@

 
   
   
   
   
   
NEWS  
NEWS FEATURES  
INTERVIEWS  
POLITICAL COLUMN  
EDITORIAL  
OPINION  
SPORTS  
CARTOON  
BUSINESS  
EYE - FEATURES  
LETTERS  
EVENTS  
SOUL - YOUTH MAG  
ENTERTAINMENT  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

Politics


Muhamalai: For military or monetary gain?

The Government had a similar message for the Co-Chairs that it was ready to discuss the A9 at a fresh round of talks. The question is why didn’t the government discuss it at Geneva II? How could the LTTE insist on opening the Muhamalai access point to Jaffna after attacking it on August 11, as I pointed out last week? If the Co-Chairs are keen on securing the opening, they must underwrite the security aspect after they have obtained preferably a written assurance from the LTTE that it would not attack the Muhamalai FDL by direct or indirect fire. A similar written assurance must be given by the government

By Keith Noyahr
October 28 and 29 were significant days in the peace process. The parties came back to the negotiating table, weeks after war and months since Geneva I.
November 20 and 27 will be equally important days in the peace/war calendar.
Exactly a week ahead of the policy statement to mark LTTE’s Heroes Week, the Co-Chairs have fixed its review meeting in the US Capital, Washington. They will issue a strongly-worded statement cautioning the two parties against reverting to full-scale war.
The main intent, however, is to soften LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s statement currently drafted with a copy of his 2005 statement before him. He is bound to allude to his previous address and refer to the failure on the part of the President, the Government negotiating team in Geneva and possibly the All Party Conference to come up with a reasonable political solution. And as Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has reminded, the one year grace period given to President Mahinda Rajapaksa is drawing to a close.
“The LTTE has now asked both parties in the South to put forward a political solution. We should work towards that solution soon or face the threat of war,” said the beleaguered Party Leader Wickremesinghe on Friday (03).
Facing an upheaval within the party that is clamouring for democratic reforms at the November 19 convention, on Thursday Wickremesinghe said the LTTE had indicated it was ready to accept a devolution package jointly prepared by the SLFP and the UNP.
“This is a positive sign and a challenge for us,” said Wickremesinghe further entreating, “It is time for all Sri Lankans to unite forgetting their differences.”
Wickremesinghe met President Rajapaksa on Friday and discussed the issue at depth. And so did the Co-Chairs meeting at Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar’s residence the same night. It was one whole week of review with plans ahead to arrange fresh dates for talks.
Last Saturday, LTTE’s Political Wing Chief S.P. Thamilchelvam from Geneva got through to his boss in the Wanni jungles on satellite phone regarding the Government’s suggestion to discuss political issues. Prabhakaran gave him the green light. But in the absence of a written paper on political proposals by the South, Prabhakaran had said the exercise was futile. Thamilchelvam however had appreciated the MoU between the two southern parties.
Assume the Norwegians had an agenda in advance and one of the items on it was the proposed political solution by the two main southern parties. What would have been the chances of the LTTE accepting / rejecting / using it as a basis for discussion?
After the latest bout of Eelam War, the process has moved forward as the two parties are realising the war was not winnable even though some battles were won, and more were winnable.
In the year 2003, the LTTE which was biding its time, rejected two sets of UNF proposals for an interim administration. Following the Government’s third July 17 Discussion Document on the subject, the LTTE, after months of drafting, came up with the far-reaching ISGA proposals. India was miffed and so was President Chandrika Kumaratunga. And with Kumaratunga’s new government in 2004, the LTTE agreed to discuss a political solution, but insisted that ‘only ISGA’ be used as the basis for discussions. Rejected by key players, ISGA would be a stumbling block to talks on a solution today. If the LTTE is genuinely interested in a political solution, the ISGA demand must be dropped. If the government is genuinely interested in a political solution the Indian model with adaptations, must be offered. Both southern parties seem broadly agreeable on this.
As rightly anticipated, the parties parted company last Sunday over the A9 Road opening, sans agreement on fresh dates for talks.
But at the Katunayake airport on Wednesday, the LTTE told Co-Chair representatives it was prepared for a fresh round of talks, provided the Muhamalai entry/exit point is re-opened.
The Government had a similar message for the Co-Chairs that it was ready to discuss the A9 at a fresh round of talks. The question is why didn’t the government discuss it at Geneva II? How could the LTTE insist on opening the Muhamalai access point to Jaffna after attacking it on August 11, as I pointed out last week?
If the Co-Chairs are keen on securing the opening, they must underwrite the security aspect after they have obtained preferably a written assurance from the LTTE that it would not attack the Muhamalai FDL by direct or indirect fire. A similar written assurance must be given by the government.
If this cannot be done, then the LTTE must guarantee the safe passage of ships with ICRC or UN flags. It was TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree who hailed the sailors for taking food and medicine to Jaffna. And this is despite several unsuccessful attempts by the Sea Tigers to attack these convoys. What with the Digampathana attack?
If this guarantee cannot be given, then an alternative route to Jaffna, perhaps by ferry from near Pooneryn must be ensured. The LTTE, to use a cliché, cannot both have the cake and eat the cake. It cannot be both interested in the welfare of its people and at the same time subject them to trying conditions. The people of the north and east, in particular, have suffered for two long decades on account of this war. The people in the rest of this country too have suffered. Leaders on either side of the divide as well as other political party leaders cannot afford to take the people for granted any more for their selfish partisan goals. Cut all the crap and hype, it has to be a reasonable political solution to all communities.
The Co-Chairs’ strategy has worked, painfully slow though, to keep the parties both hopeful and in check. The US uses the stick on the LTTE, but militarily co-operates with the Sri Lankan government; the Norwegians use the carrot when it comes to the LTTE. This is much to the liking of the LTTE and very much to the chagrin of Sinhala nationalists.
The rest of the Co-Chairs support the Norwegians in practically every statement they make and therefore the Norwegians cannot be easily ousted. Even President Mahinda Rajapaksa who tried to sideline the Norwegians in his manifesto, acceptance speech and policy statement failed.
The Japanese have the bucks, or better the Yens, at their disposal to attract both sides, currently as well as in a post-conflict phase.
But, the bombing in the vicinity of the Kilinochchi Hospital would have a fallout on the Japanese Government, Embassy officials believe. The Embassy will have to explain to its Home Office the logic of spending 30 million dollars on a hospital in Kilinochchi courtesy the Official Development Assistance (ODA). The question that will be asked is why did Japan give its consent for a project that was vulnerable?
Since 2002, Japan has utilised ODA positively before a full peace agreement was signed, in order to contribute to the peace process here. Also, inside and outside of Japan, JICA has strengthened the collaboration with governmental organisations and NGOs providing reconstruction assistance in Sri Lanka through periodical meetings.
While the European Union (EU) has banned the LTTE and so has the US, preventing their representatives from having a dialogue with the organisation, Japan which was strongly considering a ban has decided otherwise to keep itself available.
Though the EU ban, following several warnings, has inflicted a punishment on the LTTE, the grouping is unable to have any leverage on the LTTE. But, as the Government failed to heed the warnings courtesy the EU Resolution in May, some member states will begin to cut down and even stop financial assistance to Sri Lanka. The series of abductions in government-controlled areas and even in the capital Colombo and the somewhat belligerent position of the powers that be and the failure to restrain the military have upset the EU.
The Co-Chairs also believe that while there could be threats to the FDLs in Muhamalai, Kilaly and Nagarkovil from LTTE artillery and mortar positions in the north and similarly in the East from Vakarai and Verugal, they question as to how Kilinochchi could be an immediate threat to army positions, and query the real motives of the aerial bombings here. And that too, after agreement in Geneva by both parties to uphold the ceasefire agreement. The military claims the CFA has empowered it to ensure national security. The LTTE killing machine never ceases. Even yesterday it used its deadly claymore mine to blast two sailors and injure more in Trincomalee. The interest in opening Muhamalai is for military and monetary gain, in the long and short term respectively.