Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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What Negotiations?

by M. Nadarajan

If the views of the president as announced by him are " no recognition of Tamil Homelands, no Federalism, no internal self determination," which are in the nature of pre-conditions, we are back to square one, and the LTTE has to get back to its request for separation. Talks then would be a waste of time, as they always have been.

It is said that "facts are sacred, but comments are free." As far as the Sinhalese government, the Sinhalese journalists, and the majority of Sri Lankan news media are concerned, facts are not sacred.

Whatever they want to propagate in order to vilify and demonize the Tamil freedom fighters, they will propagate with utter disregard of the truth. Comments are free, but a sense of responsibility should compel those in the fourth estate, which spews out lies and venom for the same purpose, to make intelligent and acceptable comments. Even if journalists write such rubbish, how could responsible media print them? This practice has worsened since the current President was elected. This is because the government itself takes the lead in generating lies.

It is also said that the first casualty in war is truth. As far as the Sri Lankan situation is concerned, war or peace, the casualty is truth, so long as it serves their purpose.

One need not bother about this and can say, "the dogs bark and the caravan goes along on its way," or "the dogs bark at the moon and the moon goes along". If we bother about it, and write rebuttals, we will spend our whole life writing them. The articles and news reports are so one-sided that even a child would see through them.

The latest example of this is the report on the casualties since the first round of talks in Geneva. Reports mention how many servicemen have been killed by the LTTE, not withstanding the fact that in some cases the civilians had reacted to army atrocities on them, and, in others, forces against the peace process such as the paramilitaries and renegade Karuna's men have been trying to provoke the armed forces.

No mention have been made of the communal riots in Trincomalee and the burning of 35 shops by Sinhala hoodlums transported by the armed forces, which stood by watching along with the police. Nor has mention been made of the civilian killings in cold blood in Jaffna; the cordon and search operations by the armed forces; the introduction of new conditions and pass systems for fishermen; the establishing of new "no go" zones; the building of new trenches and the movement of forward defense lines; continued occupation of schools and fertile agricultural lands. Many of these matters have recently caused civilian families to move into LTTE-controlled territory or escape to India.

When Ministers of the government go to various capitals of the world with begging bowls asking them to ban the LTTE; asking them and the co-chairs to exert pressure on the LTTE to go to the negotiating table; and requesting them to stop the LTTE collecting funds, saying there is extortion of money from the expatriate Tamils, one cannot sit and watch, however.

It was interesting to know that the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister read from a copy of the HRW report at his propaganda meetings even before it was released .This cast doubt as to the government's participation in the writing of that report. (The Tamil Center for Human Rights wrote an excellent rebuttal to the HRW report.) There is no doubt that many expatriate Tamils give voluntarily to organizations that carry out rehabilitation and reconstruction work, both in regard to war damage and the effects of the tsunami. This they do bearing in mind that they are where they are because of the problems faced by the Tamils, and also because they wish to help their relatives and Tamil people who are left behind.

It is surprising that some governments who have their own Embassies or High Commissions in Colombo have been hoodwinked by government propaganda and have started acting on such requests.

I suppose those who ask for pressure to be exerted on the LTTE to go to the negotiating table have not heard of the saying "one can lead a horse to water, but many cannot force it to drink." Having made all sorts of statements, before and after the elections, about wanting to reject or change the CFA; that the President would not accept the concept of Tamil Homelands; that he will not agree to a federal type of government; that he will not agree to self-determination; that he will cancel the PTOMS agreement to share in tsunami reconstruction in the Northeast, signed with the previous President after many months of negotiation and pressure from the international community.

Having taken these stands and, in fact, cancelled the PTOMS agreement, the government people are running to the international community to give some help to solve an insolvable problem, asking them to pressure the LTTE to the negotiating table.


Everyone in Sri Lanka knows the aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people, as they were very carefully spelt out during the Thimpu talks of 1985, and have not changed since then, except that during talks with the previous government the LTTE, as a major compromise, agreed to give up the demand for separation, and were prepared to explore a federal type of government with internal self-determination.

President Rajapakse said that he would solve the problem within three months! Something that could not be solved over a period of over 58 years. What naivity! He also wants to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignity of the country, like most Sinhala people who think that Federalism does not preserve territorial integrity and sovereignty. How about all the countries which function under a federal constitution? Have those counties lost their territorial integrity or

There should be a meeting of the minds on the basic problem. One cannot agree if such extreme positions are taken by one side. Having agreed on the basic premise, putting the details into action by new regulations and Constitution will take several months or even years to work out.

That is the very need to establish an Interim Administration (IA), to carry out government functions, till that exercise is completed, as was provided in the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. The Interim Administration proposed at that time was to have 12 members, including Muslims and Sinhalese, in which the LTTE was to get seven members.

Mrs.Kumaratunga and Mr.Wickramasinghe had at one time agreed on an IA, but did not officially propose one to the LTTE. The LTTE, after consulting international lawyers including Professors of law and a former Attorney General, presented a proposal called the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA), outlining the proposed Interim Administration. It was not carved in stone, and they were prepared to discuss it. The then government was prepared to discuss it, but as has been their practice on most matters, dragged their feet for a long time and the political situation changed.

In order to please his coalition partners, the Marxist and chauvinistic JVP and the Buddhist monks' party, the extremely chauvinistic JHU, President Rajapakse supported the idea of removing Norway from the position of facilitator, and was prepared to talk directly with the LTTE. Circumstances and reality forced him to agree to keep Norway, and, as a sop, he wanted the Chief of the Monitoring Mission changed. Rajapakse wanted the CFA changed also, but realpolitik forced .him to agree to keep the CFA unchanged. Like the wrestler who fell down and claimed that his moustache had no sand in it, the government delegation to the Geneva Talks came back saying that there were some changes, but when challenged, could not point out what was changed.

The government has not realized that 'it takes two to Tango.' The LTTE would not have agreed to change the CFA nor the facilitator. Past talks since independence and agreements with Sinhalese governments, which were unilaterally abrogated by the latter, fell apart because that there was no third party at the talks (except the one in Thimpu which had a biased third party).

The LTTE was prepared to meet in Geneva in order to assure that the CFA was fully implemented. From the time it was signed, several clauses in it have not been implemented, nor were agreements arrived at during talks. The purpose of the CFA was supposed to bring normalcy to the lives of the Tamil people. This did not happen, unlike in the case of the Sinhalese who benefited from the peace dividend.

The CFA was supposed to be signed between two equally balanced forces. The right of the government to spend much more funds on the import of arms, and the continuous yearly increase in defense expenditure by the government, placed a disability on the LTTE who could not do the same.

The problem President Rajapakse has had is that, as if it was not enough for him to deal with the JVP and the JHU, he appointed hard liners and yes-men and people who would agree with him to important positions. This includes two of his brothers, one of them as Defense Secretary, and a hardliner as Prime Minister. The WSWS says, "The JVP, JHU and the Military Commander denounced the Cease-fire, and called into question the validity of the joint statement in Geneva, which they insist is unconstitutional,and a betrayal of the sovereignity of Sri Lanka"

Jehan Perera in an article said, "Karuna group are in army controlled territory and operates as a force from there." He also said, "The LTTE insisted that the government was providing assistance to the Karuna group which the government denied. (- Of course it will deny! - ).This was not the truth, but based on falsehood. The LTTE refers to the Karuna group as creatures of the Sri Lanka military and cannot reasonably expect the government to join it in suppressing them." Two senior ministers of the previous UNP government have mentioned that it was their government that had arranged for the Karuna split. This was neither denied by the ministers nor by Prime Minister Wickramsinghe.

Not to be outdone, Ketheesh Loganathan ,ex-EPRLF and ex-Center for Policy Alternatives, the newly appointed advisor to the President, also issued some stupid statements.

During the talks in Geneva, the LTTE provided lists of paramilitary units functioning in government-controlled areas and gave names, functions, locations and military personnel in charge of them. Even their mobile telephone numbers were given. An Australian TV station had interviewed Karuna group members in a camp within the areas under the government and they confirmed their relationship with the government security forces. Eye witnesses have said that some of the Karuna forces wore army uniforms and withdrew into army camps after carrying out attacks.

The Karuna group was specifically mentioned in Geneva and the government delegation undertook to disarm them, After their return the government said that the Karuna group are not operating from government-controlled areas!!
Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse has said that he will use Karuna group against the LTTE. It is simple logic based on "my enemy's enemy is my friend."

Recent actions which changed the peace atmosphere

  1. Who tolerated the installation of a Buddha statue in the market of Trincomalee which was not removed even after a magistrate ordered removal?
  2. Who caused the deaths of parliamentarians, ex-parliamentarians, prominent journalists and prominent leaders amongst Tamils?
  3. Who carried out the rape and death of a 20 year girl in the islands off Jaffna?
  4. Who changed the existing mode of travel for LTTE senior commanders to Kilinocchi, and kept on changing the suggested modalities of travel, at this stage unnecessarily, and then blamed the LTTE for the 'Transport crisis'?
  5. Who killed five young students in Trincomalee in cold blood?
  6. Who is responsible for the riots, burning of shops and killing of people in Trincomalee?
  7. Who abducted 10 TRO volunteer workers, of whom seven are still missing?
  8. Who tried to create a communal unit in the armed services --a Muslim one?
  9. Who criticized Eric Solheim and Norway unnecessarily.?

The answers to all the above questions are "the government coalition and the armed forces"

If the views of the president as announced by him are " no recognition of Tamil Homelands, no Federalism, no internal self determination," which are in the nature of pre-conditions, we are back to square one, and the LTTE has to get back to its request for separation. Talks then would be a waste of time, as they always have been.

Mahindapala, in an article in the Daily News, quoting from the Asia Tribune says, "Is there any point in going to Geneva for 2, 3, 4, 5, and more talks?" I couldn't agree more with him.

I think it is about time for the LTTE to tell the Co-chairs, the EU and the international community that, unless the President announces that he has changed his stand on 'No Homeland, No Federalism, No Self-determination, and No Interim Administration, going to the negotiating table will be a waste of time.

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