by Dr. Victor Rajakulendran, Sydney, Australia
Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Laxshman Kadirgamar (LK), who has been a close confidante of President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumarathunga (CBK), who used to be in the forefront in directing CBK in dealing with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and who used to accompany CBK on most of her official overseas trips, has been sidelined lately by CBK. This became apparent particularly after negotiations began between the Peace Secretariats of the Sri Lankan Government (GOSL) and the LTTE on establishing the recently agreed Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS). CBK kept the content of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) draft for the establishment of P-TOMS very close to her chest. When she went to India with the final draft to get Indiaís blessings for it, she did not take LK with her. LK was sent by CBK ostensibly to attend CNNís 50th anniversary in the USA with CBKís video message.
LK had to be treated like this by CBK for two main reasons. First, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Peoplesís Liberation Movement, which was the main coalition partner of CBK's government and which broke away from the government on the P-TOMS issue, had built up a very close relationship with LK. Therefore, to keep the JVP in the dark with regard to the P-TOMS draft MOU, CBK had to keep LK at a distance.
Second, after CBK appointed Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala (JD) as the Secretary General of the SLGís Peace Secretariat in Colombo, as JD and LK do not see eye to eye, CBK had to keep LK out of anything that is related to the peace process.
In addition to these two main reasons, the personal crusade of LK - portraying the LTTE as a terrorist organisation to the International Community (IC) - has become ineffective now due to changes in circumstances and, hence, CBK finds little use for LK in her new "Peace for War strategy." (She used him very effectively in her previous "War for peace Strategy.") She may be prepared to ditch him, if need be.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister LK has let the public know of this situation through the birthday tribute to CBK he wrote in The Daily News of 29.06.05 titled "Courage for peace" (http://www.dailynews.lk/2005/06/29/fea01.htm). In his tribute, while LK portrays CBK as a politically courageous lady in making many bold and courageous decisions, including the latest signing of the MOU on P-TOMS, LK has also publicly given some advise to CBK. He has advised the President to "address as vigorously as she has addressed the cause of promoting engagement with the LTTE, the task of making it clear to the LTTE, and to the Government of Norway, that the restoration of democracy, including the creation of space for dissent and the promotion of human rights in areas presently controlled by the LTTE, is a priority of the highest order."
Not that LK does not know that there is a well-governed administration being practiced in the LTTE-controlled territory, including police stations and a court system, that has been visited and appreciated by the IC, he is trying to make use of this opportunity (which he rarely receives these days) to do some propaganda against the LTTE. LK has also advised CBK not to allow the 50 signatories to the Tokyo Declaration to mollycoddle the LTTE, but to make them comply with the benchmarks relating to adequate Muslim representation, respect for human rights and phased disarmament. It is pathetic to note that LK is not even aware (or is pretending to be unaware) that adequate Muslim representation has been given in the MOU for P-TOMS.
The other two issues he raises, namely respect for human rights and phased disarmament, cannot be expected to be addressed by CBK until a final solution to the national crisis is found. The main human rights violation suspected to be carried out by the LTTE is the assassinations alleged to be carried out by them. It cannot be even verified whether the assassinations are committed by the LTTE or carried out by other paramilitary groups disguising themselves as the LTTE, until the Tamil paramilitaries working with the support of the SL security forces are ground to a halt. If LK thinks that LTTE could be disarmed through negotiations and then a solution could be thrust up on the Tamil people, he is indulging in a pipe dream.
In his tribute LK also has said that, "It is axiomatic that the conflict in Sri Lanka cannot finally be resolved until the LTTE becomes a fully civilian organisation with no army, navy and air capability. These issues could provide an opportunity for building a new platform on which even those parties which have rejected a tsunami mechanism could stand." LK tries to tell us that it is an established or universally accepted principle that the LTTE should be disarmed. He has also said that this will provide a new platform for the parties like JVP and JHU that rejected the P-TOMS to stand together. In other words, he is suggesting yhat CBK make the LTTE dismantle its forces for the sake of unity among southern political parties! It is too late to persuade the LTTE to dismantle its army, navy and air capability. If today were 15 years back, CBK might have tried with a big devolution package to persuade the LTTE. Now, at a time when the IC is recognising that there are two power centres operating in Sri Lanka, namely the GOSL and the LTTE, LKís expectations look out of date.
LK has alleged in his tribute article that the Norwegian facilitators are not impartial. LK cites the reason for his allegation as the failure of the Norwegians to serve the cause of Sri Lanka in the resolution of the conflict. In other words LK is trying to tell CBK and us that the Norwegians are not impartial because they did not take the side of the GOSL in the conflict resolution process. LK seems to be no exception to the usual Singhalese chauvinistic perception of impartiality with regards to ethnic conflict - 'if you are not with us, you are against us.'
The final message LK has given to PCBK and us through his birthday tribute is that Norway should step aside and let some others to do their facilitator job if they cannot bring democracy to certain districts of the NorthEast. While the whole IC is praising the Norwegians for their role in Sri Lanka, LKís suggestion for Norway to step aside illustrates the frustration he is going through because of his inability to hoodwink the Norwegians and carry out his own political agenda vis-ŗ-vis forcing a solution to the ethnic conflict. By bringing these usual, closed-door political concerns to the public LK may well have earned the wrath of CBK.
LK should leave politics now before he spoils his own reputation by talking or writing under severe frustration.
Posted July 8, 2005