Pressure for talks and border realities
TALKS: For most of this week the LTTE has been playing hard to get
with regard to participation in the Geneva 2 round of negotiations that
the Government has already given its consent to. After its savage
suicide bomb attack on Navy personnel near Sigiriya earlier this week,
which came quick on the heels of the limited success it had at Muhamalai,
the LTTE kept the guessing game live about its presence in Geneva later
this month. It added to the speculation with the attack at Galle last
Opinion remains divided whether the LTTE would come for the talks or
not. With the developments of last week, what becomes more important
than their decision to come to Geneva for another round of talks is how
serious they are about a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict.
No doubt there is pressure being applied by the Co-chairs for the
LTTE to come for talks. Although they were not all here together, the
presence in Sri Lanka this week of the US Assistant Secretary of State
for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, Japan's Special Envoy for
the Sri Lanka Peace Process Yasushi Akashi and Norway's Special Envoy
for the Peace Process, Jon Hansen-Bauer, gave the impression of a
mini-Co-Chairs confab that sought to firm up moves for Geneva 2.
It would now appear that the LTTE would come to Geneva giving the
impression that it was dragged there against its will due to pressure
from the international community, and had nothing to do with the
setbacks they faced from late July this year.
Some reports already state that Tamilchelvam, leader of the LTTE's
political wing, has stated that they will attend Geneva 2 but see no
purpose in talking of a long term political solution there under the
No doubt the LTTE would like to talk of solutions only when the
conditions are best from their point of view. It is significant that
while wanting to discuss the core issues relating to a political
solution to the ethnic crisis, the Government is showing its own
commitment to negotiations, by keeping to its resolve to attend Geneva
2, despite the LTTE's attempts to make it a non-starter.
The LTTE's reluctance to engage in serious negotiations and its
reservations about discussing a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict
in Sri Lanka has to be viewed in the context of recent revelations about
its activities involving global terrorism.
Writing last week in the "Global Politician" - an independent
magazine, providing objective, in-depth analysis of world events,
Dominic Whiteman reveals about the LTTE's links with Al-Qaeda.
Whiteman, spokesperson for the London-based VIGIL, anti-terrorist
organization, states: "The annual publication of the International
Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) London 'Military Balance
2005/2006' referred to emerging links between the LTTE and the Al-Qaeda
It was later revealed confidentially by the editors (of IISS) to
diplomatic sources that these links were in terms of commercial
transactions including trafficking for financial gain and acquisition of
technology rather than any ideological linkage.
Experts are studying with interest links between the LTTE and Al-Qaeda
in its financial, commercial and arms dealings. It is also believed that
such links also exist in maritime transactions.
Dominic Whiteman also reveals how the LTTE, although officially
banned as an international terrorist organization in the UK, continues
to carry on its activities not with impunity but with an openness that
remains unchallenged, thereby calling into question the honesty of
purpose of UK authorities in banning it.
The details of the activities given, substantiated with references to
the findings of Human Rights Watch and other sources are too numerous to
be detailed within the limited space of this column. See - (http://globalpolitician.com/articledes.asp).
The Washington Times of October 18 in its editorial comment titled
"Targeting the Tamil Tigers" said: "Any hope that the militant
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam would respond to diplomatic pressure
and renounce their terrorist tactics ahead of the ceasefire negotiations
scheduled for the end of the month was murderously subverted by a
suicide attack that killed more than 100 Sri Lankan sailors this week.
Although the government is poised to enter peace talks backed by
political consensus for the first time, its willingness to negotiate the
end of violence in Sri Lanka is being undermined by the rebel group's
continuing violence. The talks are still scheduled, but will only
provide salvation for the war-torn South Asian nation if the Tamil
Tigers can be forced into truly renouncing violence - an unlikely
"Legitimate ceasefire talks require the Tamil Tigers to match the
government's level of commitment to peace. In the past two decades of
peace efforts, however, this hasn't happened. The Tamil Tigers have
entered negotiations and ceasefire agreements with a disingenuous
promise of peace only to use the break in hostilities to secretly
regroup, rearm and re-launch their offensive.
The Tamil Tigers are not interested in peaceful coexistence; their
only goal is to win substantial territorial concessions, which is a
nonstarter for the Sri Lankan government, and justifiably so. The
Tigers, furthermore, lack any real support of the Tamil people and
intimidate their opposition into silence."
These are other reports by those who have studied the tactics and
actual objectives of the LTTE show that expecting the LTTE to be overly
willing to agree to a negotiated settlement of the ethnic crisis is
being too optimistic. However, given the current realities, it is
necessary to keep the window of negotiation open, while not shutting out
all other options, so that one could look forward to the time when the
LTTE comes around to the yet unlikely prospect of renouncing violence.
This will need a great deal of reassessment of its own strength by
the LTTE, and an clear understanding that it has no access to funds from
the Tamil Diaspora in the West, whether by contribution or compulsion,
and the curbing of its business interests, both legal and illegal in
Europe where it is banned.
Patience and new reality
This involves a great deal of patience, of the type shown for many
months by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, when the LTTE kept on escalating
the level of violence against the Sri Lankan security forces and
civilians ever since the new President's election in November last year.
It was a degree of patience and restraint that won him plaudits from
the international community, and demonstrated he was not the war monger
that many charged him to be. He proved his patience was not cowardice
when the LTTE sought to deprive people of their life-giving water at
Mavil Aru, and other subsequent provocations.
In the highly charged political atmosphere of today, particularly
with the continued violence by the LTTE, the value of a proper mix of
such patience with a demonstration of strength can continue to show the
President as genuine peace maker, and help defeat the overall aims of
The decision of the Supreme Court declaring the earlier proclamation
by President JR Jayewardene merging the North and East, as ultra vires
and invalid in law, has brought about new realities in politics.
President Rajapaksa is on record having stated that the future of the
Eastern Province should not be one that is imposed on the people by law,
regulations or agreements to which they are not party, but a matter that
has to be decided by them, expressing their freedom of choice. How this
choice of the people is to be expressed is the new reality.
Another aspect of this reality is the question whether we should
continue to live with the provincial borders bestowed on us by our last
colonial ruler; borders that were drawn up purely to facilitate revenue
collection for that ruler.
Apart from a merger of the North and East, there have been many
proposals made by those who have studied our history, socio-political
actualities, geography and economic factors that have suggested the
de-drawing of provincial boundaries. Some of these suggestions hark back
to the time of the Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti kingdoms. Others are based on
the contours of the main rivers.
There could be many other ways of studying this. What is necessary is
to consider the present situation as an opening for new thinking on the
subject of provincial boundaries and not necessarily be bound by old