|Relevance of election results to negotiations
Voting in the north and east
At the direction of the LTTE, four Tamil political parties, TULF, TELO, ACTC, and EPRLF (Suresh) contested the election under the umbrella of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). This alliance accepted the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil community with the authority to negotiate with the Sri Lankan government. Under these circumstances, a vote for the TNA/TULF should be interpreted as a vote for the LTTE and its agenda.
On the basis of the province as a regional unit, the TNA/TULF can legitimately claim the right to represent the northern province because it received a electoral majority of 51% and a parliamentary majority of 9 out of a possible 15 seats. However, the TNA/TULF cannot legitimately represent the eastern province because they received only 31% of the electoral votes and have only 5 elected members in parliament out of a possible 16. Even under an arrangement where the two provinces are merged, the TNA/TULF did not receive a mandate from the combined electorate since only 37% of the electorate voted for them, and their parliamentary representatives number only 14 (excluding the national list member since he is not elected by popular vote) of a possible 31.
Any interim or permanent arrangement must recognize the markedly different expressions of the voters in the two provinces if their fundamental freedoms and human rights are not to be violated. These differences make the status of the TNA/TULF dependent on whether the two provinces are merged or not.
If the two provinces are to be separate, the TNA/TULF would enjoy majority representation in the northern province, and only minority representation in the eastern province. Voter mandate for the TNA/TULF was therefore limited only to the northern province.
In an arrangement where the two provinces are merged, the voter intent was for the TNA/TULF to play a subordinate role within a group that represents the combined interests of the merged unit. As in the 1977 election, voter intent in the 2001 election was for the TNA/TULF not to be the sole determiner of the combined interests of a merged unit. Unless due attention is paid to these realities serious violation of democratic rights would be committed. Even interim arrangements should be such that they are can stand up to accepted norms of legitimacy, and should not be arbitrary.
Both the 1977 and the 2001 elections have clearly established that voter intents were for the eastern province not to be merged with the north. A merger even under an interim arrangement would be contrary to what the voters intended. The interests of the electorate in the eastern province should not be compromised for the sake of a peace that is founded on claims that have no legitimacy.
A more compelling reason for not merging the two provinces even under an interim arrangement is the "nature of the LTTE and its military dynamism". The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) in their Briefing No. 4, titled "Peace activism, suicide politics, and civil society", dated December 4, 2001, state: "Unfortunately, the political survival of the LTTE has come to depend on the perpetuation of the war. Hence the negotiation agenda of the LTTE has become delinked from the desires and aspirations for peace harboured by the vast majority of the Tamils under their control. Their focus has always been on establishing a monopoly of control. This becomes apparent when we examine last three instances when peace negotiations took place"
In their view, "The LTTE cannot work towards peace in a united Sri Lanka, owing to its agenda of achieving a separate state... The LTTE believes that... in the long run they could manipulate the community, the enemy, and other civil society organizations or structures, both locally and internationally, to their advantage in achieving their set goal... Many in the South believe that allowing the LTTE the control it seeks over the civilians, and mollycoddling them with generous resources would transform them. This amounts to a total failure to understand the nature of the LTTE and its military dynamism. Like several times before it will end in disaster".
The new government should take these warnings seriously however eager it is to restore law and order in the country. If the government ignores these warnings and justifies the merger of the two provinces on the basis that it is only an interim arrangement, the LTTE could use the opportunity to establish their "monopoly of control" over 1/3 of the island. Therefore, the prudent course of action is not to merge the two provinces. A merger despite these warnings, would be a grave mistake and the price for this blunder would be paid with the blood of Sinhala youth and Tamil children and could pave the way to dividing the country.
Representation at negotiations
The clamor by the international community and by the peace activists has been for the government to negotiate with the LTTE. Unlike in other regions of conflict, in Sri Lanka there are democratically elected representatives to represent the interests of the LTTE, as well as the interests of the rest of the electorate in the two provinces. Under such circumstances, it is inconceivable that a democratically elected government would even consider negotiating political arrangements directly with an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Governments that do negotiate directly with rebels/terrorists do so because elected representatives do not exist, e.g. in Kosovo where negotiations took place with the Kosovo Liberation Army as an elected body was not in place. On the other hand, in the case of Macedonia, negotiations were conducted with the elected representatives who represented the interests of the rebels, and not directly with the rebels.
If elected representatives usurp their responsibilities to non-elected members of a proscribed organization, they should forfeit the right to participate in the activities of a democratic institution - the parliament.
If fundamentals of democracy and representative government are to be respected, the UNF government can rightfully negotiate only with a democratically elected group that legitimately represents the electorate. Such a group should include the TNA/TULF as well as other groups since the interests of the Tamil community as well as those of other communities in the two provinces should be represented.
Separating political from security issues
The scope of any negotiations relating to political issues should be separate from issues relating to security. The former should be negotiated with the elected representatives, and the latter with the LTTE. Although the government has responded to the unilateral cease-fire declared by the LTTE and even agreed to ease restrictions on security related materials to LTTE controlled areas, no formal agreements have been reached regarding several other security related issues. For instance, are there limits on the movement of LTTE outside the uncleared areas? Is the LTTE allowed unrestricted access to material and supplies from within the country and from outside? What violations would constitute a break down of security related negotiations?
These questions are but a few of the host of issues that need to be addressed outside the scope of political issues regarding which firm and formal commitments must be reached if earlier mistakes are to be avoided, or if negotiations drag on. The meticulous details that are adhered to by parties conducting negotiations with rebels/terrorists relating to security in other countries should serve as guides for Sri Lanka. These practices demand that security arrangements are discussed in detail in order to arrive at formalized arrangements. The issue is not one of distrust, but one where formal arrangements compel all parties to a disciplined code of conduct to avoid undue advantage or disadvantage to any party. The absence of formal arrangements during previous negotiations/cease-fires in Sri Lanka has resulted in thousands of lives lost because of the informality of the procedures adopted.
The government should insist on the need to separate political issues from security related matters, and those in the international community who are likely to be involved with Sri Lankan issues should be briefed on the need to do so. Thus, political and security matters could be negotiated with separate groups that legitimately represent each area of speciality. If the new government accepts the LTTE as the sole negotiating party, and negotiates all issues only with the LTTE, not only would there be no legitimacy, but also it would humiliate the entire Sri Lankan nation and do severe damage to the interests of the communities that are unrepresented. Unless the negotiating process conforms to accepted rules and norms the outcome would not be meaningful.
The 2001 election results show that electorate in the combined northern and eastern province did not vote the TNA/TULF and the LTTE by proxy to be their sole representatives. Since the extent of the support for the TNA/TULF differs in the two provinces, the government has to exercise caution in deciding with whom negotiations are to be conducted. This applies to issues of a political nature. However, real progress can be achieved by negotiating the law and order situation with the LTTE. By separating security issues from the political, the security of the country would not be jeopardized in case the negotiations break down. Additionally, negotiations pertaining to security issues should be treated with the same degree of seriousness as the political issues.
The understanding in the country is that finalized negotiations relating to political issues would be have to be approved by a 2/3 majority in parliament and also be approved by the People at a referendum.
The country also understands that the gulf that exists between what the TNA/TULF, and through them the LTTE "aspire" to, and what the country can accept would make reaching consensus a daunting task. This makes interim arrangements critical to maintaining the status quo. Unless interim arrangements are treated with the same seriousness as negotiations on final outcomes, the LTTE is bound to seize lapses in less formal interim arrangements to exercise their "monopoly of control" over the northern and eastern provinces. If interim arrangements allow this to happen, formal negotiations would become irrelevant.
The desire of the nation is for peace. But it has to be a peace that would not endanger the territorial integrity of the country. A peace that means the absence of hostilities is different to the peace that creates an environment where the people can develop and prosper. The government should negotiate the former with the LTTE, while the latter should be developed with the elected representatives and others, if need be, in order to incorporate the inclusive interests of the electorates.
The recognition of this distinction by the international community can be invaluable to the entire negotiating process. The LTTE too must accept fast developing global attitudes to violence as a means to securing political ends. Australia too has joined other nations in designating the LTTE as a terrorist organization, and the European Union may follow. Above all, the LTTE must realize that if they want to represent the electorate of the northern and eastern provinces it must first earn that right. It is a right that is granted by the people and cannot be demanded from them or imposed upon them.
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