CFA & misconception of int’l ‘safety net’


CFA & misconception of int’l ‘safety net’

(Part I)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Before leaving for New Delhi for a three-day visit, the then Premier, Ranil Wickremesinghe, ordered the armed forces to observe a month-long ceasefire with the LTTE with effect from midnight, December 24, 2001. The UNP leader, Wickremesinghe, was responding to the LTTE’s decision to declare a unilateral cessation of hostilities, announced two days before, in the wake of the PA’s defeat at the December 5, 2001, parliamentary elections.

The stage was set for the signing of the CFA, jointly prepared by the Norwegians and the LTTE. The tripartite agreement was finalized on February 22, 2002.

In the run-up to the cessation of hostilities, the then UNP Chairman, Charitha Ratwatte, stepped down to assume duties as Secretary to the Policy Planning Development and Finance ministries. The then Enterprise Development Minister and UNF spokesman, Professor G.L. Peiris, received appointment as the chief government spokesman. Along with the then Defence Secretary, Austin Fernando and the first Peace Secretariat chief, Bernard Goonetilike, Charitha Ratwatte, Prof. Peiris, Bradman Weerakoon, (Secretary to Wickremesinghe) and Minister, Milinda Moragoda, played key roles in a process which legitimized the LTTE terror. Wickremesinghe accommodated a reluctant SLMC leader, Rauf Hakeem, on his negotiating, team led by Prof.Peiris.


KP’s assertion deceptive

Although Kumaran Pathmanathan, aka ‘KP’, now claims that the multi-pronged al Qaeda attack on the US on September 11, 2001, had changed the world opinion against ‘liberation’ movements and made things difficult for organizations, such as the LTTE, the actual situation was different. In an exclusive interview with this writer on July 28, 2010, ‘KP’ declared that the LTTE lost the war due to a change in international opinion. But, obviously, this is not the truth. This is nothing but a lie propagated by interested parties for their personal gain. The US-led war on terror had not been an obstacle to the LTTE. In fact, the LTTE expanded its international network to such an extent, it had ample stocks of arms, ammunition and equipment, primarily of Chinese origin, to wage war against Sri Lanka. But to the credit of the US, it helped, by way of intelligence, to track down four LTTE floating arsenals.

The Norwegian-led peace process had the backing of the US, Japan and EU and the UN. Contrary to the UNP’s claims, none of them raised their voices against LTTE atrocities. The UN and its agencies too had failed to take punitive action against the LTTE. The bottom line is that Sri Lanka and those international players believed in giving in a free hand to the LTTE, on the basis of a flawed agreement.

The international community forced Sri Lanka to meet the LTTE in Thailand, Norway, Germany and Japan. Sri Lanka was also forced to lift the ban on September 6, 2002, to pave the way for the first round of talks in September, 2002. The delegates met on a few occasions until the Tigers’ suspend the talks in April, 2003. The decision to meet at Thailand’s sprawling, modern naval station at Sattahip, southeast of Bangkok, revealed the extent of LTTE influence.

The Norwegians took visiting LTTE cadres to a Norwegian Special Forces camp at Rena, while another group of LTTE terrorists had an opportunity to undergo community police training in Northern Ireland. The Irish ‘police’ connection came to light following the arrest of an LTTE cadre 29-year-old Kalimuttu Vinodkumr in Trincomalee in August, 2007. He had been among 12 LTTE terrorists given a three-month course in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland also invited a group of LTTE leaders to visit the country in October 2003 for what the then Irish Foreign, Minister Brian Cowen called internal talks on a peace deal. Don’t forget such visits took place even after the LTTE quit the negotiating table in April, 2003.

Although the Western powers declared war on al Qaeda, invaded Afghanistan, and prepared to conquer Iraq, on the basis of false intelligence reports that the oil rich country was on the verge of developing weapons of mass destruction, they allowed Norway and the LTTE to subvert Sri Lanka. The West never backed Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE and India never believed Sri Lanka could defeat what it created in the 80s, though new President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s team, comprising his brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya, former Army Chief General, Sarath Fonseka, former Navy Commander, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, and Air force commander Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetilleka, had confidence. The then STF Commandant, Nimal Lewke, had been another key team player whose contribution made a critical difference in the battle against the LTTE, particularly in the eastern theatre.   


DMI compromised 

Wickremesinghe lifted restrictions imposed on a range of items in areas under LTTE-control, as part of the confidence building measures.

The Wickremesinghe government ordered the police to raid a safe house run by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) at Millennium City, Aturugiriya. An irate Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne, the then military spokesman, strongly denied media reports which linked the army to an alleged bid to assassinate UNP leaders and jeopardize the peace process. The state-run media went to town with the alleged plan. The UNP went to the extent of taking a vehicle load of journalists to expose one of the most important operations undertaken by the army, under Lt.General Lionel Balagalle’s command. The DMI, under the then Brigadier Kapila Hendarawithana had been involved in clandestine operations behind LTTE lines until Wickremesinge ordered a cessation of hostilities on the eve of Christmas 2001.

Today people had conveniently forgotten that the UNP went ahead with the raid, despite Lt. General Balagalle assuring the UNP that the army would not target the government. This followed a letter to Lt. General Balagalle by the then UNP Chairman, Charitha Ratwatte and Vice Chairman Daya Palpola, accusing the army of  planning to assassinate Wickremesinghe in the run-up to the December 5, 2001 election. The UNP alleged that the DMI had planned to target Wickremesinghe with a claymore mine, a charge denied by the army. In fact, Lt. General Balagalle refuted the allegations by way of a statement he issued through The Island in January, 2002.

We exclusively reported that those arrested – two Muslims, a Sinhalese and three Tamils ( The Island-January 4, 2002 issue) - had been engaged in legitimate army operations at the time of the UNP raid. A foolish UNF government declared that the arrested group had four thermo baric weapons and 66 sets of LTTE uniforms.

What the army at that time did not know was the CFA would contain a specific clause on suspension of ‘activities by deep penetration units.’ While the army had to cease its operations, the LTTE stepped-up theirs as part of a strategy, which gradually demoralized those involved in clandestine operations.

Failed Norwegian bid in 1995

Ambassador Gunatilike testifying before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, on August 11, declared that the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga had paved the way for the Norwegian facilitation for the last peace bid. The Norwegians had been involved in the disastrous 1994-1995 bid. The short-lived negotiating process lasted just 100 days (January 8, 1995, to April 19, 1995), with the LTTE sinking a pair of Chinese-built gunboats at Trincomalee. A week later, they shoulder-fired heat seeking missiles which brought down two military transport aircraft over Palaly, killing some 100 officers and men. The Norwegians and two retired military officers from the Netherlands (Colonel Paul Henri) and Canada (Major General C. Milner) responsible for the so-called peace monitoring committee, simply washed off their hands, leaving government forces to face the LTTE.

Had the UNF leaders carefully studied the 1994-1995 peace process, they would not have believed in the Norwegians. Unlike any other previous peace bid, the success of Wickremesinghe’s initiative entirely depended on the international community. Wickremesinghe and Moragoda believed in what they regularly referred to as an international safety net. Former Defence Secretary told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee how Moragoda’s international drive had troubled the LTTE. Nothing could have been far from the truth. The West never interfered with the LTTE. Unlike any previous negotiating process, the Norwegian-led bid gave the LTTE the legitimacy it needed. The LTTE’s biggest achievement was nothing but securing the endorsement of the US, EU and Japan to the CFA, which paved the way for the terrorists to exploit Sri Lanka’s weakness to their military advantage. During recent sittings of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission it transpired that the CFA had been prepared jointly by the Norwegians and the LTTE and presented to Sri Lanka.

We should not be deceived by KP’s assertion that the 9/11 attack on the US had changed the international opinion against the LTTE. The UNP still continued to claim credit for having an international safety net which was nothing but a myth created of the UNP and its media. Had there been an international safety net, the LTTE would never have been able to quit negotiations in April, 2003, paving the way for President Kumaratunga to dissolve parliament in February, 2004.

Let me reproduce what KP told me when asked what was the turning point in the Eelam war IV? 

KP: "Multi-pronged Al-Qaeda 9/11 attack on the US changed it all. Within 24 hours, the international community, led by Western powers, moved against all armed groups causing immense damage to our operations. There are many other factors, but the primary reason is nothing but the rapid rise of Al-Qaeda, which prompted the West to change its attitude. This brought about a drastic change in the attitude of political leaders in other parts of the world. Circumstances made propagation of separatist sentiments extremely difficult in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, an influential section of the LTTE, including its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, did not realize the urgent need to change its strategy. Had he done that, the situation would have been different today. There is a New World Order today, which does not tolerate armed campaigns and that is the hard reality."

The international community openly sided with the LTTE, though the group brazenly violated the CFA. The Scandinavian truce monitors, led by Norway, failed in their job, while Wickremesinghe turned a blind eye to LTTE atrocities. The government believed in peace at any cost. It went to the extent of releasing those held in connection with the devastating attack on the Bandaranaike International Airport, in July 2001.


Ex-Defence Secretary Fernando told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that the BIA attack was one of the primary reasons, which forced them to resume negotiations with the LTTE. If they could have been involved in such an attack why on earth the UNF did released them?

Even before the signing of the CFA, in February, 2002, Wickremesinghe and the Norwegians had the support of the then Opposition Leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Addressing the PA parliamentary group in parliament on February 5, 2002, Rajapaksa pledged his support to Wickremesinghe’s effort to bring the LTTE back to the negotiating table. (The Island-February 6, 2002).

The JVP accused Rajapaksa of keeping mum on the LTTE-UNP deal. The then JVP frontliner, Wimal Weerawansa, accused the government of giving certain privileges to Rajapaksa to keep him silent. This followed the PA’s refusal to join a countrywide street protest campaign against the CFA.  (The Island-March 17, 2002)

On the eve of the CFA, the navy intercepted an LTTE logistical movement, leading to a fierce confrontation. The government ordered the navy to pull out after the initial confrontation, prompting a furious navy officer involved in the battle, to launch a scathing attack on the decision-makers. The officer asked why the bloody government had to wait till the navy lost men in that particular confrontation to order a cessation of hostilities.

Wickremesinghe also brought former senior DIG, Merril Gunaratne, as Defence Advisor, though he did not address security issues. The LTTE slowly but steadily began to exert pressure on the government. UNP strategists believed that the only way to prevent an all out war was to appease the LTTE by giving them a free hand, not only in areas under its control, but in the south as well. Under the very noses of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and its local counterparts, the LTTE launched a massive child recruitment drive. In the East, the campaign was led by Vinayagamoorthy Muralidaran aka Karuna. The government was impotent. The state-run media completely ignored child recruitment while the international community turned the other way.  

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) launched Pongu Thamil rallies in support of the LTTE with the participation of some constituent partners of the UNP-led UNF government. The PA declined to get involved in a high profile JVP campaign against Pongu Thamil as it did not realize the danger.

The Pongu Thamil campaign was preceded by the TNA designating the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil speaking people, thereby giving Prabhakaran the responsibility to represent an entire community.  The Norwegians and peace co-chairs remained silent. The Tamil press endorsed the LTTE strategy, while those who opposed the LTTE had to face the consequences. Continued tomorrow

(Part II muzzling of the press)

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