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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > LTTE's Unilateral Ceasefires > LTTE ceasefire opportunistic - Kadirgamar, 5 January 2001
Q. 1 What is your reaction to the LTTE offer of a ceasefire?
Ans. The LTTE should first have discussed the ceasefire with the Norwegian Government's representatives who would then have consulted us. Instead, the LTTE chose to announce a unilateral ceasefire without even telling the Norwegian Government about it in advance. This seems to have been a publicity stunt aimed to win credit for an international audience. Secondly their announcement is a transparent ploy to impede the Government Forces in their task of clearing the Jaffna Peninsula of the LTTE presence and bringing back normalcy in the lives of the civilian population.
The Government Forces expelled the LTTE from the Northern Peninsula in 1996 after it had been occupied by the LTTE since 1991. The LTTE always chooses a moment most opportune to themselves to announce a ceasefire. They never do so when their military campaigns are on the move. For instance, they did not suggest a ceasefire when they occupied new areas of land in the Vanni, overran the Elephant Pass camp and rolled into the Jaffna Peninsula itself in the months preceding May 1999. In fact, up to about September this year, they had made it clear to the Norwegians that they were not willing to discuss the question of negotiations at all. On the contrary, they made it clear to them that their main objective was to retake the Jaffna Peninsula. Neither at his meeting with the Norwegians on 1 November, nor in his 27 November speech did the LTTE leader mention a ceasefire. But he did speak about re-taking Jaffna. Now that he probably realizes that his dream of re-taking Jaffna is unrealizable and that military operations to clear that the Peninsula are proceeding, he suddenly decides to announce a ceasefire timed for the Christmas period and the Hindu festival of Thai Pongal in order to win sympathy and credibility.
The Government statement issued on 12 December, 2000, made it clear that the Government considers a ceasefire a "consequent step that would arise when negotiations proceed to the mutual satisfaction of both sides". In announcing its unilateral ceasefire the LTTE said it was a "goodwill measure to facilitate the peace process". The Government stated in its reply that "further gestures of goodwill are unnecessary when the Government has clearly indicated its wish to engage in talks with the LTTE forthwith on the substantial issues involved with a view to resolving the ethnic question, ending the war and constructing a durable peace". In this instance, this is the answer the Government would have given to the LTTE had it been consulted through the Norwegian representatives in advance of the LTTE's unilateral declaration. In fact, the Government had agreed with the advice of the Norwegian representatives, that unilateral gestures of goodwill are unwelcome at this time. Thus, in accordance with this understanding with the Norwegian representatives the Government does not itself intend to engage in any unilateral gestures.
Let us be frank, even blunt, about gestures of goodwill. Where in truth goodwill exists gestures are unnecessary. Where goodwill does not exist a so-called gesture of goodwill is a mere sham, a posture. Since April 1995 when it went back to war while negotiations with the Government were still on, the LTTE has shown no goodwill at all for the Government or any person who appeared to stand in its way. Where was goodwill when the LTTE bombed the Central Bank; bombed a commuter train full of civilians; massacred a number of young Buddhist monks and other innocent civilians of all races and religions; bombed the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (the Dalada Maligawa) and almost succeeded in destroying the Relic itself, the most sacred object of worship for the hundreds of millions of Buddhists in the world; assassinated a number of democratic Tamil speaking politicians, including Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, the widely respected human rights activist, the elected lady Mayoress of Jaffna, an elderly lady, and her successor; assassinated Minister C. V. Gooneratne, while he was peacefully leading a procession in the City; attempted to assassinate and grievously wounded President Kumaratunga, the elected President of Sri Lanka. The LTTE is still constantly seeking civilian targets for assassination and economic targets for destruction.
How did the LTTE suddenly discover or generate sufficient goodwill for the Government of Sri Lanka to warrant the making of a gesture - and that, too, one that is so patently self-serving.
Q 2. Given its history of violating ceasefires, can you trust the LTTE?
Ans. No. As I have indicated in my answer to the first question, the LTTE's offers of ceasefires have, in the past, been opportunistic; so is the present one. It appears that the LTTE wishes to delay the day when it will have to get down to discussing with the Government the substantial issues involved as stated above. It is probably a manoeuvre to gain position on the ground. In any event, the LTTE has already violated its own unilateral ceasefire - it has thrown grenades at soldiers in the past few days.
Q 3. What is the role of Norway in the peace process?
Ans. At the invitation of the Government and the LTTE, Norway was engaged as a facilitator in order to bring the parties together for negotiations on the substantive issues. Norway is not a mediator or an arbitrator. It has no mandate to prescribe solutions to the problem. It has undertaken to bring the parties to the table so that they could talk directly to each other. This is the approach favoured by the Government. We wish to start the negotiating process forthwith.
Q 4. Did they find V. Prabhakaran genuinely interested in a resolution?
Ans. After their meeting with Prabhakaran on 1st November, the Norwegians came away with the impression that he would like to enter into negotiations at some stage. But I must add that the Norwegians were meeting him for the first time. The Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of India have known him for a long time. Both Governments are familiar with his record.
Q 5. After nearly two decades of war is there war fatigue among the Tamils?
Ans. I would say definitely yes. The Tamil people who live in Sri Lanka, especially in the North and East, where the conflict takes place have been severely buffeted by war for nearly twenty years. It is they who experience the horrors of war, death, injury, the destruction of property, the disruption of normal life, and displacement. They wish for nothing more earnestly than an end to the war. They do not want a separate state. They do not want to be ruled by a fascist organisation. They wish to be left aloe to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. They wish to remain within a united Sri Lanka. They wish to enjoy the fruits of developments and progress. Like all human beings everywhere, they yearn for peace, not for the continuation of a war to achieve a separate state.
The Tamil speaking expatriates who live in the affluent countries of the West do not experience the horrors of war. Some of them raise the money that fuels the war. But if they came back to Sri Lanka and lived in the North and East they would surely be in the vanguard of the movement for peace, the movement to end the war.
Q 6. Would Prabhakaran respect his peoples wish for an end to violence?
Ans. Yes, he will have to. He will not be able to go on much longer disregarding the wishes of the Tamil people who live in the North and East. He knows well that he does not enjoy popular support among the Tamil speaking people who live in Sri Lanka. If he did, the Tamil people who were driven out of Jaffna by the LTTE at gun point when the Army was advancing into the Peninsula in 1996, would not have flocked back into the Peninsula in their thousands within a matter of days of the Army consolidating its positions in the Peninsula. If they support the LTTE the people would not have remained in Jaffna last May when the LTTE wanted them to leave in order to facilitate the LTTE's entry into Jaffna. The people are still there in Jaffna in their hundreds of thousands, silently defying the LTTE directive. The Tamil speaking people of the North voted at the last Parliamentary General Elections in October in many, many thousands.
Q 7. The LTTE has managed to survive because of its diaspora. Are you asking those host countries to curb the activities of the Tamil Tigers?
Ans. Yes, certainly. We have for many years been pressing countries where the majority of Tamil expatriates live - Australia, Canada, the European countries, the Scandinavian countries, like United Kingdom, the United States of America - to enact national laws enabling the proscription of terrorist organizations and the prohibition of fund raising activities for terrorist purposes. Apart from the United States of America which declared the LTTE a terrorist organization three years ago under their existing law with the attendant consequence that fund raising for terrorist purposes became a punishable offence, and the United Kingdom which enacted a new Terrorism Act in July last year, the other countries concerned have not yet enacted laws to counter terrorism. But they are in the process of doing so. For instance, Canada, which experiences major fund raising activity by the LTTE's front organizations to the extent of many millions of dollars, is drafting a new law which is expected to be enacted in the first quarter of last year.
We know that Australia, France, Germany and Norway are considering such legislation. The United Nations recently adopted two important Conventions - one, the UN Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings in 1998 and the other, the UN Convention on the Suppression of Financing for Terrorist Purposes in 1999. Both these Conventions have detailed provisions regarding proscription, the investigation of fund raising activities by front organizations, etc. Countries which sign the Conventions, and most of the Western countries have done so, will have to comply with the requirement of the Convention that domestic legislation be enacted on the lines of the Conventions.
The United Kingdom Government has to consider the question, under its new law, of proscribing the LTTE. The Government of Sri Lanka has made a request for the proscription of the LTTE. It is clearly a terrorist organization within the definition and other provisions of the United Kingdom law. It is expected that a decision on this question will be made in the first quarter of last year.
Q. 8 How is the LTTE funding its war?
Ans. By the contributions of some sections of the Tamil diaspora, from trafficking in narcotics and human smuggling and from commercial operations, especially shipping. A great deal of investigative work is being done in countries such as Canada, and more recently in the United Kingdom and Australia, into the fund raising activities carried out by front organisations in these countries. In Canada and the United States of America, in particular, Courts have held that fund raising by LTTE front organisations is taking place in their countries. The United Kingdom has recently begun to look seriously into fund raising by so-called charitable organisations in that country which have been found to be supporting LTTE activities.
Q. 9 Have you been able to convince the international community that the Tigers are dealing in drugs and human trafficking?
Ans. Yes, but more evidence has to be gathered regarding these activities. This is being worked on all the time and there is substantial international cooperation in this field.
Q. 10 If they are convinced, will it help in curbing the support that the Tigers are receiving in Europe, Canada and South East Asia?
Ans. Yes. It is essential, first, for the countries in these regions to have adequate laws to tackle the problem of drug dealing and human trafficking; secondly, to keep close track of these operations and collect evidence on the basis of which prosecutions could be launched; and thirdly, to have the political will and commitment to mount and sustain a drive for the elimination of such operations.
Q. 11 If the peace attempts fail, do you think that the Sri Lanka Army can win a conventional war against the Tigers?
Ans. Yes. It will take some time but it would certainly happen. If the funds raised by LTTE supporters in Western countries begin to dwindle, and the LTTE also finds it increasingly difficult because of Naval surveillance round our coast to land arms on the shores of Sri Lanka, it will not take too long for the Government to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
Q. 12 Is the LTTE still using child combatants?
Ans. Unfortunately, yes. There is clear evidence of this from the battle field itself where the Armed Forces frequently find the bodies of young children, both boys and girls. The UN Secretary General's Representative on Child Soldiers in Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara Ottunu, pointed out some months ago that the LTTE had not honoured the assurance given to him when he had met some of their leaders in the Vanni in 1998 that they would not use in battle children under the age of 17. The UNICEF Representative in Colombo has also stated that parents have complained about the abduction of their children by the LTTE.
The international community is now well seized of the problem of child combatants and the LTTE's resort to this dastardly practice is now well-known internationally. The problem surfaced clearly at a recent international conference at Winnipeg in Canada. Much will be said about this problem at the forthcoming UN Conference on Children in September next year. What is very difficult to understand is how the LTTE can claim to be fighting a war of liberation if they cynically and systematically destroy the young Tamil children who should be the beneficiaries, not the victims, of "liberation".
Q. 13. The LTTE has raised the question of restoration of normalcy before it enters into negotiations with the Government.
Ans. In his 27 November speech the LTTE leader states: "We are not imposing any preconditions for peace talks. Yet we insist on the creation of a cordial atmosphere and conditions of normalcy conducive for peace negotiations". He further states that "by normalcy we mean that the economic hardships and difficulties imposed on the Tamil people should be removed and their living conditions should become normal again".
In the Government's view it is not only for the conduct of negotiations, but also for society as a whole to lie freely and in the absence of want and fear, that conditions of normalcy should prevail throughout the country.
However, due to the activities of the LTTE there are many reasons for the disruption or absence of normalcy in certain areas of the country:
1. The prevention of food, medicines and other essential items which are sent by the Government to the people in areas of conflict in the North and East reaching them as intended, and the forcible removal of these items from the people
It is of special significance to note that the Government supplies free quantities of food, medicines and other essential items required by the people, even in areas of conflict. Commercial supplies are also available.
2. The interruption of the education of children and youth by enticing them or forcibly recruiting them to military service, the disruption of education in areas close to the areas of conflict, and also preventing older people in the areas of conflict from carrying on their normal activities by drawing them too into armed activity.
3. The carrying out of explosions in public places, the attacking of buses and other vehicles carrying civilians, the attacking of villages and the massacre of village populations, the destruction of electricity transformers and telephone exchanges and similar acts, all of which lead to the disruption of normalcy.
4. In addition, the need to enforce security measures to prevent these acts also affects the normal life of the people, and has a predominantly harsh impact on the day to day lives of the Tamil speaking people living in all areas of the country, including those outside the areas of conflict.
5. The breakdown of civil administration as a result of assassinations of elected leaders of the Tamil speaking community and public servants, thereby depriving society of the service such persons could render, especially with regard to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of war ravaged areas.
In the view of the Government all such acts must cease if normalcy is to prevail not only in areas affected by the conflict but throughout the country.
Q. 14. Is the Government responsible for the hardships and difficulties faced by the Tamil speaking people?
Ans. Let there be no mistake about this: the difficulties the Tamil people face in conflict areas are the result of the war that is being waged against the sovereign Government and people of Sri Lanka by the LTTE, in its so called movement for the 'Liberation' of the Tamils, for which the LTTE has never received any mandate from the Tamil people themselves. Velupillai Prabhakaran himself has stated in his 27 November speech that the Tamil people have not participated in the LTTE actions so as to make it a genuine "People's struggle". There is sufficient evidence to show that the hardships the Tamil people undergo are caused by the tactics adopted by the LTTE to deprive them of Government supplies of food, medicines and other essentials.
In a document to be released shortly the relevant statistical data will be provided.
Although not explicitly so stated in his 27 November speech, the LTTE leader's reference to the imposition of hardships conveys the impression that there is an embargo on the supply of goods and services to the Tamil people. The Government states emphatically that there is no embargo on the supply of essential food, medicine and other items to the Tamil people of the North and East. The Government's embargo covers only 21 items to the North and 2 items to the East, which could be of military use and are of a sensitive nature.
The said document to be released shortly will explain this too.
The supply of food items to the Wanni area alone during the 11 months ending November 2000 was as follows:
Rice 4033 MT*
Flour 6486 MT
Sugar 2210 MT
Pulses 411 MT
* In October and November 2000 the Government Agent preferred to purchase rice locally and was paid cash for this purpose.
In current practice there is both a Government supply and a commercial supply of essential items to the North, including the uncleared areas of the North.
It is important to note here that although the LTTE leader speaks of hardships and difficulties faced by the Tamil civilians of the North, the LTTE cadres too feed themselves on the same food, and use the same supplies of medical and other items issued by the Government for the benefit of the people. It is worth recalling here the observation made by the late James Grant, former Head of UNICEF. He said it was a unique situation where a group which has taken up arms against the Government is provided with its food requirements by that same Government.
It should be noted here that the supply of requirements for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) is based on the estimates provided by the Government Agents of the respective districts who, the Government is well aware, come under heavy pressure and even threats to their lives from the LTTE.
It is also a well-known fact that the LTTE, in addition to expropriating food, medicines and other supplies sent to the people, gives them the left over stocks of food from the LTTE's hoarded stockpiles, and takes away the fresh stocks supplied by the Government.
The document to be released shortly will set out in further detail the Agencies that supply the provisions, the modes of transport, the availability of food, reasons for the interruption of supplies, and details of medical supplies to the respective districts.
With regard to the interruption of supplies, it is necessary to set down here some of the reasons for such interruptions. They include:
- The monopolistic control of distribution by the LTTE in the uncleared areas of the Wanni.
- The seizure of items by the LTTE for its own use. For example, 60% of kerosene issues to the Wanni is collected by the LTTE as fuel for its vehicles.
- The heavy storage of food items for the use of LTTE cadres.
- The special quotas issued by the LTTE to the families of their cadres.
- The creation of artificial shortages by obstructing the modes of transport.
- Difficulties created by the LTTE in agreeing to suitable despatch points.
The evidence shows clearly that the absence of normalcy of which the LTTE leader complains is caused by the LTTE itself and not by the Government. It appears that the LTTE holds the Tamil people to ransom by creating a situation of abnormality to serve its narrow ends, to which the Tamil people at large have shown they do not subscribe.
Q. 15. Are you under international pressure to resolve the conflict?
Ans. The Government of Sri Lanka itself wants to resolve the conflict as early as possible, for the obvious reasons that the conflict is causing death and injury to so many of our citizens, both Sinhalese and Tamils, the destruction of property, the dislocation of normal life and so on, and serious impediment to the development of our economy, to the detriment of all the peoples of Sri Lanka. Many friendly countries have urged us to find a political solution to the problem. They have even offered their good offices to bring the parties together to find a way of ending the war and bringing peace to our country. I would not call this "international pressure".
Q. 16. Does the world understand your difficulties in trying to negotiate with the LTTE which has been extremely unreliable in the past?
Ans. Yes, I think so. In recent years, the world at large has begun to see the LTTE for what it is - a monolithic, fascist organisation claiming to be the national liberation movement of the Tamil people. In fact it does not represent the vast majority of the Tamil people who want no part of its campaign for a separate State, who are horrified by the sustained brutality of the LTTE against innocent civilians of both communities. It is because the world has begun to understand our difficulties in dealing with the LTTE that so much support has been expressed for the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of the State of Sri Lanka. I think the world now understands that in trying to negotiate with the LTTE a political solution to the problem, the Government of Sri Lanka and its Armed Forces always have to keep up their guard, be alert and cautious and well prepared to defend the State.
Q. 17. President Kumaratunga had told Time magazine that she had even offered a 10 year term to Prabhakaran to manage the Tamil majority areas. Does that offer still stand?
Ans. That offer was made many years ago. The LTTE was not interested in it because it was obsessed by its dream of a separate State. What she has been striving to achieve over the past six years, during her first term as President, is a comprehensive settlement of the problem on the basis of substantial devolution of power to the regions of Sri Lanka as envisaged in the draft constitution which she presented to Parliament last August. In the absence of a two-thirds majority the Government was unable to secure the passage of the new Constitution. But she has stated that she intends to try again to achieve the enactment of the new Constitution which will guarantee substantial rights in a variety of areas to the minority communities.
Q. 18. Do you see an end to this conflict in the near future?
Ans. Yes, but how near in the future it is not possible to say. This depends to a very large extent on the attitude of the LTTE. If it wants to keep fighting for a separate State, although the international climate of opinion is strongly against that objective, then the Government will have no alternative but to continue the war until the LTTE is forced to abandon that objective. If the LTTE is prepared to discuss seriously and honestly a settlement, which guarantees to the Tamil speaking people and all minorities, their just rights, then it would be possible for fruitful negotiations to be held and concluded within a reasonable span of time which could even be in the range of months rather than years. The Government reiterates its position that it is prepared to engage in talks with the LTTE forthwith on the substantial issues involved. If the LTTE is of like mind it should accept the Government's offer for immediate direct talks.
Q. 19. Do you see a possibility of the Opposition agreeing to enact the new Constitution?
Ans. Yes, I do. Now that the heat and dust of the Parliamentary Election battle has subsided I hope the many members of parties in the Opposition who do favour, indeed desire, a negotiated settlement of our problem will join hands with the Government, across the Parliamentary divide, to achieve that result. In a democratic society all MPs, whether in Government or Opposition, know the wishes and feelings of the people. They know that the people want the war to end. It is to the people that the war brings great hardship and suffering. Our MPs know that. They would not wish needlessly to prolong the agony of our people - all our people, all our communities.
In our democracy we have to strive, all the time, on all major national issues, to reach consensus. It is a burden, often a struggle, but we have to shoulder that burden and carry on that struggle. I am convinced that in our Parliament there is a pool of wisdom, of good sense, of understanding that will rise to the surface in the months ahead, that will help us to rise above the rancour of party politics, that will forge consensus on the national issue, the consensus that the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka will urge the LTTE to join, so that together we would emerge from the ordeal we have all for so long to create a new, united society in which there will be justice and fair play for all our citizens, a society in which all our people can live with respect and dignity.