Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Stumbling Peace Talks

by K. Mylvaganam

The other Paramilitary groups also have not adhered to the agreement reached in Geneva. The atrocities, committed by the Eelam Peoples Democratic Front (EPDP) in the North in connivance with the army and navy particularly in the Islands, have increased. The EPDP cadres are seen going round totting their T-56 rifles openly on the roads.

The events that are taking place after the  Peace Talks were held in Geneva on the 22nd and the 23rd of February are casting a dark shadow on the possibility of the second round of the Talks that is expected to commence on the 21st of April 2006. There are several obstacles that have to be overcome if the Peace Talks are to be a reality.

The disturbing elements are:

  1. The President’s Counsel Silva informing the press that the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) was "Amended" has caused lot of irritation to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (L.T.T.E.). Both the LTTE and the government representatives spent almost a whole day on the 22nd of February 2006 arguing for and against the amendment. The leader of the government group argued that the CFA was contradictory to the constitution of Sri Lanka. Hence the CFA has to be accordingly amended he said. But the leader of the LTTE delegation, Anton Balasingam, said that the constitution does not bind the Tamils as it was adopted in 1972 and again in 1978 by the Sinhalese and for the Sinhalese totally against the wish of the Tamils and, if at all anything were to be amended, then it should be the constitution and not the CFA. He also added that the Supreme Court has accepted the CFA to be constitutional when the P-TOMS case came up before it. He further pointed out that the CFA was an agreement reached both by the Sri Lanka Government (GoSL) and the LTTE after months of legal consultations and deliberations. It is not between the LTTE and a political party. Hence a change in the party in power in the government does not alter the validity of the CFA. It stands irrespective of any change in the government. Further, there are two parties, viz the GoSL and the LTTE who are the signatories in the agreement. Hence the agreement cannot be amended unilaterally by one party. When the CFA was signed the legal experts, including the former attorney general of the Sri Lanka Government, involved in the drafting of the same did not find anything contradictory to the SL constitution. It was pointed out that the CFA cannot be amended in order to justify the rhetoric during the pre-election period by Mahinda Rajapaksha, the Jathika Vimukthi Paramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). The joint statement released by the GoSL and the LTTE after Talks ended on the 23rd of Feb.2006 categorically stated that the CFA is to be implemented in toto. The main reason put forward by Silva was that the subject of “Child Recruitment” discussed and accepted by both the parties and hence an amendment has taken place. But it has to be pointed out that since the signing of the CFA several agreements were reached and accepted by both the parties. But they did not amount to amending the CFA. For example the LTTE agreeing to give up the demand for an independent Eelam State for a Federal set up is not considered an amendment to the CFA. There were several such agreements reached during the six rounds of Talks that took place in 2003. It is very childish to say that the CFA was amended because there was an agreement on Child Recruitment. The LTTE has lodged a strong protest to the Norwegian government against the utterances of Silva. It is noteworthy that it is only Mr.Silva has expressed the opinion that the CFA was amended. None of the ministers or the rest of the members of the government’s delegation has endorsed his view point.
  2. The open protest by the JHU and the silent protest by the JVP are another factor that is affecting the continuation of the Talks. They have both directly and indirectly pointed out that they would withdraw their support in the parliament to the government if anything contradictory to the “Mahinda Chinthanaya” is accepted at the Talks. One pertinent question arises here. It is: if Mahinda Chinthanaya is to be accepted by the LTTE, why bother to go to Geneva or anywhere for that matter? The President could have written to the LTTE asking them to accept the “Chinthanaya” or else he would withdraw from the CFA, thus giving the fourteen days notice and faced the consequences. The SLFP, JVP and the JHU coalition came into power in 2004 when the CFA was already in existence. If the CFA was found to be unacceptable to them, they could have abrogated it by simply giving the required 14 days notice. Instead they went round shouting at the top of their voices that the CFA was a sell-out to the Tamils by the United National Party (UNP) that was in power then.
  3. The UNP is now going round that, stating that the present government has eventually accepted the CFA in its fullest. This is contradictory to the press statement released by Silva. The UNP is making the maximum benefit of this in their local government election platforms. They are pointing out that the President and his allies – the JVP & JHU – promised to:
  4. (A) To do away with the Norwegian felicitation

    (B) Not to accept Erik Solheim

    (C) To hold the Peace Talks either in Sri Lanka or in an Asian country

    (D) To do away with the CFA or amend it drastically

    (E) To deny the existence of a Tamil Homeland

    (F) To deny the Self-Determination Rights to the Tamils

    But now they have eaten the humble pie by accepting all the above without any exception.

  5. The disarming of the Paramilitary Groups as agreed in the Geneva Talks is causing problems to the government. The Karuna group has already sent a press release that they would under no circumstances hand over their weapons. Even though they unilaterally declared a “cease fire” for a limited period of time yet they are going round on a killing spree in the East. The attack on the LTTE camp at Vavunativu, killing two LTTE cadres, and the abduction of 5 members of the LTTE are striking examples.
  6. The other Paramilitary groups also have not adhered to the agreement reached in Geneva. The atrocities, committed by the Eelam Peoples Democratic Front (EPDP) in the North in connivance with the army and navy particularly in the Islands, have increased. The EPDP cadres are seen going round totting their T-56 rifles openly on the roads.
  7. The army and navy also are causing many problems to the people in the name of “stop & search” operations. They barge into the houses of people even during the middle of the nights and arrest people arbitrarily. The Tamil fishermen are prevented or harassed in many ways from fishing. But the Sinhalese fishermen are allowed to fish freely in the coastal areas of the Tamil Homeland. The people are virtually living in fear. Already thousands of people have either moved into the Tiger-controlled areas or taken the boat or plane to India. Many people fear to tread into army-controlled areas. When a person of the calibre of Kotagadeniya is put in charge of defense, these are to be expected. Kotagadeniya, a retired Deputy Inspector of Police (DIG), joined the JHU after his retirement and that speaks volumes of his mental attitude towards the Tamils. The message is loud and clear.
  8. The country is called the Peoples' Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka. But one does not have the right to stage a peaceful demonstration. Within the past three days two peaceful demonstrations conducted by the students were forcibly dispersed by the forces. People do not have the right to live in their own houses or cultivate their own fields as vast areas – over 30% in Jaffna – are declared as High Security Zones (HSZ)
  9. Not only the JVP & the JHU are against the agreement reached in Geneva, but there are also elements within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) who are opposed to it. Then there is another faction that supports the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

S.P.Thamilchelvan, who sounded understandably quite annoyed over the recent incidents that are taking place here, told the press that he would be talking to the Leader Mr.V.Pirabakaran on his arrival in Kilinochchi and take suitable action. All these point out that the resumption of the Talks on the 19th of April is very doubtful unless the President shows some valour and puts his house in order. But will he? Or the more pertinent question is “Can he”?

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