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Road from Geneva to Nanthikadal



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By Shamindra Ferdinando
in Geneva


After a second round of talks in April 2006 failed to materialize due to transgression on the part of the LTTE, Norway arranged for the two parties to meet in Oslo on June 8 and 9, 2006. The LTTE refused to meet the government delegation on the basis it wasn’t led by a minister. The LTTE took up the position that Dr. Palitha Kohona wasn’t important enough for them to sit at the negotiating table. The LTTE also objected to the presence of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) personnel from EU states, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, due to the EU proscribing the LTTE as a terrorist organization. 

Had the LTTE heeded President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s call to return to the negotiating table in the immediate aftermath of his victory over UNP candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, at the Nov. 2005 presidential polls, there wouldn’t have been a confrontation between the Sri Lankan government and a section of the international community, at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).


With the stage set for the US to move a resolution targeting Sri Lanka at the 19th sessions of the UNHRC over accountability issues, it would be pertinent to discuss the failure on the part of Western powers to prevent the LTTE resuming major combat operations in early August, 2006.


In spite of a series of devastating attacks and strong opposition from a section of those who had backed him at the Nov. polls, President Rajapaksa went to the extent of agreeing to meet the LTTE abroad, under Norwegian facilitation.


Parliamentarian Sajin De Vass Gunawardena, a key member of the delegation led by External Affairs Minister, Prof. G. L. Peiris, now in Geneva to defend Sri Lanka, had been involved in three attempts to revive the peace process, during 2006, under Norwegian auspices.  


MP Gunawardena told ‘The Island’ yesterday that those demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lanka did absolutely nothing to coerce the LTTE to accept President Rajapaksa’s peace offer, which would have prevented a resumption of hostilities. Had they compelled the LTTE to return to the negotiating table, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have been on the UNHRC agenda. Despite serious doubts regarding the impartiality of the peace facilitator, President Rajapaksa had assured his commitment to the CFA, the Galle District MP said.


Under Norwegian auspices, government and LTTE delegations met on Feb. 22 and 23, 2006, at at Chateau de Bossey, Celigny, Switzerland. MP Gunawardena recalled that it was the first direct talks between the two parties, since the LTTE quit the negotiating table in April 2003, during UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership. The meeting at Celigny was called Geneva I. It was preceded by six rounds of talks between the UNP government and the LTTE beginning with a three-day meet at the Sattahip navy base, Thailand in Sept. 2002. The sixth session was held in Hakone, Japan in March 2003, before the LTTE quit the negotiating table, the following month.


Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and UK-based Anton Balasingham led the respective delegations at Geneva I. Minister de Silva, too, is in Geneva to respond to war crimes allegations.


After a second round of talks in April 2006 failed to materialize due to transgression on the part of the LTTE, Norway arranged for the two parties to meet in Oslo on June 8 and 9, 2006. The LTTE refused to meet the government delegation on the basis it wasn’t led by a minister. The LTTE took up the position that Dr. Palitha Kohona wasn’t important enough for them to sit at the negotiating table. The LTTE also objected to the presence of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) personnel from EU states, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, due to the EU proscribing the LTTE as a terrorist organization.     


Between Geneva I and II, the LTTE almost succeeded in assassinating the then Army Chief, Gen. Sarath Fonseka.


President Rajapaksa went ahead with Geneva II on Oct. 28 and 29, 2006 in spite of the LTTE launching eelam war IV with multi-pronged simultaneous assaults on the strategic Trincomalee navy base and Jaffna frontlines, extending from Kilali to Nargarkovil on the Vadamaratchy east coast, two months before. The LTTE also made an abortive bid to ram the navy’s largest troop carrier as it was approaching Trincomalee, while killing over 100 navy personnel in the worst single suicide truck blast outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces.


In the aftermath of Geneva II, the LTTE made an attempt on the life of Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in Dec. 2006.


Fighting escalated with the military going all out to secure the East. Having liberated the entire East in mid 2007, the government mounted a multi-pronged offensive in the North. In January 2008, Sri Lanka abrogated the CFA of Feb. 2002 and didn’t stop until the LTTE collapsed in May 2009.


Here in Geneva to defend Sri Lanka’s war-time record at the UNHRC are External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, who led the government negotiating team for talks with the LTTE in 2002-2003 and a member of his team, Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam is playing a pivotal role in the country’s defence. Amb. Kunanayakam, who succeeded Dayan Jayatilleke last year, told ‘The Island’ that whatever the critics said, the world knew Sri Lanka was no longer at war.  


Sri Lanka needs to vigorously campaign in Geneva to thwart the US and Tamil Diaspora onslaught. Nothing could be as important as highlighting the role played by the Diaspora in the overall LTTE war strategy, particularly during eelam war IV. In fact, the LTTE could never have sustained its conventional offensive capability without its overseas supply network, which ensured a steady supply of arms, ammunition and equipment, until the navy confronted LTTE supply ships on the high seas. The Diaspora provided a substantial amount of funds required to replenish the LTTE arsenal, which included a range of artillery and mortars, as well as mobile anti-aircraft guns.


The Tamil Diaspora shouldn’t be allowed to get away with accountability on its part to arm the LTTE. Those LTTE front organizations based in the US, UK, Norway and various other countries, as well as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal should be held responsible for strengthening the hands of the LTTE. Sri Lanka shouldn’t be punished for meeting the LTTE’s formidable fighting capability built over the years based on the experience in fighting the Sri Lankan and Indian armies, since the ‘80s. The Tamil Diaspora and the TNA remained blind to LTTE atrocities as long as they felt Prabhakaran could achieve his military objectives in spite of over 5,000 cadres laying down arms on the orders of Vinayagamurthy Muralidharan, in April 2004.


In the run-up to Batticaloa cadres quitting the organization, the LTTE received a turbo-boost from the TNA by way of recognition that it was the sole representatives of the Tamil speaking people, living not only in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, but in the entire country and the Diaspora. The LTTE helped the TNA to sweep the Northern Province and secure a lion’s share of parliamentary seats in the Eastern Province, at the April 2004 parliamentary polls.


The EU Election Monitoring Mission in its final report, alleged the LTTE-TNA partnership. Unfortunately, the EU had ignored the TNA’s sordid partnership with the LTTE and allowed the group to play politics, both at local and international level at the expense of war weary Sri Lanka.


Those shedding crocodile tears for war victims and missing youth remained mum when the LTTE launched a massive recruitment campaign under the very noses of the Norway-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. Did the TNA or the so-called civil society organizations oppose child recruitment? Did they at least oppose using school girls and young women as cannon fodder? In fact, the Diaspora kept the war going by providing arms, ammunition and equipment needed by those passing out from training facilities in LTTE-held areas. The LTTE also held passing out parades at some schools during the CFA, with the participation of TNA leaders. Colombo-based diplomatic missions and NGOs remained silent.


Had the LTTE survived, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have been on the UNHRC’s agenda at the forthcoming sessions. Instead, the country would still be bleeding.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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