IDPs in Sri Lanka: The untold story
Insurgency has its causes and reasons but not terrorism. In the early
stages of the conflict there were many insurgent groups and all of them
except one chose democracy to serve its people. That one is the LTTE
which transformed itself from insurgency into terrorism.
According to David Rapport, an expert on terrorism, man has
experienced four waves of terrorism to date. The first being the start
of Terrorism in the early 19th Century by way of anarchist terrorism and
thereafter followed by the second and third waves of colonial and anti
colonial, new left wave and the fourth being religious and ethnic wave.
Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that defeated the last two
waves and bravely faced the second.
An IDP child at a welfare center. File Photo
No nation, no army can defeat terrorism without the support of its
population. Sri Lanka, I must say, was able to defeat LTTE because of
the unreserved support it received from all citizens living on Sri
Lankan soil, in particular, the Tamils. Without the support of all
communities living on Sri Lankan soil, this miraculous victory would
never have been a reality.
It is now time to reconcile and develop the nation. Every word we
utter, every action we take should help to develop the country and not
dent the progress in any manner. I must emphasize and admit the fact
that we need the unreserved support of the Diaspora to accelerate this
process. It is with this in mind, in our hour of need that we thought it
appropriate to enlighten you from the media and our beloved friends
whose roots begin from Sri Lanka to obtain your fullest support in the
reconstruction process of Sri Lanka devastated by a three decade war.
To begin with, there had been four peace initiatives since 1985;
first under President, JR Jayewardene with the mediation of the Indian
Government, second under President R. Premadasa, third under President
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga with the facilitation of the
Norwegian Government and the fourth initiated by former Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremasinghe with the facilitation of the Norwegian Government
again, which, was re-commenced by the present President Mahinda
All four initiatives stopped abruptly due to the LTTE unilaterally
pulling out from the peace initiatives. It is a sad reminder that all
the chief architects or their closest relatives were either killed or
their lives were attempted by the LTTE.
The chief architect of the first peace talks Gamini Dissanayake from
the Sri Lankan side and the former Indian Prime Minister Sri Rajiv
Gandhi from the Indian side were both assassinated by suicide bombers.
The chief architect of the second peace talks President, Ranasinghe
Premadasa was also assassinated by the LTTE on May 1, the very
particular day dedicated to workers by the world community.
The chief architect of the third President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga’s life was attempted and she escaped miraculously but lost
Then the life of own brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa; the
chief architect of the fourth peace talks was also attempted by the
This is not all, there had been 94 assassinations of political
leadership by the LTTE in Sri Lanka and out of them sadly, the majority
are Tamils. This include the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman
The life of Minister Douglas Devenada was attempted 13 times. They
also did not spare the clergy of all religions and innocent civilians of
all ethnic groups.
Although three attempts of peace talks failed to bring the LTTE to
the mainstream politics, all the other insurgent groups were brought
into the main stream politics through negotiations.
Another significant achievement in conflict resolution through
negotiations was the establishment of Provincial Councils through the
13th Amendment of the Constitution thereby devolving power to provinces.
Though this is a huge burden to the exchequer in a country so small
as Sri Lanka, it was introduced to share power and give due recognition
to all communities. While people of seven provinces enjoyed devolution
of power, people of the other two; the North and East to whose benefit
and request the power was devolved, were not allowed to reap the
benefits by the LTTE.
Humanitarian operation in East
The 2002 peace talks were initiated with a ceasefire agreement signed
between the Prime Minister Sri Lanka and the leader of the LTTE on
February 22, 2002.
It was given a fresh start after a lapse of time by the present
President Mahinda Rajapaksa until he was forced to realize that fruitful
results will not be achieved through this process.
There were as many as 10,000 ceasefire violations by the LTTE until
it was officially terminated in January 2008 after realizing that
negotiations never worked with terrorists.
The Government and the Security Forces turned a blind eye to all
those violations for the sake of peace. However, on July 28, 2006, the
LTTE closed the sluice gate of Mavil Aru depriving water to 5,800
families with 25,486 members and 4,500 acres of paddy.
Sri Lankan villages are based on three main pillars; place of
worship; it can be a Temple, kovil, mosqe or a church; school and
irrigation tank. All three pillars are important and sacred to
A Hindu Kovil is built on the embankment, close to the sluice gate of
every tank. That is to say only the god has the discretion and liberty
to control water.
Therefore, depriving water so sacred to them was a very sensitive
issue not only to those who were deprived but to all Sri Lankans. Thus
the Government did what any other democratically elected Government
would have done.
The military was tasked to open the sluice gate and restore water
supply after all efforts through Norwegian facilitators to open the
gates failed. The humanitarian military operation was a success and the
water supply was restored by August 8, 2006.
Thereafter, the Government continued its humanitarian military effort
and cleared the entire Eastern Province by July 2007. Before commencing
the military operation, the Government laid down rules of engagement to
the Security Forces, the foremost being zero casualties of civilians.
To be continued
The Writer is Deputy Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Malaysia