by Dr. Victor Ragunathan
The Geneva talks brought the diplomatic win over policy yet a sigh of relief to the public both in the northeastern part as well as in the rest of the Island.
It is success in a stand point that
1) No overt war in the near horizon
2) The issue of war affected children’s well being taking precedence
3) Set the stage for another round of discussion.
4) An attempt to bring near normalcy in the Northeast part of the Island with no covert operations by any party in conflict.
It failed to address the following issues
1) Can the non-LTTE/TNA parties conduct normal political activities in Government control area without fear and intimidation by LTTE?
2) Can any Tamil group form new party and be active and the least can LTTE promise the safety of this people?
3) What is the penalty of Cease fire violation as Srilanka Monitoring Mission has no power to implement the violations other than reprimand the violators with mere statements.
What has happened in Geneva?
Before we go to Geneva, let us look at the conflicts of the conflicts.
There are three type of conflicts that can be applied to the three parties involved in the current saga namely the Government of Srilanka (GoSL), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the peace mediators Norwegians (of course the co-chairs USA, EU and Japan).
Approach-Approach: The mediator and the co-chairs want both to come to the negotiating table. Diplomatic pressure directly and indirectly (There was an overt pressure on LTTE and behind the door pressure on Srilankan Government – which the world is unaware) were applied which seems to have worked very well.
Approach Avoidance: The government wants to make a deal with LTTE to halt all violence sponsored by them or committed by them. On the other hand, they don’t want to curb the activities of other armed groups in the government controled area either.
Avoidance-Avoidance The LTTE doesn’t want to stop the covert military activities in retaliation to the Para-military activities (a better term as armed groups activities other than LTTE in the government control areas supported by Srilankan Military Intelligence- SMI) and doesn’t want to talk about their activities either. They were trying to avoid meeting GoSL in the climate of covert war.
Let us look at the past and review of the cease fire agreement(CFA) that lead to this Geneva Talks so that I can bring some light as we tends to have selective amnesia.
The CFA agreement started with
” The overall objective of the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (hereinafter referred to as the GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (hereinafter referred to as the LTTE) is to find a negotiated solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.”
This itself clearly states, that the agreement is between GoSL and LTTE. Whether it was run by another party or not, it is elected by the people of Srilanka therefore the question of constitutional validity is null and void. If the President Rajapakse’s government claims it was signed by a government he was not involved, it brings an argument that any law, any constitution enacted by previous governments which he is not part of it is not valid and therefore all those documents are null and void. However the governments elected by people don’t function this way.
The CFA further states
Article 1: Modalities of a ceasefire
“The Parties have agreed to implement a ceasefire between their armed forces as”……
In the second paragraph of introduction it states
“The GOSL and the LTTE (hereinafter referred to as the Parties) recognize the importance of bringing an end to the hostilities and improving the living conditions for all inhabitants affected by the conflict. Bringing an end to the hostilities is also seen by the Parties as a means of establishing a positive atmosphere in which further steps towards negotiations on a lasting solution can be taken.”
Based on the above, the CFA recognized as there are two parties in conflict who are also armed. Those are the GoSL and LTTE. It also indicates the end of hostilities and improving the living conditions.
Since the signing of CFA, except some minor skirmishes, hostile situations came to a halt until the LTTE had its internal crisis. As far as improving the living conditions are concerned, it was next to nothing to the people of all communities in the northeast part of the island.
Let me analyze both article 1.3 and 1.2 in the reverse order so that it will bring more light than seeing on the chronological order.
1.3 The Sri Lankan armed forces shall continue to perform their legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka without engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE.
1.2. Neither Party shall engage in any offensive military operation. This requires the total cessation of all military action and includes, but is not limited to, such acts as:
a) The firing of direct and indirect weapons, armed raids, ambushes, assassinations, abductions, destruction of civilian or military property, sabotage, suicide missions and activities by deep penetration units;
b) Aerial bombardment:
c) Offensive naval operations
According to article 1.3, the Srilankan armed forces (SLA) can continue with legitimate military activities to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity (sans LTTE control area). How does this translate into? The sovereign state of Srilanka lies beyond the boundaries of LTTE control area.
By amalgamating the above clauses, I came to the conclusion that “the cessation of hostilities as outlined above was signed between GoSL and LTTE recognizes that there is a de-facto state exists in the Island and there are armed forces on either side. It doesn’t recognize any other armed groups. Further it did not give specification related to the LTTE’s offensive activities within the stipulated LTTE control area as it specified in clause 1.3 related to SLA’s activities. The end results – advantage LTTE”. Having said about the two armed forces, there is an inherent quality of any armed forces, I suppose!
In any armed forces, there is a structure and a chain of command. When either the chain of command or the structure becomes defunct, anarchy and chaos are the end results. Suppose there is a revolt in SLA and a section of armed forces take control of a part of the Island from GoSL bordering with LTTE control area, GoSL has every right to take action of this renegade commander who was in the ranks of SLA who should face the disciplinary action by the court marshal. If that commander run into the LTTE control area for cover, it is the duty of the LTTE to hand over the commander to either an international body or with the supervision of an international body such as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for a safe passage to a third country since there is an effective CFA in place. However if LTTE sort into underhand technique and use the commander to exploit the SLA and GoSL, then they are violating the CFA. The exact situation existed in the eastern part of LTTE control area in March of 2004 when Mr. Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Col.Karuna in the LTTE ranks broke the ranks with LTTE. He had every right to break the rank and it is up to him and his associates to make this decision knowing the consequence as a soldier and an officer and it is in fact an LTTE’s internal problem.
It remained an internal problem until GoSL and some Anti- LTTE Tamil elements started to exploit the situation for their own benefit to weaken the LTTE. Since then both sides in a Tit for Tat manner violated the clause 1.2a of the CFA which lead to near break down of CFA in total (it had been broken in part by this time) by last December. Contrary to the LTTE claim, Karuna and his associates has no need for arms from the SLA or GoSL as they left with the ample stock of this, however it is GoSL and SMI who aided and abetted them and in fact re-trained them for covert war against the LTTE, its sympathizers and Tamil nationalists who are oppose to the policy of GoSL. Karuna and lately Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) who were brought back from India, became pawns of the game by both GoSL and SMI.
Once the above stage is set, each party in conflict was dragged into the conflicts of the conflict as I elaborated earlier, the Approach-Avoidance and Avoidance-Avoidance conflict.
With the parties in conflicts are conflicting themselves, the mediator (Mr. Eric Solheim) of the conflict himself was conflicting with Approach-Approach conflict (too many conflicts as it is true to the nature). Finally he was able to bring the parties together in Geneva with the diplomatic pressure.
Drama in Geneva
GoSL made up parties of People’s Alliance (PA) which has Srilanka Freedom Party (SLFP) as the main constituent party. Since the Tamil speaking people started the armed struggle in 70s it was the United National Party (UNP) who was in power and involved in the peace talks started in Thimbu, Bhutan under the auspices of Indian Government. With the exception of a short lived peace process which also saw some involvement of bankers and other non political personalities selected by then President Chandrika Bandaranayke Kumaranathunage (CBK), no one in the present GoSL has any exposure to internationally mediated peace talks. Prof. G.L Perris was in the SLFP team he latter cross over to UNP and became the chief negotiator.
With no experienced persons on their side for the tough talk, GoSL seeked help from all available sources both within the country as well as from out side. The game plan was
1) Revoke the existing cease fire as unconstitutional and illegal
2) Re-write the CFA with new terminology, fact and conditions
3) At the least, add an annexure to this as amendment
4) Expose the LTTE in an international arena with facts that they are violating human rights, democratic rights of the people and they are involved in the child recruitment.
The team was put to test and training and in fact some of them were educated fresh with the whole picture of the conflict since independence.
In contrast to the GoSL team, LTTE had a ready made team with veteran Dr. Anton Balasingham as the chief negotiator. The LTTE team had a different game plan which was visible since the Norwegian mediator met the LTTE leader Mr. V. Pirabaharan in January. There game plan is
1) Implement the existing CFA to every word, comma and full stop.
2) Expose the government for violating the CFA and committing human rights violations.
The stage was set for the confrontation on Feb 22, 2006. The opening statements by both parties showed their game plan clearly however, both GoSL and LTTE are not ready to compromise an inch from their stands.
Highlight of the Geneva outcome and the application of Diplomacy
To sum it up, ultimate winner is the diplomacy and not the game plan. When GoSL announced that the existing CFA was unconstitutional and that needs to be revised, LTTE came up with the answer that if this CFA according to the GoSL is null and void, it is the GoSL who is withdrawing from the agreement and not LTTE and they can take this as 14day advance notice. The clause read as
4.4 “This Agreement shall remain in force until notice of termination is given by either Party to the RNG. Such notice shall be given fourteen (14) days in advance of the effective date of termination.”
How does this translate into? That is GoSL is withdrawing from the CFA and not LTTE. LTTE played the diplomatic card based on the internationally brokered agreement in Black and White.
In the eyes of the International community, LTTE looks like saints and GoSL looks like the evils. On the other hand, LTTE had accepted that it had violated the cease fire agreement and they didn’t have the simple escape route either.
After realizing that it is GoSL that will look like the looser, LTTE played diplomacy with acceptance of the CFA and effective implementation and included the issue of Child welfare. Had the GoSL stick to the game plan for annexure of amendments not using the diplomacy to buy time, they will be the losers of the Geneva outcome. However, the GoSL made this stage to publicize the Cease fire violations committed by LTTE and to accept them to abide the agreement. On the other hand, LTTE too made this opportunity to have GoSL accept the CFA as is with no word, comma and full stop changed. As Mr.H.L de Silva pointed out at the airport, there is an addition to the cease fire agreement and they were success in doing this. His point was regarding the mention of Children’s issue in the final joint statement.
In a recent article by Tisaranee Gunasekara, she wrote” Mahinda Rajapakse has opted for the road of appeasement. Given his total inability to understand the complexities of the problems involved and his naively simplistic Sinhala supremacism this choice was unavoidable”. I would say that his diplomacy and not simple appeasement made the day. It was his diplomacy that he was able to rein the JVP/JHU combo without a word or note of the Geneva outcome for the first 48h.
What about Karuna and the concerns about Anti- LTTE Tamil groups?
Am I encouraging the notion that Karuna is being loved by the GoSL and the people who support him both overtly and covertly? The answer is clear NO. It is the fact that Karuna revolt against the LTTE made him the poster boy and Karuna should realize this. He has strengths and weakness as every human being. However, he was misguided by his new masters as well as the attention he received.
Tamil speaking people will one day may elect him as a leader as long as he maintain a neutral stand. Tamils are not willing to put up with another armed group as they had enough of this for the last three decades. They are not willing to side or face another armed conflict whether it is defensive or offensive. His admirers are nothing other than opportunists who go by the criteria” my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.
If he consider as true leader and capable of governing the people and the GoSL want to use his political power not military power, they should get an assurance from Norwegian mediators that he too can do the political work in the GoSL controlled area. Instead if he sorts to carry arms in the name of defensive use, he will reduce himself to another mercenary than an active and capable leader. There are leaders who ran governments and political parties in exile and they never sort to the violent behavior in the name of defense against the aggressor.
This is what posted by Tisaranee Gunasekara “The anti-Tiger Tamils are extra vulnerable to the vagaries of Southern politics because they lack two essentials – am independent vote base and a degree of unity”. Since there is no unity and a voter base, the politics they ran are with the guns and there is no different between LTTE and other groups and even with GoSL in Northeastern part of the Island.
Post Geneva developments
There are three notable developments I have noticed that may be significant
1) Karuna refuses to disarm and the word of exchange by the out going SLMM chief and SLA
2) Rejection of Geneva outcome by JVP/JHU
3) Warning by LTTE that there will be no more talks in the future unless GoSL abide by the Geneva outcome.
It is reported by the Reuters News Agency that Karuna was in a combative mood have adamantly refuses to disarm. The alleged interview (I suppose as the reporter has not given the detail whether he contacted Karuna in person or the interview was over the phone and when such details are not provided, the whole process is amount to the validity) has brought Anger, Guilty, Denial and Frustration that he is being victimized in this diplomatic maneuvering by all parties concerned.
After maintaining a silence for nearly 48h, JVP and JHU rejected the Geneva out come. Jathika Hella Urumaya leader Medananda Thera said in a statement that “Sri Lanka Government should not comply with Geneva Agreement. Sri Lanka cannot become a subservient entity to Liberation Tigers. “Auxiliary forces of PLOTE, EPRLF (Varathar faction), Karuna group, EPDP and Jihad group should not be disarmed. They are carrying arms to protect their own safety. If they are to be disarmed, Sri Lanka should disarm the LTTE also, we strongly condemn the Sri Lanka delegation for its acquiescent conduct at the negotiating table.
We demand that the next round of talks is shifted to a location in Sri Lanka” Propaganda Secretary of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and parliamentarian Mr. Wimal Weerawanse addressing a rally in Kataragama said that “Mahinda Rajapakse Government has deviated from finding a solution to the conflict within the unitary constitution of Sri Lanka and our reasons for defeating the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government are not bearing any results. Mr. Rajapakse has failed to fulfill the promises given to us before the Presidential elections,” He further added “Our people will have realized the futility is giving the power to govern to large parties such as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) or the United National Party (UNP). We urge the southern electorate to give the power to JVP to govern the local council. We will then be able to demonstrate what good governance is.”
Mr. Haukland’s in a hard-hitting statement urged the military to be truthful on the issue of armed groups operating in the east. This follows comments reportedly made by top army brass in the local media after the Geneva talks. The military officials reportedly said there was no evidence to prove that such armed groups operated in the east. SLMM head further said that he believed Karuna’s comments further substantiated claims that armed Karuna cadres were operating in the east despite the military saying otherwise.
Mr. S.S. Elilan A senior leader of LTTE has said that “If they don’t implement what they agreed, there’s no reason to talk again and again,” “negotiations with the government will be pointless if Colombo does not act on pledges made at peace talks in Geneva last week.” In the mean time LTTE delegation in Norway has plans to lodge complain to the Royal Norwegian Government related to the new developments in Colombo.
Governing a local council is not amount to govern the country. The duties, responsibilities and dimensions of the national government have nothing to do with the government of local council. They (JVP) may show what is good governance based on the given funds and given project implementation without corruption and this does not amount to run a country. Diplomacy has no place in the local council politics as only policy take precedence. Both JVP and JHU need a crash course in International diplomacy prior to the next round of talks in order to understand the negotiating skills.
Post Geneva developments cast a shadow of doubt that whether GoSL has every sovereign right to safeguard its people within its boundary or in other words does it enjoy the sovereignty as it claimed. Karuna allegedly have told that “No one can impose their will on us to take them (arms) from us, which we use only for defensive purposes.” On the other hand Mr. Haukland has said that there are armed groups in the east and Karuna’s recent claim further substantiates this. Going by this, does GoSL has the will to apply its sovereign right over unauthorized (according to the CFA) armed groups to disarm. Only the time will tell the truth.
In conclusion, the Geneva talks is a success for diplomacy over the violent arms struggle but it has many holes still needs to be patched. One of the main hole is the lack of safety from the LTTE to the genuine Non-LTTE political parties who remained non-violent. As Dr. Anton Balasingham told to a Colombo media that LTTE doesn’t have a problem of EPDP doing political activities as long as they don’t carry arms, this should be applicable to all parties who will otherwise willing to do political work.
One of the positive aspects of the outcome is children’s welfare being addressed both in the northeast and the southwest as they are being ignored for decades. They are the future foundations of our nation.
Robert Kanigel who wrote the book “The man who knew infinity” about the life of the mathematics genius Ramanujan sited how a complex mathematic problem (for a 14 year old) can be simple if we look in a different angle. He sited an event when Ramanujan was given a mathematic problem presumed to be challenging to him,
√X + Y = 7,
√Y + X = 11 look like complex with two simultaneous equation with two unknowns. How ever, Ramanujan came with answer in 30sec. as he looked at a different angle, the simple way or in fact he did not work it at all. It puzzled me first, and when I looked at it for the second time, I was able to sort this out with out any mathematic work out. How simple is this? Look at the numbers, first the numbers must be in full and not in decimals, second the numbers must be under 10, third X is greater than Y. This left with only two numbers under ten that give full square root value. Therefore X= 9, and Y= 4.
Each conflicting parties should put themselves on the opposite site and see the reality first before the next round, only then they can see the truth and the suffering of the other side. Until next round, peace assured.