Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

A Critique of the ICG Report

by Dr. Chandra Bose

In sum, the report relies solely on biased sources such as the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), M.R. Narayan Swamy and Kumar Rupesinghe and so fails to sustain a balanced and nuanced analysis in understanding and explaining the conflict and its implications. Outright condemnation of one party without fully understanding the complexity of the situation renders the report inadequate and superficial.

A Critique of the International Crisis Group Report on Sri Lanka entitled “The Failure of the Peace Process, Asia Report No. 124, 28 November 2006, 35 pages, Brussels/Colombo, Belgium.

by Dr. Chandra Bose

The International Crisis Group (ICG) located with its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, but with regional centers around the world and backed by some powerful countries, focuses its activities on analyzing crisis/conflicts situations in various countries. While the group does not engage in conflict resolution, the information and analysis it provides are considered to be useful to many government and organizations engaged in conflict resolution exercises.

Summary of the Report

This first report the ICG has done on Sri Lanka looks at the failure of the peace process in the country by considering the background to the conflict, the stages the conflict has gone through, and the major actors involved, the problems that confronted the peace process and what needs to be done to revitalize the peace process. The report states that the peace process failed in Sri Lanka due a variety of reasons following the signing of the ceasefire agreement in 2002.

  • The bilateral nature of talks between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ignored other segments of the society within the various ethnic groups.
  • The peace process did not consider and appreciate the various divisions within the Tamil society.
  • The government under the United National Party did not accommodate the President, the military and other Sinhalese groups.
  • The Muslim community, 7% of the population, was excluded from the peace process.
  • The government failed to identify and resolve the root causes of the conflict and to consult the security establishment in the peace process.
  • The peace talks lacked a focus on the endgame of the respective parties.
  • The conflict had a limited geo-political impact and so lacked a vigorous commitment on the part of the international community.

And finally, in terms of problems and challenges, the report states that the military advantages on the side of the government might be overstated. While the government has benefited from the split within the LTTE (due to Karuna’s defection), it might not today be in a position to defeat the LTTE militarily. Beyond this, the government has to address serious concerns of human rights violations and to avert a major humanitarian crisis in the northeast. The report calls for a more active role of the international community to resolve the conflict.


The report might be interesting to those who have little or no understanding of the conflict in Sri Lanka and might be pleasing to those officials of countries that have banned the LTTE. It is anything but objective or serious about understanding and addressing the conflict in the country. 

The report is based on sources that are critical of the LTTE, and, in fact, many of the sources mentioned in the report are those who have long history of opposition to the LTTE. Given this bias, the report cannot claim that it is objective and scientific in approach. A close reading of the report would indicate the it has a hidden agenda to question the validity of the LTTE’s representation of Tamils in Sri Lanka, especially in the northeast.

In a more specific sense, throughout the study the LTTE emerges as the clear villain by the use of words such as “terrorist,” “totalitarian,” “ruthless” and others. At the same time, the government is depicted as somewhat of a neutral actor that is forced to defend itself against the “unprovoked” attacks of the LTTE.  This bias is so clear and consistent throughout the report that one begins to wonder what the agenda of the ICG is in releasing such an unbalanced, one-sided report.

The report makes no pretense of trying to understand the deeper dynamics of the conflict in Sri Lanka, the wrongs done by successive governments on the Tamils, why the LTTE emerged or the partisan role of the international community.

Actors in the Conflict

One-sided language

From the executive summary to the conclusion of the report, the LTTE is castigated and criticized as a “terrorist” and a “totalitarian” organization that is not interested in genuine peace, but merely exists to push forward its separatist agenda.  The LTTE’s defensive measures are construed as blatant and unprovoked attacks, and its hold on the people in the northeast is described as “totalitarian.” For instance, the LTTE is blamed for massacring hundreds of policemen in the east during the time of the withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces, with no mention made of the fact that the vast majority of these policemen were Sinhalese posted in Tamil areas or that the person who ordered this massacre is none other than Karuna, who now enjoys a close and warm relationship with the armed forces.

The LTTE, according to the report, is a “ruthless terrorist” group whose methods have been copied by radical Islamic groups. The LTTE is blamed for killing moderate Tamils such as Neelan Tiruchelvam, without describing how the close nexus between Tiruchelvam and President Kumaratunga sought to deny basic rights to Tamils.

Return to normalcy for the civilian population

The LTTE is accused for setting “untenable” conditions for the peace process, without spelling out what these conditions are. Had the report been balanced, these “untenable” conditions would have been recognized as none other than the conditions set by the LTTE to restore normalcy to the northeast, an area most devastated by the conflict.  ‘Normalcy’ means not holding the civilian population hostage through repressive measures in the fight against the LTTE.

The report makes so little attempt at independent verification of information that it even takes casualty figures directly from the Ministry of Defense.  In the attacks on the Mullaithivu and Elephant Pass military camps, the figure of 1000 deaths given by the MOD does not represent the actual extent of the damage.

Military build-up & ceasefire violations

According to the report, the ceasefire agreement was important for the LTTE to strengthen itself and to gain some political recognition, but for the government the agreement was  “breathing space in which to reinvigorate the economy.”  Such an analysis fails to capture that the ceasefire was used by the government to strengthen its armed forces by procuring weapons to tilt the balance of forces in favour of the government. While the LTTE might have used the ceasefire to strengthen itself also, this happened when it was realized by the LTTE that the government’s intention was to upset the military balance of power.

Even more importantly, while the misdeeds of the government are ignored during the ceasefire, the report states that the LTTE used the lull in fighting to recruit children for its army. The armed forces’ attempts to recruit children for its proxy paramilitary forces are something the report ignores. As far as the report is concerned, child recruitment is the sole monopoly of the LTTE.

The report seems to think that the during the six rounds of peace talks, the LTTE merely engaged in rhetoric about meeting the humanitarian needs of the people, but in practice was more interested in consolidating its political and economic control over the northeast. One wonders how a reputable organization like the ICG could stoop so low to discredit the LTTE that fought so hard and sacrificed so much for the betterment of the Tamils. In the analysis of the report, the LTTE is mainly responsible for thrusting immense hardship on its people in the northeast. The government is spared criticism for its genocidal policies and how it imposed a colossal misery on Tamils in the northeast of the country.

In sum, the report relies solely on biased sources such as the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), and so fails to sustain a balanced and nuanced analysis in understanding and explaining the conflict and its implications. Outright condemnation of one party without fully understanding the complexity of the situation renders the report inadequate and superficial.

Interim Self-Governing Authority

The report seems to have little understanding of the Interim Administration proposal (ISGA) submitted by the LTTE to the government in late 2003. Contrary to the assertion of the report, the LTTE never made any unilateral demand for the imposition of its formula that was prepared by its Constitutional Affairs Committee. Only after it rejected the proposal submitted by the government in mid-2003 did the LTTE come up with the idea of submitting its own formula. The proposal submitted by the LTTE to the government was not a final document; it was meant for negotiations with the government. The report, in its haste to criticize the LTTE, has missed the point about the genesis of the interim administration proposal submitted by the LTTE.  Below is the premature conclusion of the report:

“The ISGA was deeply problematic; it posited an LTTE-dominated government which would lay claim to all land and sea resources, included little in the way of democratic provisions and offered no space for the development of pluralism. The five-year period would presumably end with either an independent state or at least an extreme form of confederation. Neither outcome was likely to receive support from the key regional player—India—let alone that of Sinhalese nationalists in the south.”

If the authors had read the ISGA document submitted by the LTTE, there are provisions that address the rights of non-Tamils, their manner of representation in the governing council, the need to set up a northeast human rights council, the rights of Muslims, the need to set up land commissions to settle land disputes and the protection and promotion of human rights in the northeast. The ISGA was just a proposal for negotiations with the government, and there has been no intimation that the LTTE would implement it unilaterally.

Not only does the report miss the point of the ISGA, it states that it was not acceptable to India and to the Sinhala nationalists in the south. I think it is wrong and improper for the report to drag India into the Sri Lankan conflict in general and on the ISGA in particular. To this day, India has not stated its official position on the ISGA.  To say that India might not have approved the ISGA is pure unsubstantiated speculation on the part of the report. As the far as the Sinhala nationalists are concerned, they are opposed to any concessions to Tamils, not just the ISGA. It is interesting to note that the report speaks on behalf of the Sinhala nationalists, without realizing that there were differences in the south on the ISGA.

LTTE ‘Split’

Again, without fully understanding of the dynamics of internal conflict within the LTTE, the report states that Karuna broke away from the outfit due to regional differences among Tamils and his anger with Pottu Amman for blocking his rise in the organizational hierarchy. The authors of the report, by spending too long in Colombo, and being only exposed to the forces against the LTTE, naturally have this myopic view of the LTTE’s  internal conflicts. Long before the tension came out in the open, Karuna, one of the most trusted lieutenants of Prabhakaran, administered the east with little or no interference from the organization. Given Prabhakaran’s trust and confidence in Karuna, the latter was left alone to pursue his own narrow sectarian and financial interests. So much so that he began to administer the east as though it were his feudal kingdom. Karuna was a virtual Tamil warlord of the eastern side of Sri Lanka.

As Karuna’s mismanagement of the east, his financial irregularities and certain killings within the eastern section of the LTTE-administered territory began to surface, he was ordered to appear before Prabhakaran. Knowing the damage he had done and the possible implications, Karuna decided to break ranks with the organization by giving all kinds of excuses. Many of his close aides in the east did not follow him, but remained loyal to the LTTE. 

Contrary to the tales and stories in Colombo, Karuna’s defection was not a major loss for the LTTE. His initial boasts to defend his territory from Prabhakaran's forces fizzled out when the LTTE launched attacks against Karuna’s rump forces within a month of his defection.  Of course, now through the assistance of the army, he attempts to create mayhem in the east, and along with army intelligence he abducts children to serve in his paramilitary force. But he has hardly any support amongst the Tamils. If he did, why should he seek sanctuary with the army?


The argument of the report that the LTTE was always in the habit of provoking the successive Sri Lankan governments into conflict has little or no basis. On the contrary, it was the armed forces and its proxy paramilitary forces that have provoked the LTTE into an all-out conflict. The report pays little attention to attacks, atrocities and genocidal measures of the armed forces against the Tamil civilian population. Always, the agent provocateur is considered the LTTE.

How convenient and simple for the report to jump to this conclusion.  Nobody knows who planted the bomb in the Trincomalee market in the spring, but the report says it was the work of the LTTE. A LTTE suicide bomber targeted Army Commander Sarath Fonseca so that the army could be drawn into the fight. All throughout, the  report is replete with these assertions with little or no evidence provided.

While the report admits that the military option of the government might not succeed, it downplays and grossly underestimates the number of soldiers killed in the Jaffna peninsula. Recently, when the Fonseca was in the United States, he admitted that the army lost 300 soldiers in a single encounter. However, the report being what it is, seeks to downplay the loss on the government’s side.

Role of the Government

While the LTTE is labeled a “terrorist” organization bent on provoking the government and the international community, the report seeks to resurrect the role of the Sri Lankan government. In the beginning, the government is described not as a Sinhala state, but as dominated by the Sinhalese, a description to press home the ‘pluralistic’ nature of the ethnic composition. During the period of the ceasefire, the UNP headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe is criticized for not accommodating the different segments of the Sinhala society, the SLFP, the Office of the President and others. Here and there, the report states that successive government have failed to grant any concessions for Tamil grievances.

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga is described as a “charismatic” leader because she seriously sought to address the peace issue. But the report fails to note that it was Kumaratunga, in her  “war for peace,” who inflicted colossal damage on the Tamils in the northeast. It was during her period that disappearances, rapes and killings of innocent Tamils took centre stage in the ethnic conflict. More human rights abuses and infrastructure destruction took place during her regime than during any other. 

The report suggests that Kumaratunga was ‘forced’ to confront the LTTE because it imposed the most “untenable” conditions during the short-lived 1994 peace process. Prime Minister Ranil Wicekremesinghe’s peace initiative is dismissed as untenable due to its restrictive nature.

The report says that, although the present regime of Mahinda Rajapakse has sought to give priority to the military strategy as opposed to the political one, it nonetheless thinks that it is the LTTE that has provoked the government into doing so. The report then goes to elaborate the killings indulged in by the LTTE, without sufficiently elaborating how the Rajapakse regime has unleashed terror from the air and on the ground on the Tamils in the northeast. The killings of more than 60 young girls in one of the welfare centers in the northeast, the artillery attacks that killed more than 40 in the villages of the east, the constant abductions and disappearances of Tamils and numerous other killings are not addressed in the report.

Once again, the report’s hidden agenda prevents it from highlighting the gross violations of human rights against the Tamil people. Throughout the report, the government is simply seen as responding to the provocations of the Tigers, but never as the aggressor.

The Tigers are blamed for numerous killings in the country in the report. They were accused for bombing the Trincomalee market, for the suicide attack on Fonseca, and the killings of Muslims in Muttur.

In the killings of the 17 workers of the French aid organization Action Contre le Faim, on the other hand, despite the opinion of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) that it was the government forces that perpetrated this dastardly attack, the report takes no position on the perpetrator. The report does not blame the government at all. How very convenient for an established and supposedly reputed organization like the ICG!

Problems of the Peace Process

Bilateral vs. multilateral

The report’s analysis of the failed peace process is simplistic and naïve in many ways. The report makes much of the bilateral, rather than multilateral, nature of the (failed) peace process.  Inherently however, there is nothing wrong in a peace process taking shape on a bilateral basis. For instance, in the case of Acheh, Northern Ireland, and Bougainville and many other places, their peace processes were conducted on a bilateral basis, even though there were segments of the population that were excluded from that process. In fact, a close examination of conflicts in many places would easily indicate that, more often than not, peace processes have reflected the concerns of two contending parties in conflicts. In the case of Sri Lanka, the peace process that took shape between the government and the LTTE on the grounds that, even if the government wanted to, it could not engage with other Tamil groups because they were either weak or not representative of the Tamil population. So based on the ground situation, the government had to engage with the LTTE; not so much due to deliberate choice, but based on reality.

I do not see how the Sri Lankan peace process could have proceeded in a multi-lateral basis as required by the report. Of course, some Tamil groups opposed to the LTTE (most of whom have armed wings that work as proxies for the government’s armed forces and one of which which propped up the government by providing it a majority in Parliament) and the Muslims were not represented in the talks. It was agreed initially that the government would be representative of these groups and it obtained the concurrence of Muslim leaders. The fact that Rauf Hakeem, the leader of Muslims, was represented in the peace talks following the ceasefire suggests that the Muslim community had some kind of representation.

Peace processes leading to permanent peace normally take between the principal parties in  conflicts; in the case of Sri Lanka, these parties are the government and the LTTE.  In the case of Aceh, it was well known that the peace talks initiated by the Henry Dunant Centre, a Swiss non-governmental organization, failed due to the attempt to include too many parties, such as the civil society organizations, in the negotiations. So in this respect, success depends not so much on whether  talks are based on a bilateral or a multilateral configuration, but rather on what is the nature of the ground reality.

In Sri Lanka, there are class and sub-communal divisions within the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, the three principal ethnic communities.  However, these divisions are not central to the on-going ethnic conflict. The present conflict is essentially between the Sinhalese, represented by the government, and the Tamils, represented by the LTTE. This is something people in the country and in the international community accept. It was on this basis that negotiations took place and eventually failed. In the actual negotiations, the government ostensibly represented those groups not represented by the LTTE and the LTTE represented the Tamils. 

To say that other groups were not accommodated in the peace process is something that cannot be accepted, as the report has simply failed to understand the dynamics of the conflict and the nature of the representation that was involved. Even if the peace process had multiple representations, there is no way that this approach could have addressed the fundamental problems of the Tamils, especially those in the northeast.

Muslim representation

Furthermore, as the peace process unfolded in the Sri Lankan scene, there was neither reason nor rhyme as to why the LTTE should provide representation for Tamil groups, especially those who worked against the organization as proxies for the armed forces for many years. In its representation of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the LTTE has the support the more than twenty members of parliament of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Many of these TNA members have their own political ambitions and do not naturally work in conjunction with the LTTE, but realize that to do otherwise would leave them in the  political wilderness with the Tamil electorate.  The TNA has supported the LTTE as an organization that had a strong mandate to represent the Tamils, a mandate that did not come by way of an electoral process, but through armed struggle for more than three decades.

In respect to the conflict and subsequent negotiations, the government of Sri Lanka represented the Muslim community. The fact that Muslim representatives were involved on the side of the government testifies to this. Perhaps the Muslim community did not have representation on a par with that of the Tamils, but whose fault is this? Are they a united, powerful community with real influence? The authors of the report should pose this question to the Muslim leaders and the government.

As far as the LTTE was concerned, it could only represent the Tamils and not anybody else. However, in the ISGA the LTTE did take into account the interests of the Muslim community. The Muslims and Tamils have a long history in Sri Lanka; although the Muslims are mostly Tamil-speaking, their identity is not an ethnic identity, but a religious one. Given this, how could the LTTE, bent on providing an ethnic representation to Tamils, accommodate the religious demands of Muslims? How could the LTTE take a genuine interest in Muslims, if many members of the Muslim community have worked hand-in-hand with the armed forces in attacking Tamils in the east?  How could the Muslims ride on the battlefield victories and supreme sacrifice of Tiger cadres of the LTTE by asking for representation without any sacrifice? The Muslim community is a marginalized one in Sri Lankan society, but, lacking good and committed leaders, the interests of the community have been scarified. By depending on the government too much, the Muslim community has been left in the wilderness. However, the Tamils under the LTTE fought back for their rights, even though the LTTE is regarded as a “ruthless” and “terrorist” organization, there is no permanent peace in Sri Lanka without the participation of the LTTE. This is well recognized by the government, as well as the international community.

Ideological constraints and. structural rigidity

The problem is not so much the need for “structural reforms,” but the mind-set of the Sinhalese elite, immaterial of their political or ideological affiliation. The deep-seated mind-set of the Sinhalese ruling class that Sri Lanka is country only for Buddhists and Sinhalese has created numerous problems from the time of political independence and until today. Unless and until there is transformation of this mind-set/psyche to include other communities, one can hardly expect that the Sinhalese ruling elite to recognize the multi-racial and multi-religious nature of the country.

When this mind-set is the main problematic, how do you expect the Sinhalese elite to come out with a peace framework that would provide representation to Tamils and Muslims on the grounds of their ethnic, linguistic and religious differences? Any structural reforms would simply not be implemented, like laws mandating the reasonable use of Tamil, unless a more pluralistic mind-set takes hold.

From the time of independence, the successive governments have trampled upon the rights of Tamils and Muslims. There have been riots against Tamils and Muslims throughout the long history of Sri Lanka. Ethnic minorities do not feel safe in Sri Lanka; their lives are very precarious. It was the failure of the Sinhalese elite under both the UNP and the SLFP to provide reasonable protection for the rights of Tamils that actually helped to sow the seeds of radicalism and gave to the rise of the Tamil militant movements. If the Sinhalese had accommodated the moderate demands of Tamils politicians in the TULF in the 1950s, 1969s and 1970s, there would not be an LTTE today.

The rise and consolidation of the LTTE is in direct response to the discrimination of Tamils in almost all areas of public life.

It is not structural reform that is lacking in Sri Lanka; you can’t have structural reform when you have particular mind-set among the Sinhalese ruling elite and when the entire country is seen from a unitary and unchanging perspective. Even the Post-Tsunami Operational Management System (P-TOMS) could not be implemented because the Constitution of the country has no place for others’ communities.

It is terribly naïve for the report to talk about the lack of structural reforms without examining and analyzing the reasons why structural reforms are not possible under the present circumstances in Sri Lanka.


I am not sure what the report means by the saying that the parties to the conflict did not focus on the “endgame.”

If the concept “endgame” means the respective objectives of the parties concerned, the endgames of the respective parties are crystal clear. The endgame of the Sri Lankan government, immaterial of the political party in power, has been not to give in to even minimal Tamil demands. Presidents Jayawardena, Premadesa, Chandrika Kumartunga and today Mahinda Rajapakse, having all come to power on the Sinhala Buddhist ticket, were not prepared to give in to moderate Tamil demands. Alternatively, they wanted to subdue and dish out breadcrumbs to Tamils and to their so-called moderate Tamil leadership.

With the rise of the LTTE and the start of the armed struggle, addressing Tamil demands has simply been linked to crushing the Tigers. It has been argued by all that, once the Tigers are vanquished, Tamil demands could be accommodated. However, in the name of crushing the LTTE, the successive governments of Sri Lanka have imposed and sustained the most ruthless and inhuman suffering amongst the Tamils in the country, to the point that genocide – the destruction of the foundations of the community – has been accomplished.  This policy has not succeeded in subduing the Tamils, however, and has fueled the national liberation movement headed by the LTTE.

The more the government has invested to crush the LTTE, the more ordinary and innocent Tamils have suffered. Tens of thousands of Tamils have died, a million have been internally displaced and another million have fled the country to safer heavens elsewhere.

Presently, under the Rajapakse, the endgame is the same, to crush the LTTE and the people who are behind the movement. Invariably, like in the past, the Rajapakse government has unleashed terror on civilian Tamils throughout the country. Again, hundreds and thousands of Tamils are being killed in the name of the endgame, to wipe out the LTTE and those who are behind the movement. This is the endgame of the government.

Why does the report find it difficult decipher the endgame of the government?

Before the talks and during the talks, the LTTE’s endgame has been clear. If the Sinhala ruling class is not prepared to negotiate and agree to substantial autonomy for the Tamils in the northeast, the LTTE has no other option but to opt for a separate state, Tamil Eelam. This has been the consistent position of the LTTE for a long time. It was during the peace talks that the LTTE was showed that it was willing to move from demanding external to accepting internal self-determination if it was on the grounds that Tamils constitute a nation, they have a defined homeland and they have the right to self-determination.

Since the successive government in the south have consistently avoided accommodating substantial Tamils demands, but instead have turned their attention to suppressing the liberation movement, the LTTE has moved closer and closer to its position of a separate state. In November, 1995 Leader Prabhakaran gave Rajapakse one year to come out with reasonable proposals to address the Tamil national question.  Instead of following that politically risky path, the president decided to pursue a military strategy, like his predecessors, to weaken and ultimately defeat the LTTE.

In this context, given the fact that the government is not willing to accommodate Tamil demands, the LTTE has no choice but to proceed in the direction of its maximalist position, a separate state.

International involvement

The report suggests that a more vigorous international involvement would have positive effects in the resolution of the conflict. I tend to disagree.

It must be realized that the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict is one of the most internationalized conflicts in the world. It is much more internationalized than, say, the conflicts in Northern Ireland, Aceh, Sudan, Bougainville or the Philippines. The question is not so much international involvement, but what kind of international involvement. In the above cases, although there has been international involvement, this involvement has been aruguably more impartial in nature. Since the international community has taken an impartial view of the conflicts and did not develop any partisan view, the conflicts have been resolved to some extent. In the case of Aceh, there was international involvement especially after the tsunami, but the involvement was more in terms of pushing both the parties to the negotiating table. Similarly this was the case with Northern Ireland and others.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the international community has taken a very partisan, pro-state attitude. By banning the LTTE as a “terrorist” organization, the international community has complicated the peace process. By backing the military stand of the government, the international community has provided the green light for the repressive measures on Tamil civilians in the name of defeating the LTTE. In India, the United Kingdom, United States and European Union, the LTTE has been banned in the name of stopping the flow of funds to the LTTE. However, independent reports and assessments of these bans reveal that the flow of funds to the LTTE has increased rather than decreased. The bans imposed on the Tigers have given rise to more sympathy and support on the part of the Tamil Diaspora.

Contrary to the report, how can the international community play a more vigorous role in the peace process if it is biased against the LTTE? How can the LTTE respect the desires and wishes of the international community if the government in Sri Lanka is encouraged to undertake repressive measures against Tamil civilians, all in the name of defeating the LTTE?

The use of violence is not the sole monopoly of the LTTE; in fact, the LTTE’s use of violence is nothing comparable the devastation wrought by the armed forces’ bombing and shooting of innocent Tamils, women and children in recent months. If the LTTE is a “terrorist” organization, then the government is more than equally using terrorist measures against unarmed and civilian Tamils. The LTTE is not an international terrorist movement; it is the organization that was formed and strengthened throughout the turbulent years of Sri Lankan politics to fight for the freedom, decency and dignity of Tamils.

Problems and Challenges

The report may be right in saying that the Rajapakse's administration is bent on pursuing the military strategy, but whether the LTTE has been weakened by Karuna's defection is not something clear. However, the recent killings of 300 government soldiers in a military encounter in Jaffna, the attack on navy personnel in Habarana leading to the death of 100 soldiers, the army’s inability to move in the east and the targeting of key government personnel in Colombo and others points to the fact that the LTTE might not be a spent force after all. Too much is made of Karuna’s defection; of course this fits very well into the mindset of the top brass in the armed forces. The government itself believes in its own propaganda that the LTTE is weak. But it is still to be seen whether the government is in a position to defeat the LTTE and occupy substantial areas under the LTTE’s control. Too much is made of the military’s victory in Sampur, an area vacated by the LTTE for strategic reasons.

Rajapakse’s government may propose a ‘political solution’ for ending the national question, but the prediction is that such a proposal will remain within the current unitary constitution, which is completely incompatible with the Tamil position, and will be primarily used as a cover for further military action.  The same game has been played before.

New Challenges

Who is contributing to the humanitarian crisis?  It is definitely not the LTTE, but the government with the support of the international community. The LTTE is willing to cooperate in the opening of the A9 highway to supply the 600,000 people of Jaffna.  Why is there reluctance on the part of the government. Why do they insist on using the sea?  Is it not much easier for the highways to be opened to allow for the free flow of people, goods and services, especially since this is one of the main provisions of the ceasefire? 

Contrary to the report, the LTTE does not deliberately surround itself with civilians or use large-scale deaths for its own propaganda. It is highly irresponsible for the report to make this kind of baseless statements.

The question is  - who is deliberately targeting civilians in the name of attacking the LTTE?

The LTTE might not have 100 percent of the support of Tamils, but certainly it is the only organization that can provide protection for the Tamils. Does the government have any credibility in addressing the fundamental rights of Tamils? The report should answer this question rather than engaging in bashing the LTTE. Whether it is popular in the east or in the north, one has to visit these places to have some independent verification. You can only arrive at premature conclusions, if you spend your time in Colombo and spend your time talking to the elites and visiting government-controlled areas. The idea for the government to win the hearts and minds of Tamils should have come maybe three decades ago. Whenever the government has been provided the opportunity, such as after the capture of Jaffna in 1995/96 and with PTOMS after the tsunami, it has consistently refused to invest the resources, political or material, to do so.  It is bit too late for the report to provide this kind of childish, pie-in-the-sky recommendation.


Not only does the report by the International Crisis Group add nothing by way of knowledge or analysis for a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the conflict and the prospect for a permanent peace in Sri Lanka, it is clearly biased against the LTTE and by extension against the Tamils.

By relying on sources that are heavily biased against the LTTE, the report seems not have made an extra effort in speaking to those individuals and organizations who might be sympathetic or more balanced in their views regarding the conflict and the possibility of peace in the country.

It is simply amazing that the ICG, that invests so much money and time in producing reports, could be tempted to write this kind of shoddy, unbalanced and negative report on the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Most regretably, along with its faulty analysis of recent peace efforts, the ICG has come out with a report that has hardly any recipe to kick-start a new peace process in Sri Lanka. The Tamils in the country will have to face the full brunt of the war that is already being thrust upon them by the present regime with the endorsement of the international community to protect their lives, culture and homes.

  • Publication date: