Midweek Review
Prabhakaran’s Peace Strategy Exposed

By S. Kohobanwickrame
In ballroom dancing, one partner leads while the other follows the sequence of steps. This gives the lead partner the prerogative to decide on the furning circle, the dancing area, the swings and loops. Basically discretion on the choreography or control of the sequence of movements.

The LTTE peace strategy is reminiscent of a ballroom dance, with Pirabhkaran taking the lead role and Ranil Wickramasinghe having to follow with quick steps, if the dance is to continue. The fact that Pirabhkaran has taken the lead role permits him to steer the process at his discretion. The government is being drawn into a situation in which, it plays a reactive role to the LTTE strategy. The government seems to be following a "Reactive Concession" policy, a policy of appeasement rather than a policy based on a strategic format with a strategic objective. It is not possible to pursue a strategic approach to any process, if the government is only going to make reactive responses.

Take for example the unilateral decision of the LTTE to declare a ceasefire. Is it realistic to believe that the LTTE and the SL Forces, with no semblance of trust can self-monitor a ceasefire. It is like trying to play a cricket match between India and Pakistan without umpires.

The cease-fire will merely become a symbol of controversy with accusations and counter-accusations of violations. If the government had a strategy for the peace process, a ceasefire would have only been agreed with international monitors.

The cease-fire should not be a respite for the LTTE to re-group and consolidate its military superiority, rather a genuine attempt at de-escalating the conflict. The strategy behind the deployment of international monitors would have been to establish an independent monitoring mechanism of LTTE activities in the Vanni. Any large-scale recruitment drives, weapons training exercises, the movement of cadres not only of the LTTE but SL Forces included, could have been under international observation. This could have ensured that at a point the LTTE decides to break-off the peace talks, previous situations such as the coldblooded massacre of 600 surrendered police officers will not be repeated.

The acceptance of the LTTE ceasefire is a clear indication that the government has no strategic plan as to the future direction of the peace process, it is simply taking ad-hoc reactive decisions to LTTE dictates.

The withdrawal of the Quantitative Restrictions

The next reactive concessions were made after the LTTE backed Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians met the PM on Friday 21 December 2001, and put forward a seven-point agenda to move the peace process forward.

(I) The immediate De-proscription of the LTTE

(II) The declaration of a ceasefire

(III) The withdrawal of restrictions on the transportation of goods.

(IV) The withdrawal of restrictions on occupational impediments (Fishing)

(V) The withdrawal of travel restrictions

(VI) The withdrawal of restrictions on place of residence (this item will be addressed in detail in the next section)

(vii) Disarming of all para-military groups operating in the North, but excluding the LTTE

The government in its reactionary approach responded by agreeing to four of the seven demands, namely the declaration of a cease-fire, withdrawal of all restrictions on the transportation of goods, withdrawal of restrictions on Fishing, and the withdrawal of the visitor surveillance system (Pass system) in Vavuniya.

At this point a clarification must be made between an "Embargo" and a "Quantitative Restriction". The media reports on the government decision, especially the articles by Chris Kamalendran (Sunday Times) and Frances Harrison (BBC) were quick to disseminate the LTTE propaganda terminology "Economic Embargo" in reference to the restrictive measures imposed on the uncleared areas.

The definition of an "embargo" in the Collins Dictionary is an "official order forbidding trade". If the government of Sri Lanka had imposed an economic embargo, or as the definition states an official order forbidding trade on the uncleared areas the data given in Table 1 could not have been possible.

An economic embargo is a complete prohibition of economic contact such as the US legislation on Cuba (Cuban Democracy Act & Helms-Burton Act), which is an official order forbidding any trade and other economic contact with Cuba.

In Sri Lanka the government had imposed restrictive measures on the quantitative requirements for the uncleared areas due to security reasons. The restrictive aspect was not a complete prohibition on trade or economic activity, it was only a restriction on the quantity or volume permitted for transportation.

Regulation 2 of the government Gazette 861/17 of 10 March 1995, provides complete prohibition of items with military value. Only 21 items were identified under this provision as detailed in Gazette 867/12 of 20 April 1995.

Regulation 3 of the Gazette 861/17 of 10 March 1995, provides discretion to the Security Forces Commander (Vanni) to determine the volumes required within the uncleared areas for each item to be transported.

It must be accepted that such discretionary powers were poorly administered by the Area Commanders under instructions from the Ministry of Defence. Most often decisions were taken regarding quantities in an arbitrary manner without any valid criteria, creating contention and controversy on the issue.

However, this is far from the definition of an economic embargo as claimed by the LTTE propaganda machine and repeated by pro LTTE journalists.

The TNA Distortion

It is interesting to note demand No. (vi) of the TNA agenda which states: The withdrawal of restrictions imposed on the Tamil people from the North-East and on the Tamils in the up-country plantation areas in relation to their residence in other parts of the country.

It is essential that such blatant falsehood require clarification to set the-records straight. The constitution of Sri Lanka guarantees the right to every citizen the freedom to reside in any part of the country. There are no legislative or regulatory prohibitions on Tamils of the North-East or the Plantations or for that matter any persons of any community to migrate and live in any part of the country. This is clearly evident by the influx of Tamils to Colombo city. The Tamil population in the Colombo Municipal Council limits accounts for 29.7% of the total population of the Capital city (Census 2001), if there were restrictions such an influx is not possible.

In the Colombo district a visitor surveillance system is in operation given the high level of LTTE infiltration into the city. All temporary visitors from the North & East are required to register with a Colombo Police station on arrival, a formality that averts detention of bona-fide visitors during regular search operations in the city. This is not a "restriction" as stated in Demand (vi) of the TNA list, rather it is a procedural requirement or security measure to minimise the terrorist threat to Colombo.

Therefore, the use of the term "restriction" in this demand refers to a greater agenda of the TNA. To understand the issue that the TNA politicians are distorting, it is necessary to define the terms "resettlement" and "relocation". The term resettlement means to resettle a displaced person back in the district of origin. The term relocation means to settle a person in a new location outside the district of origin.

The government provides all assistance for resettlement efforts, that is to settle people back in their district of origin. Towards this end the government through the CGES provides a settling-in grant of Rs. 25,000/- to each family. The government even provides state land and the services of the Buildings Department, such as in Tharanikulam, Sundarapuram and Maravankulam to construct model villages for displaced persons.

To ensure that the gruesome ethnic cleansing carried out by the LTTE in October 1990, is not legitimised as a permanent factor to the demography of Sri Lanka, the government decided to have a definite cabinet policy on relocation. The government will not provide "state land" for relocation activities.

This decision ensures that the district demographics are not altered by state sponsored initiatives. However, this does not prevent any individual from purchasing land or assets in any part of the country using personal finances. It is this freedom to purchase property with personal funds, that accounts for the large influx of Tamils into Colombo city. The TNA Demand (vi) is an effort to change the policy on relocation to legitimise the ethnic cleansing carried out by the LTTE.

The LTTE Strategy

However, in all its deficiencies, I am glad that the LTTE/TNA politicians brought forward this demand. It is my opinion that this demand is the most critical element of the peace process. I am sure the TNA demand to withdraw restrictions for Tamils to reside in all parts of the country, is not a one-sided concession. I believe the TNA politicians would want the LTTE to reciprocate such a concession to the Sinhalese and Muslims that were evicted from the Northern Province as well.

So far the LTTE through the TNA has secured four concessions from the government as confidence building measures. All four demands have military advantages to the LTTE. The ceasefire demand has effectively neutralised the enemy as an offensive military threat. The withdrawal of restrictions on goods has increased the accessibility to materials and resources. The withdrawal of occupational restrictions (Fishing) has increased the mobility of the Sea Tigers. The withdrawal of all visitor surveillance systems "Vavuniya pass system has made it easier to infiltrate the South.

All four demands that have been conceded by the government makes the government more vulnerable to LTTE. The level of vulnerability on the government side has increased extensively in anticipation of a favourable outcome at the peace talks. Added to this, the government has pegged its economic recovery plans on the premise that peace will prevail. The 100-day plan and the 3-year plan do not have any alternative approaches for economic sustenance in the event of a failed peace process. This has increased the vulnerability of the government further.

However, these concessions do not have the same implications on the LTTE. The level of vulnerability of the LTTE has not increased by these four demands. The LTTE has not agreed to permit any Sinhalese to enter the uncleared areas. The LTTE continues to maintain a closed and secured territory within the uncleared areas, the LTTE has not effectively conceded any military vulnerability. The LTTE has not matched the government concessions with the equal level of vulnerability.

The next demand by the LTTE is the deproscription issue, this will absolve the LTTE of all its past deeds in the eyes of the world. The LTTE would be able to wipe off its horrendous past and have a clean slate. All efforts of the government to designate the LTTE as a terrorist organisation internationally would be completely negated. A further increase in the level of vulnerability of the government side, without it being matched by the LTTE on the vulnerability scale.

The LTTE strategy is very clear, it is an effort to progressively secure concessions that would increase the vulnerability of the government, while not conceding any measures that would increase the vulnerability of the LTTE.

This is the acid test to determine the genuine commitment of the LTTE towards the peace process. The census of 1981 records a Sinhala civilian population of 6,659 in the Jaffna District, 3,992 in the Mullaitivu District, and 8,683 in the Mannar District. The 1981 census also records a Muslim civilian population of 12,958 in the Jaffna District, 3,651 in the Mullaitivu District, and 27,717 in the Mannar District. The LTTE in October 1990 ethnically cleansed the entire Northern Province of Sinhalese and Muslims.

If the LTTE agrees to resettle all the evicted Sinhalese and Muslims back in the uncleared areas, the LTTE has increased the level of vulnerability. It is a clear indication that the LTTE is committed to the peace process, and is working towards a favourable outcome

However, I am calling Pirabhakaran’s bluff, the success of the entire peace process can be determined on this single issue. Until there is an indication from the LTTE that it has conceded measures that will increase the level of vulnerability, Pirabhakaran is merely taking the government for a ride knowing very well that he is directing the peace talks towards an eventual failure, and in the process making sure the LTTE has not conceded any vulnerability.

Activities of the Government of Sri Lanka in the Uncleared Areas

a) The Commissioner General of Essential Services (CGES) provides food (dry rations) free of charge to 177,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing within the uncleared areas. It is common knowledge that the LTTE collects a substantial quantity of the CGES food supplies sent to the uncleared areas for its own consumption and to encourage recruitment through a scheme of preferential treatment for families that have contributed children to the LTTE. b) The CGES and the Multi-Purpose Co-operative Societies (MPCS) of Killinochchi and Mullaitivu, transported the following food and commodities to the uncleared areas.

January - December 2000

Flour 11,050.7 Mt

Rice 5,548.7 Mt

Dhal 808.61 Mt

Sugar 6,271.8 Mt

Milk Powder 410 Mt

Consumer Goods 1,253.28 Mt

Kerosene 15,798 Barrels

January -August 2001

Flour 6,077.2 Mt

Rice 495 Mt

Dhal 336.3 Mt

Sugar 4,517.5 Mt

Milk Powder 289.9 Mt

Consumer Goods 1,062.7 Mt

Kerosene 14,256 Barrels

All commodities transported by the MPCS are entirely for commercial purposes. lt must be noted that the significant increase in rice production in the uncleared areas during Jan-Aug 2001, had a corresponding decrease in MPCS rice requirements from the cleared areas.

c) The CGES purchased commodities produced in the uncleared areas and transported them to the cleared areas in an effort to create market opportunities for the farmers and fishermen of the uncleared areas. During the period January - August 2001, the government of Sri Lanka through the CGES purchased the following produce from the uncleared areas.

Paddy 2,972,926 Kgs

Dry Fish 653,212 Kgs

Tobacco 46,929 Kgs

Rice 1,643,347 Kgs

others 50,367 Kgs

d} The Medical Supplies Division (MSD), of the Ministry of Health provided medicine and

other medical supplies on a quarterly basis to all the government hospitals functioning in the uncleared areas.

e) The Department of Education provided text books, uniform material, and other school equipment to 227 government schools (Killinochchi Dist. 90, Mullaitivu Dist. 95, and Vavuniya North 42) functioning in the uncleared areas.

f) The Agrarian Services Department transported 2870 Mt. of fertilizer for the 2000/2001 Maha season, and 1000 Mt. for the 2001 Yala season.

g) Five bank branches of the Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank and the National Savings Bank, function in the uncleared areas to ensure adequate circulation of currency.