Today in New Delhi, India
Mar 20, 2019-Wednesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Tough task ahead for SL negotiators

Govt and LTTE will sit across the table on Feb 22 in Geneva to discuss the truce pact, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 22:41 IST
COLOMBO DIARY | PK Balachandran
COLOMBO DIARY | PK Balachandran

The Sri Lankan government's negotiating team is going to face many challenges when it meets the LTTE militants across the table in Geneva on February 22 and 23 to discuss the implementation of the controversial 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).

For the government, the first and foremost challenge will be to try and get the LTTE to review and revise the agreement which, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government feels, is loaded in favour of the militant group, seriously abridging the rights of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka.

The LTTE is allowed freedom of movement in the government controlled areas.

It can do political work there, if unarmed and not in uniform. But political parties from the government controlled area, other than those approved by the LTTE, cannot do political work in the LTTE controlled area.

The Sri Lankan army is unable to use the main supply route from Vavuniya to Jaffna.

The Sri Lankan navy's right to patrol the sea off areas controlled by the LTTE is still challenged.

The government had agreed to discuss only the "implementation" of the existing CFA, on the insistence of the LTTE, which had very clearly said it would not tolerate any review or revision of the document as such.

But it is now reported that the government will definitely raise the issue of revision to rid the CFA of unequal clauses

According to the Colombo media, the government has already drafted a revised CFA and this will be placed before the LTTE by the eminent lawyer HL de Silva.

The second, and equally difficult challenge, is to find ways and means of stopping the killings, which have reached alarming proportions.

So far, the two parties have only been blaming each other for the killings.

The Scandinavian truce monitors are helpless because verification is almost impossible.

What is going in Sri Lanka is an ugly shadow war in which none of the parties is sincere about attaining peace and willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Revision of CFA

On coming to know of the government's plan to present a revised draft of the CFA, the LTTE had promptly reiterated that it would not, under any circumstances, discuss the review or revision of the CFA document itself.

The LTTE's Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingham, said on Sunday, that his team had "no mandate" to discuss revision.

The mandate was to discuss only the "smooth implementation" of the existing CFA.

His team would not lend an ear to any plea to the contrary, he declared.

The LTTE's case has been that the current problems on the ground are due to the improper, inadequate and insincere implementation of the CFA and not due to the contents or provisions of the CFA.

"Implement the CFA sincerely and you will have peace on the ground," is the LTTE's contention.

According to the government, however, the CFA has been observed more in the breach and that the culprit is indisputably the LTTE.

According to the statistics made available to the government's negotiating team by the Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), between February 1, 2005 and December 31, 2005, the LTTE had violated the CFA 3471 times, while the government forces had been held responsible only 162 times.

In the LTTE' view, however, the government has been violating the CFA on a daily basis by not implementing several of its crucial clauses.

Most of these clauses have to do with "returning to normalcy" such as vacation of public and private places by the armed forces, the modification of civilian movement restrictions, and the restoration of fishing rights.

The LTTE has been demanding a roll back of the High Security Zones (HSZ) in the Jaffna peninsula to allow civilians to return to their homes and farms. But the government will have none of that.

The other key issue that bothers the LTTE is the government's reluctance to disarm/relocate the so-called Tamil paramilitary groups operating in the Tamil-speaking North East allegedly in collusion with the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The LTTE counts the breakaway Karuna group as being among the "paramilitary" groups operating with the help of the Sri Lankan forces.

But the government insists that it has no Tamil paramilitaries and that the Karuna group is not a government group, but a faction of the LTTE operating independently of the government forces.

But despite these assertions and denials, killings and counter killings have mounted, especially in the East, where the breakaway LTTE group led by Karuna operates.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 18:46 IST