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Ceasefire pact is in tatters

world Updated: Feb 22, 2007 17:36 IST
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The fifth anniversary of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on February 22, will go unobserved because the CFA had ceased to exist, de facto, a long time ago.

"The anniversary is no big deal," said Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohona.

In the past five years, what Sri Lanka has seen is an undeclared, diffuse and low intensity war, with interludes of very heavy fighting, mixed with assassinations and other terrorist actions.

And what is on the cards is more violence and less peace, with the Northern districts set to become the new theatre of war.

By 2006 end, the CFA had been violated 3,827 times by the LTTE, and 346 times by the Sri Lankan forces.

The LTTE had brazenly assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, made attempts on the lives of the Army chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka and the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and killed scores of unarmed soldiers and civilians in terrorist strikes.

Ground and air attacks in the Tamil-speaking North-East in 2006 had claimed the lives of 3,000 civilians.

At least 210,000 civilians, mostly Tamil, were displaced, and 20,000 had fled to India. More than 600 had disappeared in the North-East.

Scores of Tamils were abducted in Colombo either for ransom and for alleged links with the LTTE.

In the East, Tamil militants had forcibly recruited more than 1,800 kids. A UN report had alleged that sections of the Security Forces were complicit in child recruitment by pro-government Tamil militants.

After successful military operations in the eastern districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, the Sri Lankan forces are now poised to take on the LTTE in the northern areas of Jaffna and the Wanni.

And to make this possible, the government will be spending SL Rs 139 billion ($1.3 bn) on the forces in 2007, 28 per cent more than it did in 2006.

The LTTE is beefing up its arsenal by smuggling from India, apart from other places.

The CFA has been shaky from day one. "It has formally divided the country into LTTE-held and government-held areas.

It has given the LTTE access to the government-held areas to do political work, but has denied that facility to the non-LTTE parties," opponents in the Sinhala-speaking South pointed out.

Five years later, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told BBC that Sri Lanka should not have signed the CFA.

Southern politicians kept accusing the Norwegian peace brokers and the Scandinavian truce monitors of being pro-LTTE.

For its part, the LTTE complained about being denied access to the sea. This led to serious clashes between the Sea Tigers and the Sri Lankan Navy.

It complained about the government's trying to contain it with an International Safety Net (ISN).

It feared that peace and economic development would weaken it. The LTTE quit the talks process in 2003.

Meanwhile in Colombo, Sinhala hardliners had entrenched themselves in power. The LTTE encouraged this because Sinhala hardliners would help justify its case for an armed struggle for secession.

It enabled hardliner Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the 2005 Presidential election by making the Tamils boycott it. After he took over, it kept provoking him to go to war by wantonly killing soldiers and civilians.