by Dr. S. Narapalsingam
The efforts to start Eelam War IV failed for the reasons set out in some detail below. In short, this time the conditions in Sri Lanka were different and importantly there were external pressures against the resumption of hostilities. The LTTE’s strategy to resume full-scale war by provoking the enemy failed. On the contrary, the outside world praised the Sri Lanka government for the restraint maintained during the challenging time. This may well be due to the fact that the LTTE is militarily stronger now than it was 4 years ago. Nevertheless, an opportunity for resolving the ethnic conflict has come again. Time is crucial and just talking and vacillation will result in the loss of another opportunity. At present there is no sign the promised new approach to ‘honourable’ peace is in place.
According to Operational Headquarters, Ministry of Defence between December 1, 2005 and January 26, 2006 seventy seven Security Forces personnel and Police constables were killed by the LTTE either by firing at them or in explosions. Fifteen more Naval troops are believed killed after they went missing in the sea following two LTTE attacks in Trincomalee and Mannar. The Operational Headquarters statement said: “In addition 182 Security Forces and Police personnel received serious injuries in LTTE attacks during this period ending January 26, 2006. The LTTE was also responsible for the murder of 42 civilians who opposed their views during these two months”. The death toll during the period reported by independent local and foreign media is higher. Over 200 lives have been lost since President Rajapakse assumed office in late November 2005. The stepped up attacks against the government troops resulted in the death of nearly 100 soldiers.
In an interview with an Indian magazine, Tehelka, Helen Olafsdottir spokesperson of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) told: “We have no proof that the army is directly supporting the Karuna group but we know that some local army officers had knowledge of the whereabouts of some Karuna supporters”. She said Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka were being harassed by government troops. Referring to LTTE’s claims that “people” were to blame for the bloody attacks on the Sri Lankan forces from December 4, 2005, Olafsdottir said: “SLMM finds this explanation unacceptable. The LTTE’s involvement cannot be ruled out. It is, however, also true that people are suffering and there have been several reports of civilian harassment by the security forces. So widespread was the violence in the north and east of Sri Lanka that there was no accountability”, she said.
In his address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka on January 9, 2006, Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead said: “The U.S. calls on the LTTE to stop its violent activities and to return to the negotiating table with the Government of Sri Lanka in order to work towards a stable, permanent peace. There can be a role for the LTTE in future development of Sri Lanka, but only if it returns to the peace table, renounces terrorism in word and deed and become a responsible participant in Sri Lanka’s future. And this will lead to a better life for the Tamils and all Sri Lankans in the North and East.
The LTTE’s current actions call into question its “leadership” of the Tamil people. What kinds of leaders block their people from realizing their most fundamental democratic aspirations? What kinds of leaders allow their people to continue to suffer from a lack of investment and industry? What kinds of leaders continue to pursue violence when the clear benefits of peace are obvious? These are not acts of leadership. They directly undermine LTTE claims to legitimacy and they keep the aspirations of the Tamil people bottled up”.
The warning was direct and clear. The Ambassador said: “Through our military training and assistance programs, including efforts to help with counterterrorism initiatives and block illegal financial transactions, we are helping to shape the ability of the Sri Lankan Government to protect its people and defend its interests. Let me be clear, our military assistance is not given because we anticipate or hope for a return to hostilities. We want peace. We support peace. And we will stand with the people of Sri Lanka who desire peace. If the LTTE chooses to abandon peace, however, we want it to be clear, they will face a stronger, more capable and more determined Sri Lankan military. We want the cost of a return to war to be high”.
Several Tamil associations in the U.S in a joint memorandum to the Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and to Nicholas Burns, the U.S Under Secretary of State for political affairs objected to US Ambassador’s comments. They expressed the wish that Under Secretary Burns arriving in Colombo on January 23, “will clarify to everyone what US policy is at this critical time, and help revive the peace track.” They considered Jeffrey Lunstead’s address as partisan containing provocative message to the LTTE. The memorandum stated: “One central question is why Mr. Lunstead engaged in such a reckless exercise at a time of great risk to the peace process, and just a few days before Mr. Erik Solheim’s visit, which everyone was looking to as the only way of defusing an extremely dangerous situation”. The Norwegian Minister for International Development and Special Peace Envoy, Erik Solheim also arrived on January 23. Further more, the memorandum stated: “Whatever his intention or the limits of his authority, Mr. Lunstead has helped harden the respective positions of the LTTE and of the strong Sinhala chauvinist elements in the Government, and especially the military (which is virtually all Sinhala). He has seriously complicated the difficult and delicate task of Mr. Solheim in getting the two sides to resume political contact, and also raised serious questions about the US role in the peace process”.
However, in Colombo the U.S Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns not only endorsed the Ambassador’s remarks but also gave a sterner warning to the LTTE accompanied by the call to Colombo to investigate reported abuses of Tamil minority in the island. At the press briefing in Colombo, he said: “We’re very proud of the efforts of the American Embassy here, of Ambassador Lunstead, who has done such a wonderful job to represent the United States. We are a great friend to this country. We support its territorial integrity. We support the preservation of peace. We work very closely with the government and we’re proud of what the United States has been able to do as a friend to Sri Lanka”. He further said: “We call upon the LTTE, especially, to cease and desist from the violence and terrorism that it has afflicted upon the people of this country. The bombing this morning, which cost two lives; the repeated attacks over the past several weeks; and of course the attacks over many, many years upon the political leadership and the average citizens of this country, are reprehensible and they are condemned by the international community”.
“And we hope that the LTTE will understand that it will have no relationship with my government and, indeed, no effective relationship with any country in this world as long as it seeks to redress its own grievances through the barrel of a gun. Now, we understand the Tamil community here has legitimate grievances, and legitimate issues that ought to be addressed by the government. And there ought to be a dialogue, a better dialogue, between the government and the Tamil community. But the responsibility here lies with the LTTE, which has taken up terrorism and violence as its political weapon”.
To the question about some kind of direct role the U.S. can play in bringing about a final settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns said: “If there’s any weight that America can bring, it is to try to convince the LTTE to come in and negotiate, and to try to give advice to our friends in the government that they ought to find a way not to respond to the obvious provocations of the last several weeks. I think that is really what America can do best here. We’re a friend of this country. We respect its territorial integrity and want to see it preserved. And the people of this country ought not to have to live for another 15 or 20 years with this reprehensible terrorist group keeping this country verged on the edge of war. What is striking about the situation here, in Sri Lanka, is how so many people are concerned about the possible outbreak of conflict, of armed conflict, of a civil war. It is incumbent upon all the friends of this country to band together, as we have in the Co-chairs group (U.S, EU, Japan and Norway), to send a message that we support peace, and that we’ll do whatever we can diplomatically to help prepare the road for peace. At the same time, we are trying to show our support for the government by providing military assistance and training for its officers, military exercises between our troops and the government’s troops, so that the government can be strong and the government’s forces can deter future attacks against the people of this country”.
He made it very clear that the “burden of peace rests with the LTTE”. The problem with redressing the grievances of minority Tamils through dialogue is that past bitter experiences have led to the conviction that the governments controlled by the majority Sinhalese cannot be trusted. Broken promises, abrogated pacts and non-implementation of enacted legislations and approved policies for addressing the grievances and concerns of Tamils have eroded whatever trust that existed at the time of independence. In the case of the Provincial Councils set up in terms of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, the powers were not fully devolved as intended. The intent for which the system was introduced remains unrealized. In fact it is this disbelief that is helping the LTTE to sustain its demand for absolute self-rule with little or no links with Colombo. In 1987 India decided to be a guarantor of the agreement reached with Colombo intended to address the Tamil grievances but the accord was rejected by the LTTE as falling far short of Tamil aspirations. The ineffective PC system has, paradoxically, justified LTTE’s rejection!
Following the meetings Erik Solheim had with President Mahinda Rajapakse and later on January 25 with the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in Kilinochchi, it was agreed to hold talks with the Sri Lanka Government in Geneva, Switzerland. The LTTE chief negotiator and political strategist Anton Balasingham, who will lead the LTTE team at the talks, told reporters in Kilinochchi on January 25, “the talks would concentrate on the implementation of the clauses in the February 2002 agreement with the view to ensure “smooth implementation of the CFA”. He also said that the LTTE is giving the newly elected Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapakse, “another opportunity” to take up the peace process. Earlier, the LTTE leader in his Heroes’ Day statement (27 November 2005) made an urgent appeal to the Sri Lanka Government, “to offer a reasonable political solution to the ethnic conflict without further delay”. This was followed by a warning, ”if the government opts for a hard-line position and adopts delaying tactics, we will, next year (2006), in solidarity with our people, intensify our struggle for self-determination, our struggle for national liberation to establish self-government in our own homeland.”
Anton Balasingham also told reporters: “Talks on further matters may only take place after complete cessation of the “Sri Lanka military’s violent repression of the population in Government held areas of the Northeast”.
According to informed analysts there was a compelling need for the LTTE to agree for direct talks with the Government. The U.S government’s outright condemnation of LTTE’s continued practice of killing opponents to gain absolute control over the Northeast and the travel ban imposed by the EU with the warning to declare it as a terrorist organization had dimmed the rebels’ hope of gaining international legitimacy. The latter was pursued persistently, even after the U.S, Britain and other countries had proscribed it. India was the first country to ban the organization after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Moreover, the LTTE is desperate to end the challenges it faces in the East from other armed groups, especially the breakaway Karuna group. In fact, the Vanni Tigers have reiterated during Solheim’s visit their demand that the paramilitary forces must be demobilized and disarmed by the Sri Lanka Government. The Karuna group is also considered a paramilitary unit by the mainstream LTTE after it failed to wipe out the defectors. The LTTE, as the Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and others have said, will insist at the Geneva Talks that the government must disarm the ‘paramilitary’ Karuna group in order to implement effectively the CFA. But the SLMM considers the fighters in the breakaway Karuna faction as ‘Alternative Armed Elements’ because as mentioned earlier the Monitoring Mission has no proof that the army is supporting this group.
In a pre-emptive move, V. Muralitharan (Colonel Karuna), Leader of the TamilEela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) announced on January 29 a unilateral cessation of their “self-defence campaigns” against the Vanni Tigers to enable President Mahinda Rajapakse to negotiate a permanent peace settlement for the Tamils and Tamil-speaking people in particular and to Sri Lanka in general. Whatever the motive, this is a positive development for creating a conducive climate for confidence building and seeking a viable political solution to the ethnic problem.
Watchful U.S. and EU
Unlike India which is observing the developments with regard to the peace process in neighbouring Sri Lanka quietly, both the U.S and EU two co-chairs of the Tokyo Donors’ Conference provide strident comments. Following the January 25 Agreement to hold direct talks on the CFA in Geneva, Sean McCormack, the U.S spokesman in Washington, D.C issued a press statement the same day. It said: “As Under Secretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said during his January 23 trip to Sri Lanka, this long conflict will end only when the LTTE and the government resume discussions, and the LTTE are convinced to stop using violence and acts of terror as political weapons. The United States and the other Co-chairs of the Tokyo Donors’ Conference – the European Union, Japan and Norway – have called repeatedly for a return to the negotiating table to work towards a stable permanent peace. The United States remains fully committed to the Sri Lankan peace process. The United States commends the Sri Lankan government for its restraint in the face of recent provocative attacks and fully supports its efforts as it advances towards peace. We support the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. We call on both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to take immediate action to prevent violence and to uphold the terms of the Ceasefire Agreement”.
The European Union also issued a statement welcoming the agreement between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to hold talks in Geneva, Switzerland to reinforce the Ceasefire Agreement concluded in February 2002 and to improve its implementation. The EU also reiterated its full support for Norway’s role as facilitator in the peace process and expressed its “firm hope that the talks will help stabilise the situation in Sri Lanka and lead to a peaceful solution of the conflict”.
There is widespread belief that the tough stand of the U.S. against the LTTE ahead of the meeting Erik Solheim had with the LTTE leader on January 25 made his mediation task easier. In three statements within a fortnight, Washington made it abundantly clear that the cost of launching a new war would be very high for the LTTE. It also openly lent its full weight to Colombo, promising assistance to strengthen the fighting capability of Sri Lanka’s military.
The prompt reaction of U.S to the reported kidnapping of 5 TRO officials on January 30 while traveling from Batticaloa office to Vavuniya along with 10 other fellow Tamil humanitarian workers by unidentified gunmen after passing through the Welikanda, (Polonnaruwa District) Sri Lankan Army Checkpoint shows the alertness and concern of the Embassy in Colombo. The latter on January 31 in a statement called on the authorities to rapidly probe the incident. The U.S Embassy also called on all parties to exercise restraint and calm, especially in view of the forthcoming talks in Geneva on the ceasefire agreement. On January 31, five more persons, four TRO Pre School Education Development Center (PSEDC) personnel and their driver were reported missing. The TRO’s Headquarters in Kilinochchi in a press release issued late evening 23.00 hours said the team from the Eastern Province expected in Kilinochchi in the morning had not arrived. The question is: who would want to obstruct the Geneva talks even before the date has been agreed? There are conflicting reports that help the real culprits to avoid detection.
Change in LTTE strategy
It is widely known that the LTTE has been changing its strategy from time to time according to emerging exigencies. Soon after the February 2002 Cease-Fire Agreement, the London-based LTTE strategist Anton Balasingham said there has been no change in the policies and aim of the organization and that only the strategy has changed. Having realized further progress in gaining control over the North-East cannot be swift under the prevailing ‘no war’ conditions, the leadership seems to have decided that resumption of the armed struggle is necessary to liberate the remaining land under the control of the government. A sizeable portion of the North-East is under LTTE control; despite the resistance by the breakaway group led by former LTTE Batticaloa-Amparai special commander V. Muralitharan alias ‘Col. Karuna’. The latter is against the presence of the Vanni LTTE cadres in the Eastern Province.
The preparation for the ‘final assault’ to capture additional territory started before the November 17 Presidential election. The strategy this time to make the confrontation appear as mass uprising somewhat similar to the ‘intifada’ of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must have also necessitated the election boycott. The claymore mine and grenade attacks as well as reprisal killings have been daily occurrences. The victims were members of the security forces, armed rebels and civilians. Although both the Government and the LTTE were reiterating they were committed to the truce, the frequent violent attacks prompted the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) to ask whether the Ceasefire Agreement was still holding.
The creation of a separate Tamil state in Northeast Sri Lanka is considered by the LTTE leaders as a sacred duty of Sri Lankan Tamils. It is this obsession that is behind the neglect of many important factors that will determine durable peace and the future wellbeing of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Isolation will deprive the community of freedom, worldly knowledge, liberal outlook and social and economic advancement. Decisions to suspend the studies of the Jaffna University students, to delay the opening of the new Jaffna library and some others give cause for concern.
Former IRA member and Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness was in Colombo in January following the invitation extended by INPACT to come and share his experiences with the President, representatives of the TNA and other political parties in Colombo in moving from conflict to negotiation for sharing power in Northern Ireland. In an interview he said: “If I am to deliver any message to Sri Lanka, the most important would be that there need to be an end to the conflict and there should be a meaningful process of negotiation to deal with the issues that lie at the heart of the conflict”. He expressed the view that armed conflicts like the one between the IRA and the British government should not continue indefinitely because the people will not gain any thing but only endure intense suffering. He was for a broad participation in the peace process. He said: “If there are many stakeholders the process should be an inclusive negotiating process, because many people are suffering as a result of the conflict, and all sides have the responsibility to ensure that everyone is listened to”.
The importance of Geneva Talks at the present time is different for the Government, the LTTE and the vast majority of the people yearning for permanent peace. It is peace that is uppermost in the minds of the people who have suffered immensely for more than two decades. The Tamil people in the war-torn areas are experiencing immense suffering, because of displacement, loss of family members and in many cases the breadwinners, destruction of property and chronic poverty. Reduced income from present employment as well as lack of new employment opportunities have contributed to the latter. The immediate concern of the Government is to end the spate of killings. The number of soldiers and police officers killed recently increased significantly. President Mahinda Rajapakse in his first interview after the January 25 agreement said that the main aim of going into talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels in Geneva is to put an end to violence and thereby prevent people from getting killed. The LTTE as mentioned earlier is keen on averting further sanctions of foreign governments as well as getting the travel ban imposed by the EU lifted. The hard-hitting measures proposed by the U.S against the LTTE in the event it rejects the recommended peace path and resumes war have also compelled the rebel leader to agree for the CFA talks in Geneva. Disturbing incidents like the abduction of TRO personnel could be used to boycott the talks.
Talks with no intention to seek a final political settlement as happened not only during the current ceasefire but also during previous ones will only halt the bloodshed and displacement of families from their habitats temporarily. A recent AFP report has quite correctly said: “Prospects for real peace in Sri Lanka remain distant if not bleak, despite Tamil rebels and the government being pushed back to the negotiating table”. This assessment is based on the views of some independent analysts. Sunanda Deshapriya, director of Sri Lanka’s Centre for Policy Alternatives is reported to have said: “For real peace there is no chance at the moment. There may be a respite, but that’s the maximum there can be. I cannot see any development”.
Jeevan Thiyagarajah, director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Aid, a NGO also thinks that the prospects for peace are long term. “But the positive potential far outweighs the destructive potential,” he said, noting that aid of up to three billion dollars was at stake. He has called for a “moratorium on hostile acts” by all parties. Regarding the suggestion to focus in the interregnum on “rehabilitation and development goals covering the destruction wrought by the conflict, the December 2004 tsunami that killed 31,000 people and poverty,” the same problem that arose with regard to the agreed joint mechanism advocated by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga last year for post-tsunami relief and rehabilitation work would crop up again. Since the process needs a long time for a breakthrough, Deshapriya thinks that the LTTE will not wait. “They have the momentum and violence will continue, even during talks,” he opined.
If the LTTE is hell bent on establishing a separate state in Northeast Sri Lanka, the rebels will not be interested in building trust, rehabilitation and development. All the hardships endured by the people as a result of non-cooperation and quarrelling over managerial control and channeling of foreign funds etc were cited to justify separation. In fact the withholding of pledged funds by the donors pending progress in the peace process hurts the government and not the LTTE. Tamil Tigers are not in a hurry to develop areas in the Northeast under government control. The priority is on the eviction of the military occupying the land that the LTTE wants to liberate forcibly. The high security zone (HSZ) in residential and farming areas in the North is the prime target. The LTTE does not accept the view that this has to wait for a final political settlement.
Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in 2002 that he was taking a step-by=step approach to settle the conflict. What happened later should be a lesson for the present Government. The LTTE did not wait for his planned steps. It had its own agenda and began implementing it swiftly. The LTTE leader gave a clear indication in his 2005 Heroes’ Day statement of his restlessness. He said: “Our people have lost patience, hope and reached the brink of utter frustration. They are not prepared to be tolerant any longer. The new government should come forward soon with a reasonable political framework that will satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people”. After the talks in Geneva, President Mahinda Rajapakse intends to take a new step-by-step approach to permanent peace. He has not said how he plans to persuade the restless LTTE leader to hold back his short-term plan for declaring de facto Eelam. It will be productive, if he takes Prabhakaran’s Heroes’ Day challenge seriously and come up with a “reasonable political framework” to satisfy the aspirations of all three communities, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.
The Sri Lankan State as structured now is ethnocentric. The minorities cannot get a fair deal in any constitution based on Sinhala supremacy. This weakness must be rectified if permanent peace is sought through the resolution of the ethnic conflict within a united country. The acceptance of the true multi-ethnic character of the society and diverse settlement patterns of ethnic communities is fundamental to the resolution of the ethnic conflict. The distinction between the ethnic and separatist conflicts emphasized in my previous article is relevant here. The concepts of minority rights, pluralism and unity in diversity are not matters for negotiations, though their neglect were responsible for the disunity and unrest and finally for the present struggle for separation.
Afreeha Jawad in an article, ‘Unity in diversity – the principle of peace’ published in the Daily News of 20 January 2006 has quoted extensively the sensible statements of human rights activist and former minister P.P. Devaraj. Devaraj is a committed socialist, who has spent his entire life striving for the social and economic advancement of the upcountry plantation workers. He worked closely with the CWC leader the late S. Thondaman, who succeeded in improving significantly the lot of the estate workers. This writer is aware of the attempts made by both before the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom to enhance the income of the poor families by creating supplementary self-employment opportunities in domestic agriculture. According to Devaraj, all countries are increasingly moving into a multi-ethnic State. Multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism are intrinsic features of modern societies. He believes the present political discourse to finding a solution to the North East problem to be far from holistic. The problems of all minorities in its entirety need to be considered for national integration and peaceful coexistence of all communities.
Division of the country as contemplated by the LTTE will not produce permanent peace. People will not be able to move freely from North to South and vice versa. Given that the Tamils and Muslims are scattered communities right across the length and breadth of the island, they should be able to travel freely between different regions. Above all no country will recognize the break-away state. Not one country has mentioned it will accept division of the country as a last resort. The entire world is unanimous that Sri Lanka should remain as one undivided nation.
The dilemma facing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the landslide victory of Hamas in the general election held on January 25 is worth mentioning here. It should be an eye opener for those who hope for peace and prosperity for the Tamils in Sri Lanka through separation sought by violent methods disapproved by the international community. Hamas, an Islamic militant group responsible for killing nearly 500 persons in about 350 attacks (about 50 are suicide bombings) since 1993 is officially listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. U.S President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other leaders have demanded that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel or face isolation. U.S and EU provide bulk of the $ 1 billion given annually in aid to the Palestinian Authority. This aid supports education, health and other Palestinian development projects. Fatah party founded by the Palestinian leader, the late Yasser Arafat dominated Palestinian politics for 40 years. It gave up the armed struggle and launched the peace process jointly with Israel. Interestingly, Norway facilitated the talks that resulted in the peace process. On January 30 the EU, US, Russia and UN after the joint meeting in London announced, Hamas must declare commitment to non-violence and join the peace process. They said Hamas cannot be committed to violence and peace process at the same time. Now, the foreign aid required for financing the annual budget of the Palestinian Authority is at stake.
Clause 1.8 of the Ceasefire Agreement will be the major concern of the LTTE at the Geneva talks. This stipulates that “Tamil paramilitary groups shall be disarmed by the GOSL by D-day + 30 at the latest. The GOSL shall offer to integrate individuals in these units under the command and disciplinary structure of the GOSL armed forces for service away from the Northern and Eastern Province”. Clause 1.8 should have been implemented in conjunction with other relevant clauses. If Clause 2.1 had been implemented effectively, the killings of civilians, abductions and disappearances that occurred after disarming the “Tamil paramilitary groups” would have been avoided. Clause 2.1 states: “The Parties shall in accordance with international law abstain from hostile acts against the civilian population, including such acts as torture, intimidation, abduction, extortion and harassment”.
When the LTTE continued with the killing spree targeting the unarmed political opponents and military informants and recruited children, the SLMM failed to name the party responsible for the violations. Had there been a peace keeping team, the violence that continued despite the CFA would have been minimal. If the aim at the Geneva Talks is to stop the violent activities by strengthening the implementation of the CFA, clause 1.8 must be considered along with other relevant clauses and in particular the role of the SLMM should be reviewed with the view to ensure effective monitoring and reporting. There has been no mechanism for follow up action. If the killings that occurred since 2002 and in particular during the past couple of months are to be avoided, some peace keeping force is needed.
Constitutional Affairs and National Integration Minister D. E. W. Gunaskera said at a recent meeting of the Advisory Council, the Geneva talks for strengthening the Ceasefire Agreement would help to build up an environment to begin peace talks. The Minister said that there can be no useful talks if mutual understanding and trust does not prevail among the concerned parties. This is also the view of President Mahinda Rajapakse and other leaders keen on a peaceful settlement of the prolonged conflict. It is true building trust is a two-way process. This is unimportant to committed separatists. Even the Tamils keen on settling the issue early within united Sri Lanka have some doubt whether the Sinhalese leaders will be willing or able to act as promised. The Government and the main opposition party agree they have to make a joint effort to resolve the national problem but the usual internal problems are preventing the leaders to start working jointly on the national problem. This is important for winning the confidence of the disillusioned citizens. The Tamils are yet to believe the southern polity will come up with a reasonable political solution. Although some may disagree with the violent methods used in the struggle for governing power and aims of the LTTE, they know without the Tigers the Tamils will revert back to the status of a powerless community with no hope of living with equal rights and dignity. Nothing has been done to negate this belief.
The main task in the short term will be to instate an effective arrangement to keep the peace. Rohan Gunaratna, a security analyst at Singapore’s Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies has said, “Other countries, including the United States, regional heavyweight India and the European Union, should be included in the process as guarantors”. This is necessary to ensure that the peace process does not remain deadlocked as happened since April 2003. A political settlement preserving the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka as desired by all donor countries especially India also needs guarantors for full implementation.
There are many challenges ahead that need to be overcome for making the case for separation unnecessary. The Government jointly with other moderate political parties and concerned apolitical groups must work seriously towards this end. After abandoning the draft constitution submitted to Parliament in 2000, no attempt has been made to prepare another draft. Mere declaration that federal system is suitable for fulfilling the aspirations of all ethnic communities is not enough. What is needed now is the willingness and courage to construct a political structure that will be considered as fair by the moderates in all three communities as well as the international community.