we really need an Interim Administration for the North-East Province?
the Interim Administration (IA) is not new to Sri Lankan politics, it
never received such an attention as it receives now.
Under the Indo-Sri Lankan accord there were provisions provided
to establish an IA in the North-East Province (NEP) with dominant
participation of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
However, before the constitutional and legal validity of such an
administrative structure was put to test the Indo-Sri Lankan accord
became defunct. An IA was
again proposed for the NEP by the President Chandrika Banadaranayake
Kumarathunga (CBK) in 1995, when she tried to negotiate with the LTTE
for a political settlement to the conflict. This
negotiation did not even last long enough to test the feasibility of
establishing an IA in the NEP. Just
before the last parliamentary elections, when LTTE declared its
intention to find a negotiated political settlement to the conflict, it
expressed its desire to establish an IA in the NEP as the first step to
a negotiated settlement. Both UNF and PA in anticipation to negotiate a settlement
with the LTTE, promised in their election manifesto to establish an IA
in the NEP as part of the process of a permanent solution to the
conflict. President CBK
went one step further and offered the LTTE leader to run the
administration in the NEP with the help of his cadres as a police force
for 10 years. She did not
even demand the LTTE to disarm in return.
If the President was successful in forming the government and
kept her promise, LTTE will still have more than 5 years left of this
any conflict of this nature, before a lasting final political settlement
is worked out, which usually takes few years, an IA always plays a
crucial role in building bridges between the existing system and the
anticipated new system that is to be formulated.
If one looks at the Bougainville crisis where Australia played a
key role in bringing the Bougainville Revolution Army (BRA) of the
province and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government to accept extensive
regional autonomy to Bougainville as a final solution, the importance of
IA could be very well understood. Under
the agreed final solution the PNG constitution was to be changed to
provide provisions for the establishment of a fully autonomous
provincial government in Bougainville with room for a referendum in
10-15 years for the Bougainvilleans to decide whether to stay with PNG
or to become fully independent from PNG. Decommissioning of the BRA's weapons and withdrawal of
PNG Defence Forces were to take place simultaneously and finally
elections to be held to elect a Bougaineville Autonomous Government
(BAG). The Australian, New
Zealand joint peace initiative started in 1994 and most of the
milestones on the Road Map to reach the BAG have been reached.
During this long period, first a Bougainville Transitional
Government (BTR) was established to run the administration in the
interim. Later it was felt
that all the Bougainvillean factions were not represented in this
administration and a new Bougainville Reconciliation Government (BRG)
was created and this is functioning satisfactorily now awaiting the
elections for the final BAG soon. Therefore,
for nearly nine years an IA only has been running the day to day affairs
of the Bougaineville province awaiting the final BAG.
we have seen so far are lessons from the past and recent history.
However, if we look at the current peace process between the Sri
Lankan government (SLG) and the LTTE with Norwegians as the
facilitators, according to some analysts, IA has become the Roadblock to
the Roadmap for peace. Is
this a valid interpretation?
the LTTE unilaterally declared a cease-fire and offered to negotiate
with the SLG a final political solution before the last general
election, LTTE expressed very clearly that the IA is a milestone in
their anticipated Roadmap to peace.
As I have mentioned before, both the United National Front (UNF)
and the People Alliance (PA) reciprocated in the affirmative in their
respective election manifesto to LTTE's desire.
Singhalese people voted for both these parties and UNF achieved a
marginal victory over the PA. Therefore
an overwhelming majority of the Singhalese people (except those who
voted for the JVP) have accepted the principle of setting up an IA for
the current negotiation process began, the first thing in the agenda for
discussion therefore was IA. Because
of the cohabitation between the President and the PM of the new
government was not running smoothly, PM anticipating the President to
use the IA as a Roadblock to the peace process, convinced the LTTE that
whatever to be achieved through an IA could be achieved through
alternative structures his government was to create.
LTTE also agreed to this in order to move the peace process
forward. After 6 rounds of
talks the LTTE has realised that these alternative arrangements have no
legal powers to implement what was being agreed through the
compelled the organisation to reconsider its strategies and after a high
level consultation in Wanni among their top level leaders, LTTE decided
to suspend their participation in peace talks until all what has been
agreed thus far are implemented to bring back normalcy of life in the
NEP. During these
deliberations LTTE have decided to revert back to their original
position of setting up an IA for the NEP to rebuild and develop the
province, while negotiating a final political solution.
Under the present political climate, negotiating a final
political solution will take much longer time than anticipated before.
Therefore it is argued that the importance of the role of IA is
further exacerbated by political compulsions.
importance of the role of IA in the Roadmap to peace in Sri Lanka has
been accepted by the International Community (IC) too, which
participated in the Tokyo Conference.
Many, including the US Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, have
emphasised the need for an efficient and transparent IA for NEP to
rebuild the province and provide humanitarian assistance to the people
living there. Although some
in the IC have tried to twist LTTE's arm prior to and during the Tokyo
conference to make them to come back to the table quickly, most of the
members of the IC seem to have understood the position LTTE have taken.
Unless PM has got this same message at the Tokyo conference he
would not have made all the desperate attempts he made to provide that
IA soon after the Tokyo Conference was over.
Instead, he could have used his so-called International Safety
Net (ISN) to bring back the LTTE to the negotiating table.
PM has avoided, to follow this path for well known reasons.
Minister also went to London, and met the British PM.
Ranil Wickramasinghe also took his Attorney General Kamalasabesan
with him and discussed with British constitutional experts about the
possibility of establishing an IA under the present political climate.
PM Wickramasinghe knows very well that the delivery of the $4.5
billion pledged at the Tokyo conference is linked to the progress of the
peace process. Therefore he
understands very well the importance of the IA for the successful
utilisation of these funds.
the President cooperates with the PM on this matter, providing an IA to
the NEP would not be a mountain to the SLG as it looks at present.
Therefore it is the President who is the Roadblock to the Roadmap
to peace in Sri Lanka at the moment.
What the LTTE has done in the past few weeks is not to become a
Roadblock to the Roadmap to peace as some analysts try to project.
Instead, they have tried to show the Sri Lankan people as well as the IC
who the real Roadblock to the Roadmap to peace in Sri Lanka at the
moment. By doing this, LTTE
has helped all the others interested in this peace process to persuade
the PM Wickramasinghe to correct the errors he has made in the Roadmap
so that all could reach that final solution using this Roadmap.
This is why the LTTE after getting convinced that the PM is
trying hard to establish an IA, has now announced that they are willing
to resume negotiations when PM submit a written framework on the
structure of the IA which he is proposing.
However, both PM and the LTTE know very well that to implement a final solution a new constitution for Sri Lanka is necessary. This is an impossible task under the present political climate. Therefore for at least for the next 2 years, until President Chandrika's term of Presidency expires, a final solution even if it is reached, cannot be implemented. Therefore, the best strategy for both the UNF government and the LTTE is to establish an efficient and transparent IA in the NEP and proceed with the rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the NEP, while continuing to negotiate that final solution. If a final solution is agreed by that time, Ranil Wickramasinghe could put that to the people at the presidential election and get a new mandate from the people, if the Singhalese people are willing to support it. Therefore an IA for NEP has become inevitable now than ever before.