News Features

LTTE ban: Step towards law and order in regained areas

But doors to talks not completely shut

By Channa Kasturisinghe
The Government of Sri Lanka while extending its military victories to strategically important Elephant Pass last week, took another crucial decision to declare the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) a banned organisation.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had earlier warned the LTTE to free the innocent civilians in areas where there were intense battles with the Security Forces or to face a possible ban. Although, several other countries including India, United States and the EU had proscribed the LTTE in their countries, the Sri Lankan government waited for a long period, before doing the same in order to get the LTTE to the negotiating table to reach a peaceful solution to the north east problem.

The long wait came to an end last week with the government announcing the decision to ban the LTTE under Chapter 40 of the Public Security Ordinance. Continuous armed conflict against Security Forces to establish a separate state in the North and East, acts of terror including destruction of civilian lives and property, illegal procurement and smuggling of arms, forcible use of child soldiers, and the threat to international and regional peace, have been among reasons for the Sri Lankan government to ban the LTTE for a second time.

Although the LTTE had been committing acts of terrorism since early 1980 to win Eelam, the terror outfit was first banned only in 1998 following its heinous bomb attack on the sacred Dalada Maligawa. However, the ban was lifted in September 2002, as the then government considered it essential for peace talks after the two parties signed a Ceasefire Agreement.

The present government following a successful battle to free the Eastern province issued repeated warnings to the LTTE to surrender and enter the democratic process. When the government launched its military action to free the north, the LTTE continued to use civilians as a human shield, and also prevented humanitarian relief reaching the population. Some representatives of political parties and academics who spoke to The Nation said that the LTTE’s act of keeping innocent civilians hostage prompted the government to reintroduce the ban.

Talks with LTTE still possible – Jathika Hela Urumaya

Udaya Gammanpila of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, responding to criticism by certain parties that the decision to ban the LTTE could close the door on any future peace talks, said that the government’s decision did not take away the possibility of talking to the LTTE.

“Anybody can have talks with the LTTE with the government’s consent. We must not forget that the UNP government entered into a Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE when it was a banned organisation. The question some are raising is: why is it necessary to ban it at this juncture? We as the Jathika Hela Urumaya believe that this is the ideal time to ban the LTTE, while the government Forces have been able to break its backbone through successful military action.

The ban will also help curtail pro LTTE activities in any part of the country by those groups that are indirectly and directly supporting their cause. It is crucial that we defeat those elements which help the terrorists financially and ideologically,” Gammanpila said.

He said that the LTTE’s use of civilians as a human shield could be the biggest obstacle for the government in capturing Mullaitivu where the terrorists are cornered now.
“The capture of Paranthan some time ago was actually the beginning of the end for the LTTE. The fall of Kilinochchi, Palali, and Elephant Pass was just a matter of time. But when it comes to capturing Mullaitivu, the government has to think of the innocent civilians too. That was why the government repeatedly warned the LTTE against using civilians as a human shield or else to face a possible ban,” Gammanpila said.

Ban closes only avenue for negotiations – UNP

UNP MP John Amaratunga however said that the banning of the LTTE would close the only avenue to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table.
“We know that the LTTE had been banned by several countries. But in Sri Lanka it was not proscribed, with the objective of getting the LTTE to participate in peace talks. But what we see is that the government has only kept faith in a military solution,” Amaratunga said.

Set up Police Stations in re-captured areas- Attorney-at law

Gomin Dayasiri, Attorney at law said that the banning of the LTTE will be instrumental in establishing law and order in the areas captured by security forces.
“Under the CFA, the LTTE was given the right to carry out political activities in all parts of the country. They used the provision to open political offices in several parts of the north and the east. But, instead of political activities these offices became places of military activities of the LTTE. That enabled the terrorists to disguise themselves in the form of political activists, while campaigning for a separate state. With the ban lifted, the LTTE was in a position to do so as they were protected by the fundamental right to engage in political activities.

Now that the present government has taken the decision to re-impose the ban, it is vital to establish law and order in the areas captured by our Forces by setting up Police Stations. Then only will the banning of the LTTE become a meaningful exercise. The government with the institutions to uphold law and order in these areas, will be in a position to enforce order against any separatist activity,” Dayasiri said.

Banning can hamper solution efforts – CWC

R. Yogarajan, the General Secretary of the Ceylon Workers Congress said that the banning of the LTTE could hamper the efforts towards finding a solution to the north east problem through peaceful means.
“The CWC as a party has not met and discussed this issue. But the question is, whether it would serve any purpose at this moment. I am concerned about the civilians trapped in the war torn areas, and the banning of the LTTE could aggravate the situation. There were organisations which were ready to talk to the LTTE to get those civilians freed. It could also make it difficult to solve other humanitarian issues in the areas where the war is taking place,” Yogarajan said.
No efforts by humanitarian agencies to free civilians – JVP
However, Anura Kumara Dissanayake (MP) Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna said that such an issue would not arise due to the banning of the LTTE.

“Earlier, there weren’t any attempts by those so called humanitarian agencies to free innocent civilians by talking to the LTTE. There is no reason as to why they would try to do so now,” Dissanayake said.

Dialogue only solution to national problem – UPFA

Minister D. M Jayaratne said that the LTTE did not listen to the President’s request to lay down arms and surrender, and therefore there was no alternative other than to ban the organisation.
“Since the Thimpu talks, the LTTE was using the negotiating table whenever they wanted to. Therefore, various governments had to keep that door open for peace talks. But today the government has been able to weaken them militarily, and now they have no other option but to surrender. It is important that we won Elephant Pass back last Friday. It will be useful for the government in gaining full control of the North. The banning of the LTTE will also be useful in this effort,” the Minister said.
However, Minister Jayaratne said, that he believed that the solution to the national problem would also depend on an effective dialogue among the political parties to address the issues of the people.

Language main problem – Govt. Peace Secretariat

Rohantha Athukorala, Director (Economic Affairs) of the government Peace Secretariat said that one of the issues of the people in the North and the East, was the language problem.
“It is vital for all the communities to have effective communication with each other, in order to avoid misunderstandings. Language plays a key role in this regard and it can also help bridge the gap between the communities. While taking military action against the ruthless terrorist organisation, we need to focus on these areas in order to strengthen the people’s victory,” Athukorala said.
Athukorala said that his last visit to Jaffna for the Future Minds exhibition helped him realise that the people of Jaffna were keen to communicate as well as to use modern communication equipment.

“There is a lot of demand for new technology in Jaffna and people are willing to see an environment of peace to enjoy this new technology. So while banning the LTTE and defeating them militarily we should address such needs,” Athukorala said.

Diplomatic corps

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has briefed the diplomatic corps based in Colombo on the decision to ban the LTTE.

According to reports, he had said that the acts of terrorism by the LTTE and its orchestrated campaign to collect funds to commit acts of terrorism, and its activities relating to the procurement or smuggling of arms, ammunition and explosives, had the potential of adversely affecting international and regional peace and the security, and law and order of other sovereign nations. He also had told the diplomats that the decision by India to proscribe the LTTE and renew the ban periodically, also stems from the threat that the LTTE poses to the territorial integrity of India.
The Minister had also referred to the repeated calls by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the LTTE to renounce terrorism and come to the negotiating table.

Minister Bogollagama, commending the statement of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo issued in the aftermath of the fall of Kilinochchi, pointed out that the U.S. government does not advocate that the government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE, a group which has been designated by the U.S. since 1997 as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

The European Union which has declared the LTTE a banned organisation referring to the recent military and political events of the country, called upon all parties to work vigorously towards a political solution which addresses the legitimate concerns of all communities in Sri Lanka.

The EU Heads of Mission also called upon the government and other parties to minimise the impact of the conflict on the civilian population and civil society, in particular by ensuring that humanitarian needs in the north are properly assessed and met, and by ensuring that civil society is able to operate without impediment.