தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"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 > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Geneva Talks & After > Geneva Talks between LTTE and Sri Lanka at a four sided table

Geneva Talks between LTTE and Sri Lanka
at a Four Sided Table -
22/23 February 2006


The LTTE delegation led by Anton Balasingham, sat across a four sided table from Ministers of the new Rajapakse government in Colombo. Norwegians and the Swiss hosts sat on a third side and the truce monitors completed the square. The shape of the table reflected perhaps the four sided nature of the talks. Unsurprisingly, form and content  go together - and the talks recognised the international dimension of the conflict in the island.  At the Vietnam  Talks in Paris in 1968, it took six months to agree on the shape of the table.

 

CONTENTS
OF THIS SECTION

Last updated
10/08/07

"...The Paris Peace talks, which opened on May 10, continue to be plagued by procedural questions that impeded any meaningful progress. South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky refused to consent to any permanent seating plan that would place the National Liberation Front (NLF) on an equal footing with Saigon. North Vietnam and the NLF likewise balked at any arrangement that would effectively recognize the Saigon as the legitimate government of South Vietnam. Prolonged discussions over the shape of the negotiating table was finally resolved by the placement of two square tables separated by a round table. Chief US negotiator Averell Harriman proposed this arrangement so that NLF representatives could join the North Vietnamese team without having to be acknowledged by Saigon's delegates; similarly, South Vietnamese negotiators could sit with their American allies without having to be acknowledged by the North Vietnamese and the NLF representatives." History for Today, 12 December 1968(see also in Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Oral History Collection)
விடுதலையின் வாசலில் - At Freedom's Entrance... Thousands of Tamils greet LTTE Delegation to Geneva Talks on 25 February 2006
Speeches in Tamil by - LTTE Political Wing Leader, S.P Thamilchelvan, Col.Jeyam,
 
Nahulan, and
 
Ilanthiraiyan
LTTE Delegation arrives in Geneva, Switzerland for Talks on Ceasefire Implementation
Kasra Naji, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), reports from the Vanni on Talks in Switzerland
1. Opening Remarks  by Urs Ziswiler, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, 22 February 2006
2. Statement by Anton Balasingham, Head of LTTE Delegation, 22 February 2006
3. Statement by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Head of Sri Lanka Delegation, 22 February 2006
4. Statement by LTTE Political Wing Leader, S. P Tamilselvan, 22 February 2006
5. Concluding Statement released by Norwegian Facilitator, 23 February 2006
6. LTTE Political Wing Leader Interview in Tamil with IBC at conclusion of Talks, 24 February 2006
7. Swiss Government welcomes positive outcome of Geneva talks, 24 February 2004
8. Report on Talks in Sri Lanka State Controlled Daily News, 25 February 2006
9. Balasingham's interview with Sunday Leader after Geneva Talks, 26 February 2006

"... I told the delegation that I have come with a specific mandate from Mr. Pirapaharan to only talk about the implementation of the CFA. I said we will walk out if anybody raises anything or starts discussing constitutional or legal problems pertaining to this document. I said the moment you claim the CFA is incorrect, then you are coming out of the CFA. That means you are giving two weeks notice for the resumption of hostilities. You better think very carefully, I said. So they kept quiet..."

10.  Senior Member of LTTE, V.Balakumaran in Tamil National Television on the Geneva Talks-  தமிழீழ தேசிய தொலைக்காட்சியில் ஒளிபரப்பாகிய - நிலவரம்,  27 February 2006

 
Anton Balasingham and Siripala de Silva
 

Opening Remarks  by Urs Ziswiler, Political Affairs Director, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, 22 February 2006

Heads of Delegations, Delegates, Advisors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all let me welcome you here to Château Bossey. We are happy that the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE have decided to hold talks on strengthening the implementation of the Cease Fire Agreement at a moment when political violence in Sri Lanka has been putting it under great strain. I would also like to express our gratitude to the facilitator of the peace process, the Norwegian Government, and to Minister Solheim in particular, as well as to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission for their tireless efforts to support the peace process.

The decision to hold these talks has in itself already been a much appreciated confidence building measure, as a result of which the violence in Sri Lanka has substantially decreased since the end of January this year. Other such measures have followed in the last few days. I hope that the coming two days will see more confidence building – on concrete foundations that will help secure the implementation of the Cease Fire Agreement. This is first and foremost the responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. I also hope that in this way the peace process will, in time, gain new life because, as we have seen in the last four years, the stronger the implementation of the Cease Fire Agreement, the better life is for ordinary people in Sri Lanka. In this context, let me mention the particular importance of respect for human rights in the peace process. Opportunities to become more active in this field exist for instance in the provisions of the Cease Fire Agreement itself, as well as in the proposals of the international advisor on human rights to the peace process in Sri Lanka.

We are very pleased that, finally, you decided to meet in Switzerland, following considerable discussion on the venue of the talks. Our offer to host these “Geneva Talks” came in the framework of our continuing efforts to support the peace process, human rights and development, as well as post-conflict and post-tsunami reconstruction. With these activities Switzerland aims at providing impartial support for conflict transformation in Sri Lanka.

It is exactly four years ago today since the Cease Fire Agreement was signed. In the meantime the conditions of life of the people of Sri Lanka have certainly improved in comparison with those during the war. But we still have a no-war-no-peace situation in Sri Lanka. Let me ask the question: How will things look in February 2010, in another four years from now? Because in the end, this must be the crucial goal: to jointly ensure the human security of ordinary Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim people in Sri Lanka and their prospects to live "free from fear" in freedom, peace and with the chance to determine and develop their lives according to their wishes within a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious Sri Lanka.

We hope that the spirit of Geneva will be conducive to your work in the coming two days as well as in the months ahead. Switzerland is, and will always be available to support the peace process if the need arises.
 

Statement by Anton Balasingham, Head of LTTE Delegation

The most constructive achievement of the Norwegian facilitated peace process has been the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), exactly four years ago today, on the 22 February 2002. The event brought an end to the bloody ethnic war that lasted more than two decades, causing massive scale death and destruction. Though the truce agreement has been subjected to enormous strains, particularly during the latter part of 2005, it still holds, having prevented the parties in conflict from embarking on major armed confrontations. I should say that it is the truce agreement that has helped to avert the out-beak of an all-out war and created the present environment where both the parties could engage in a dialogue to enhance the conditions of peace and normalcy in the war affected northeast.

The Ceasefire Agreement was not formulated in haste to the advantage of one party, as some critics have argued, but rather, given careful and meticulous scrutiny to all aspects - terms, conditions and obligations - of the truce by both parties, with the skilled assistance of the Norwegian facilitators. The Ceasefire Agreement is a well crafted, valid instrument of peace, devised for the purpose of brining an end to hostilities and to create a positive environment conducive for meaningful negotiations. Therefore, the Ceasefire Agreement should be viewed as an effective mechanism that can facilitate and promote the peace process.

We are of the opinion that the Ceasefire Agreement is the foundation upon which the peace process has to be built. It is true that in recent times the truce accord has been severely undermined as a consequence of the rapid escalation of violence in the northeast, particularly during the latter part of last year and in January this year, when it turned into an ugly form of a shadow or subversive war. This violent phenomenon has been characterised by arbitrary killings, abductions and disappearances of Tamil civilians in the northeast.

 

Note by News Watch: Disappearances, Abductions & Extra Judicial Killings of Eelam Tamils include the following -

...Ramanathan Ratheeskumar, Thanuskodi  Premini, Kasinather Ganesalingam, Thangarasa, Shanmuganathan Sujendram,Thambiraja Vasantharajan, Kailayapillai Ravindran, Arunesarasa  Satheesharan, Thambiah Jeyarajah, Major Kapilan, Thambipillai Selvarajah, Ramalingam Suntheralingam, Kandasamy Vaikunthan, Anthonippillai Soosainather, Thevasahayampillai Jeyakumar Soosainather Subramaniam Sugirtharajan, Chandrakanthan Vijayatharson. Chandragajan Krishnagobi, Illayathamby Ramakrishnan, Thurairajah Ravichandran, Kanapathy Murugesu, Mariyanayagam Maruthanayagam, Suppiah Murugan, Sithambari Ganesaratnam, Visuvar KrishnanBojan Renuka, Bojan Shanuka, Bojan Arthanageswary, Tharmarasan TharmaseelanN Kandeepan ,T Tharmasri, Soosaithas K Marinthiran Sebastiampillai P Ruban Selvarajah Uthayarajah, S. Thanabalasingham, Balakrishnan Rajeevmohan, Parimalarajah Robinson, Iyathurai Baskaran, Thangathurai Sivanantha Logithasan Rohanth Shanmugarajah Sajeenthiran,  Manoharan Rajeehar, Yogarajah Hemachandran, Thambirajah Arulajanthan, Joseph Pararajasingham, Jude Sugathy (Theresa) Croos , Jude Arokiyathass Fernando, Emmani Croos, Emmani Anthonikkam Croos, Nadararajah Sivakadadcham , Dharmaretnam Sivaram, Aiyathurai Nadesan, Kumaravel Thambaiah...

ஓ....எங்கள் குரல் கேட்கிறதா ?

According to authentic records, 109 Tamil civilians have been arbitrarily killed by the Sri Lankan armed forces with the active assistance of the Tamil paramilitaries. Forty eight civilians have disappeared after being arrested or abducted by the Sri Lanka military. This horrendous violence was unleashed against Tamil civilians, particularly in Jaffna, with the sinister objective of terrorising the Tamil civilian population. This terrorisation of our people was intended as collective punishment against the whole Tamil population for the many soldiers killed in the subversive war.

Our delegation will submit, for your scrutiny, comprehensive reports providing detailed information about the nature of violence committed against Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces since the new government took office on 19 November 2005. We will also submit detailed reports about civilians killed and injured by the Sri Lankan armed forces and Tamil paramilitaries during the entire ceasefire period of the last four years. Similarly, we suppose that your government is going to submit detailed reports of acts of ceasefire violations, allegedly committed by the Liberation Tigers.

Your government has already released statistics accusing the LTTE of committing 5464 violations of ceasefire during the last four years. We cannot accept such exaggerated figures as authentic acts of ceasefire violations. A huge majority of those figures are attributed to recruitment. These are cases of under aged youth said to be joining the LTTE. Your government, as well as the SLMM, have accused the LTTE of under aged recruitment, without taking into consideration the complex child rights issues in the northeast and the number of children released by the LTTE under the Action Plan for the War affected Children undertaken in association with UNICEF. Mr Tamilselvan will give you a briefing later on the child rights situation in the northeast.

In this context I wish to point out that the government as well as the SLMM have conveniently ignored the vast number of ceasefire violations committed by the Tamil paramilitaries in the form of arbitrary killings of civilians, political assassinations, abductions, harassment, extortion, intimidation, assault, torture and forced conscription of children. Most of these crimes committed by paramilitaries are blamed on the LTTE.

I am sorry to say that it is only recently that the SLMM has realised the negative consequences of the violence of the Tamil paramilitaries and expressed serious concern that such 'armed elements' are posing a serious threat to peace. Since the criminal violence of Tamil paramilitaries has become a critical issue in the implementation process of the truce agreement, the government should give serious thought to containing such forces in order to stabilise the conditions of peace.

The main topic for discussion at this negotiating table is the Ceasefire Agreement. As the parties in conflict who entered into this peace accord, we must endeavour to seek practical ways of implementing the Ceasefire Agreement effectively, so that the truce becomes constructive, productive and meaningful. We are of the view that the recent escalation of violence, that brought the parties to the brink of an all-out war, was primarily due to the non-implementation of the obligations of the truce.

The implementation of the confidence building measures, as enunciated in the articles of the Ceasefire Agreement, are extremely crucial to the process of the de-escalation and normalisation. The following are the key elements of the Ceasefire Agreement stipulated as confidence building measures that are vital to create conditions of normalcy in the northeast.

*Clause 1.2. Neither party shall engage in any offensive military operations.

*Clause 1.8. Tamil paramilitary groups shall be disarmed by the GOSL by D-day 30 at the latest. The GOSL shall offer to integrate individuals in these units under the command and disciplinary structure of the GOSL armed forces for service away from the Northern and Eastern Province.

*Clause 1.13. As of D-day 90, all unarmed LTTE members shall be permitted freedom of movement in the North and East.

*Clause 2.1. The Parties shall in accordance with international law abstain from hostile acts against the civilian population.

*Clause 2.2., 2.3., 2.4. stipulate places of worship, school premises and public buildings 'occupied by either party shall be vacated and returned to the intended use'. *Clause 2.5. The Parties shall review the security measures and the set-up of checkpoints, particularly in densely populated cities and towns, in order to introduce systems that will prevent harassment of the civilian population.

*Clause 2.11. A gradual easing of fishing restrictions shall take place starting from D-day. As of D-day 90, all restrictions on day and night fishing shall be removed subject to certain exceptions.

*Clause 2.12. The Parties agree that search operations and arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act shall not take place.

Ever since the truce agreement was signed the Government of Sri Lanka has failed to implement these key clauses. The LTTE has repeatedly appealed to the government to fulfil its obligations under the peace accord. We have also taken up the issue of the non-implementation of the terms and conditions of the Ceasefire Agreement during our peace talks with Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe's government. All our genuine efforts to ensure the full implementation of the key elements of the Agreement became futile. The co-habitation conflict, or rather, the power struggle between the Wickremasinghe government and President Kumaratunga became a serious impediment to advance the peace process and to secure proper implementation of the ceasefire.

With the termination of the peace talks, the security situation in the north east began to deteriorate. The violence of the Tamil paramilitaries intensified in the form of a dirty subversive war directed against our cadres and supporters, a shadow war in which the Sri Lanka armed forces actively colluded with the Tamil armed groups. We will submit for your examination a comprehensive report on Tamil paramilitary organisations operating in the northeast and in Colombo. The report provides ample evidence on the existence of the main paramilitary groups, their leadership, the command structure, the location of their camps and their close relationship with the Sri Lanka armed forces, particularly with the Sri Lanka military intelligence.

The existence of Tamil armed paramilitary groups is an indisputable fact. Since these Tamil armed organisations are sustained, supported and controlled by the Sri Lanka military, we categorise them as paramilitaries. They are not simply 'armed elements' functioning independently in a political vacuum, as some people assume. They are well organised militant forces, properly trained and armed in subversive warfare and function covertly in connivance with the Sri Lanka armed forces. Some of the armed organisations have a long history, extending to more than two decades. Originally they took arms for a political cause, but later, with the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, they abandoned their political ideals and became mercenary armed groups under the Indian Peace Keeping Forces to fight against the LTTE.

Following the withdrawal of the IPKF, these armed organisations changed their loyalty and allegiance to 'new masters', that is, the Sri Lanka state and its military and intelligence apparatus, in the war against the LTTE. Though these armed groups registered themselves as political parties and claimed to have entered the democratic political mainstream, they have not dismantled their military units nor have they abandoned armed violence. We have, in our report, listed several incidences of armed violence committed by these Tamil paramilitary groups in which several leaders and cadres of our organisation, as well as prominent parliamentarians, journalists, educationists and civilian supporters, were executed in cold blood. We will provide maps in our report indicating the close proximity of paramilitary camps of the EPDP and other groups to Sri Lankan army camps and police stations.

You are well aware that Clause 1.8 of the Ceasefire Agreement specifically stipulates that the Tamil paramilitaries should be disarmed by the GOSL. Yet, the Sri Lanka government, to date, has failed to honour this crucial obligation, which is vital for strengthening the conditions of peace and normalcy. The SLMM has also warned that the peace environment is seriously threatened by the violence of these Tamil armed groups. The international community, represented by the Co-Chairs, have also made statements calling upon your government to disarm the paramilitaries and to put an end to their violent activities. In a recent statement President Rajapkse has pledged that he would rein in the Tamil armed organisations and would not allow them to function in the government controlled areas.

There are five major paramilitary groups operating in the northeast and in Colombo. They are known as Karuna group, EPDP group, PLOTE group, EPRLF (Varaithar) group and a Muslim Paramilitary group called Jihad group. In our report we have given detailed information about each group, the names of leaders and area operational commanders functioning in various districts and in the capital. We are certain that the Sri Lankan military hierarchy, particularly the Sri Lanka military intelligence, is well aware of the existence and activities of the Tamil armed paramilitaries. Nevertheless, we are also providing you with detailed factual information to reinforce our argument.

It is the considered view of our liberation organisation, as well as the general opinion of the Tamil people, that the armed violence of the Tamil paramilitaries is posing a grave threat to peace and stability in Tamil areas and endangering the Ceasefire Agreement. Therefore, we call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to disarm these Tamil paramilitary organisations, fulfilling a crucial obligation of the truce agreement.

One of the crucial confidence building measures laid down in the Ceasefire Agreement is that the parties, in accordance with international law, should abstain from hostile acts against the civilian population. Clauses 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 stipulate that the Sri Lankan armed forces, within a limited time frame, should vacate places of worship, schools and public buildings.

In defiance of these truce obligations and in grave violation of international humanitarian law, the government's security forces, for more than a decade, continue to occupy schools and public buildings and made places of worship inaccessible to the Tamil civilian population. Several places of worship made inaccessible are Hindu sacred shrines of historical and cultural importance, so dear to our people. In Jaffna alone 35 prominent schools were forced to close down and 201 Hindu and Christian places of worship have been made inaccessible to our people. This vicious type of military occupation has seriously offended the cultural and religious sensitivities of the Tamil people, an activity specifically forbidden by the Ceasefire Agreement.

The creation of High Security Zones (HSZ) by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the militarily occupied territories of the northeast, particularly in the densely populated Jaffna Peninsula, has caused immense suffering to the Tamil civilian population. To facilitate the occupation of a huge number of troops, amounting to fifty thousand, the so-called High Security Zones were established by forcefully evicting several thousands of Tamil families from their homes. The worst affected region is the Jaffna Peninsula where entire villages were evicted with the civilian population and thousands of houses forcefully usurped and our people denied access to farmlands, fishing coasts, schools and places of worship. This is a grave injustice committed against the Tamil people by the invasion forces, destroying their social and cultural life.

We will submit to you a document on, 'The Human Costs of the High Security Zones', which provides comprehensive information about the nature of Sinhala military occupation of the Tamil region and its implications on the life of our people. Our statistics on HSZ shows that 28,830 house owners in Jaffna have been forcefully evicted from their homes and nearly 13,000 acres of fertile farmlands made inaccessible to them. The creation of High Security Zones has reduced 20,000 families to conditions of destitution and they have been languishing in refugee camps and welfare centres for over a decade. The forceful usurpation of public property to the extent of 30 percent of the landmass of Jaffna under the claim of High Security Zones, and denying our people their right to return to their homes and property is a blatant violation of human rights. This forced eviction of people by the state under the pretext of national security is condemned by several UN Human Rights instruments as gross violations of human rights. These UN instruments characterise this practice of forced evictions by states as serious crimes inflicting grave and serious harm to the basic civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of large numbers of people, both individual and collective (The issue is best explained in the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights Fact Sheet 25 on 'Forced Evictions').

The displacement of several thousands of families and their pathetic plight in subnormal conditions in the refugee camps has become a formidable humanitarian tragedy. Yet the Sri Lankan state and the military hierarchy continue to deny, on security grounds, the basic rights of our people to return to their homes and property. We wish to point out that the Sri Lankan government should no longer ignore this grave humanitarian issue under the pretext of 'security'. The problem of the HSZ has to be resolved without further delay, facilitating the resettlement of the internally displaced persons. The resolution of this issue is extremely crucial for the restoration of peace and normalisation of civilian life in Tamil areas.

In this brief statement I have touched on a few of the crucial issues to be addressed for the effective implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement. The other most important issue to be addressed is the severe restrictions imposed on fishing and the enormous suffering of the people as a consequence. We have given comprehensive information in our documents in regards to the suffering of the Tamil fishing community. We will take up the issue on the restrictions on fishing during the course of our discussions.

The other important matter we wish to raise is the freedom of movement of our political cadres in the government controlled areas. You are aware that the LTTE leadership withdrew our political cadres from the government controlled Tamil areas as a consequence of the violent activities of the paramilitaries, who, on several occasions attacked our unarmed cadres and bombed our political offices. Our political cadres can only function in government controlled areas if the paramilitaries are disarmed and normalcy returns to Tamil areas.

In concluding I wish to say that we do agree that there have been serious breaches of the Ceasefire Agreement, for which the parties in conflict, as well as the Tamil paramilitaries, should bear culpability. Nevertheless, I wish to point out that it would serve no meaningful purpose if we enter into a recriminatory debate, making accusations and counter accusations against each other over the abuses of the truce. Instead of engaging in acrimonious bickering that might poison the atmosphere of goodwill, it would be prudent to engage in a constructive discussion, exploring ways and means to stabilise and strengthen the Ceasefire Agreement. You will certainly agree with me that consolidating the Ceasefire Agreement is the only practical way open to the parties in conflict to stabilise the conditions of peace and normalcy, which are essential and crucial to take the peace process forward.

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Head of Sri Lanka Delegation

On behalf of H.E. the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka, I am pleased to make these preliminary comments at the commencement of the talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government and hosted by the Government of Switzerland. At the outset, let me thank all the parties, including the Co-Chairs, who have worked tirelessly to make this event a reality.

At this stage, I would also like to express the hope of the Government and the People of Sri Lanka that these discussions will mark a significant chapter in the dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka andthe LTTE. It is also our wish that this dialogue would form the basis of a meaningful ceasefire where the beneficiaries of it would be all the People of Sri Lanka.

An analysis of successful negotiations worldwide would perhaps establish the fact that successes have resulted on occasions where parties to the conflict have had the courage, dedication and determination to pursue a solution through a continuous process of dialogue with sincerity.

We should keep in mind that no issue is insurmountable, if the interests of the People and the Country are kept uppermost in our minds. Accordingly, it is our desire to express our views in a frank and forthright manner, rather than to make vague and ambiguous statements that would serve no useful purpose, although they may appear more acceptable on the surface.

As we all know, H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected on a platform of seeking an 'honorable peace.' On that basis, our delegation affirms andemphasizes the position of the Government of Sri Lanka that the Ceasefire Agreement entered into between the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mr. V.Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE on the 22nd February 2002 is contrary to our Constitution and law. Furthermore, it is prejudicial to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of SriLanka. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that certain benefits flowed to the People from the observance of the ceasefire, which resulted in our strong determination and desire to preserve the ceasefire. We also consider the ceasefire as a first step to arrive at a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict and we propose to rectify certain grave anomalies arising from the agreement.

Since assuming office, our President has at various times and occasions extended invitations to begin a dialogue with the LTTE. Furthermore, our Government has been keen that the overall process of discussion and dialogue should be of an inclusive nature since it affects the whole Nation. We take pride in the fact that the Government's participation at these talks in Geneva is with the support and goodwill of all the democratically elected political parties in Sri Lanka. The discussions at the All Parties Conference held over the past few weeks resulted in the consensus that we initiate this dialogue with the LTTE. These discussions also served to prepare a common platform for the dialogue that we are commencing today with renewed hopes and expectations. This fact is significant since it is the first time in the history of this conflict that such a consensus has been reached. Therefore, I am privileged and honored to lead the Government's delegation that is in Geneva today with the strong support from the Peoples' representatives of Sri Lanka.

II. A Fresh Approach

H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected to office on 17th November 2005 with a mandate from the Nation to work towards the achievement of an honourable peace. The Mahinda Chintana, which encapsulates the President's vision for the country, makes it clear that the President has recognized the need for a direct dialogue with the LTTE, in the pursuit of such a goal. He has even stated that he is prepared to meet with the Leader of the LTTE and other representatives for such discussions. Notwithstanding the clear enunciation of such a position, it was unfortunate that upon assumption of office, H.E. the President was confronted with a number of acts which would easily qualify as being highly provocative. Such acts had the potential to disturb and deflect us from the path of dialogue and discussion. However, our President with his deep commitment to peace, reacted with patience and restraint to contain the tension that resulted from these acts of provocation and hostilities.

This enlightened response was certainly not a sign of weakness, but a display of our firm commitment to peace. We are therefore thankful to the international community for their steadfast encouragement for the commencement of these discussions. It is also our considered view that in the event such provocations had continued unabated, the repercussions may have been extremely dangerous with further loss of lives and the ceasefire becoming totally meaningless and leading to its eventual collapse.

Let me at this stage assure all, that it is the desire of H.E. President Rajapaksa to look at issues from a fresh perspective to find a sustainable solution to the conflict that engulfs our country. Let me also re-iterate that our Government is committed to talk, listen and think afresh.

III. Democracy and Human Rights

Sri Lanka is one of Asia's most long-standing democracies. The people have enjoyed uninterrupted universal franchise since 1931, long before gaining independence in 1948. For over 65 years, our people have elected their own representatives to Parliament, from all ethnic groups. Both within the confines of Parliament and beyond, the right to criticize both the Government and the Opposition is an integral part of the freedom of expression. We must therefore ensure that all citizens of our country, wherever they may live, are free to exercise their franchise at free and fair elections, whether they be Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay, Burgher or any other group however small in numbers. The democratic process must prevail. Accordingly, no community or any section of a community should be deprived and denied their right to vote freely and to exercise their right to elect the representatives of their choice to whom they would entrust leadership.

It was a sad day for democracy in our country when at the Presidential Elections of November 2005, the LTTE forced the people in certain districts to observe a boycott of elections through coercion and general intimidation. It was a gross violation of democratic rights. In addition, the widespread rigging and corrupt election practices in many parts of the North at the general elections in April 2004 which was confirmed by the international election monitors could also be cited as further evidence of the LTTE's disregard for democracy. It is in that context that the Government of Sri Lanka sincerely hopes that with a meaningful ceasefire, the people in the North could participate freely in the democratic process. We are confident that these sentiments will also be endorsed by the international community where such democratic norms prevail.

Mindful of the respective rights of the ethnic and religious groupings as enshrined in the Constitution, our Government is committed to maintaining the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and pluralist character of Sri Lanka. All persons irrespective of their race, religion, caste or gender are equal before our law. All our people whichever part of Sri Lanka they live in, are protected by these basic fundamental rights. These rights must not be truncated in any part of Sri Lanka, thereby depriving those persons of equality before the law. It is unfortunate that the LTTE has unlawfully deprived the Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese of these fundamental and human rights, recognized in our law and in international law, in particular in Killinochchi and Mullaitivu districts in the North of Sri Lanka.

As we all know, as a result of the ceasefire that has been in effect since February 2002, the LTTE has been able to engage itself in political activity. At that time, it was the intention that other political parties, too, should also be permitted to engage themselves in political activity in the North and East without hindrance. However, it is regrettable that this aim could not be achieved due to the LTTE's hostile acts, including the assassination and abduction of political activists, which has obstructed the legitimate political activity of others. It is our hope that we would be able to move towards the restoration of the democratic values which are so important in a civilized society.

IV. Ceasefire Violations

As set out in the preamble of the Agreement on a Ceasefire between the then Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe and the LTTE, entered into on 22nd February 2002, four years to the day today, the importance of bringing the end to hostilities and improving the living conditions of all persons affected by the conflict was recognized. An end to hostilities was also seen as a means of establishing a positive atmosphere in which further steps towards a lasting solution could be taken.

However, the available evidence suggests that the LTTE had taken undue and unfair advantage of the ceasefire to strengthen its military capability. Repeated calls by the Government of Sri Lanka, the SLMM, and the international community to the LTTE to desist from such behavior has unfortunately not been heeded. This has resulted in a large number of significant violations which has seriously undermined the spirit of the ceasefire and threatened its termination.

The number of ruled violations by the LTTE as determined by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) since the beginning of the ceasefire up to the end of last month is a massive 3519. In comparison, the SLMM has determined that the GOSL has violated the agreement on 163 occasions. This shows that 96% of all violations have been committed by the LTTE. The violent incidents committed by the LTTE include assassinations, child recruitment and kidnappings, abductions of adults, suicide missions, killings of military and civilian persons, harassment of students and political workers, and destruction of property. Such incidents have seriously undermined the sustainability of the ceasefire and disturbed the return to normalcy for civilians in Sri Lanka, particularly in the North and East.

At this moment, we also wish to pay tribute to one of the great statesmen of our times, the late Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar, President's Counsel, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka. Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar was internationally respected, widely acclaimed and highly honored. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he toiled hard pursuing a solution to our conflict. The fact that such a person was assassinated by the LTTE when the ceasefire was in force demonstrates the disregard with which the agreement had been treated and also highlights the significant deficiencies of the current ceasefire.

These circumstances underscore the inherent weaknesses in the existing ceasefire agreement as well as the lacuna in setting out norms for its effective implementation. These also show that the lack of sanctions being attached to violations when there are clear determinations made by the SLMM, is a very serious shortcoming that needs to be addressed in the interest of all concerned.

In expressing its views about the ceasefire, the Government of Sri Lanka must take into account the concerns of all of the people of Sri Lanka. The Government takes this obligation seriously and has engaged in consultations with representatives of all ethnic communities in preparing for these talks. In this context, we also wish to raise some of the concerns of the Muslim community with regard to the ceasefire.

As we all know, almost the entire Muslim community in the North was forcibly expelled by the LTTE during the time of the conflict. Families were ordered to leave their homes with only the possessions they could carry in their hands, on a few hours notice. Lives were lost, homes abandoned, and businesses forced to shut down. It was the hope of the Muslim people that the ceasefire would create the conditions that would enable them to feel secure to return to their homes and re-establish their lives. Unfortunately, most of these internally displaced people still linger in refugee camps or have been resettled elsewhere. Muslim people also face serious challenges to their security in the East, where incidents of violence threaten the civilian population at regular intervals.

It is the belief of the Government of Sri Lanka that the dialogue about the ceasefire would take into account the urgent concerns of the Muslim community. Accordingly, these issues and interests must be adequately addressed for the ceasefire to be meaningful.

V. Children Affected by the Armed Conflict

The Government of Sri Lanka has always endeavored to respect the rights of children. We have demonstrated this commitment by becoming a party to the major international human rights conventions, including the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention casts upon the Government, the obligation to protect the rights of all Sri Lankan children including children affected by armed conflict.

Well before assuming office as President, H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had earned himself an outstanding reputation as a champion of human rights and as an ardent advocate for safeguarding the rights of children. It was therefore not surprising that as soon as he was elected as President, he established a new ministry for children to provide for the legal and social conditions to protect all children and ensure their welfare. Naturally therefore, we are seriously concerned whenever the denial of these rights takes place within the territory of Sri Lanka as it is contrary to our law, international obligations and the basic fundamentals of a civilised society.

In the context of the Government of Sri Lanka's overall commitment toward children and the obligations it has undertaken under international law, we find the violations of the rights of children committed by the LTTE as being totally unacceptable and deeply distressing.

The use of children by the LTTE in combat has been extensively documented by the SLMM, UNICEF, and other international agencies. According to UNICEF documentation, 5368 children are known by UNICEF to have been recruited by the LTTE, a figure that UNICEF acknowledges is under-representative of the actual number. Since the beginning of the ceasefire through 30 January 2006, the SLMM has ruled 2,011 violations against the LTTE for incidents of child recruitment and abduction; this number represents 55% of the total violations of the Ceasefire Agreement. UNICEF has also reported that child recruitment and kidnapping is continuing unabated as per their latest report of January 2006. Notwithstanding the concerns of almost the entire world community, it is sad that the LTTE has continued to demonstrate their disregard for the rights of children. The recent incident where three Government police officers associated with the National Child Protection Agency were abducted by the LTTE while the officers were in pursuit of a known pedophile is a clear illustration of this unfortunate situation.

The importance and urgency of addressing the issue of child soldiers has been recognized by the United Nations Security Council, which in its recently passed Resolution 1612 urged strong action to be taken against parties that recruit and abduct underage children into their ranks. The LTTE has been identified as such a violating party in a Report submitted to the Security Council by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. However, despite repeated international condemnations of the incidents of recruitment and abduction of children, the violations continue to occur. It is the Government of Sri Lanka's fervent hope that a dialogue on this issue could contribute to creating a meaningful ceasefire, one in which all children of Sri Lanka are free to blossom and develop themselves into healthy and productive members of society.

VI. Law and Order

One of the cornerstones of a democracy is an environment of security. Without law and order and its enforcement, individuals are not free to exercise the full range of rights they are entitled to. Freedom of speech and the right to engage in political activities are meaningless if the exercise of these rights could lead to abduction or death. A state of ceasefire does not override the existing law and order mechanisms in society. For this reason, the Government of Sri Lanka deplores the large number of killings of Sri Lankans of various ethnic groups after the ceasefire of February 2002. These killings have seriously undermined the ceasefire. The Government expresses its grave displeasure and disappointment that deficiencies in the ceasefire agreement have been exploited in this manner, leading to serious strains being placed on the enforcement machinery of our system of law and order.

The Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is committed to maintaining law and order without discrimination in every part of our country. His new administration initiated a program that extensively cracked down on organized criminals, underworld gangs, armed groups and narcotics dealers. This program is continuing with great intensity today. Criminals, whichever part of the country they operate in, are subject to this crack-down as the scope of this program covers the entire country. On that basis, the Government has already taken all necessary action to bring the perpetrators of certain recent crimes to justice in accordance with the due process of law. The murders of youth in Trincomalee, the reported abductions of members of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, TRO, the assassination of Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham and all other reported incidents are being diligently investigated by our law enforcement authorities and we are taking all necessary action to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

It is also clear that certain parties with vested interests are attempting to accuse and discredit the Government of Sri Lanka for various alleged incidents. A critical examination of some of the recent allegations indicates that the media had been informed of some incidents well before such incidents have even been brought to the notice of the law enforcement authorities. In some cases, evidence has not been freely forthcoming and hardly any cooperation has been extended by the complainants. Such behaviour casts serious doubt on the reliability and authenticity of the complaints themselves. These facts seem to suggest that some of these allegations may have been cleverly stage managed and hence we wish to inform the international community that such incidents would have to be more extensively investigated prior to opinions being expressed about the veracity of the claims.

VII. Economic development

From the first day of his election to the office of President, the Government of H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapaksa has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to achieve substantial and sustainable economic development in all parts of the country. It is our stated goal to bring prosperity to all citizens of Sri Lanka. It is with that objective in mind that the Government has invested heavily in provincial development. In particular, the Government recognizes that the Northern and the Eastern provinces should be accorded special attention so as to enable these areas to expeditiously recover from the devastation of the conflict and the tsunami.

It is in this context that the Mahinda Chintana has enumerated a series of development projects to expeditiously solve the problems of the people living in the Northern and Eastern provinces. These proposals have been given life through appropriations in the budget that was presented by H.E. the President. As a Government, we are committed towards implementing these projects so as to restore accelerated economic activity.

The Government is also fully aware that the people of the North and the East have suffered tremendously in the wake of the tsunami that struck our country in December 2004. We have already implemented many schemes to provide relief to the tsunami affected people with the consultation and participation of the affected communities.

In our view, certain violations of the ceasefire have resulted in serious economic hardships being caused to farmers, fishermen, and others involved in economic pursuit in the Northern and Eastern provinces. For example, in the Jaffna district, monetary surcharges are imposed on farmers and they also undergo tremendous difficulties in the transportation of their produce. Such factors result in lowering the prices that they could command for their produce. Consequently, their earnings are reduced considerably. The Government of Sri Lanka is concerned about the plight of these farmers and others whose living standards have declined as a result of the restrictive practices imposed by the LTTE. We believe these issues too, should be resolved so as to restore normalcy in the economic conditions in the North and the East. The Government sincerely believes that taking steps towards establishing a meaningful and effective ceasefire would be one of the most important initiatives to provide for the improvement of the economic conditions of the people in the North and the East. It is our earnest hope that our discussions would pave the way for the realization of such a ceasefire, which would thereby lead to a peaceful environment that is so important for economic development and investment.

Statement by LTTE Political Wing Leader, S. P Tamilselvan , 22 February 2006

Even after four years of CFA there is an absence of normalcy in people’s life following the two decades of war. Children have lost their parents, were killed and maimed in thousands, and their schools and places of worship were destroyed by bombing. The GoSL delegation that is talking about children’s welfare will understand the real situation only if they visit the areas and see it for themselves.

Recently five young students were brutally shot and killed by GoSL armed forces. A fifteen year old boy sleeping with his parents was dragged out from his sleep screaming and shot dead by GoSL forces. University students and teachers were attacked. We like to point out that as a result of the ethnic violence let loose by your government thousands of children were killed.

Children come to our areas for refuge due to the SLA occupation of our homeland and the ensuing fear. Our organization takes care of these children in thousands in children’s homes and ensure that their educational other needs are taken care of.

GoSL, instead of trying to improve these conditions in which children are growing up, is more interested in spreading stories about under-age youths joining our organization. We are working with UNICEF to promote and protect children’s rights. We have setup a special committee within the LTTE Peace Secretariat to develop this further. We have pointed out on several occasions about the errors in UNICEF numbers on under-age youths in LTTE. We have also continued to release youths who are identified as under-age back to their families. We have pointed out this error to UNICEF and it has accepted it.

With the peace dividends not reaching the children they are suffering from poverty, loss of parents, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and inability to return to their own homes. Children going to schools in GoSL occupied areas are put through checking and long delays. This also creates fear in the children’s minds. Many have sought refuge in our areas.

Most of the accusations about under-age youths joining LTTE came from the East. More than 2000 under-age youths recruited against the orders of our leadership by Karuna, who was later expelled from our organization for his misconduct, were returned to their parents. This shows that our organization respects the international standards in this regard.

Many 14, 15, and 16 year olds who were abducted by the Karuna group which is now working with the SLA forces have exposed the truth that they were trained in SLA camps.

There is an urgent need to be concerned about the welfare of the children affected by war and take right actions to ensure that their nutrition, education and their parents living standards are adequate. It is wrong to turn the problems faced by the children into a political issue to gain political advantage.

Given that there is no clause in CFA that prohibits recruitment this is not an issue that comes under the SLMM mandate. Rather it is best to submit the complaints received by SLMM to the organizations that directly deal with it which are our organization and to UNICEF.

Those who are truly concerned about the welfare of children must refrain from selecting NorthEast and LTTE as their subject and instead turn their attention to the serious child abuse and child slavery that is going on in large scale in the south.

Concluding Statement  released by the Norwegian Facilitator

The concluding statement released by the Norwegian Facilitator

Sri Lanka Talks
22-23 February 2006, Geneva, Switzerland

The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) met in Geneva 22-23 February 2006 for talks on the Ceasefire Agreement.

The parties discussed issues related to the ceasefire, including the concerns of the Muslim, Sinhalese, and Tamil civilians.

The GOSL and the LTTE are committed to respecting and upholding the Ceasefire Agreement, and reconfirmed 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 implementation on the above agreements at the next session of talks.

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

 

Swiss Government welcomes positive outcome of Geneva talks, 24 February 2004

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomes the positive outcome of the talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which took place on 22 and 23 February in Geneva. It voices the expectation that the parties to the conflict will respect the agreement they have concluded.

Under Norway's mediation, the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE met in Geneva on 22 and 23 February to hold talks on the implementation of the cease-fire agreement, which was signed exactly four years ago.

In particular, the DFA welcomes the fact that the parties have agreed to respect the cease-fire agreement, and to take all necessary measures to avoid any acts of violence, intimidation, abductions or killings.

The DFA expects the parties to comply conscientiously with the obligations they have undertaken as a building-confidence measure.

The DFA also takes note of the wish of the parties to organise a further round of talks on 19 to 21 April in Geneva. Switzerland regards this as a mark of trust and will examine the request favourably within the framework of its commitment to Sri Lanka.

 

Report on Talks in Sri Lanka State Controlled Daily News, 25 February 2006

Truce talks end on successful note - Another round in April

Bandula Jayasekara

CELIGNY: Truce talks between the Government and the LTTE ended successfully in Celigny, Switzerland yesterday, with both sides agreeing to meet again in mid-April for another round. According to a statement issued by the two sides at the end of the talks, the next round of negotiations will take place for three days - from April 19 to 21 in Geneva. "The LTTE is committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure that there will be no acts of violence against the Security Forces and the Police," the statement said. It said the Government of Sri lanka is also committed to take all necessary measures in accordance with the CFA to ensure that no armed group other than Government Security Forces will carry arms. The Government and the LTTE discussed all issues concerning the welfare of children in the North including recruitment of children.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) will report on the implementation of the above agreements at the next session of talks. Both sides committed to respecting and upholding the Ceasefire Agreement and pledged to take all necessary means to ensure that there will be no intimidation, acts of violence, abductions or killings.

They described the truce talks as a confidence building measure. Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that the talks were successful. "Sri Lankans should be happy. This is a positive stand for peace and proves that President Mahinda Rajapakse is a man of peace. This would deescalate violence and create a smooth process for peace."

He also thanked the LTTE delegation.

Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim appreciated the determination of both sides to uphold the Ceasefire Agreement. Solheim said there should be no more violence. The SLMM will also operate freely in the LTTE dominated areas. The two sides met on Wednesday after a lapse of three years. The talks also coincided with the fourth anniversary of the ceasefire.

Negotiations continued yesterday, the second and final day, at the Chateau de Bossey. Norway facilitated the talks, with the assistance of Switzerland. SLMM representatives attended the talks. The two sides, led by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Anton Balasingham respectively, discussed a gamut of issues covering the ceasefire. Other members in the Government delegation included Minister Bogollagama, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Ferial Ashraff.

Minister Ashraff has pointed out to the LTTE delegation that Muslims should be recognised as one of the principal stake holders in the peace process for a lasting resolution of the ethnic conflict, the Housing and Construction Industry Ministry said in a news release.

The Muslim community has been adversely affected by this ethnic conflict both before and after the CFA although they were neither a party to the war nor a party to the CFA, she said.

She noted the Muslims were ethnically cleansed from the North by the LTTE 16 years ago. Their economy, education, cultivation, fishing and all means of livelihood in the Northern and Eastern provinces have been affected tremendously.

She said the Government, LTTE, co-chairs and the international community should acknowledge the Muslim factor at all stages of the peace process.

Unless the Muslim concerns are adequately and effectively addressed no normality could be restored and no lasting solution could be reached, she stressed.
 

Balasingham's interview with Sunday Leader after Geneva Talks, 25 February 2006


LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham in an interview with Lasantha Wickrematunge, of The Sunday Leader at the conclusion of the Geneva talks, explained the circumstances in which the talks were held, the issues discussed and the way forward for the parties.

Sunday Leader: Could you first of all tell us your assessment of the talks after two days of deliberations?

Balasingham: Even though talks ended on a positive note it has been a very tough, difficult dialogue I should say frankly because the government came with a different agenda.

The LTTE from the very start, from the day Mr. Erik Solheim met Mr. Pirapaharan, we were making statements that the agenda for talks will be the effective or rather the smooth implementation of the terms and conditions of the Cease Fire Agreement. But we were disappointed to note from what Norway came and told us that the government had ideas of coming out with certain amendments and with the aim of revising the entire document.

Then I insisted we will not discuss anything about revision or reworking of the cease fire document because our agenda is that we should stick to the letter and spirit of the agreement and only see how we could implement the terms and conditions of the Cease Fire Agreement.

So with all that when the peace talks started I made my initial opening address with the purpose of articulating our point of view. Our objective in coming for the talks as you would have observed from my address was that the talks should be confined to the implementation of the Cease Fire Agreement.

Sunday Leader: As you point out in the first paragraph of your opening statement itself you said the most important achievement of the Norwegian facilitation of the peace process has been the signing of the Cease Fire Agreement between the government and the LTTE. You also said the CFA was not finalised in haste to the advantage of one party as argued by some critics but to be the foundation on which the peace process can be built. Was that the position you maintained right throughout the deliberations?

Balasingham: Exactly. Absolutely. I’m also one of the architects of the CFA document and we spent months. Specific attention was given to each clause and both the parties were consulted with our military experts and Mr. Pirapaharan and from the government side Ranil Wickremesinghe was also informed of the various terms, conditions, obligations and finally both the parties agreed and both parties signed the ceasefire agreement.

So it was not worked out in haste to the advantage of one party. Both parties were given quite a lot of time to work out various formations. So what happened after my initial opening speech, I was disappointed to note chief negotiator of the government side, Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva, insisting there were serious flaws in the CFA and that there should be amendments, revisions and it had to be reworked.

Sunday Leader: Mr. De Silva said in his opening statement that the CFA in its present form, signed by Ranil Wickremesinghe and Velupillai Pirapaharan was unconstitutional, and against the laws of Sri Lanka. Is that the position he maintained during the two days of deliberations?

Balasingham: Not two days. Later on they had to give it up. After the first day, their legal expert, H. L. de Silva, he came out with the proposition that certain clauses in the ceasefire document contravened the constitution and that it was not endorsed by the President who had executive authority, so on and so forth. I challenged their contention saying that it was signed by both the parties with international assistance.

It was not the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka only who were involved. The Norwegian government was also involved in this agreement and also five Nordic countries. So it was an international agreement and also we know that it is determined by the Supreme Court in the P-TOMS case where the Supreme Court ruled the CFA did not contravene the constitution, therefore we argued and said it is not a question of legal or constitutional validity of the document that is in question.

We have come here with the objective of analysing and arguing that each term, condition and obligation must be implemented and I read out what the main clauses that the government of Sri Lanka has failed to implement.

Sunday Leader: But wouldn’t you say the government also had a moral obligation to seek a revision because President Rajapakse had signed an agreement with the JVP wherein he said there were clauses in the CFA, which were not only unconstitutional but also leading to separation and compromising national security. He pledged to redo and revise the CFA. Did you therefore expect the government to sit and discuss the implementation of an agreement, which it claimed was unconstitutional and paved the way for separation?

Balasingham: We are fully aware of Mahinda Rajapakse’s manifesto, his position with regard to the CFA, and we know that the government delegation brought a team of legal experts to question the legal and constitutional validity of the CFA. But we took up the position and argued there with the Sri Lankan delegation and Norwegians that the LTTE will not discuss any issues pertaining to the revision or the rewording of the agreement. That is not the mandate given to me by Pirapaharan, I said.

In front of me Pirapaharan told Erik Solheim that the LTTE will only participate in the peace negotiations to fully and effectively implement the clauses and terms of the ceasefire document.

So I told the delegation that I have come with a specific mandate from Mr. Pirapaharan to only talk about the implementation of the CFA. I said we will walk out if anybody raises anything or starts discussing constitutional or legal problems pertaining to this document.

I said the moment you claim the CFA is incorrect, then you are coming out of the CFA. That means you are giving two weeks notice for the resumption of hostilities. You better think very carefully, I said. So they kept quiet. Then after that they have been discussing among them and the Norwegians also. Erik Solheim openly said that the agenda for the talks according to Mr. Pirapaharan is to discuss the implementation of the CFA and not about changing the structure or coming out with amendments, so they kept quiet. They agreed.

Matters pertaining to implementation were taken up on the second day. The most contentious issue that was discussed on the second day was the disarming of the paramilitary groups. I took up Clause 1.8 of the CFA.

Sunday Leader: Does that mean even when the next round of talks comes in April or even thereafter that the issue of amending, revising or rewording the CFA will not arise? That it is now only the implementation of the CFA that will be discussed? That the government has accepted the CFA?

Balasingham: Of course, the government has openly issued a joint statement reaffirming its commitment to the CFA. What does that mean? That they have accepted the meaning and content of this document.

Sunday Leader: Are you saying then in the future the issue of bringing any amendment to the CFA is shut out for good?

Balasingham: That is absolutely correct. I can assure you the LTTE will not permit even in the future any suggestions for amendments or rewording of the CFA.

Sunday Leader: Are you saying the understanding at the end of the two days of talks is that the government of Sri Lanka and that of President Mahinda Rajapakse have in fact accepted this CFA, every word, every comma, every full-stop?

Balasingham: Yes.

Sunday Leader: You were talking about the paramilitary issues…

Balasingham: That is very important. There when we raise the issue of paramilitaries, it is very clearly stated in Clause 1.8 that Tamil armed paramilitaries will be disarmed by the government of Sri Lanka and should be offered the opportunity of being fully integrated with the Sri Lanka military structure if they want to. That matter was taken up and I argued at length the violence cause by the paramilitaries.

We also provided the government with ample information, documents stating the entire paramilitary groups, how they operate, the location of their camps, the commanding officers of the various districts, how they are working in collusion with the Sri Lankan armed forced and particularly the Sri Lanka military intelligence.

Sunday Leader: Did the government team dispute those charges?

Balasingham: Wait. We have given documentary proof. Of course the government says no. Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva said, ‘I wish to dispute the arguments and say there is no connection between the Sri Lanka military and the paramilitaries.’ We know they will say that but I insisted there is a connection.

Mr. H.L. De Silva said the concept of paramilitaries does not apply because it entails, he said, quoting me regarding the definition I tabled of paramilitaries, that is paramilitary groups are ancillary forces who work in collusion with the regular forces. So we said these armed groups are working with the army and since they are working with the army under the control of the army, they are being supported and sustained and given sanction by the armed forces. They are undeniably paramilitary forces. I said, ‘Don’t bring any legal arguments, Mr. Silva, because this is the ground reality I am talking about.’

I said, you have no idea what the ground reality is. Because I have been working with the leaders of these paramilitary groups for the last 30 years. Some of them were my disciples. So I know who they are and how they operate and why they operate.

Then I explained the history of these paramilitaries and how they originally took up arms for the Tamil cause, how they joined the IPKF as mercenary groups, then when the Indians left they joined the so-called democratic mainstream as political parties and changed their masters. Their masters are now the Sri Lanka government and military intelligence. So this is the true history of these people.

The IGP, Chandra Fernando came out with a list of killings from various times. I told him it is not the question of individual killings that we are discussing here. It is a question of an armed conflict coming down for the last 25 years. Of course, the LTTE has killed several soldiers. There have been communal riots. And the army has killed a lot of civilians. So if we go through the history of the entire armed conflict I can say 70,000 Tamils have been killed by the security forces. We also killed. Our cadres – 20,000 – were also killed in battle. Therefore I said don’t pick up individual cases and say Alfred Duraiappah was killed, Amirthalingam was killed, etc. Then they said okay, that is in the past but after the CFA we have killed so many people.

Sunday Leader: Did the government raise the issue of Lakshman Kadirgamar?

Balasingham: Yes. I said the government has no evidence to prove the LTTE killed him. They say so because everybody thought Kadirgamar was a target and the LTTE was angry with him. And it is an assumption. Assumptions cannot be a direct argument to accuse somebody unless you can prove. ‘Have you got any proof?’ I asked.

Sunday Leader: Did the government furnish the proof?

Balasingham: No, no. Nothing at all.

Then the question they raised was that recently, in the last few months there has been intense violence in the north -east in which 80 or 90 soldiers were killed and civilians were killed and there were assassinations. Even those killings cannot be categorised as individual assassinations or political killings.

This is a phenomena we call shadow war. A subversive war because some of these paramilitary groups, particularly the Karuna group has launched a dirty war in collusion with Sri Lankan intelligence against the LTTE cadres and we have listed out the various people who were killed— Pararajasingham, Nehru, important journalists like Sivaram, so on and so forth.These are killings done in the context of a subversive war launched against the LTTE by paramilitaries.

So it cannot be categorised as intensified violence but action against the LTTE

Sunday Leader: You stated that the LTTE conceded to the government the non inclusion of the word ‘paramilitary’ in the joint statement. Were you really being magnanimous or as some people describe you as being a cunning fox got it incorporated through the play of words and trapped the government into accepting the disbanding of paramilitary groups through the joint statement

Balasingham: Yes, there is no need to use the concept of paramilitary if you study the text of the joint statement because it specifically states that in accordance with the ceasefire agreement, that these armed groups will not be able to function.When we say in accordance with the CFA, there is a specific clause which is 1.8, which says these armed groups are none other than the paramilitaries. So the paramilitaries are specifically included in an undefined form.

Sunday Leader: In the joint statement it says the government is committed to take all necessary measures in accordance with the CFA to ensure no armed groups other than the security forces will conduct armed operations or carry arms. Now the government in the same statement says it is committed to upholding the CFA. Now the moment you commit the government to upholding the CFA, Article 1.8 comes into play. Are you now expecting the government on the strength of the joint statement to disband all paramilitary groups including Karuna?

Balasingham: Of course they should because they are bound by this statement.And also by the obligations of the CFA they have to disarm the para military groups.We have also requested the government that if our political cadres are to go back to Batticaloa and Jaffna this should be done.You know that a few months back we withdrew our political cadres because of the violent activities of the paramilitaries.

Now we have told the government, you better start disarming these groups and put an end to their armed military operations so that we could send our cadres to the north and east.We are ready to do that.And if anything happens to them, it will constitue a very very serious violation of the joint statement issued by both the parties.

Sunday Leader: Through this joint statement and the deliberations over two days, you have placed the government and President Rajapakse in a very vulnerable situation in that the President who said the CFA was unconstitutional and will pave the way for separatism,has now agreed to uphold and implement it.The President has thus been put in the position of intentionally violating Sri Lanka’s constitution which is an impeachable offence.Now you have put him into that position.You have also got him committed to disbanding the paramilitaries. Now did the government realise when issuing the joint statement that they were committing to disbanding the para militaries and what have you given in return for all these concessions by the government?

Balasingham: I dont want to go into the constitutional complexities because most probably President Rajapakse would have made this statement in his manifesto without considering the serious implications of the CFA. As far as we are concerned the CFA is signed by two parties, the GOSL and LTTE and endorsed by international monitors including Norway and Nordic countries. It is an international instrument. I also told you we know the Supreme Court has made a ruling that the CFA does not contravene your constitution. We have no problem in maintaining our position that the CFA has to be accepted and implemented without any amendments.

But the problem of Mr. Rajapakse, whether he has made any mistakes or faces political difficulties or whatever is not a matter for me to comment.

Sunday Leader: Once talks on the CFA ends and political issues are gone into. are you expecting the government to start from where the talks stalled, that is with the ISGA or would you expect a fresh approach given the President’s position the ISGA will not be a basis for discussion?

Balasingham: Because we are going to talk about various other obligations under the CFA. Only we discussed in detail two issues, about under aged recruitment and the disarming of the paramilitaries. We have given an undertaking of putting an end to recruitment of underage children. Secondly so has the paramilitaries.There is a two month space for it.We have to see whether the government is going to disarm these groups.And if they are disarmed and made disfunctional and their operations halted then we will send our political cadres into Jaffna and Batticaloa. That is one issue.

Second time we are going to take up the issue of High Security Zones.It is a very sensitive and critical issue because it is concerning the security of your country and your military in the north-east and as far as we are concerned it is a fundamentally humanitarian problem.Thousands and thousands of people are thrown out of their houses, their villages,from their farm lands and languishing in refugee camps. So this is a very very important problem. For the last 10-15 years people are suffering

Time has come for the government to take some action because we will definitely come out with some proposals for the government. We are not asking the government to withdraw its troops from the north-east.At least there must be some relocation of these camps to enable and facilitate these people to go back.There are other issues such as fishing restrictions.Next time also there will be critical issues not implemented by the government.We will take it up. Political issues will come only when there is a total de-escalation and normalisation of civilian life in the north and east

That has being our stand for the last so many decades.

Even with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe we insisted on fulfilling the existential problems of our people. Day to day problems. Here we are going to insist on de-escalation and normalisation of civilian life as a necessary condition to move towards the next stage which is the political discussion.

Even when we go to the political discussion, Mr. Rajapakse will have difficulties because there is a difference. Both the parties are living in different ideological universes.They conform to what is called the Mahinda Chintana but we go by Pirapaharan’s vision. So these are two different universes with a wide gulf between them. He is insisting on a unitary structure and we are fighting for a regional autonomy with self government in our own homeland. To bridge these two conflictual and controversial positions at the negotiating table is not going to be a simple matter. It is going to be a very very difficult task. Let us see.

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