The ceasefire agreement


by Kamalika Pieris

The "Ceasefire Agreement" (CFA) was signed on February 22, 2002 by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka and by Velupillai Prabhakaran on behalf of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The Agreement prohibited fighting, on land, air or sea and the Eelam War ground to a halt. But that was not all. The CFA gave the LTTE full control of the lands they were holding at the time. A large chunk of territory in the north east including strategically important places came into their hands. This territory was clearly set out with ‘lines of control’. The LTTE army was allowed to continue and the state army was prohibited from going anywhere near them. A ‘zone of separation’ was set between the LTTE and the ‘government controlled’ lands. CFA also called for the disarming of all groups opposing the LTTE.

The CFA was supervised by a Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). The SLMM consisted of representatives from Scandinavian (Nordic) countries. The Head of SLMM was appointed by the government of Norway. The Head was the final authority regarding interpretation of the CFA. India and NATO supported the SLMM. SLMM had offices in Colombo, Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts. SLMM was to be given data on the defence localities in all disputed areas. It had immediate access to trouble spots. The government and the LTTE were to cooperate fully with the SLMM. However, when the Sri Lanka navy spotted a LTTE ship carrying arms the SLMM officers on board the navy patrol boat warned the LTTE and the LTTE ship escaped.

Gomin Dayasiri said the CFA was a home made cake, baked by local cooks using local ingredients. It was not rammed down Sri Lanka’s throat. Norwegian Foreign minister Erik Solheim had held discussions with Anton Balasingham in London and with G.L. Pieris and others in Sri Lanka. Pieris was the chief negotiator for the government. Others who played key roles in the matter included Minister Milinda Moragoda, Defense secretary Austin Fernando and Bradman Weerakoon. The government had agreed to conditions made by Norway and LTTE, but Norway and LTTE had refused to consider government conditions. Norway and LTTE had reached agreement on the CFA by the first week of Dec 2001. Indian officials also had met secretly with LTTE.

John Gooneratne stated that the CFA went through several drafts. Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe and Pieris reviewed these drafts and approved the final document. ‘We went into it with our eyes open.’ The CFA was signed secretly with only few persons knowing about it. The President and Cabinet were not told the terms and conditions. Those who protested against the agreement were branded traitors. . The CFA was abrogated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 16.1.2008. The original document is now declared missing from the Prime Minster’s office.

The CFA was strongly condemned as an appalling act of treachery and betrayal. Critics said that ‘even thinking of such an agreement was a disgrace’. The CFA equated the LTTE army with the legally constituted state army and gave LTTE equal status with the government of Sri Lanka. Critics noted that no country in the world has given equal status to a terrorist outfit in this manner. Further, the CFA gave LTTE full control over the land, air and the sea of ‘their’ territory. Observers noted that by doing so, the government had ceded sovereignty to the LTTE. The LTTE would have used this to announce a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). The west would have promptly recognized the new state of Eelam.

Thanks to the CFA, LTTE now became legitimate. It set up a de facto state. ‘Ceasefire lines’ were converted into state borders. Customs and immigration posts were set up. There were 17 checkpoints. Place names were in Tamil and English. The LTTE set up LTTE law courts and LTTE police. This ‘police’ arrested Sri Lanka policemen when they entered the area. Twelve ‘Thamileelam policemen’ went to Northern Ireland for three month training. The government issued them passports. Sophisticated hi-tech communications equipment was obtained and LTTE set up a high powered broadcasting and TV station which could broadcast all over the world. LTTE delegations visited Europe. LTTE strengthened its defenses and established camps in strategic areas. Fourteen camps were set up south of Koddiyar bay in Trincomalee. 122 heavy artillery guns and 120 mortars were placed within striking distance of the harbour. A journalist who exposed this and other LTTE build-ups was forced to discontinue his column.

The CFA was decided without consulting the armed forces. This was most unusual and had no parallel in the world. The army and navy chiefs were allowed to see the CFA only a few days before the signing, after the matter had been finalized. They had requested an audience as they were concerned. They were not allowed to take away copies of the CFA. The defense forces were aghast when they finally saw the agreement. They had been pounding the LTTE successfully and Jaffna was under them. . CFA put a stop to this. The armed forces had no say on security. Instead CFA wanted the High Security Zone reduced in size and army camps decreased from 152 to 88 in Jaffna. LTTE also wanted air reconnaissance and deep penetration unit operations stopped.

The army was confined to barracks while the LTTE were free to do whatever they wished. LTTE mocked the soldiers in camp, urinating and showing backsides. The army felt humiliated. The armed forces could not retaliate even on the gravest provocation. When confrontations arose government ordered the armed forces to retreat. The navy once intercepted a LTTE logistical movement at sea. There was a fierce confrontation and the government ordered the navy to pull back. The navy was furious. They had lost men. Army camps came under attack, but army was not allowed to retaliate either. The CFA said unarmed security convoys could go on the A9 road. Army remarked that only a fool would send unarmed convoys through LTTE infested jungles.

The CFA prohibited search operations and arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Arrests were to be made according to the Criminal Procedure Code. The government released all LTTE prisoners over 1,000 of them and made no arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism act.

LTTE received their largest consignments of arms and ammunition, during the CFA. Massive quantities arrived in 13 consignments. Karuna said ‘we unloaded ammunition 40 days after the CFA was signed’. The government did nothing to stop this. . There was no customs inspection. . One consignment of eleven containers went without inspection to Kilinochchi. Had the LTTE succeeded in getting more equipment, such as SA-18 surface to air missiles, the war would have taken a different turn, critics said. The LTTE strengthened its army. People were forcibly recruited and put into training camps. Within one and half years LTTE had trained 6,000 new cadres. LTTE also created a rudimentary ‘air force’ of light planes, able to bomb government areas without being shot down. Sri Lanka Air Force had spotted two fixed wing aircraft at Iranamadu but could not bomb them because of CFA. .

LTTE upgraded its navy. They obtained powerful, high tech boats. These came into Colombo harbor in containers. LTTE also acquired equipment that could cripple the state navy, such as underwater fighting craft (submersibles). Experts in sea warfare came in to train the LTTE cadres. The government had allowed foreigners unhindered access to the LTTE held territory. Ukrainian specialists trained Sea Tigers in underwater fighting skills. Japanese showed how to launch submersibles. In time, these submersibles would have put a stop to the Trinco-KKS supply route.

LTTE ships could now move freely along the coast up to Vadamarachchi. They used this to launch boats and stealth craft laden with explosives. They carried out naval exercises. The Sri Lanka Navy objected but had to stay away. LTTE also asked for a special sea lane for their ships, 200 nautical miles off the north- east shore. The navy objected strongly to this.

CFA gave LTTE had freedom of movement in government areas while preventing non-LTTE persons from entering LTTE controlled areas. LTTE could enter government held territory, unarmed, ‘to visit family and friends.’ The LTTE used this to fan out to all parts of country. They infiltrated the hill country and established cells. They infiltrated Colombo, sent in suicide cadres set up safe houses and created sleeper cells. They systematically killed key operatives and informants of the armed forces. They were permitted political work, so they set up political offices.

‘CFA activities’ were closely watched by those who opposed Eelam. They noted that on 27.11.2002 a container with sophisticated communication equipment left Colombo, escorted by a police inspector in a Defender jeep, crossed the Omanthai security checkpoint and moved into LTTE controlled territory without any checking. They also noted that several container loads of weapons has been passed by the BOI and transported to LTTE territory in BOI vehicles. They reported that according to the official count, LTTE had violated the CFA 5,461 times and the government had done nothing about it. Inspector Dale Gunaratne, President of the Police Inspectors Association strongly criticized the government for allowing the LTTE to use the CFA to its advantage. The Federation of Buddhist Organizations called the CFA an ‘agreement signed by two puppets at the hands of a gang of international looters. " They welcomed its abrogation.

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