Monitor the monitors

The Nordic monitors on the ceasefire have arrived at a time when the LTTE propaganda machines are in full blast and forcible recruitment is going on apace, while the Sri Lankan government has ceased anti-terrorist activity save for President Kumaratunga. She in a statement issued last week made some scathing observations on the ceasefire agreement and the activities of the LTTE.

According to the ceasefire agreement (Article 3.5), this monitoring mission comprising representatives of Nordic countries will have the sole responsibility to take action on any complaints made by either the Sri Lanka government or the LTTE and to inquire and assist in settlement of disputes. The Sri Lankan representatives of the government and the LTTE will have no part to play in making the final decisions.

Thus, a tremendous responsibility is placed on this monitoring mission. On them will depend not only the success or failure of the ceasfire agreement, but also the security of the Sri Lankan state.

The articles 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 that deal with the drawing of the lines of demarcation between LTTE-controlled areas and the government-held areas state that in the event of disagreement between the parties, the demarcation lines will have to be drawn by the head of the Nordic Monitoring Mission — the final authority on the interpreting of the agreement. President Kumaratunga has noted that this is the first time in post-independent history of Sri Lanka that a foreign government has been authorised to draw lines of demarcation on Sri Lankan soil. She has said that the powers and functions vested in the Norwegian government go far beyond that of a facilitator for the settlement of a dispute. The Norwegian government has now been cast in the role of a mediator or arbitrator, she has pointed out.

The Island, even when President Kumaratunga’s government held power, has consistently warned about bringing in foreign facilitators and posed the question: When does facilitation end and mediation begin? It now appears that mediation has commenced even before the so-called facilitators have stepped in! It is apparent that the Sri Lankan representatives in the committees will have little or no power and will serve only in an advisory capacity. It is the head of the mission of the Nordic team that will be the final arbiter.

In these circumstances, it is imperative that monitoring the activities and the decisions they make should be monitored by independent Sri Lankan organisations as well. Even though President Kumaratunga speaks glowingly about her agreement with Prabhakaran and the important role that was envisaged for Sri Lankan monitors along with the Norwegian monitors, it has to be pointed out that the monitors — both Norwegian and Sri Lankan — appear to have been in cuckooland while the LTTE was regrouping, arming and finally struck, sinking gunboats and shooting down air force planes.

While it may appear unfair to call in question foreign observers and such observations even before they have commenced their operations, we Sri Lankans should realise that the security of our state will depend very much on their observations and operations. We simply cannot afford to hand over our responsibilities to the Norwegians, however sincere and altruistic they may be. It will be good to keep the Arab saying in mind: Have faith in Allah, but tie your camel.

A positive feature in having a team of foreign monitors is that the Tamil people, both in the north and east, could make their complaints to the Norwegians. The problem will be how they will be able to get about it. The Island has been receiving such complaints of forcible conscription of children from very responsible citizens in the Eastern Province but has been sworn to keep their identities secret. The reasons are very obvious. The Norwegians cannot be naive so as to believe that a democratic nirvana exists in the land under the control of Prabhakaran and thus the complaints are few or none at all. It is a ruthless fascism in practice, with the people under the gun. Thus any information conveyed to them entails the supreme risk.

We presume that the monitors would have read the reports of the University Teachers for Human Rights

( Jaffna), where instances of even respected bishops who have appealed against child conscription have been silenced. They should note the grim humour in the plight of the TULF, which now proclaims that the LTTE is the sole representative of the Tamils. A party whose revered leaders were gunned down by this terrorist organisation is now proclaiming that their leaders today are those that murdered their own leaders in cold blood. It would indeed be interesting to hear TULF’s intellectual pundits logical juggling to reconcile their philosophy of non-violence with the ghastly terrorism of Prabhakaran.

We wish the Norwegians well in their endeavours and warn them of the wiles of this most cruel and vicious terrorist organisation in the world. Meanwhile, Sri Lankans should in their own interest monitor the monitors.

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