Lanka, LTTE agree to stop violence

Both parties have agreed to stop killings, abductions, intimidation and violence, reports PK Balachandran.
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Updated on Feb 24, 2006 04:12 PM IST
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None | ByPK Balachandran, Colombo

In a major breakthrough at the Geneva talks on Thursday, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government agreed to stop killings, abductions, intimidation and violence, and to meet again on April 19.

Assisted by peace maker Norway, the two parties had met to discuss the implementation of the controversial February 22, 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) amidst fears that a breakdown of the talks could lead to the resumption of full scale war.

A statement issued on behalf of the two parties by Norway, said: "The GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) and the LTTE are committed to respecting and upholding the Ceasefire Agreement and reconfirm their commitment to fully cooperate with and respect the rulings of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)." 

"The GOSL and the LTTE are committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure that there will be no intimidation, acts of violence, abductions or killings."

"The LTTE is committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure that there will be no acts of violence against the security forces and police."

"The GOSL is committed to taking all necessary measures in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement to ensure that no armed group or person other than government security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations." 

"The GOSL and the LTTE discussed all issues concerning the welfare of children in the North East, including the recruitment of children."

"The SLMM will report on the implementation on the above agreements at the next round of talks."

"The parties requested the Swiss Government to host the next round of talks in Geneva on 19-21 April, 2006."

Government's point view

Both the government and the LTTE have reasons to be happy with the agreement.

From the government's point of view, it is good that the LTTE has agreed to end all acts of violence, killings, intimidation and abductions and respect the rulings of the truce monitors, the SLMM.

The LTTE had been made to discuss the touchy issue of the recruitment of children to its fighting units.

Though Thursday's agreement did not say that child recruitment would cease, the government and the LTTE would discuss it within the larger rubric of the welfare of children in the war-affected North East of Sri Lanka.

Based on the data collected by the SLMM, government had been saying that the LTTE had committed over 5,000 transgressions of the CFA in the past four years, accounting for 96 per cent of the violations. Government had also been saying that 55 per cent of the violations were to do with child recruitment, a crime under international law.

The LTTE had not only disputed these figures, but had complained that the gross violations by the government, in terms of non-implementation of key clauses of the CFA, had not been recorded as violations.

The SLMM's way of declaring violations was also challenged by the LTTE. Attempts had been made to intimidate the SLMM, forcing it to cease operations in Jaffna and Trincomalee for a while.

LTTE's point of view

From the LTTE's point of view, the Geneva agreement is good because it has made the government agree to rein in the Tamil paramilitaries, including the Karuna group, although, the term "Tamil paramilitaries" does not occur in the agreement, nor is the Karuna group named.

The Karuna group is easily the most dangerous of the five named by the LTTE, given the fact that it is made up of former LTTE cadres and is led by the former ace commander of the LTTE in Batticalao, Col Karuna Amman.

Although the LTTE has many grievances against the government in regard to non-implementation of clauses relating to the rights of civilians, the question of its own security has been of primary concern.

The LTTE's civilian cadres had not been safe in the government controlled areas, especially in the Eastern districts of the island where, it was alleged, the Karuna group and other Tamil paramilitaries were having a free run with the assistance of government troops and military intelligence.

Even civilian aid workers associated with an organisation allied to the LTTE were kidnapped.

At one stage, the LTTE had to withdraw its political cadres from Jaffna and Batticaloa.

Hence, the agreement to end violence, killings, and an indirect commitment on the part of the government to rein in the Tamil paramilitaries, should be a welcome development for the LTTE.

Commitment to continue to ceasefire

Among the most important announcements made at the Geneva conference is the decision to continue the ceasefire and meet again after a month.

For various reasons, both local and international, the government and the LTTE had been wanting to continue the ceasefire.

They  differed only on the contents of the CFA.

While the government wanted to amend it, the LTTE said that the existing document was very good and that the faults lay only in its implementation.

The position now is that the CFA will remain as it is, for the foreseeable future.

At first glance, this may seem to be a defeat for the government, which has been wanting amendments.

But looked at from another point of view, it may not be a defeat at all.

The government had been wanting an amendment mainly to stop the attacks on its security forces and the killing of civilians, including top political leaders like Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. The LTTE has now agreed to stop all this.

Other issues of interest to the government like the freedom to indulge in political work in the LTTE-controlled areas could be taken up in the next round of talks.

Muslim issue takes back seat

It is apparent that the specific issue of the security of Muslims in the North East had taken a back seat at the Geneva meet.

The joint statement merely says that the concerns relating to the Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese were discussed. There were no specific assurances as regards the Muslims, who were complaining of harassment by the LTTE and indifference on the part of the government.

However, since the Muslims' main complaint had been violence, abduction and killings by the LTTE, the assurance from the latter that such acts would cease, should make the community happy.

But since the Muslim community is badly divided and its politics is very acrimonious, the Muslim representative at the talks, cabinet minister Ferial Ashraff, will be criticised by her rivals for coming back "empty handed"

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