The LTTE’s challenge to the new Govt.
By K. Godage
Whoever becomes the next Foreign Minister, succeeding in fact the late
Lakshman Kadirgamar, has a hard act to follow and I wish him well. His most
important priority would of course be the management of the external dimension of
the peace process.
Mr. Kadirgamar in an earlier period (1995—2002) paid with his life for the
tremendous effort he put in to inform the world that the policy of the government
of 1994 was different to the policies that had been followed by the UNP
governments that held office from 1977 and that the new government was one
that sought a negotiated solution to the ethnic problem and respected Human
He of course also convinced the international community that the LTTE was a
terrorist outfit and their’s was not a ‘Liberation struggle’ as they claimed. That
phase over, the UNP helped the LTTE in the period 2001 to 2004 to acquire a
new respectability in the international arena.
The situation today is different to that of previous years. The LTTE is militarily
twice as strong as they were before the Ceasefire Agreement was entered into,
they have not only some sort of Naval capacity but also an Air wing. They were
allowed to travel the world and canvass their cause; they had, thanks to the
Norwegians, access to the Chanceries in western Europe; they were also able to
mobilize their Diaspora and the LTTE of today is a confident LTTE ready to even
What was the message of the polls boycott –to my mind it was simply this ----that
the LTTE will not be depending on the leaders in and of the South to grant them
their demands --- they will TAKE what they consider to be theirs! That they have
little or no interest in negotiations!
The above to my mind is the situation this new government faces. Whilst they
would need to prepare internally to meet the threat which the LTTE now possess,
they also have their work cut out for them on the diplomatic front. This is of course
where Lakshman Kadirgamar will be solely missed; there is no one in the present
government who could step into his shoes --- they would be much too big,
however that maybe, even during his last period as Foreign Minister neither he
nor the President covered the capitals where the Tamil Diaspora have been
lobbying for support for their cause.
The President did go to France and Britain on numerous occasions but she had
little to show for it; the LTTE, despite the ban was able to continue as before in all
of Western Europe. The President and her Minister of Foreign Affairs should have
visited Germany, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Australia,
South Africa and the other countries where the LTTE has a significant presence
and explained their position and won diplomatic support for their efforts but they
were remiss in this respect. They left the field entirely to the LTTE. I do hope the
new government marshals all its resources to win international support for it. I do
hope it would be equal to the task.
Besides a capable Foreign Minister the government would need the most
articulate of advocates of our cause to carry them through. Perhaps Jayantha
Dhanapala and Sarath Amunugama could be ‘conscripted’ for the purpose. The
government is at present fortunate in having an able Foreign Secretary and
professional heads of Missions in Europe (I am reliably informed that the EU ban
on meeting with LTTE leaders came about only because of the concerted effort of
all our Missions in Europe). But here again I wish to draw attention to a recent
happening in Brussels; though the EU stated that it would not meet
representatives of the LTTE, they did meet a LTTE delegation from Europe and
I wonder whether they would extend the same ‘courtesy’ to delegations of banned
Islamic so-called terror groups fighting for the Palestinian cause? My own
experience over the years has been that we have always been subject to double
standards because the ‘west’ had no economic interest in this country, after our
politicians advocating the establishment of a ‘National Economy’ or ‘Jathika
Arthikaya’ in the nineteen sixties and seventies, and nationalized all foreign owned
undertakings in this country. Today we need the help of India and her influence to
assist us abroad but the government in Delhi has to take into consideration the
feeling of the Tamils in her south when assisting us and could very well be
hamstrung by this. The government must give serious consideration to launching
a major diplomatic offensive in the west on an urgent basis.
I am more than pleased that President Rajapakse has made this task easier by
moving away from election rhetoric and advocating a moderate and realist
approach to the most vital of all issues --- our national problem, as is evidenced
by the statement he made when referring to it in his acceptance speech. Let me
set it out for the benefit of our readers:
“I reaffirm my commitment and determination to pursue the peace process to
achieve an honourable peace that will respect the aspirations of all communities in
our country. As a long standing human rights activist at the grass roots level, and
the President of all communities of my country, (Sinhalese, Muslims, Tamils and
others), peace I envisage will ensure human rights of all and multi-party
democracy in our country. To achieve this noble goal, my Government will be
ready to engage the LTTE in discussing a political solution when the LTTE
declares their readiness to resume negotiations, which they unilaterally
abandoned. To this end, I shall soon initiate consultations with all parties
concerned as a matter of top priority with a view to building consensus. My priority
work in this area will include consultations with friendly countries who have worked
with us in the past in regard to the peace process.
While these consultations are underway, I reaffirm my Government's continued
commitment to the Ceasefire and my Government’s readiness to review the
operations of the Ceasefire, as soon as the L.T.T.E. is ready to do so, in order to
effectively enforce its provisions especially those relating to political killings,
abductions, child soldiers and other human rights”.
Unlike in the past when the UNP of President Premadasa negotiated with the
LTTE he did not invite the SLFP and when President Kumaratunga sought to
negotiate with the LTTE she did not invite the UNP and on the last occasion when
the UNP, which had a more structured approach to negotiations with the LTTE,
talked with the LTTE they did not invite the Opposition. The then President, I
understand, was occasionally briefed by Minister Moragoda, but the negotiations
were essentially a unilateral business. In the last years of Ms Kumaratunge’s
government there was almost no progress on the peace front.
In the circumstances the new President ‘s words “To this end, I shall soon initiate
consultations with all parties concerned as a matter of top priority with a view to
building consensus” mark a refreshing change of approach. He should be
congratulated for this.
It would also be seen that he has accepted the position that Agreements entered
into rightly or wrongly with the LTTE cannot now be renegotiated; The President
quite rightly and sensibly stated, “I reaffirm my Government's continued
commitment to the Ceasefire and my Governmen’s readiness to review the
operations of the Ceasefire”.
A distinction has been made between the Agreement and the Ceasefire itself and
he realistically seeks to “review the operation of the Ceasefire”.
He also realistically makes no mention of the P-TOMS, for even seeking to
renegotiate that Agreement would not help to move the process forward. Further
he states “the peace I envisage will ensure human rights of all and multi-party
democracy in our country”; which is what the Indians and the entire international
community which has been assisting us till now, demands.
May I, before I conclude, urge the new government to study the Malaysian
Constitution, for there is no other country which has an ethnic situation, even
distantly resembling ours, than Malaysia.
To conclude, the new government needs to now take account of the signal given
by the LTTE, through the forced enforcement of the boycott of the Presidential
poll, which I have no doubt would be reaffirmed by Prabhakaran in his Heroes’
Day message, and prepare to meet the challenge both internally and externally.
To my mind one of the ways of pre-empting the LTTE would be to achieve a
consensus in the South by reaching out to the UNP in particular and in the words
of the President himself “initiate consultations with all parties concerned as a
matter of top priority with a view to building a consensus”. This must be
undertaken on an urgent basis lest all is lost. [Courtesy: Daily Mirror]