|Co-Chairs to save CFA from
The Co-Chairs, The Nation
reliably learns, is to bring pressure on the Government to open
the A9 road
The closure, according to the Government, was necessitated
due to the massive artillery and mortar attack launched by the
By Wilson Gnanadass
entire nation awaits the outcome of the Co-Chairs’ deliberations
scheduled for Tuesday, November 21, in Washington.
Tuesday’s meeting in Washington is expected to be a crucial one
in the backdrop of the escalating violence between the Sri Lanka
troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
It is too premature to guess what is in store for Sri Lanka by
the Co-Chairs but what could be expected is pressure from the
Co-Chairs on the Government and the LTTE to recommence direct
However, serious questions are raised whether any decision
arrived at by the Co-Chairs; the United States, the European
Union, Japan and Norway, would have any impact on either the
Government of Sri Lanka or the LTTE. In other words, one wonders
whether both the Government and the LTTE would take the
decisions of the Co-Chairs seriously.
On September 12 this year, the Co-Chairs that met in Brussels
demanded that both sides resume negotiations.
The Co-Chairs, while welcoming the expression of willingness of
the Government and the LTTE to come to talks unconditionally,
said that the parties should cease all violence immediately.
The Co-Chairs in its statement said they were deeply alarmed by
the recent deliberate violations of the Ceasefire Agreement by
the Parties adding that these have escalated violence and
resulted in massive and widespread human suffering, including
the abuse of human rights, the displacement of innocent
citizens, a humanitarian crisis and an exodus of refugees to
The Co-Chairs also pointed out that the political challenges of
the North and East cannot be resolved through war.
The statement further said that the LTTE must abide by all
agreements and renounce terrorism and violence and show that it
is willing to make the compromises needed for a political
solution within an united Sri Lanka. It was also said that the
Government must ensure its military abides by the Ceasefire
Agreement and implements the pledges from the Geneva meeting in
The statement also said; “Both parties must stop further
violations of fundamental principles of Humanitarian Law and
Human Rights. The Co-Chairs are particularly concerned that even
major cases of human rights abuses are not successfully
investigated or prosecuted. As in any modern state, the culture
of impunity must stop. The Co-Chairs welcome the call of the
President for international assistance on the human rights
issue, and offer to send a mission of high-level experts to
review the current situation and suggest further actions before
the end of October.
“Failure to cease hostilities, pursue a political solution,
respect Human Rights and protect Humanitarian Space could lead
the international community to diminish its support.”
However until now, the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE have
engaged in military ground operations and neither has responded
adequately to the Co-Chairs’ call and taken the necessary steps
to reverse the deteriorating situation as recommended by the
Outcome of Tuesday’s meeting
Whether or not the decisions the Co-Chairs make are adhered to
by both the government and the LTTE, the Co-Chairs this time are
expected to lay down some hard conditions especially on the
Government given the present volatile situation.
The Nation reliably learns that the following matters are likely
to be given prominence during the Co-Chairs’ deliberations this
week in Washington:
1. Calling on both parties to immediately resume direct talks.
2. Calling on both parties to strictly honour the provisions of
the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).
3. Calling on the Government to open the A9 road forthwith.
4. Welcoming the MOU signed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)
and UNP and adding that these two parties should go ahead
despite obstacles to achieve the target they intended to do so
at the time of signing the agreement.
5. Condemning the decision by the Government to de-merge the
Northern and Eastern provinces and insisting that the merger is
the only panacea to the North-East crisis.
6. Placing emphasis on the role of India in solving the
North-East crisis. The Co-Chairs are also likely to emphasise on
the need by the Sri Lankan Government to solve the crisis based
on the Indian model of federalism.
Of the above mentioned topics, the temporary closure of the A9
highway, entry/exit checkpoint at Muhamalai situated at the
isthmus of the Jaffna peninsula on August 11, 2006, by the
Government is expected to be a hot topic during the
The A9 is the sole road to Jaffna on which supplies to the
600,000 residents must travel. The road has been closed since
August. This has resulted in tens and thousands of Tamil
civilians including children starving and facing near death.
The Co-Chairs, The Nation reliably learns, is to bring pressure
on the Government to open the A9 road.
The closure, according to the Government, was necessitated due
to the massive artillery and mortar attack launched by the LTTE
on the Government forces on the day the LTTE destroyed the
entire infrastructure built by the Government at Muhamalai to
facilitate the movement of people and goods.
The LTTE has continued with almost daily attacks since then
causing death and injury. The Government is therefore, unable to
open the checkpoint until the area is safe for the movement of
civilians and supplies and until it can be assured that national
security will not be compromised.
The Government is determined not to open the A9 road. The LTTE
on the other hand, has already rejected the alternative routes
suggested by the Government.
However, the Co-Chairs The Nation learns, is not likely to
justify the closure of the A9 road and therefore, is to mount
pressure on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to open the A9 without
any further delay.
The Co-Chairs are also concerned regarding the deteriorating law
and order situation in the country and especially the
humanitarian crisis in the North.
The United States is expected to take this issue separately with
the Government of Sri Lanka The Nation learns.
The EU and Norway are expected to threaten the Sri Lankan
Government by freezing foreign aid if the Government fails to
open the A9 road and take meaningful steps to stop all air
attacks on civilian populated areas in the North and East.
However, the US and Japan it is learnt, will give the assurance
to the Sri Lankan Government that they would continue to provide
aid to Sri Lanka.
The Government is unlikely to get upset over the decisions by
According to Defence Spokesman and Cabinet Minister, Keheliya
Rambukkwella, the Government is unable to open the checkpoint
until the area is safe for the movement of civilians and
supplies and until it can be assured that national security will
not be compromised.
His contention is that if the Co-Chairs insist on the opening of
the A9 road, then the Co-Chairs must give the Government the
assurance that the LTTE will not carry out attacks on Government
troops, tax the civilians, recruit child soldiers and the forced
military training of these young people in the Wanni.
Can the Co-Chairs give this assurance to the Government of Sri
Lanka is a question that should be answered by the Co-Chairs
The Government is also suspicious of the LTTE’s demand to open
the A9 road while rejecting all other alternative routes. The
closure of the checkpoint has considerably reduced the Rs 20 to
30 million daily income for the LTTE gained through the
imposition of illegal levies through out the A9 from Omanthai to
It is the Government’s desire that if the LTTE is prevented from
collecting taxes from the people, the movement could easily be
However, if this was going to starve nearly 600,000 people, then
the question is whether the Co-Chairs will remain silent.
The Co-Chairs are also going to hold more discussions with India
and are going to insist that Sri Lanka honour the Indian model.
However, in an interesting comment to an Indian newspaper,
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, two weeks ago, said that India need
not play a direct role in the peace process in his country.
In an interview to the Chennai-based Daily Thanthi, Rajapaksa
said that it would be enough if India carried on a global
campaign against the collection of funds and arms by the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Again one wonders whether Co-Chairs’ voice would be heard even
if they at the Tuesday’s meeting, planned to insist Rajapaksa to
allow India to play a bigger role in the Sri Lankan peace
Tuesday’s meeting in Washington and the decisions taken by them
would mean nothing if the Government and the LTTE fail to honour
and adhere to these recommendations.
On the other hand, the Co-Chairs too must realise that if
recommendations made to both the Government and the LTTE were
not going to produce results, there must be other ways of
convincing them to halt hostilities and come for direct talks.
If the Co-Chairs are not in a position to systematically find
ways and means of convincing these two parties, then why meet