Legal remedy to overcome Geneva?

by K.T.Kumaran

The dust is still settling from last week’s Geneva meeting between the LTTE and GOSL, and predictably the ground is still shifting. The shift may widen the gaps and the second round of talks may fall through the cracks, if the gaps become deepened and drenched with all sorts of new players.

An interview to Reuters’ Simon Gardner by Karuna, about “moral right to hold onto our arms”, JVP, JHU rumblings at their coalition partner and talk of questioning legalities may hinder progress on the ground. JVP and JHU are warning that “corrections” be made at future meetings, while Colombo’s legal expert on the Geneva team saying the truce is still flawed legally. Commenting on Geneva outcome he told AFP, “this does not give validity to the original agreement but this purports to explain ambiguities and doubts created by the original agreement,” H. L. de Silva said. “The question of invalidity remains as before.”

Anton Balasingham, the chief negotiator and political strategist of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), rejected outright the Sri Lanka government’s claims. “This bizarre interpretation given by the President’s counsel, Mr H.L. De Silva is ridiculous and preposterous and totally unacceptable to the LTTE”, Mr Balasingham told TamilNet.

In the meantime government of President Mahinda Rajapakse is working on to appease constituents and coalition partners by being in denial as to the outcome of the Geneva talks. State owned press and government press briefs continue to gloat about a “victory in Geneva”.

And the UPFA opposition and the LTTE press are continuing to hammer away saying that the GOSL team was unprepared and was overwhelmed by the experienced and well prepared LTTE team.

The principal claim crediting LTTE’s triumphant at the talks is the agreement to disarm the paramilitaries in government controlled areas or more specifically “The GOSL is committed to taking all necessary measures in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement to ensure that no armed group or person other than Government security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations.“

However, this being somewhat described as a “surprise outcome” from the Geneva talks is an exaggeration. Weeks and days into the meeting, there were widely circulated press reports as to LTTE will want “Karuna’s head” at the talks. Some GOSL propagandists also claimed that it will be unfair to ask the government to disarm Karuna, since they never armed him in the first place.

So why there is a euphoria of LTTE victory?

In the same manner as LTTE was allowed to do political work in government controlled areas via the 2002 CFA, talks in Geneva also seem to have paved the way for LTTE to come out of a difficult situation. Refraining from stronger military action to curb the paramilitaries under the watchful eyes of the international community, LTTE appears to be attempting at different methods to curtail their menace. The LTTE seemingly in a difficult quest to gain international recognition after the EU travel ban is well aware of the dangers of being blamed for starting the war.

However Karuna, in an interview to Reuters, has said “Our people … have entrusted us to defend them from the LTTE. Our people will not like us to become submissive and just hand over our weapons to satisfy the LTTE brutes.”.

But the LTTE would expect the GOSL to adhere to what was agreed in Geneva, while the whole world watched.

On LTTE’s part it may be relatively easier to curtail activities that were required of them in Geneva. Thus halt claymore attacks, child recruitment and other political abductions. LTTE seem to be finding a niche as much as possible, on the road they are forced to take; thus hinge on talks and globe trotting.

GOSL hawks maybe thinking a war may be the best way to come out of the current dead-lock, but it may not be as easy as it would seem to fire the first shot.

Geneva has boxed GOSL and LTTE in the international arena with regards to the 2002 CFA. The widely covered Geneva talks and its outcome will hold both parties to be accountable more than ever. The strenuous role of the Norwegians and the euphoria created in the aftermath, will keep the commitment made at the end of the talks in the limelight.

President Rajapakse’s determination to do everything to keep his coalition partners’ flak took the face to face meeting with LTTE – the first in there years, all the way to Geneva, a much internationally acclaimed location for peace negotiations.

The government may wish for the LTTE to make a “mistake” in the coming weeks.

A mere continuation of the “absence of war” while the South “enjoys” the “benefits” of the cease-fire may drag LTTE’s feet into war. And a failure to implement accord reached at the end of the two day meeting may become unacceptable to LTTE. A “mistake” along these lines is what the GOSL hawks will want, to put their “loss in Geneva” behind.

Another carefully orchestrated plan that didn’t go anywhere is the anti LTTE demonstrations that took place in Geneva. A key participant in the demonstrations, a former PLOTE cadre who is said to be working in hand with some of the paramilitaries in North-East was arrested for illegally entering Switzerland. Details about his capture were reported erroneously in some Sri Lankan press without the knowledge that the arrested man was in fact working against LTTE.

Having this sort of a demonstration also shows that the times have changed and the GOSL is continuing to be in denial. A decade ago it would have been the sympathizers of LTTE who would have rallied up calling for international attention at such gatherings. Today the LTTE team is going around town after concluding their meetings with the GOSL counterparts. LTTE is in Swiss meeting with officials, the Tamil diaspora raising funds and attending cultural feasts.

Events preceding Geneva also may raise its ugly head; such as the “disappearance of TRO workers” and “explosions in the sea” on the eve of Sri Lankan foreign Minster Mangala Samaraweera’s trip to the US that failed to provide much evidence other than the news headlines themselves and cast doubts whether these were pre-emptive blame games.

Comments made by H. L. de Silva, a legal expert in the Colombo delegation, “original weakness and legal infirmity remains,” could encourage law suits from the hard-line collation partners of President Rajapakse or the National Patriotic Movement. The Geneva talks may delve into the dreaded P-Toms agreement path, at the hands of a Sri Lankan activist court. The government may then have a sigh of relief for having the court to take the decision of not having to take the “head of Karuna”. That’s a legal remedy locally made, in lieu of a “victory” Rajapakase team couldn’t fully claim diplomatically in the international arena.

Or the UPFA opposition press would rather say, “legal remedy to overcome diplomatic comedy!”.

BBC Sandeshaya reports that there has been renewed activity in the Sri Lanka Appeals Court as well today, petitioners JVP and JHU urging to rule that the CFA is invalid.

A delay in any number of ways, in the implementation of the Geneva talks on legal grounds, or any other similar way out will allow the new Sri Lankan President to buy time to prepare for war, the only way for him to be free from the impasse he finds him self in.

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