Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Post Geneva 1 Activity

by M. Nadarajan

[The President] has said that there is need for a NEW APPROACH. He surely needs one.

Civilian killings, paramilitaries, bombings and other violence

During the Geneva Talks, both the government and the LTTE agreed that the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) would be accepted and that it should be strengthened. On its part, the government agreed to disarm the paramilitaries present in Government-controlled areas. The LTTE agreed not to attack the armed forces and police. It was made quite clear that the paramilitaries referred to included renegade Karuna's group. The brother of the President, Gothabaya, who is Defense Secretary, was also in Geneva trying to micromanage the talks, and passing on instructions from his brother on matters that came up for discussion. The result was that members of the government delegation seemed totally confused.

Some of the delegates maintained that the CFA was amended. When questioned on what way, they were not able to be specific. Some continued to say that the CFA itself was not legal. Others said that the Karuna group did not exist at the time of signing the CFA, and that therefore the terminology 'paramilitary group' did not apply to that group.

Another reason for their confusion may have been because even the paramilitary groups which were functioning during the signing of the CFA and who should have been disarmed within 30 days of signing in February 2002 were operating within the government-controlled as well as the LTTE-controlled areas with impunity. These paramilitaries were killing civilians who they thought were supporters of the LTTE and also LTTE members. Since, even in the case of several killings of leading personalities, the cases have not been solved for months and even years, the government delegates probably thought that they could agree to disarm the  Karuna group, too, but let them function, and, at the same time, deny that they are operating in government-controlled areas. Though the delegation agreed to disarm them, the Defense Secretary Rajapakse has openly said that he will use the Karuna group to fight the LTTE.

The fact that Karuna's group was supported in training, supply of arms and uniforms, and the fact that they were given sanctuary has been supported by eye- witnesses, who saw them running to nearby army camps after attacks. Of course, the army always denied this. This group was then emboldened to operate even in LTTE-controlled areas. When the armed forces themselves killed some important Tamils or assisted the Karuna group to do so, the army blamed the Karuna group.

Support for the fact that the group was operating from army-controlled areas was given by a reputable Australian TV organization which interviewed that group's members operating in government areas close to the line of control, who admitted that they had been trained by the army. Additionally, the recent attack by the LTTE on three Karuna group camps outside the LTTE- controlled area, in which several members of the group were killed and arms destroyed or captured, and also the fact that the LTTE found the two vans hijacked from TRO staff, seven of whose members are still missing, in the over-run camps further confirms the government's complicity, despite its denials.

We are not saying that the LTTE were angels and have merely turned the other cheek. There was retaliation by them when an important supporter named Vigneswaran, was assassinated in daylight near a bank and army and police posts. Vigneswaran was slated to be nominated in place of the M.P. for Batticaloa, Joseph Pararajasingam, who was himself assassinated during Christmas Mass at his Church. All attacks on security forces have not been by the LTTE, however. Some were carried out by civilians who were trained by the LTTE in defense activity in reprisals for army attacks. The civilians being trained to defend themselves, similar to the government training and arming of 25,000 civilian home

The LTTE has published on its Peace Secretariat website on 26th April a list of 103 civilians, including men, women and children, killed after the Geneva Talks 1 and before April 26. This list gives the names, ages, places and how they were killed in more than 80% of the cases. This number is much more than the police and security forces killed during the same period.

The government seeks to attribute the recent attacks to the suicide bombing at the army headquarters. No one has accepted responsibility for that attack. The LTTE has said that they did not do it. If they did it, it could very well be a response to the killing of Mr.Vigneswaran, and the subsequent communal riots when many Tamils were killed and nearly 35 businesses were burnt or looted, causing damage which was estimated at Rs.150 million. The attacks and burning was done by Sinhalese thugs who were trucked in, proving that it was premeditated. The armed forces and police were mere spectators and did nothing to stop that, just as it happened in the Pogrom of July 1983.

In war situations, according to Geneva Convention rules of combat law, killing of armed forces is legitimate, but killing of civilians is a human rights violation and a crime.

President Rajapakse is well known to call regular all party meetings to cover up what he wants to do. The Tamil National Alliance, which has 22 members in Parliament, and is the largest party representing Tamils, is not invited to these 'powwows,' but the sole Tamil elected on the EPDP ticket and who, when the President tells "Jump," asks "how high?," and been given a ministry with all accompanying perks, is invited.

It is reported that the President also had a separate meeting on April 21st with the JVP, which is now split in two in respect of their next move, at which the President wanted full support from them, saying that if they do that there is no need for new general elections. He is supposed to have offered them four ministries and deputy ministries. He is also supposed to have said that if the LTTE exploded a bomb in Colombo he would be forced to retaliate. The bomb in Colombo was exploded on the 25th of April. I leave the reader to form his or her own conclusions.

On the day of the suicide bomb explosion the President called a Security Council meeting and decided to respond by attacking LTTE bases in the East. The air force, navy and land forces attacked and killed many civilians, Tamil and Muslims.

Attack were carried out the next day, too. Injured civilians were not permitted to be taken to hospitals for treatment. Having announced that the attacks would stop after that, and convincing the IC that they were the last attacks, the army again fired artillery attacks on 29th April on the village of Vavunitivu, and on May 2nd at the forward defense lines of the LTTE at Navalady, which attack was repulsed.

The displacement of civilians according to the LTTE was over 40,000. The government laughed at the figure saying that the entire population of the villages was only 16,000. However, the government officials themselves said that 43,158 persons, including men, women and children were displaced. Many who bled to death would have been saved had they been allowed to be taken to hospitals.

Various government personnel gave different versions of the attacks. The president said it was a response to the suicide attack in Colombo. Mr. Kohone, head of the Government Peace Secretariat, said that the attack was a military response after the rebels had fired on army bases in Trincomalee! At another time he had said that the air force and naval attacks were to deter and contain the LTTE from further provocative attacks. Yet, why attack civilians?  In fact Elilan who is the chief political officer of the LTTE in Trincomalee had asked the SLMM to find out if the government had declared war, in which case he would, after consultation with headquarters, respond.

The LTTE did attack in certain areas in defense of Tamil civilians where home guards had attacked them.

The government blocked travel between the government and the LTTE-controlled areas, thereby causing shortage of essentials, but lifted the blockade after three days.

The LTTE sent some of their cadres by sea from Mullaitivu to Trincomalee recently. They sent them in their own boats escorted by armed vessels. This should not have been surprising since they had asked the government for transport, and had said that if they did not get that, they would use their own vessels. The SLMM had said that it was a CFA violation. What was the LTTE
supposed to do? It is a flaw in the CFA not to have provided for sea access of a certain distance from the coastline controlled by the LTTE. The SLMM said that the government's attacks in the East were also a ceasefire violation. The SLMM referred to the large number of civilians displaced. The government was very upset and browbeat the SLMM into changing the report. The SLMM should have stuck to their original report and should not have abetted the government to spread lies. In any case, their original report has been seen by the IC and they can form their own opinion.

A number of articles have appeared recently in the Sri Lankan press equating the LTTE with the 9/11 airlines' highjacking and attacks in the USA, the Spanish train attack, and the London underground and bus attack.

There is a substantial difference between those attacks, which were pure and simple terrorist attacks on unknown and innocent civilians in countries not in pursuance of war.

It has to be pointed out that it was after decades of trying non violent protests by Satyagraha methods; Parliamentary methods; Tamil people being at the receiving end of repeated communal pogroms; attempt at negotiations and signing of pacts which were unilaterally abrogated by the Sinhalese side; introduction of Constitutions adverse to Tamil interests in the drafting of which the Tamils did not participate; discrimination in every sphere of human activity, that the LTTE is fighting a war of liberation from Sinhalese hegemony as per the wishes of the Tamil people.

State terrorism followed Tamil agitation for their rights, which included indiscriminate arrests, torture, rapes and extrajudicial killings; carpet bombing and shelling from the sea and aerial strafing which killed women ,children and old people; imposition of a blockade of food and medicine (which in itself is a war crime) and other essentials; and destruction of homes, hospitals, schools and places of worship and infrastructure.

The number of Sinhalese civilians killed is generally accepted to be about 5% of the total Civilians killed. The rest of the civilian casualties are Tamils killed by the state's armed forces of one sort or another.


A number of articles have also been published on democracy. Obviously, these have been written by persons who do not fully understand what true democracy is.

In a homogeneous country, democracy enables governments to be elected according to the wishes of people who vote for the candidates. There is an opportunity for parties elected to power to be changed periodically when people want to do so. In a country where there are heterogeneous populations who differ in language, religion, custom and tradition, there are permanent minorities and permanent majorities. There is no Sri Lankan identity. The Sinhalese majority will elect Sinhalese Parliamentarians and the Tamil- speaking minority will elect Tamil Parliamentarians. That is what happens in democracy and in Sri Lanka, too.

Where there is so much of animosity and mistrust amongst the two nations, there will always be a Sinhalese majority government. The majority of Sinhalese want to exercise hegemony over Tamils.

In such instances Constitutions must be written to protect minority interests. Many such constitutions elsewhere provide for an upper house and a lower house, as for instance in India and the USA. The first Constitution of Sri Lanka of 1948, written by the British, provided some protection for minorities in Sec.29. It also provided for a second house the Senate and for appeals to the Privy Council in the UK. All this was abolished in the Constitution of 1972 in the drafting of which Tamils did not participate. Similarly, the 1978 Constitution which had some very important provisions and changes was also drafted without Tamil participation.

A number of articles have been written referring to the Constitution as not permitting this or that thing. As far are the Tamil-speaking people are concerned, as pointed out in the preceding paragraph, they did not participate in the drafting of either the 1972 or 1978 Constitutions. These Constitutions do not have any relevance to them. If the Constitution does not permit something which is meaningful to be done, the Constitution has to be changed as has been done twice before. In the alternative, there could be amendments passed to the Constitution, but the former suggestion is the favored one.

After agreeing with Tamil representatives as to how the national problem is to be solved, Sinhalese and Tamils should sit together and draft a new constitution which takes into account all that has been agreed. Since there is an inherent permanent majority, there should be some entrenched clauses which should not be capable of being changed.

This will take a long time to negotiate and agree, although there are written Federal Constitutions as in the USA, Canada (with two languages), India (with more than 26 languages and States divided on a linguistic basis, but the system is not fully federal), Australia, Switzerland (which has three languages and is con-federal), and there are unwritten Constitutions, but the system of governance is federal, as in the United Kingdom, which could be looked at.

It is due to the time that would be taken to discuss and agree on these matters that it is imperative to agree on an Interim Administration to be put in place. There are already the ISGA proposals submitted by the LTTE, which could be a basis document for discussion.                                                      

Recent elections

Articles have been written that the electorate had earlier voted in favor of a Unitary State. The electorate voted in favor of Mahinda Rajapakse against Ranil Wickramasinghe,(not in favor of Unitary State over a Federal State), and in favor of peace. However, political analysts have pointed out that had the Tamils of the North participated in the elections, Ranil would have won. After the recent local authority elections it was written that the electorate was in favor of peace negotiations. The scribes can write anything. One thing that stood out like a sore thumb is that the Sinhalese electorate has voted against the Marxist JVP and the Buddhist monk Party, the JHU, in the recent local elections.      


The President, who has repeated that he will not accept the concept of a Tamil Homeland, nor the right of Self Determination, nor Federalism has affirmed his government's commitment to the "Peace Process"! How does he hope to do it? He has said that there is need for a NEW APPROACH. He surely needs one.

The LTTE have always said that they are for peace and, in fact, were the first to declare a unilateral ceasefire. They have also said what will happen if there is no agreement. At the Oslo talks, they made a major compromise in that they had agreed to give up the demand for separation and were prepared to explore a federal system of government with internal self determination.

In what way has any Sinhalese government, of any time, made any compromise? The President has to change his stances, which will not fly. If he does not, why not let us go our own way without further bloodshed, killings and destruction as Singapore did with Malaysia, and Czechoslovakia  broke up into the Czech and Slovak republics on the basis of a simple majority of votes?. What is the point in forcing a nation to stay with you against its wish?

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