition and the UNP, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, also ‘messaged’ India. His speech to the Indian Institute of Management – republished in The Hindu -purveys subtle propaganda not merely against the Rajapakse administration but also against Sri Lanka in general, and the Sri Lankan armed forces in particular. Given the dangerous and consciously created slippage in Indian opinion and policy towards Sri Lanka, Mr Wickremesinghe’s efforts only add to those of Mr Vaiko and Nedumaran.

Consider for instance the following paragraphs of his speech. First, his second paragraph:

"After the elections, the LTTE started an Intifada type uprising in Jaffna, protesting that the Government was going back on its undertakings. Karuna’s paramilitary group re-commenced the killing of LTTE supporters. In retaliation, the LTTE started laying claymore mines and a number of military vehicles were blown up, resulting in a large numbers of deaths."

Firstly and most directly, by labelling it retaliation, he covers up the Tigers’ initiation of war against the state mere weeks after the election. Secondly and indirectly, by defining the actions of the LTTE’s civilian front as a protest against the newly incoming Rajapakse administration’s alleged resiling from the CFA, he confers legitimacy upon these actions and actors, notwithstanding the facts that the just-elected president had done nothing to signal withdrawal from the CFA; these protests called for the removal of the High Security Zones; and the civilian protestors were recruits to the LTTE’s new militia and had recently received military training.

In both instances, the LTTE’s actions are made to look reasonable and even justifiable. In both cases, Mr Wickremesinghe engages in a remarkable sleight of hand.

If in fact the LTTE’s attacks were in retaliation, they should have been against the Karuna group or their other Tamil rivals, not the Sri Lankan armed forces, which, even in Mr Wickremsinghe’s re-telling were not the perpetrators of the initial killings. If it were a matter of understandable ‘retaliation’, it should have been proportionate to the original incident, which was that of killing of two persons. Instead dozens of armed forces personnel died in a spate of claymore attacks and ambushes.

Secondly, Mr Wickremesinghe, who painstakingly contextualises all the deeds and depredations of the LTTE, chooses by contrast to omit the fact that the Karuna group attempted a peaceful resolution of their differences with Prabhakaran. It was the latter that brushed aside offers of mediation by civic leaders in the East and launched a military offensive on Good Friday 2004 – aided and abetted by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga – against Karuna. So, Mr Prabhakaran got his ‘retaliation’ in first, as is his wont.

If the killings of the pro-Tiger elements in Jaffna were indeed by Karuna’s men, or any other group such as the EPDP, it was retaliation against lethal violence launched and sustained by Prabhakaran throughout the ceasefire period. Contrary to Mr Wickremesinghe’s insinuation, there is no legitimate reason for the LTTE to have targeted the Sri Lankan armed forces, killing up to 90 in the first few weeks after President Rajapakse’s election. This was before any attacks or counterattacks by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Here is another extract of Mr Wickremesinghe’s lecture:

"The Government of Sri Lanka took no action to disarm the paramilitary, arguing that the Tamil paramilitary forces were operating outside the areas controlled by the Army.

As a result, violence erupted again in March. It escalated after the killing of a prominent leader of the TNA inside the high security zone in Trincomalee. The second round of talks, set for April 2006, was postponed. Since then, seven months of escalating violence have brought a suicide bomb attack on the Army Commander; the explosion of a land mine in Kebettigollawa, resulting in the death of nearly 60 passengers travelling in a bus; sea battles between the Navy and the Sea Tigers; the abduction and killing of Tamil civilians in Colombo District; air strikes within the areas controlled by the LTTE, including the Mullaitivu Hospital; artillery shelling of the Vaharai refugee camp; the Army clearing the LTTE from parts of Trincomalee District; the killing of another very popular TNA Member of Parliament; and the killing of security forces personnel, LTTE members, and Karuna group members."

Looking at this paragraph I have excerpted from Mr Wickremesinghe’s speech, one notes again the justification of LTTE aggression: "as a result" being the crucial phrase. What is their bloody aggression a result of? The Government’s refusal to disarm the alleged paramilitary groups as demanded by the Tigers in Geneva. Given that these groups were picked off like stray dogs by Prabhakaran’s killers during Mr Wickremesinghe’s CFA, how did one except them to survive other than by active armed self – defence?

In Mr Wickremesinghe’s paragraph reproduced here, there is no mention of the ethnicity of the victims of the Kebitgollawe massacre, namely Sinhalese, but there is a mention of those abducted or killed in Colombo, namely Tamil!

The bombing of the Mullaitivu hospital and the shelling by the army of the refugee camp are not explained as accidental – or even probably/possibly accidental -but are listed as if they were deliberate. There is a positive description of the late Mr Raviraj, but no mention – let alone description – of Mr Kethesh Loganathan, a well-known conflict resolution intellectual written up posthumously in the New York Times, and the Deputy Head of the Peace Secretariat, which was set up during Mr Wickremesinghe’s CFA!

The blame for the A-9 crisis is placed squarely on the government, By Mr Wickremesinghe:

"The Government closed the A9 route in August 2006. Under the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, both parties had agreed to open the A9 route to facilitate the normal transportation of goods and persons; and provision was made for the safety of sea transport between Trincomalee and Jaffna. However, the LTTE has now stated that it cannot assure safe passage for ships passing close to LTTE-controlled areas."

There is no mention of the LTTE’s acts of war which preceded the closure and the tactical considerations which necessitated it. This is in sharp contrast to Mr Wickremesinghe’s repeated attempt to construct a chain of causation for the LTTE’s massive violence.

Military Win for Tigers is OK

Finally, Mr Prabhakaran’s deadly speech of Nov 27th is given some spin, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE equated as sources of war, and the Tiger whitewashed as having changed positively over the past five years.

"Speaking at the "Heroes’ Day" Commemoration on November 27, 2006, the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabakaran, accused the Government of making the Ceasefire Agreement defunct by following what he calls "a war and peace approach." He stated that the LTTE has "no other option but an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam." Nonetheless, he has not formerly declared a separate state. Neither has he given notice of termination to the Norwegian Government in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement. However, he has announced that the LTTE is not prepared to "walk along the same futile path" and will re-commence "the freedom struggle."

It is clear then that the LTTE is ready to intensify the war. Its objective is a decisive military victory that will give it a significant advantage at the negotiating table when peace talks resume. The Government has responded by announcing its readiness for war….

…A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in the last five years. The LTTE itself has gained experience in negotiations and acquired knowledge on different systems of government.

Time is of the essence, and it is important that the peace process is finalised with the least delay. The Nepalese peace process, which started last year, has already been concluded and the parties have signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement."

Mr Wickremesinghe correctly deduces that escalation signalled in Prabahakaran’s speech is for the purpose of scoring "a decisive military victory". But he extends that deduction to the conclusion that Prabhakaran seeks "a decisive military victory that will give it a significant advantage at the negotiating table when peace talks resume." Now this is nowhere mentioned in Mr Prabhakaran’s peroration. Indeed, having criticised Mr Wickremesinghe’s interlude as well, he says he has dispensed with the old path of talks, and declares the intention to go well beyond it and set up the government of an independent state of Tamil Eelam.

"Decisive" though it may be in his understanding, Mr Wickremesinghe is untroubled by Prabhakaran’s project of a ‘military victory’. He does not urge the India or the international community to deter the LTTE or to support Sri Lanka in that eventuality.

A decisive military victory is by definition precisely that: decisive. In the event that the LTTE secures ‘a decisive military victory’, there is little left to talk about, except the total evacuation in defeat and disgrace of what’s left of the Sri Lankan armed forces (and state) from the North and East, and as Anton Balasingham said in the 1980s, "the issue of borders". So Mr Wickremesinghe’s optimism concerning the prospect of meaningful negotiations even following a "decisive military victory" for Prabhakaran is to say the least, unfounded.

What it may amount to is an attempt to reassure the West and India, that even if Mr Prabhakaran launches a drive for a decisive military victory, the international community need not fear and come to the assistance of Sri Lanka or hamper the LTTE, but should stand aside and allow Prabhakaran his decisive military victory, for that is but a detour to a negotiated peace!

No pal of Nepal

Mr Wickremesinghe’s reference to the fruitful Nepali peace process is wildly inapposite and deliberately misleading. Mr Wickremesinghe is either oblivious or chooses to obfuscate the very basic difference between the Nepali Maoist insurgents and the LTTE, as stated by the highly literate, educated leader of that insurgency, Comrade Prachanda, and reported some days back in the Hindu, the very newspaper in which Mr Wickremesinghe’s speech appears! Prachanda disclosed that his party sent representatives to study the situation in Sri Lanka recently, and concluded by contemptuously characterising the LTTE as "a narrow nationalist movement… with no political programme."

The LTTE’s Great Heroes Day usually features two speeches: one by Prabhakaran from Kilinochchi or Mullaitivu and the other by Anton Balasingham in London. This year, Mr Balasingham was seriously unwell, but two speeches there still seem to have been! Reading Mr Wickremesinghe’s speech I was struck by the news item of a teacher, Mr Dharmatilleke I believe, who upon learning that his brother, a Sri Lankan army Major, had worked for the LTTE (and that he himself had been an inadvertent beneficiary in as much as his treacherous brother had given him some money), hired a boat, rowed into the middle of a lake and jumped overboard, drowning himself in shame and atonement. It is an example to be commended.

-The Island

They must be like Caesar’s wife

There is a howl of protest against the appointment of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as a consultant to UNESCO. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is demanding that she be stripped of her new post on the grounds of Ravaya Editor’s book, Choura Rajina (Rogue/bandit Queen), which contains serious allegations against her regime ranging from bribery and corruption to murder.

A section of the international community and some international organisations are drumming up support for a move to put the Sri Lankan government and the armed forces in the dock over the issue of child recruitment by the Eastern Tigers, on the basis of UN Special Envoy Allan Rock’s observations. Mr. Rock, who was recently in Sri Lanka, has claimed that some elements in the armed forces are aiding and abetting the Eastern Tigers’ child recruitment. The Human Rights Watch has called upon the Sri Lanka government to take steps to secure the release of the children in the clutches of the Karuna Group.

In India, pro-LTTE politicians as well as the All India Bar Association are campaigning for Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, where they claim ethnic violence of genocidal proportions is rampant. The basis of their campaign for action against Sri Lanka is also a set of allegations.

In all three aforesaid instances, allegations have come to be taken as the gospel truth and punitive action is being demanded with no regard for justice and fair play. True, there has to be democratic space for allegations to be levelled against public figures and states. But, it is too dangerous a proposition for conclusions to be drawn and punitive action advocated without allegations being probed and proved first of all.

Ironically, those who campaign for such arbitrary measures have chosen to ignore the allegations against certain prominent figures and affluent states. In so doing, they have dropped the fig leaf of their much flaunted impartiality and exposed their nudity.

A government newspaper has published an interview with Leader of the Eastern Tigers and former LTTE military commander Karuna Amman, who has levelled various allegations against Mr. Eric Solheim, who plays a key role in Sri Lanka’s peace process and his country, Norway. (These allegations should be viewed against the backdrop of the information elicited by FBI from a group of LTTE emissaries arrested in New York that the LTTE tried to bribe US State Department officials.) If those allegations could be substantiated, then Mr. Solheim should not only be stripped of his peace maker role but also tried for bribery and corruption and aiding and abetting terrorism. But, astonishingly, human rights groups, the vociferous campaigners for democracy and the Norwegian government have not yet called for a probe. The Norwegians have only issued a statement seeking to refute the allegations, something that even a monster like the Lords’ Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony does. Prabhakaran, too, it should be recalled, denied having child soldiers in his ranks at his press conference in the Wanni in 2002! Mere denials won’t do.

If what Karuna says is true, the Norwegian government is, through provision of funds to the LTTE, sponsoring terrorism. It is incumbent upon Norway, which is striving to disown Quisling, who supported Hitler’s terrorism, to get the allegations investigated and its name cleared. This, Norway must do, not as the facilitator in the peace process here but as a democratic country (which awards the Nobel Peace Prize!). It has to prove that it doesn’t lack the courage to do so. It may begin the investigation by asking Mr. Solheim to account for the funds spent on his house in Oslo, if any.

Likewise, the allegations against Mr. Rock that he is an LTTE sympathiser need to be probed. If he has nothing to hide, he himself ought to request the UN to initiate an inquiry. After all, even the incumbent UN Secretary General has faced a probe because of his son. Canada, too, has a responsibility to probe the allegations against Mr. Rock as they are a sad reflection on its image as a democratic nation. He must also be made to furnish ‘credible evidence’ which he claims to have gathered against the armed forces so that the Sri Lanka government could launch the investigation it has promised. And fast! If he provides the required information and the allegations are found to be true, then the government is duty bound to bring the culprits to book or preferably get them court-martialled.

Those who undertake to facilitate peace processes and liberate the children in the clutches of terrorist outfits must be like Caesar’s wife—above suspicion.

-The Island Editorial

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