Lanka will soon be a sovereign shell, warns Kadirgamar

kadir.jpg (11364 bytes)Former Foreign Minister and PA Parliamentarian, Lakshman Kadrigamar opening the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement on the peace process told Parliament yesterday.

That the contention of the PA opposition was that from the very signing of the Ceasefire Agreement on 22nd February 2002 the sovereignty of Sri Lanka has been steadily and visibly eroded to the point where Sri Lanka is in danger of being reduced to a nominal sovereign State.

Soon Sri Lanka will be a sovereign shell, the major attributes of a sovereign State - the capacity to govern, to resolve justiciable issues, to enforce the law, to protect its citizens throughout the entirety of its territory are being drained away by stealth, fractured by assault and worn down by attrition, Mr. Kandrigamar warned.

This process commenced with and is being facilitated by the Ceasefire Agreement itself a structurally flawed document whose imperfections have now been clearly revealed and are being deeply felt, as the weeks and months go by. The Prime Minister himself recently said that the CFA is not a perfect document and that if he had striven for perfection there might have been no ceasefire at all. Yes, I agree.

There was pin drop silence in the house as Mr. Kadirgamar stood to address.

The opposition ranks continuously applauded the former Foreign Minister while the government ranks focused attention and concentration to the contribution made by Mr. Kadrigamar.

Following is the full test of the speech made by Mr. Kadirgamar:

Mr. Kadirgamar‘s statement in full: "In January 2002 I had the privilege of opening the debate for the Opposition on the Prime Minister’s policy statement. On that occasion I said that the Opposition would do nothing to disturb the peace process that was just being resumed. The new government must have time to settle in. We have kept that pledge. The Prime Minister was generous enough, during one of our routine consultations, to say so. I also said that the time will come when the substantive issues will have to be addressed. We reserved our opinion on those issues. That time has come. Hard issues have surfaced. They must be addressed. The Opposition owes a duty to the people to raise them and address them.

"Our contention is that from the very signing of the Ceasefire Agreement on 22nd February 2002 the sovereignty of Sri Lanka has been steadily and visibly eroded to the point where Sri Lanka is in danger of being reduced to a nominal sovereign State. Soon Sri Lanka will be a sovereign shell, the major attributes of a sovereign State — the capacity to govern, to resolve justifiable issues, to enforce the law, to protect its citizens throughout the entirety of its territory are being drained away by stealth, fractured by assault and worn down by attrition. This process commenced with and is being facilitated by the Ceasefire Agreement itself a structurally flawed document whose imperfections have now been clearly revealed and are being deeply felt as the weeks and months go by. The Prime Minister himself recently said that the CFA is not a perfect document and that if he had striven for perfection there might have been no Ceasefire at all. Yes, I agree. But if the Prime Minister had thought it fit to consult the President about the CFA before it was signed — which did not happen — some of those imperfections could have been removed, and a better balanced document drawn up, not only to serve the interests of the LTTE, but the interests of the nation as a whole. A bipartisan approach to the problem could have been established at an early stage. However, while the Prime Minister was prepared to extend his trust and confidence unreservedly to the LTTE, even to the extent of dismantling with unnecessary alacrity, the security structures that had been erected to protect the city of Colombo — the consequences of which the public are now beginning to understand — his government did not extend an iota of trust and confidence to the Head of State, the Head of Government, the Head of Cabinet and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces over the so-called peace process. Instead, the Government embarked upon a campaign of vituperative abuse against the President and harassment of Opposition supporters which receded only when it became clear that a 2/3rd majority in Parliament was not forthcoming for certain Constitutional amendments.

"Within a few days of the signing of the CFA the President outlined in a letter to the Prime Minister some of the flaws in the Agreement. They were as follows:-

"(One) The question of naval operations. Article 1.2 of the CFA itemises a number of prohibited military operations, including "offensive naval operations". Article 1.3 graciously permits the Sri Lanka Armed Forces to continue "to perform their legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka without engaging in offensive naval operations". How is the Navy to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka if it is prohibited from engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE if required? if a suspicious ship approaches our shores laden with arms, defies challenge and inspection and opens fire on the Navy, and the Navy sinks that ship, is that a prohibited offensive operation? if not, is it defensive operation? if it is a defensive operation then what is an offensive operation? if the Navy gives chase in the open seas to an LTTE ship carrying arms, in exercise of the right of hot pursuit, to prevent it from lading those arms on our shores, is that an offensive or defensive operation? Why was this grey area created in the CFA? In the course of a statement made by the Prime Minister at Vavuniya on 22nd February 2002 when he signed the CFA — Mr. Prabhakaran having signed it the previous day in the presence of the Norwegian Ambassador — he said: "The Army, Navy and Air Force will have the right to intercept the illegal movement of arms into Sri Lanka". What does "intercept" mean? Could there be interception by offensive naval operations, in which case there is a contradiction between the CFA and the Prime Minister’s statement.

The Prime Minister’s oral statement in Vavuniya have been incorporated into the CFA itself? Did the LTTE object? What was the Norwegian position on this issue? The Prime Minister’s statement in Vavuniya being outside the CFA naturally does not bind the LTTE. Did the Prime Minister seriously believe that the LTTE could be trusted not to smuggle arms by sea into Sri Lanka, so that the meaning of the expression "offensive naval operations" would never have to be tested?

(Two) Under Article 3:2 of the CFA if a dispute arises on a question involving the interception of illegal arms (for instance, what is an offensive naval operation?) it will be the Head of the Monitoring Mission, a foreign national, who will be "the final authority regarding interpretation of the Agreement?". Thus, the jurisdiction of the Courts of Sri Lanka has been ousted on a question so vital to national security and the protection of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

(Three) Articles 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 of the CFA deal with the "drawing up of demarcation lines regarding defence localities in all areas on contention". The parties are required to provide information to the Monitoring Mission about their defence localities. In the event of disagreement between the parties the demarcation lines will have to be drawn by the Head of the Monitoring Mission who is "the final authority regarding interpretation of this Agreement". Article 2.7 refers to the establishment of checkpoints to facilitate the flow of goods and the movement of civilians on the "lines of control". The "line of control" is a highly evocative expression in our region and elsewhere in the world where lines of control and demarcation have been source of confusion, bitterness and tragedy. Inevitably, a line of control becomes a line of division and of separation. This is the first time in the history of post independence Sri Lanka that a foreign government has been authorized to draw demarcation lines on the soil of Sri Lanka. The submission of such matters to the binding authority of a single individual appointed by a foreign government is wholly inconsistent with the sovereignty of Sri Lanka which is vested in its People and is declared by the Constitution to be inalienable.

(Four) The powers and functions which by this Agreement are vested in the Norwegian Government travel far beyond the role of a facilitator of the envisaged negotiations towards a political agreement. The Norwegian Government has now been cast in the role of a mediator or arbitrator, and the Monitoring Mission has been given the role of a judge, in the resolution of disputes between the parties which is not the basis on which Norwegian assistance was sought in the first place. The nature of the Norwegian Government’s mandate has changed to such an extent and its role has become so inflated, as to make it incompatible with the sovereign status of Sri Lanka.

(Five) In the light of the verified evidence coming in from various LTTE controlled areas, especially in the East, relating to extortion, intimidation, abduction and harassment of civilians, much of it against members of the Muslim community but extending also to the Tamil and Sinhalese communities in these areas, we surely have to ensure that our people are protected by the strict application of Article 2.1 of the CFA which expressly prohibits such acts. Among the six districts (Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara) in which the Monitoring Mission maintains a presence and local monitoring committees have been established, Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu, which are LTTE-controlled, are not included. This means that if "hostile acts against the civilian population including such acts as torture, intimidation, abduction, extortion and harassment", referred to in Article 2.1, are committed in those two districts the Monitoring Mission and the local committees cannot intervene to help our citizens who live in these areas. We have thus recognized and legitimised an enclave in those two areas where the Government’s writ does not run. What does this do to our sovereignty over the entirety of our territory?

(Six) What about the plight of children forcibly recruited by the LTTE? This odious practice is continuing. The evidence gathered by reputable national and international sources is irrefutable and depressing. Sri Lanka has been in the forefront of the international campaign against the conscription of child combatants. There are many treaties and international resolutions on this subject. This is a matter which gravely troubles the conscience of mankind. The LTTE has given to the United Nations, but disregarded in practice, assurances that they will not recruit under-age children. Can we, I ask the House, be so callous, so cynical that in the pursuit of peace, we are willing to compromise the rights of these children, to condone the brutal treatment meted out to them and their parents?

(Seven) The extensive freedom of movement for "political work" in Government — controlled areas in the North and the East granted to LTTE members under Article 1.13 is not afforded to others (political parties, for instance) who might wish to do "political work" in LTTE controlled areas in the North and the East. In a democratic society this is a totally indefensible distinction, violative of the Constitution, between one group of political parties and another. Democratic parties like the EPDP which entered the main stream of national politics many years ago now find themselves at a considerable disadvantage in relation to the LTTE. Disarmed by the CFA they are at the mercy of the LTTE. They have lost a number of their cadres. The government appears to be unconcerned with these terrible violation of the CFA. Is the government unwilling or unable to help the EPDP to protect its cadres? Has the government abdicated its sovereign right, its duty, to bring the culprits to justice even if they be the LTTE?

"(Eight) This erosion of sovereignty to which I have referred must also be viewed against the backdrop of the significant omission in the agreement of any reference to any assurance given that negotiations for a political settlement will be commenced by the parties by a fixed date and concluded by an agreed date. Even the apparent suspension of the authority of the State reflected in this document could lead to the accentuation of the movement towards secession on which the Agreement is singularly silent despite the innumerable "confidence building measures" which have been explicitly stated with great particularity. In his statement to the House in January 2002 the Prime Minister said: "After formalising the basic Agreement as regards peace talks, the talks should be held within a definite timeframe between the Government and the LTTE". Nearly 15 months have passed. Where is the time frame? It is nowhere in sight.

"The structural flaws in the Ceasefire Agreement to which I referred at the opening of my speech are now being dramatically revealed as events unfold on the ground and at sea. The burning issue of the day is the question of the sea. In its so-called initial discussion paper the Head of the Nordic Monitoring Mission made a series of proposals which the Opposition parties, in their press release of 25th April, have described as "preposterous". One of them was that "in the spirit of the CFA the government of Sri Lanka and especially its Navy, should recognise the LTTE Sea Tigers as a de facto naval unit." Another was that "the LTTE should be excluded from the law concerning limitations on the horse power of outboard motors". Yet another was that "the Sri Lanka Navy and the LTTE Sea tigers should have specific marked exercise and training areas at sea, designed for navigation training and for live firing exercises as well".

"These propositions can be faulted on a number of grounds:

(One) Is it "in the spirit of the CFA" that the LTTE should systematically smuggle arms into the country? If not, why should it be "in the spirit of the CFA" that the Navy should recognise the LTTE as a de facto naval unit?

(Two) The SLMM has cited the Oxford English Dictionary meaning of de facto ("existing as a fact although it may not be legally accepted as existing") to justify its proposal. A criminal gang may exist as a fact. Does the Police force have to "recognise" it? and having "recognized" it what is the Police Force expected to do? - ignore it or pursue it and bring it to justice? The plain fact is that the LTTE naval unit is an illegal entity. No country in the world has two navies. To which country does the LTTE’s naval unit belong? De facto recognition by a sovereign State of an illegal entity which mounts a challenge to the authority of the state is only a whisker away from the achievement of de jure status by that officially recognized illegal entity.

(Three) When the CFA was entered into there were no areas marked out at sea for training exercises and live firing by the LTTE and the navy. The navy made no such concessions to the LTTE. The preservation of the balance of forces is said to be one of the principal concepts underlying the Ceasefire Agreement. If that be so, does not the delimitation of one of these zones at sea disturb that balance.

(Four) In any event, why should a sovereign State hand over to an illegal entity an exclusive zone that derogates from its sovereignty? The real problem is that the government of the day is by its conduct, by its palpable anxiety to accommodate even the most unreasonable demands of the LTTE, encouraging the LTTE to believe that it is a legal entity with legal rights.

(Five) Even if the exercise and live firing areas are within our territorial waters, live firing will create serious practical problems. Indian fishing boats habitually enter our territorial waters in large numbers. What would happen if they enter the LTTE zone during live firing practice? There could be a major rupture in our relations with India, especially with Tamil Nadu. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has clearly made known her deep concern that LTTE craft are capturing Indian fishermen. A shooting incident in a LTTE zone recognized by the government of Sri Lanka could have disastrous consequences on our relations with India and Tamil Nadu. Moreoveer, fishing craft belonging to other countries - China, Japan, South Korea - enter our waters on legitimate business. We must remember what recently happened to a Chinese trawler. If the "armed criminal gang unknown to Sri Lanka" which is said by the Head of the Monitoring Mission to be prowling our coastal waters enters the LTTE zone will there be a shoot-out between these two illegal entities? We would be encouraging gang warfare at sea.

(Six) Live firing could be with short range or long range weapons. The LTTE has 23 millimetre guns mounted on their naval craft with a range of 6 kms. If these guns are fired within the exercise zone the bullets could go beyond the zone and hit innocent ships fishing or cruising just outside our territorial waters.

(Seven) We allow India to use our airspace above our territorial waters. When LTTE live firing is going on are we to tell the Indian government that our air space will be closed to them? Would this not be an unfriendly, hostile act towards a neighbour that has proscribed the LTTE?

(Eight) When the CFA was entered into the LTTE was limited to outboard motors of 40 horse power maximum. The Nordic proposal is that they be allowed the use of outboard motors of unlimited capacity. This will allow the LTTE legitimately to acquire inshore craft, gunboats, fast attack craft and off shore patrol craft which are used by blue water navies. During the British colonial period there was only one navy in our region. With the independence of India and Sri Lanka two navies emerged - the Indian and Sri Lankan. Now is there to be a third navy with a licence to expand at will? Again, I ask the question to which sovereign State does that navy belong?

Our Navy Commander has reacted strongly to the Nordic proposals. He has said: "The Sea Tiger arm of the LTTE is not a legitimate organisation of force to carry weapons and ammunition at sea according to international laws at sea and also in the territory of Sri Lanka which are controlled by the Sri Lanka navy as per 1.7 of the CFA". "At the time the MOU was signed it was very clear that the Sri Lanka navy was in total control of the sea and is the only legitimate force at sea. Hence, the issue of a de facto force is of no relevance. At the end of peace talks some day, even if Federal status is given to the North and East, there will be only one navy and that is the Sri Lanka navy. Therefore excluding the Sea tigers from the normal law of the country is unacceptable and out of the question".The Monitor’s proposal that the parties’ vessels should be marked in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) implies, according to the Navy Commander, that "LTTE Sea Tigers are on par with the Sri Lanka navy which is not so. Therefore, the proposal is totally unacceptable". "As for the proposed confidence building measure that the Sri Lanka navy and the LTTE Sea Tigers should permit observers from the other party on board their vessels while conducting exercises and training", the Navy Commander says the "proposal is not possible. Refraining from the violation of the CFA, while at sea off Iranativu on 17th July 2002 and Delft on the 6th February 2003, by the LTTE itself would be a confidence building measure between the parties". With regard to the Nordic proposal that "neither the SLN nor the LTTE Sea Tigers and that the minimum distance between the parties vessels should be kept to one nautical mile," the Navy Commander says the "Sri Lanka navy has the right to dominate and to free movement, at sea because it has to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and also in conformity with Article 1.3 of the CFA". With regard to exercise and training areas, the Navy Commander says the territorial waters and the contiguous zone up to the economic zone is under Sri Lanka navy control. No other party can be allowed to conduct military training at sea since it is against the Constitution and sovereignty of the country and Article 1.3 of the CFA".

The government in presenting its response to the SLMM paper, modified the Navy Commander’s response in several respects - important among them being the government’s willingness to allow the LTTE to conduct training and exercise within a designated area (which the Navy Commander was opposed to) but without the right to live firing. The SLMM’s adjusted proposals return to its initial working paper. It reposes a training and exercise area for the LTTE with live firing rights and prohibits both the SLN and the LTTE Sea Tigers from "offensive or aggressive operations and movements at sea".

The Opposition has already made it clear in its press release of 25th April and now reiterates its position on the floor of the House, that the Opposition parties wholeheartedly support the Navy Commander in his opposition to the proposal of the Monitoring Mission with regard to the status of the LTTE’s Sea Tigers. The Opposition has already stated and now repeats, that it has no confidence in the competence and impartiality of the Monitoring Mission. The Opposition proposes that the Monitoring Mission should be - recomposed.

I turn now, Mr. Speaker, to that other major security question of the day - the High Security Zones. The LTTE wants the Army to withdraw from these zones to accommodate internally displaced persons (IDP’s). Major General Fonseka, the Northern Security Forces Commander, supported by the Army Commander, has said in a report last December that while appreciating the urgent need to resettle civilians in these zones that process should go hand in glove with a de-escalation process agreed between the government and the LTTE; no risks should be taken to weaken the safety environment by making the zones vulnerable; security can be relaxed only in stages i.e. disarming of LTTE cadres and decommissioning of LTTE long rage weapons. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the 152 Army camp in the peninsula have been reduced to 88.

The government has hired the services of a retired Indian General, General Nambiar, to advise it on security matters. In his report of last December he has said that "SLA Commanders in the field as also at headquarters, appear to be unanimous in the firm conviction that if civilians are allowed unrestricted re-entry in these areas, LTTE cadres would infiltrate, establish their control even if only covertly in the initial stages, and seriously compromise the ability of the SLA to conduct operations should the peace process break down. Any vacation of these areas is therefore perceived as dereliction of their responsibility towards the troops and the Country’s security." Therefore, General Nambiar has proposed that "as things stand it would appear that any review of the scope and content of the High Security Zones will only come about if the LTTE deposits its weapons to neutral supervision and initiates measures to withdraw from frontline positions into nominated areas. Such a step would provide a measure of reassurance to the SLA that surprise LTTE attacks may be discounted. Similarly, there would need to be some reassurance that there would be no coercion of civilians and officials by LTTE cadres given access to areas on dismantling of the Zones. "General Nambiar in his first report has completely supported General Fonseka’s position. Indeed the last head of the SLMM also stated, supporting General Fonseka, that during a ceasefire the balance of forces should not be disturbed, that if the Army were to withdraw from the Zones it would place the Army at a disadvantage. General Nambiar has also said that there are rumours that in a Federal structure the LTTE might be allowed a separate Army. He says ; "In my view any such rumour should be scotched at this very stage by the Prime Minister or Minister of Defence making it absolutely clear that no matter what constitutional system is finally agreed upon there can be only one Army for the Country, namely the Sri Lanka Army."

"For some mysterious reason the Government commissioned General Nambiar to prepare a second report even before the first report had been discussed with the relevant security authorities. I understand that the second report is ready. General Nambiar has returned to Colombo, between the two reports General Nambiar has been visited more than once by important Government personalities. If there are any substantial changes in the second report serious questions will arise. General Nambiar is not the representative of the Government of India. He is a private consultant engaged by the government in his private capacity.

"Mr. Speaker, Sri Lanka has become a carnival ground for international players, a sort of Hawkers Street for foreign experts peddling their wares. Do we really need foreign experts to advise us on how to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state? Surely our own Service Commanders, native to our soil, know best what needs to be done.

"What we in the Opposition say to these worthy experts, there are many from different nationalities, who come to advise the government is this: ‘Please remember that the Sovereignty of Sri Lanka is precious to us, its citizens, to the members of this House, to our people’. It may be a plaything in the hands of others; to us it is not a marketable commodity; it is not negotiable; it cannot be compromised. If any of these expert reports make recommendations that impinge on our sovereignty we of the Opposition will be duty-bound by our people to denounce such reports whoever the author may be. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

The Prime minister in his statement referred to a "safety-net of the international community" and "a firm expression of views by our friendly countries including the United States, UK, Japan, France and India". They have certainly made, and with the United States and India, in particular, strongly made statements in support of our territorial integrity and sovereignty. The United States has warned the LTTE that it must renounce violence, abandon the notion of a separate State and embrace the concept of a plural society if it is to gain international legitimacy and acceptance. Is it not a great shame that our government has never made a statement of that nature? How does the government expect other countries to uphold our sovereignty when it is shy of doing so itself? But what is this safety net? The Prime Minister must tell the House what it is? It is important for the House to know. Are there any secret understandings? Will an aircraft carrier come our way if hostilities break out again?

The Prime Minister has said that in consultation with all parties the government will proceed to develop a "road map" towards the objective of devolution and that it is open to wide-ranging discussions on many issues - the core issues. We seem to have heard this before. Is it true? If so it is welcome. The hour is late but not too late to make the process of consultation inclusive which it is not at the moment. In the meantime the Opposition is of the view that we are moving inexorably towards the day when Sri Lanka will no longer be a sovereign State."