Process: Stalemate continues
15, 2003 - 9.15 GMT]
there have been hiccups before, for the first time the talks between the
LTTE and the Sri Lankan government appear to have stalled on two major
issues- one, the grant of interim administration to the LTTE in the north
east and two, de-escalation of high security zones in Jaffna. Of these, the
demand for an interim administration has taken urgency though both issues
main objective of the LTTE is to regain control over Jaffna which it could
not succeed militarily but now sees a chance to succeed politically and
hence their inflexibility. Balasingham has made the position of LTTE
clear that what they need is a "politico- administrative interim"
structure for the north east without spelling out the details. On another
occasion he has demanded a radical overhaul of the entire peace process and
a redefined agenda again without giving the details, thus making the issue
is clear from the statements that the LTTE is not going to spell out clearly
what they want. The Norwegian facilitators who had gone to London to discuss
with Balasingham were told that the Sri Lankan government should present a
set of proposals for an interim administration. This will be first studied
by the LTTE and improvements will be suggested and then the parties could
enter into negotiations to formalize an interim administration. There will
be no proposals from their side except in general terms.
what the LTTE wants could be gleaned from elsewhere. In the
"Tamil resurgence" “Pongu
Thamil’ rally supposedly sponsored by the Jaffna students though
in fact it was LTTE’s, the declaration read out to a large gathering said
An interim state structure possessing full powers must be entrusted to .
. . LTTE.
The international community must recognize the state structure.
The Sri Lankan Armed forces must move out of the Tamil Homeland.
three demands more or less meet LTTE’s objectives. What they need in the
north east is a "state structure" and this would mean a
"state within the state."
there was any ambiguity, this was further clarified in another part of the
declaration which reiterated three of the Thimpu demands namely, recognition
of- Tamils as a distinct nation, Tamils having a traditional homeland and
the right to self determination.
problem is that no government in power can agree to an interim structure
outside the Sri Lankan constitution. G.L.Peiris,
himself a constitutional lawyer is aware of the difficulty. Prime Minister Wickramasigha
visited United Kingdom along with the Attorney General and
Peiris to obtain expert opinion from British legal and constitutional
draft proposals made so far emphasize the resettlement and reconstruction
machinery for the northeast and not the politico administrative structure.
Media reports indicate that the structure proposed will comprise one or two
commissioners and district development committees for the rehabilitation
activities. As this is likely to be rejected outright by the LTTE, fresh
proposals are being drafted around the 13th amendment under which
the North east council came into being and is still in existence on paper.
is ironical that the present UNP government is taking up the 13th
amendment seriously now. During the IPKF operations when the LTTE was fairly
under control even in their strong holds like Mullaitivu, the then UNP
government did its best to undermine the administration of the North East
Council and went to the extent of clandestinely arming the LTTE to resist
the IPKF. It did not occur to them that the 13th amendment was the best
starting point for eventual settlement that would meet the Tamil
aspirations. It is too late now. LTTE is much stronger now and
believes that it has attained parity. It is also in control of a vast swathe
of land of what is called traditional Tamil homeland. Even the 13th
amendment may not be enough as the Tamils assembled in the "Tamil
Resurgence” or ‘Pongu Thamil’ day have been asked to demand a
"state structure" even for the interim administration!
are two other serious issues that will have an impact on the peace process- one
the systematic elimination of important members of non LTTE groups by
suspected LTTE cadres in areas outside the control of LTTE and the
continuing efforts of LTTE to stock pile weapons.
the ceasefire in 2002 there has been sporadic killings, but after the Tokyo
conference the LTTE appears to be in a killing spree. In most of the cases
the victims belonging to the EPDP and Varadan’s faction of EPRLF have been
selectively targeted. The most serious one was the killing of Subathiran, senior
leader of Varada Raja Perumal’s faction in Jaffna on 14th June.
A senior member of the EPDP faction was gunned down in Kalladi, Batticolao
around the same time. So far the Norwegian facilitators have been
unable to obtain a firm assurance from the LTTE to stop further killings.
Unfortunately one of the terms of the ceasefire agreed to, was to disarm
the non LTTE cadres and these cadres have thus become vulnerable.
14 June, there was a major incident off the coast of Mullaitivu when a
suspected weapon carrying tanker MT Shoshin of LTTE with 12 crew members was
sunk by the Sri Lankan Navy. The LTTE’s case was that it was an oil
tanker with a specific international flag and that the incident took place
in international waters. The Sri Lankan Navy maintained that the
interception was about 100 nautical miles off the coast and the ship did not
Sri Lankan monitoring mission conducted a detailed investigation and while
it could not locate the exact site, it came to the conclusion that the LTTE
violated the UN Convention on the Law of Seas by not flying an appropriate
flag for identification. It had also made certain suggestions to avoid such
confrontation in future.
SLMM for the first time gave a forthright decision and redeemed itself
partially after the preposterous suggestion they made some time earlier that
the LTTE should be given separate and exclusive space off the coast of
Mullaitivu for use by the Sea Tigers.
is yet no danger of the ceasefire process breaking down.
The Sri Lankan Prime minister believes that by involving other international
players and getting a large amount of aid for rehabilitation and
reconstruction of north east, the LTTE will have a stake in the stability of
the peace process. This is true up to a point, but the LTTE cannot be taken
for granted when it involves their core objectives
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Date: July 15, 2003 - 9.00