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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

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‘Patriotic political parties should stand together’

The UNP after a prolonged silence has thought it necessary to issue a statement on the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Apparently the statement echoes the concerns of the unpatriotic parties working against the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, rather than representing the interests of the minority communities in Sri Lanka - particularly the Tamils and Muslims.


Deputy Minister of Technology and Research Faiszer Musthapha

UNP in criticising the LLRC report states that its findings to the effect that the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) is conceptually flawed, is untenable. In support of this argument, it implies that the Commission had relied on statements of Javeid Yusuf, and the University Teachers for Human Rights of the Jaffna University.

The UNP had conveniently suppressed the fact that the Commission had also considered vital facts placed before it by very knowledgeable persons on the subject including Austin Fernando the former Defence Secretary at the time of signing the CFA.

He had stated that, “the CFA was structured on demarcating the territory of Sri Lanka into LTTE-controlled and government-controlled areas. This had the effect of undermining the territorial integrity of the state. It was also contended that the attempts to demarcate ‘no-go’ areas/exclusion zones in respect of the movement of the Sri Lanka Navy, off the coast of certain parts of the Eastern sea port, allowed the LTTE to facilitate illicit smuggling of weapons and war material”.

Presidential election

In addition, the Commission had before them the statements of Bernard Gunatilleke, the first Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP - the Government Peace Secretariat) and Jayantha Dhanapala among others. Thus, it would be seen that the LTTE which only had a de-facto administrative command in a specified area had been given de-jure status.

Hence, the cease-fire agreement is not only conceptually flawed, but also had bargained away the sovereignty of the nation. It would be remembered that the then Head of State was required to obtain permission from the LTTE hierarchy to visit the sacred Madu Church premises.

The UNP statement attempts to imply that, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government failed to hold direct talks with the LTTE after the election; but the fact is that shortly after winning the Presidential election in November 2005, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government re-commenced the stalled talks with the LTTE.

In 2006, the LTTE delegation flew to Norway for talks with the government of Sri Lanka, as facilitated by the Norwegian government, but they refused to attend the negotiating table on the flimsy excuse that the LTTE was not satisfied with the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) delegation.

Then again, in October 2006 the LTTE refused to proceed with talks until the GOSL agreed to open the A9 highway, knowing very well that the government would not agree to grant it, for security reasons.

It is not only amusing, but also hilarious that the UNP talks of so-called positive effects the CFA had on Sri Lanka’s economy. It is an accepted fact that the LTTE exploited the cease-fire period to increase its military strength. The Ministry of Defence in its publication titled, ‘Humanitarian Operation - Factual Analysis (July 2006 - May 2009)’, (p37) states, that there is documented evidence to the effect that the LTTE built “stockpiles of weapons and ammunitions, engaged in a large-scale recruitment drive to markedly increase its strength”.

New dimension

It is during the CFA period that the LTTE acquired aircraft adding a new dimension to its warfare by resorting to aerial attacks. These attacks were aimed at several military as well as economic targets. Further, the government was compelled to procure defence systems and counter-attack military equipment, of which the costs were enormously high. Therefore, the impact caused by the CFA on the Sri Lankan economy has been disastrous.

The aim of the UNP either to wilfully or otherwise appease the pro-LTTE elements, both internationally and domestically, is well demonstrated in the fact that the statement of the UNP had conveniently forgotten the trauma of the minority Muslims and even the Sinhalese, who were a minority in the North and East.

Has the UNP forgotten or wilfully omitted the plight of Muslims who yet undergo trauma, consequent to the ethnic cleansing programme of the LTTE? The most striking example of their dream of creating a mono-ethnic state under the guise of the liberation of Tamils is the expulsion of the 75,000 Muslim residents from the Jaffna Peninsula.

The LTTE ordered the Muslims to leave within 48 hours and a total of nearly 600 Muslims had been massacred.

The effect of the LTTE ethnic cleansing programme is aptly demonstrated by the fact that the Sinhala civilian population in the Northern Province which stood at nearly 20,000 in 1981 had been reduced to zero, a few years later.

The reference to the so-called ‘Report of the UN Panel of Experts’ is yet another instance of the UNP’s subordination to the LTTE line of action after its military defeat. In the first instance, it must be made clear that there was no report of any UN Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, probing into our domestic issues.

It is the report submitted by a committee headed by Marzuki Darusman, appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him on certain matters. The UN General Assembly, Security Council or any other arm of the UN had not appointed any commission to probe into matters concerning Sri Lanka.

Peace and harmony

The UNP laments that “no meaningful steps were taken to investigate the deaths and the disappearances of the civilians which were reported to the relevant authorities together with credible information”. The appointment of the LLRC is only the beginning of a process of reconciliation and addressing issues, if any, for long lasting peace and communal harmony.

Therefore, the findings of the LLRC will have to be addressed over a period of time. Already the President himself has declared the commitment of the government to implement the recommendations of the LLRC.

The LLRC report is very clear that any reported human rights violations be probed. Vide Chapter 9.37 which states, “(Investigate the specific instances referred to in observation 4.359 vi (a) and (b) and any reported cases of deliberate attacks on civilians. If investigations disclose, the commission of any offences, appropriate legal action should be taken to prosecute/punish the offenders)”.

The report of the LLRC has already been hailed by the international community including the Western bloc countries such as Canada. What the international community requests of Sri Lanka is to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. As anybody could see, this process is moving fast.

The Sri Lanka Army has already appointed a court of inquiry to probe into matters mentioned in the LLRC report.

The government has already appointed the Police Commission. Hence it is clear that the government is committed to implementing the recommendations of the LLRC as expeditiously as it could.

Therefore, the duty of all patriotic political parties and Sri Lankans should be to stand together to create a Sri Lankan identity and safeguard the integrity of the country and the sovereignty of the people. However it is a pity that the UNP, rather than aligning itself with the patriotic forces has chosen to provide ammunition to the separatist elements.

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