Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sri Lanka: The LTTE's game of percentages

By Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Source: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Republished with permission

The Peace Secretariat views with sadness the statement of the Head of the LTTE political wing regarding the recent decision of the Government of Sri Lanka to terminate the Ceasefire Agreement signed in 2002. The statement reminds one of the Goebbels doctrine that, the bigger the falsehoods enunciated, the greater the possibility that these might be believed. Sadly, though Goebbels may have been right about the initial impact of his techniques, in the long run they brought only disaster, for the rest of the world as well as for Germans. At this stage at least the Tamils of the Vanni deserve something better, and we hope that they and the rest of the world will reject egregious falsehood, and instead work towards a sustainable peace for Sri Lanka.

The Goebbelsian nature of the LTTE statement is obvious from the relentless repetition of the phrase 100%, in relation to what are now claimed to be LTTE desires with regard to the Ceasefire. 100% is repeated five times in a statement of fewer than 1000 words, culminating in the assertion that 'The LTTE wishes to state that even at this juncture, it is ready to implement every clause of the CFA agreement and respect it 100%.'

This would be a wonderful idea, had it been expressed in 2002. It was not expressed, doubtless because normal human beings think that, when you sign an agreement, you intend from the start to implement it fully, 100% as the Tigers put it, without specifically saying so. But now we can see what the Tigers knew from the start that, since the magic formula was not in the agreement, they were at liberty to decide the particular percentage level at which they would implement the agreement. Hence the massive number of violations of the Ceasefire, ruled as violations by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (before the Tigers got rid of 60% of the countries contributing to the Mission, making it impossible for them to deliver further rulings).

Incidentally, to play the wonderful Tiger game of percentages, between February 2002 and December 2005 there were 6751 complaints against the LTTE, of which 3471 were ruled as violations of the Ceasefire. There were 1313 complaints against the GOSL, of which 162 were ruled as violations. Does this mean the breakdown of the Ceasefire was 95% the fault of the LTTE, 5% that of the government? Or that the government is 12% guilty whereas the LTTE is over 50% guilty? Or should we just let commonsense rule, and say that the statistics make it crystal clear that the Tigers from the very start had no intention of abiding by the Ceasefire to any reasonable extent?

In addition the Tigers, who believe an agreement need not be 100% followed, also evinced other strange ideas about the agreement. Though it specifically demands the cessation, amongst other activities, of abductions, according to the Norwegian ambassador who visiting Kilinochchi in March 2006, 'Tamilselvan had insisted that the issue of child recruitment does not fall within the parameters of the CFA...Mr Bratskar has pointed out that the CFA does mention abduction. Since a child cannot voluntarily join the LTTE military force, all recruitment will have to be treated as abduction. He had also argued that looking at the history of the six rounds of talks, there is an acknowledgement that recruitment should not be continued, and that continued recruitment was extremely damaging to the image of the LTTE at the international level'.

But, in Tigerspeak, words obviously do not have 100% of their value, unless specifically designated as such. So children join the LTTE voluntarily, suicide bombers go willingly to their deaths, the Peace Secretariat highlights suicidal assault teams in the pictures on its website and the Head of the Political Wing dons fatigues and leads military assaults. But tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow) if only the world were willing to be conned again, Mr 100% would deliver at least a modicum of what he promises.

A few more falsehoods may be highlighted. The statement claims that the CFA 'had the necessary clauses, to remove the military zones declared by the Sri Lankan military...'. In fact the CFA says simply that 'Places of worship which are situated in their respective "high security zones" shall be vacated by all armed personnel and maintained in good order by civilian workers, even when they are not made accessible to the public'. This makes it clear that the continuation of military zones was envisaged from the start, and the Tigers certainly took ruthless advantage of this provision, for instance stopping even the Monitoring Mission from inspecting and reporting on the airstrip they were building.

Again, they claim that 'the peace effort came to a stand still' (as it had done several times previously when they withdrew from talks) because the GOSL rejected their request about implementing 'the just one clause in the CFA about the opening of the A9 highway'. But the clause says 'The Parties shall open the Kandy-Jaffna Road (A9) to non-military traffic of goods and passengers'. Leaving aside the massive taxes the LTTE imposed on such traffic for the four years in which the road remained open, what the statement conveniently omits is the reason for the road being closed downward from the north: this was a massive military assault, initiated by combatants travelling in the guise of civilians in a bus, in August 2006. It was thus essential for the government to ensure that such murderous assaults on its forces would not occur again, which given the risk involved would have required something well over 100% guarantees where Tigerspeak was involved.

Conversely, the closure for some days in the week of the A9 upward from the south was due to LTTE activity and the inability of the ICRC to secure adequate guarantees from the LTTE, until after several requests from the GOSL these were finally obtained. The Secretary of Defence had constantly made it clear that he was willing to open this section seven days a week if the ICRC recommended it, but it took a request in an open forum attended by Sir John Holmes to initiate successful action in this regard.

Then, with regard to the claim that the GOSL 'put hurdles in the implementation of the agreements made at the peace talks', specifically agreements regarding subcommittees, in one case the LTTE withdrew in January 2003, in the other they withdrew in April 2003 when they withdrew from negotiations altogether. Another complaint is 'the failure to maintain parity of status of one party to the CFA, the LTTE'. This, according to Mr Balasingham's letter, refers primarily to 'the exclusion of the LTTE from critical aid conference in Washington'. Whilst it is hardly fair to blame the GOSL for a principle of American anti-terrorist activity, it was the pique of the LTTE at this that led Mr Balasingham to declare in the same letter that 'We will not be attending the donor conference in Japan in June'.

Finally, to look at a couple of matters on which 100% certainty does not exist, it seemed that the agreement of the LTTE at the 3rd session of talks 'to explore a solution...based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka' was repudiated by the LTTE leadership, while the agreement to adopt a programme of action on Human Rights was stymied because 'The LTTE by procrastination succeeded in avoiding the entanglements a Human Rights document would impose on them'. This last may be a matter of speculation, but clearly the withdrawal of the LTTE from talks in 2003 was a tactical move that nearly brought them the Intrerim Self Governing Authority for the North East, with an appointed absolute majority of LTTE nominees at all levels, which the LTTE had craved from the start.

That did not happen and the politicians who had indulged the LTTE for so long were conclusively rejected by the people in two consecutive elections. At the first of these, the parliamentary election of 2004, the massive majority won by the current government parliamentary group was given a clean bill by election observers - whereas those observers, those from the EU for instance, made clear their doubts about the election in the North and East in which LTTE surrogates won almost all seats. The opposition now of those surrogates to elections makes clear the deep fear the LTTE has of allowing the people to choose.

So we can only hope that the world at large, and in Kilinochchi, will not be taken in by falsehoods, but will assist the GOSL to move towards a negotiated peace with all Sri Lankans committed to pluralism and democracy. The Norwegians, if they continue with their Facilitatory Role, should not succumb to the smiles of the Tigers, but think more now about the moderate Tamils who remained outside their ken till last year, but who can now, with the abrogation of the CFA, also confidently enter the fuller peace process that this country needs.

Republished for information and discussion only. This report does not necessarily reflect the views of Mike Hitchen Consulting