Australia and New Zealand could play a role to find a Bougainville style solution for Tamils' demand for self-determination in Sri Lanka



Dr. Victor Rajakulendran


One year has already lapsed after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, and the Leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mr Veluppillai Prabakaran.  Both sides have admirably worked hard not to disrupt the fragile cease-fire.  Although the general public has not reaped the benefit of the relative peace to its full potential yet, many people have started to live at least without the fear of war.  The negotiators of both sides have met 6 times and discussed mainly issues related to alleviating human suffering and uplifting the living conditions of the public in the war torn areas.  The time has now come for both the parties to get into the details of a permanent political solution to the ethnic crisis.  In this context, now is an opportune time to look at the “Bougainville Peace Agreement”, reached between the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government and the Bougainville independent activists to solve the Bougainville crisis.  Sri Lankans can learn much from the experience of the people who were responsible for this agreement.  This agreement was made possible due to the active participation of the New Zealand and Australian governments in facilitating the various processes that led to the successful end of conflict.  This author believes that it will be very useful for both sides of the Sri Lankan conflict to benefit by the experiences gained by Australia and New Zealand as mediators in the Bougainville peace process, to arrive at a lasting solution to their longstanding ethnic conflict. 

History of the conflicts 

A. Bougainville 

Bougainville is an island, 10,000 km2 in size, situated in the Solomon Sea between PNG and Solomon Island (SI) and has a population of 160,000 people.  People in this island speak English and Pidgin languages.  The French explorer Louis de Bougainville sighted the island in 1768 and named the island after himself.  By an agreement in 1899, between Germany and Great Britain, Bougainville was separated from the rest of the SI and remained under German control, while the SI went to Great Britain.  Bougainvilleans objected to this separation from SI.  During World War I, Australians occupied Bougainville and after the defeat of Germany, the German territories collectively called New Guniea, became mandate territories of the League of Nations, and in 1920, were placed under Australian administration.  During World War II, Japanese occupied the island in 1942 and by 1944 the US troops have overtaken the island.  After the war, Bougainville was again put under Australian administration, but this time as a United Nations trust territory.  By 1960 Australian geologists found copper in the island and began large scale prospecting by 1963.  In 1968 elections were held throughout PNG.  Bougainville called for a referendum on secession at this juncture, but the PNG government did not honour this request.  Self-government was given to PNG in December 1973 and full independence from Australia in September 1975.  Two weeks before PNG gained its independence, Bougainville unilaterally declared its independence emphasising its wishes to remain separate from the new state of PNG.  Bougainville appealed to the United Nations (UN), but without success.  A year later, negotiations with the PNG government resulted in an agreement for limited autonomy and Bougainville became a province of PNG.  According to this agreement Bougainville was to have its own Provincial government.  Many Bougainvilleans complained that the people did not democratically elect the Bougainvilleans on the delegation that signed the 1976 agreement.  By 1988 it became increasingly clear to Bougainvilleans that mining profits from an Australian joint venture on the island were not benefiting them and that the mining activity was seriously damaging the island's environment.  This paved the way for the tension that existed between the PNG government and the Bougainvilleans to escalate into violence.  In the same year, an organised group of traditional landowners, who later came to known as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) forcibly closed the mine and demanded the re-negotiations of contracts.  PNG government responded by sending in the Police Riot Squad and then the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF), which caused the displacement of 24,000 villagers.  This struggle to close the mine escalated into a struggle for self-determination and indigenous control of the land as the population of Bougainville turned massively against PNG administration.  As a result, in April 1990 the PNGDF left the island defeated and imposed a sea blockade on the island.  On May 17, 1990, Bougainville unilaterally declared its independence from PNG officially for the second time and established the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG).  In response to this, taking advantage of the hardships caused by the blockade, PNGDF re-invaded Bougainville.  By 1991, the PNGDF "illegally" using Australian donated helicopters and Australian and New Zealand commercial pilots, as well as being funded via Australian and international aid programs, continued to be unable to defeat the BRA.  As a result the PNG government imposed a blockade around the island preventing even the Red Cross from giving humanitarian aid, whilst continuing military offensives.  It is estimated that over 20,000 Bougainvilleans died from 1990 - 1996.  During this time, some Bougainvilleans fought on the side of PNGDF against the BRA.  These Bougainvilleans formed the Bougainville Resistance Fighters (BRF).  During this crisis, it is alleged by many sources that many crimes including rape, torture, killing of civilians and destruction of property were committed by the PNGDF.  As a result people either joined the BRA, the BRF, sought safety in PNG-controlled 'Care Centres' or fled to 'Care Centres' in the SI.         

B.     "Thamil Eelam" (North-East province of Sri Lanka) 

"Thamil Eelam", claimed by the Tamils as their homeland, is 17,651 km2 in size comprising the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka and has a population of approximately 2,500,000 (2000 estimates), even after the large scale exodus of people from the region due to the ethnic war.  The present republic of Sri Lanka (former Ceylon) is in reality a union of "'Sinhala Land'" and "Thamil Eelam".  The fact that the Tamil nation has been living in this country from pre-historic times enjoying its sovereign rights under a state of its own is recorded in no less an authority than the great work of Singhalese history - Mahawamsa.  Even before the Christian era, the entire island of Ceylon was ruled by Tamil Kings and thereafter for over thousand years, as a result of struggles for supremacy between the Tamil Kings and the Singhalese Kings, the capital of the Singhalese Kings was gradually shifted southwards away from Tamil Centres.  These are recorded facts of history.  Therefore it is a fact that the entire island was under the sway of Tamil Kings at times and the Singhalese Kings at other times.  From this background of alternating fortunes, at the beginning of the 13th century the present area claimed by the Tamils as "Thamil Eelam" was firmly established as the exclusive homeland of Tamils.   

For several centuries before the advent of Europeans to Ceylon in the 16th century, the Tamils lived in this territory under their own Kingdom.  Tamils reigned supreme in this country with their own national colours and their own military forces.

The Portuguese who for over a century (1519-1619) were at times entering into treaty relationships with these Tamil Kings and at other times meeting them in losing battles, finally in the war of 1619, captured the Tamil King, Sankili Kumaran, and took him to Goa, India where he was hanged.  The Portuguese who subdued the State of "Thamil Eelam" continued to govern it as a separate state.  So did the Dutch who captured it in turn from the Portuguese.  This Tamil State was captured from the Dutch by the British who also continued to retain its separate status till 1833 when, for convenience of administration, it was brought under one all island authority, the Government of Ceylon.  In a minute, Sir Hugh Cleghorn wrote to the then UK Government in 1799:  " Two different nations from a very ancient period have divided between them the possession of the Island.  First the Singhalese, inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts, and secondly the Malabars (Malabar meaning Tamils) who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts.  These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manners."  Therefore, totally disregarding the history, traditions and aspirations of peoples of these various states, the British brought together under one authority the state of "Thamil Eelam" which they had captured from the Dutch and the two Sinhalese kingdoms - the Kandyan Kingdom which they overran in 1815 and the Kingdom of Kotte.   

The sovereignty of the people of "Thamil Eelam" changed hands from the Portuguese, who defeated them in battle, to those of the Dutch and later to those of the British.  Ceylon was granted independence on the 4th of February 1948.  Though political power was transferred to the people of this country, yet the British Queen continued to be the repository of their sovereignty. 

In the latter days of British rule the Tamil political leadership made no demand for a separate state or even federalism.  When the brilliant Tamil intellectual C. Sundaralingam articulated a clear-cut demand for "Thamil Eelam", he was scorned as an "eccentric", and his demand rejected by the Tamil politicians.  When administrative reform culminated in the forming of nine provinces the Tamils were in a majority in only two (Northern & Eastern).  Yet the Tamil self-perception of themselves was that they along with the Singhala people were equal partners forming the new Ceylonese nation.  When limited franchise was allowed in the early 20th century, Tamils saw themselves as equals.  There was also much affinity between the dominant Singhala and Tamil castes.  The Tamil, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan's, victory over Singhala rivals in two successive elections to the Educated Ceylon's member constituency bear witness to this.  Further constitutional reforms created tensions, but were contained due to the principle of communal representation being adopted.  In spite of its flaws this principle of communal representation afforded some sense of security to the Tamils. 

With the arrival of universal franchise and the principle of territorial representation under the Donoughmore Constitution, the composition of the state council changed and the Tamils became a minority and no longer on equal terms with the majority.  Even then, the Tamil political leadership did not think of retreating to its ethnic enclaves, but wanted to be part and parcel of the new Ceylon.  The Tamil leadership under G.G. Ponnambalam demanded an equitable power-sharing formula in which the minority communities (Tamils, Muslims & Burgers) together would equal the majority community in parliament.  This was the principle of balanced representation popularly called the “fifty-fifty demand”.  Even after this was rejected, G.G. Ponnambalam and his All Ceylon Tamil Congress adopted the policy of responsive cooperation and joined the then United National Party (UNP) (Singhalese-dominated) government.  For the first time the Tamils, perceiving themselves as a territorial minority, formed a new political party in 1950 - the Federal Party - under the leadership of S.J.V Chevanayagam, and demanded federalism for the two Tamil majority provinces.  In 1956 the "Singhala only" Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) swept the polls in the Singhalese areas and the "Tamil also" Federal Party (FP), swept the polls in the Tamil areas.  Singhala was made the sole official language by the SLFP government and the ethnic divide became a harsh reality.  The FP continued the struggle through non-violent modes of protest that were ruthlessly suppressed through force.  Even though the FP was prepared to compromise in negotiations, all assurances provided in the form of agreements were revoked or honoured in the breach, by Singhala-dominated governments.  

The republican constitution that came into operation with its acceptance by the Constituent Assembly on the 22nd of May 1972 severed the legal continuity with Britain and guaranteed the sovereignty of the people of Ceylon, proclaiming that the people of Ceylon themselves were the repository of this sovereignty.  In accordance with this constitution, the island of Ceylon became the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.  However, the representatives of the Tamil Nation withheld their consent to this constitution and rejected it.  Fifteen out of the 19 Members of Parliament elected by the Tamil people rejected it and boycotted the meeting of 22nd of May 1972 that was called to accept that constitution.  Therefore, it is clear that there is neither legal continuity nor the consent of the Tamil Nation to this constitution.  It is clear that the Singhalese Nation has not taken over the sovereignty of the Tamil Nation through legal continuity or by consent or by right of conquest.  Therefore, there is no doubt that the Tamil Nation, by standards of international law, does possess the right, on the basis of the right to self-determination, to re-establish its sovereignty and statehood and to draft for itself a constitution and thus to administer its own affairs, all by itself. 

All the Tamil parties of that time formed the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), and used the 1977 parliamentary elections as an opportunity to obtain the mandate of the Tamil Nation.  A mandate was proposed to re-establish the independence of the State of "Thamil Eelam" as an expression of the sovereignty of the Tamil Nation, on the basis of its right to self determination.    The Tamil people voted overwhelmingly for the TULF. 

At the same time, Tamil youths, inflamed by the discriminative policies of successive Singhala governments, such as colonisation of Tamil areas with Singhalese, the Official Language Act which made Singhalese the country's only the official language, giving Buddhism pre-eminence, lob-sided employment policies and the introduction of standardisation procedures for University admissions, began resorting to an armed struggle.  In July 1983 there was an organised anti-Tamil pogrom against the Tamils who were living outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces.  Thousands of Tamils were killed and most of their properties and businesses destroyed by Singhalese thugs.  This acted as a catalyst for the armed struggle of the Tamil youths and several armed Tamil groups were trained in South India with the blessings of the Indian Central Government.  The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was one of those armed groups.  These groups started guerilla-type attacks on the Sri Lankan Security Forces (SLSF) who were sent to the Northern and Eastern Provinces to quell the rebellion by the Tamil youths.  Out of these groups the LTTE developed into a formidable force and fighting escalated, paving the way for India to intervene.  In July 1987 the Sri Lankan government was persuaded to sign an agreement which allowed Indian forces to enter the North and East and disarm the Tamil rebels, in exchange for substantial political reforms for the Tamil areas (including the temporary merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces ahead of a referendum on the merger issue).  The LTTE did not accept this as the final solution to the Tamil grievances and put up a vigorous resistance against the Indian forces, killing an estimated 1,200 Indian soldiers.  Other Tamil rebel groups, notably the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), like the BRF in Bougainville, collaborated with the Indian army.  As a result of violent opposition to accord in the south of Sri Lanka, the 70,000-strong Indian army was withdrawn in 1989. 

As the Indian army withdrew, the LTTE quickly asserted their dominance in the North-Eastern Province, and with time, developed into a conventional army.  Several bloody battles were fought between the LTTE and the SLSF between 1989 and 2000 for the control of areas in this region.  Another Tamil rebel group called the Eelam People Democratic Party (EPDP), also like the BRF in Bougainville, collaborated with the SLSF.  During this time it is alleged that the SLSF and EPDP were responsible for large-scale torture, rape and mass murder of more than 50,000 innocent Tamil civilians.  The LTTE gradually expanded its control over the the Northeast and now runs a separate administration in the areas controlled by them, which includes its own police force and a judiciary.       

Attempts to find a solution 

A.     Bougainville 

Since 1990 there have been many serious attempts to reach a political settlement to the conflict.  In 1994, a delegation of Australian Members of Parliament, was invited by the PNG/Australia Ministerial Forum to make an assessment of the general situation on Bougainville, with particular reference to: progress towards and prospects for a political solution; rehabilitation and reconstruction needs and the role Australia could play in meeting them; and the human rights situation.  The delegation concluded that there could be no military solution to the conflict and, equally, that secession through force of arms was not an option.  The recommendations of the delegation included supporting a negotiated cease-fire and reconciliation processes and urging the PNG Government to open up the Province to NGOs, the media and international assistance through organisations such as the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).  The first series of negotiations between the Bougainvilleans and the PNG government led to the signing of the Margini Charter in 1994, which paved the way for the establishment of the Bougainville Transitional Government (BTG), under the auspices of the PNG government.  The charter committed the PNG government to restoring services on the island, and setting up a transitional government for Bougainville.  However, in 1996 the BTG premier was assassinated, with independent inquiries verifying the involvement of the PNG security forces.  With the complete failure of the peace accord and the inability of the PNGDF to win the war in Bougainville the PNG Prime Minister announced that his government had hired Sandline, a mercenary company based in South Africa, to wipe out the rebel leadership in Bougainville.  International and domestic opposition led to the resignation of the Prime Minister.  Brigadier General Jerry Singirok, in a dramatic move, arrested the Sandline leadership whilst they were in Port Moresby. 

The Sandline debacle in early 1997 had the effect of reviving the focus on a negotiated settlement of the Bougainville issue.  This was a welcome circuit-breaker to the war on Bougainville after five failed peace accords and two failed cease-fire agreements.  Talks were held in Honiara, SI in June 1997 between the SI Government and elements of the BRA and BIG.  Eventually the BRA, BIG and BTG agreed to hold discussions at Burnham, New Zealand in July 1997.  The Burnham Declaration of 18 July 1997, which foreshadowed a role for international peacekeepers under United Nations' auspices, called for the withdrawal of the PNGDF and recognised the right of Bougainvilleans to determine their own political future.  It also called for a cease-fire, disarmament on Bougainville and negotiations between Bougainvilleans and the PNG Government.  Officials representing all parties to the Bougainville conflict met again at the Burnham military camp in October 1997.  The resultant agreement established an immediate truce, recommended a return to normalcy and provided for the lifting of some restrictions on movement. 

As a next stage, the PNG Government and the Bougainville parties met in Cairns, Australia in November 1997, and agreed for an unarmed regional Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) to be established on Bougainville.  An agreement was signed later in Port Morseby by the PNG, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Vanuatu governments, setting down the mandate for the TMG.  It gave the TMG responsibility for: monitoring compliance of the parties with the terms of the Burnham truce; promoting and instilling confidence in the peace process; and providing people on Bougainville with information on the truce and peace process.  The Lincoln Agreement signed in Christchurch, New Zealand in January 1998 extended the truce period and established a Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) to replace the TMG when the permanent and irrevocable cease-fire took effect from midnight on 30 April 1998.  The parties agreed to a phased withdrawal of the PNGDF from Bougainville, "subject to restoration of civil authority".  The PNG Government agreed to seek the endorsement of the UN Security Council for the peace monitoring operations.  This agreement also provided for free and democratic elections for a Bougaineville Reconciliation Government (BRG) before the end of 1998.  Signatories to this agreement were witnessed by the Prime Minister of Solomon Island.  The Arawa Agreement signed in April 1998 proclaimed the implementation of the cease-fire and agreed that the PNG Government would invite Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Vanuatu and other countries in the region to participate in the neutral PMG.            

Talks towards a Referendum on Independence, Weapons Disposal, and an autonomous Bougainville government were held and agreement was reached in August 2001.  This agreement provides provisions for an autonomous Bougainville Government still operating within the PNG constitution, and for a referendum on the independence of Bougainville to be held at a future date, between 10 and 15 years from the election of the first autonomous government of Bougainville. 

B.     Thamil Eelam 

Attempts to address the grievances of Tamils started as early as 1957.  In July 1957 the late Prime Minister Mr.S.W.R.D.Bandaranayake signed a pact with Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam of the Tamil Federal Party (the Bandaranayake- Chelvanayagam Pact), giving a measure of regional autonomy to the Tamils in the spheres of land, language, education, etc.  However, the pact was torn apart later by Mr.Bandaranayake under pressure from Singhalese-Buddhist chauvinists. A similar Pact signed by Mr.Chelvanayagam with another late Prime Minister, Mr.Dudley Senanayake, in 1965,  (the Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Pact) also met the same fate.  

In 1977, the late Mr. Amirthalingam, the then leader of the TULF who was the opposition leader in parliament at that time, agreed to accept District Development Councils (DDC) as an alternative to his party's demand for Thamil Eelam. This experiment also failed in the face of a chauvinistic and intransigent cabinet.  Tamils felt that the DDC was a sop and the Tamil leadership has been taken yet again for a ride, this time by the late President J. R. Jeyawardena. 

In 1985, there was again peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the 5 Tamil militant groups functioning at that time, including the LTTE and the moderate TULF.  The foreign secretary of India, Mr. Romesh Bandari, functioned as the mediator for these peace talks, which were held in the Bhutanese capital, Thimbu.  Tamils put forward the following 4 cardinal principles as the basis for finding a meaningful solution to the Tamil National question: 

1. Recognition of the Tamils of Sri Lanka as a nation.

2. Recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

3. Recognition of the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation.

4. Recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils who look upon the island as their country.

The talks ended in failure because of the refusal of  the Sri Lankan delegation and the Indian representative, Foreign Secretary, Romesh Bandari, to consider these principles. The Tamil delegation walked out of the talks in protest.

In 1987 an Indo-Sri Lankan accord was signed between the Late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to establish peace and normalcy in Sri Lanka.  Under this accord there was provision for Provinces to be merged for administrative purposes and for each Province of Sri Lanka to elect a Provincial Council to run the administration of the Province.  The Northern and Eastern Provinces, the Tamil Homeland, were merged and a North-East Provincial Council was established.   However, the Indian armed forces that went to Sri Lanka to disarm the LTTE and enforce peace fought with the LTTE.  The late President Premadasa who was elected president in 1989 on the promise that he will send the Indian Peace-Keeping Forces (IPKF) back, kept his promise.  Soon after the IPKF left another series of peace talks were held between the Premadasa government and the LTTE.  These talks also ended without any compromise and fighting between the LTTE and the SLSF resumed. 

When the present President came to power in 1994 the LTTE unilaterally declared a cease-fire and invited the newly elected government for direct talks. The government in turn announced a partial lifting of the economic embargo (imposed on the Tamil homelands by the previous government), agreed to a cessation of hostilities, and sent its emissaries to meet with the LTTE.  Starting in November 1994 there were four rounds of direct talks and more than 40 letters exchanged between the negotiating parties. During the initial phase, there were promising gestures of goodwill from both sides. The peace talks between the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE broke down on April 19, 1995 and the fighting resumed.  

After 5 years of bloody, protracted war towards the end of which the SLSF lost several significant battles at the hands of the LTTE, under pressure from the International Community, President Chandrika agreed to invite the Norwegians to mediate a political settlement to the conflict.  Even after the Norwegians met both sides for initial consultations and after the LTTE declared more than one unilateral cease-fire, President Chandrika insisted on fighting while talking.  However with the defeat of her party in the parliamentary elections in 2000, the new government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe seized the opportunity and signed a cease-fire agreement with the LTTE, paving the way for the present peace talks where Norwegians are playing the role of mediators. 

Although the cohabitation between the President and the Prime Minister (from different political parties) is not healthy, the cease-fire has held on for more than a year and already 6 rounds of peace talks have been held.  The LTTE has declared its willingness to consider a federal solution as an alternative to their demand for a separate state called Eelam and, therefore, both parties to the conflict are expected to work towards a solution based on a federal model.   


A.     Bougainville 

The peace agreement signed in August 2001 provides for arrangements for an autonomous Bougainville Government operating under a home-grown Bougainville Constitution with a right to assume increasing control over a wide range of powers, functions, personnel and resources on the basis of guarantees contained in the National Constitution. 

The agreement also provides for the right, guaranteed in the National Constitution, for a referendum among Bougainvilleans on Bougainville's future political status.  Full independence for Bougainville is one of the choices available in the referendum.  This referendum will be held no sooner than ten years and no later than 15 years after an autonomous Bougainville Government takes office.  The outcome of the referendum will be subject to ratification by the National Parliament. 

Under the agreement all the weapons held by the Bougainvilleans are to be disposed area by area in 3 stages. 

Stage 1 was to begin immediately after the signing of the agreement.  During this stage, councils of Chiefs/Elders will inform the United Nations Observer Mission (UNOM) when the people in a particular area are ready for ex-combatants to disarm and re-integrate into the community, remaining Defence Force and Police Mobile Units to withdraw and weapons to be securely contained.  Weapons will be handed in to BRA and BRF unit commanders, who will store them securely in containers provided through the Peace Process Consultative Committee (PPCC) and sealed for verification by UNOM later. 

Stage 2 will begin in an area after the implementation of stage 1 with the delivery of weapons to company commanders, who will place them in secure containers at a small number of central locations.  When and if amendments to the National Constitution to implement the peace agreement are ready for certification, the weapons will be held in containers under UNOM supervision and secured by two locks with one key held by the relevant commander and the other held by UNOM, pending a final decision on the ultimate fate of the weapons. 

In stage 3 the final fate of the weapons will be decided and this should be made within 4 months of the coming into effect of the constitutional amendments.  If no decision is made in an area regarding this, then the parties will meet and reach an agreement on whether the elections could be held in that area. 

The PNG parliament approved the constitutional and legislative changes, which effectively grant autonomy to Bougainville, in January 2002. The weapons containment program is now into Stage 2 with 1,874 weapons currently locked up in containers.  Weapons are owned by individuals and they are the ones who decide the fate of their weapons.  Bougainvilleans officially said farewell to the PNGDF soldiers in the first week of April 2003.  These soldiers were left the island as the final stage of the partial withdrawal of the PNGDF as agreed upon in the peace agreement. A timeline for the consultation on a draft constitution and preparations for the election of an autonomous government for Bougainville are yet to be completed.  It is important that a final date is set, because without that final date the process could go on indefinitely without resolution being found. 

B.     Thamil Eelam 

The present Norwegian-facilitated peace process is 16 months old now.  A cease-fire is holding without any major military confrontation between the two parties.  A Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is in place consisting of Nordic peace monitors who look into any cease-fire violations and take quick action to prevent any escalation of the situation.  Several cease-fire violations have been handled efficiently by the SLMM with the effective cooperation of both the parties to the conflict.  The LTTE-controlled areas have been demarcated clearly from the government-controlled areas with a no man zone in between.  Unarmed LTTE Combatants can go into the government-controlled areas for political work.  Soldiers of the SLSF can go through the LTTE-controlled areas unarmed. 

Six rounds of peace talks between negotiating teams from both sides have been held so far in Thailand, Germany and Japan where Norwegians have been the facilitators.  Up to now these talks have been centered around settling the humanitarian problems faced by the people of war affected areas.  Several mechanisms and sub-committees have been put in place to tackle these issues.  Resettling the large number of internally displaced people (IDP) has been the major issue.  There are areas around the SLSF camps in the midst of residential and/or previously populated areas that are classified as high security zones (HSZ).  The SLSF is reluctant to move out of these areas and as a result IDPs who have their houses and properties in the HSZs are unable to return to their homes and start normal life again. 

Although the LTTE has shown its willingness to consider a Federal System of administration as an alternative to a separate state when the peace talks commenced, both sides are very reluctant to discuss what sort of Federal structure is acceptable to both sides.  


From the comparison given above it is evidently clear that the Bougainville problem is in many respects similar to the Tamil problem of Sri Lanka in contemporary history.  The Bougainville problem is the only problem in which a solution acceptable to both parties to the conflict has been found within the limits of sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country.  Without the initiatives of Australia and New Zealand this settlement could not have been achieved.  Australia has also been heavily involved in finding a settlement to the East Timor problem.  Therefore, Australia possesses all the expertise and experience in this type of conflict resolution. 

Australia has been helping Sri Lanka in various ways for her development for a long time.  At present Australia stands second in terms of volume of investment in Sri Lanka.  Australia also has contributed generously to the reconstruction and rehabilitation program of the war ravaged parts of Sri Lanka. 

Canadians have offered to share their experience in federalism with the negotiating teams and the negotiators have started consulting the Canadians.  South Africa has also offered to share their experience and even offered to host one round of peace talks in their country.  Prof. Peiris, who is the leader of the Sri Lankan government negotiating team, has gone to South Africa at the moment.  Prof Peiris and Rolf Meyer, who had been the negotiator with President Nelson Mandela on behalf of the then white government of South African President F.W De Klerk, are to work together to help Sri Lanka benefit from the African Experience. 

Experience gained in finding a solution to the Bougainville problem is more relevant to the Sri Lankan problem than either the Canadian problem or the South African problem.  Also, Sri Lanka is in the geographical region of Australian influence and a significant number of Sri Lankans live in Australia, most of whom migrated to escape the ethnic problem.  Therefore it is for mutual benefit that Australia could offer both parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to share her experience in conflict resolution, to find a Bougainville-style solution to their own problem.    

April, 2003