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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamilnation > Library > Eelam Section > Men and Memories: Autobiographical Recollections and Reflections - J.R. Jayawardene

TAMIL NATION LIBRARY: Eelam

An extract from the book:

"The Government of Central India continued to campaign throughout the world against the Government of Sri Lanka. The Indian embassies abroad became centres of support for the terrorists and separatist groups. This led to the reluctance on the part of some of the Western powers to supply arms and other aid to Sri Lanka. They were all anxious not to offend India.

In April 1986, the Indian Government sent to Sri Lanka a new delegation led by a Minister of State, P. Chidambaram (40), a young Tamil and Natwar Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs. An official communique in May 1986, announced that the Sri Lanka Government agreed to make further concessions beyond the terms of the Delhi Accord, concessions that dealt with Law and Order, Land Settlement etc.

Sri Lanka meanwhile, embarked on a new political initiative, the Political Parties Conference with eight political parties, that met me on 25 June 1986.

These talks continued in July 1986. A TULF delegation also arrived in Sri Lanka from India and had formal talks with me in July and August 1986.

Left parties

The discussions between the Government of Sri Lanka and the TULF and the discussions and debates within the Political Parties Conference, continued for over three months. The SLFP boycotted these discussions. All the other parties, including the traditional Left parties which were not represented in Parliament, also participated in these discussions.

They agreed to proposals which formed the basis of discussions between me and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when we met in Bangalore at the SAARC Summit on the 17 and 18 November 1986. At the end of the Conference, it was announced that apart from the subjects of Finance, and Administration, which were not clarified by the TULF, the matters which required further clarification, modification and agreement, were fully set out in a working paper on the Bangalore discussions dated 19 November 1986.

The LTTE alone refused to acceptthese proposals. For the first time, the Indian Government imposed restrictions on Sri Lanka Tamil terrorists operating from Indian territory. These were nullified by the Tamil Nadu Government's non-cooperation in these moves. Attempts were made by the Central Government to prevent the LTTE leader Prabhakaran from leaving India for Jaffna, unsuccessfully.

Chidambaram and Natwar Singh visited Colombo for further discussions with me for the third time on 17 December 1986. No agreement could be reached at these discussions for (a) the merger of the two provinces (the North and the East) or (b) exclusion of the Amparai District from the Eastern Province.

Two ministers

An official statement issued after the 19 December meeting, made the following points.

President J.R. Jayewardene and the two Indian Ministers discussed further ideas in continuation of the discussions held in the past. At the end of the discussions, the following proposals emerged:

(i) The present territory comprising the Eastern Province minus the Amparai Electoral District may constitute the new Eastern Province.

(ii) A Provincial Council will be established for the new Eastern Province.

(iii) The institutional linkages between the Northern Province and the Eastern Province discussed earlier will be further refined in order to make it more acceptable to the parties concerned.

(iv) The Sri Lanka Government will be willing to consider a proposal for a second stage of constitutional development providing for the Northern Province and the new Eastern Province coming together subject to modalities being agreed upon for ascertaining the wishes of the people comprised in the Northern Province and the Eastern Province separately.

(v) The Sri Lankan Government is willing to consider the creation of an office of Vice-President to be appointed by the President for a specified term.

(vi) The five (5) Muslim M.P.s of the Eastern Province may be invited to visit India and to discuss matters of mutual concern with the Tamil sideunder the auspices of the Government of India.

Military moves

It would appear that the LTTE was intent on scuttling the agreement that the two governments were on the verge of signing and as a means of preventing this they hit upon the notion of a unilateral declaration of Independence in the North of the Island. The Sri Lanka Government's response to this was predictably tough. In an attempt to pre-empt such a declaration, the government sent troop reinforcements into the Eastern and Northern province with instructions to clear these areas of the LTTE and other separatist groups.

The Indian Government, much perturbed by this turn of events, put considerable pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to abandon these military moves and to resume the search for a political solution. These public expressions of displeasure from New Delhi strained relations between the two countries in February and March 1987. On 14 March 1987, an Indian emissary, another Minister of State, Dinesh Singh, was sent to meet me in the hope that the political process could be revived.

The government decided to make an attempt to regain control of the Jaffna peninsula. 'Operation Liberation', which began in April 1987 in the Vadamarachchi division of the North-Eastern part of the peninsula, was directed at preventing the hitherto easy movement of men and material from Tamil Nadu. By the end of May, Sri Lankan forces had gained control of this area. The LTTE, the most formidable Tamil separatist group, had suffered a serious setback, and in a region they had dominated for long.

At this point, India moved swiftly to prevent the subjugation of the Jaffna peninsula by the Sri Lanka forces. The Indian High Commissioner, J.N. Dixit, pointedly informed Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of National Security, that India would not permit the Sri Lanka Army to take Jaffna town. The same message was conveyed to me.

An envelope

In the course of my speech at the Bank of Ceylon's new headquarters building opening on 27 May, I dwelt at some length on the Vadamarachchi operation, and the government's intention to proceed with that till the LTTE forces were defeated. In the evening, Dixit called on me at my home in Ward Place and conveyed a message from Rajiv. The gist of it was  written by Dixit on an envelope! It read as follows:

1. Deeply disappointed and distressed.

2. Thousands of civilians killed since 1983 has aroused tremendous indignation.

3. Your latest offensive in Jaffna peninsula has altered the entire basis of our understanding.

4. We cannot accept genocide.

5. Please do not force us to review our policies.

The 'review of our policies' which Dixit threatened on behalf of the Indian Government, came very quickly. There was first a public monetary grant of US$ 3.2 from the Tamil Nadu Government to the LTTE and its allies. The Indian Government, for its part, escalated the level of its own involvement in Sri Lanka when it announced that it was sending shipments of food and petroleum products to Jaffna, which, it claimed, was facing a severe shortage of these items through a blockade by the Sri Lankan forces.

Air drop

Despite the refusal of the Sri Lank-an Government to accept this offer or concede the need for it, a first shipment, in a flotilla of about 20 Indian fishing vessels, was dispatched on 3 June 1987, but was turned back by the Sri Lanka Navy. When this happened, the Indian Air Force in a blatant violation of International Law and of the Sri Lankan airspace, dropped food and medical supplies to Jaffna on the following day. All these constituted an unmistakable demonstration of Indian support for the Tamil separatists movement in Sri Lanka. The Indian supply of food to Jaffna continued over the next few weeks by sea with the formal, but clearly reluctant, agreement of the Sri Lankan Government. In the rest of the country, the mood was a mixture of anxiety over a long war of attrition in the North.

The demonstration of India's sea and air power achieved a number of objectives. It saved the LTTE from imminent destruction, stopped any further expansion of the Sri Lanka Army's campaign after Vadamarachchi, and reduced the Sri Lanka Government to military impotence if India continued to give more help to the terrorist movement, especially the LTTE."

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