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Nine years on, nothing to show

4 August 1996

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has again stated, while in Malasiya, that the government has not closed the door on talks with the LTTE.

Dr.. G.L has also not ruled out negotiations with the Tigers. The resumption of talks with the LTTE, however, still remains a remote possibility despite some unofficial moves by interested parties to send out feelers to the Wanni in order to prepare the ground for future negotiations.

If the government cannot effectively prosecute the Eelam War and if this, in turn, were to give rise to general political and economic instability in the country as a whole, then donor nations may feel impelled to persuade, directly or indirectly, the government and, if possible, the Tigers to explore the possibility of another dialogue.

In all this, the central question is whether the LTTE would eventually be inclined to lay down its arms and formally express faith in the ability of the democratic process to resolve the ethnic conflict.

But the problem today is that the moral-political grounds for exhorting the LTTE have become as shaky as the military effort to compel it towards negotiations. And the problem comes from an unexpected quarter which the PA had taken for granted since it won the Presidential elections.

The Tamil militant leaders who laid down arms and joined the mainstream nine years ago are saying today that in the light of their experience during this period it would be foolish on the part of the LTTE to give up its war and join mainstream politics for finding a solution to the ethnic conflict. Theirs is an expression of sheer chagrin.

Last week when the government said that talks could resume with the LTTE if it were to lay down its arms, EPDP leader Douglas Devananda and PLOT leader D. Siddharthan told some ministers and MPs in Parliament that the Tigers would have no reason to do so after seeing what befell their groups which gave up arms and joined mainstream politics.

Their point was that they, in July 1987 following the Indo-Lanka Accord, had pledged to the Tamil people that they would find an honourable solution to the ethnic conflict by joining mainstream politics and persuading the government through democratic means.

Nine years, however, have gone by and they have absolutely nothing to show the Tamil people.

Hence the view that their predicament today, after nine years of earnest endeavour, including unconditional assistance to the army to crush(?) the LTTE, is so deplorable that the Tigers have no grounds at all today to lay down arms and join the democratic process like them.

The PLOTE leader reiterated his position in an interview with the BBC:

How will the LTTE lay down arms and engage in negotiations after seeing what has befallen us since we joined the democratic mainstream nine years ago?

The pressing problem for the ex-Tamil militant groups is that though they are entering the tenth year of their joining the democratic process they have nothing to show the Tamils.

In their view the Select Committee and the legal draft are dead.

Even the gains of the 13th amendment which was granted under Indias coercion have been deprived, they say.

The following powers which were devolved to the provincial councils under the 13th amendment ( as set out in the Ninth schedule of the constitution) have been taken over by the centre since 1990.

a) Agrarian services (P.C list no. 9 )

b) Regulation of road and passenger carriage services etc., ( P.C list no. 8)

c) Roads and bridges and ferries thereon within the province (P.C list no. 6) - this has been done through the redefinition of many roads within the province as national highways.

d) Grama Sevakas ( no. 4.1)

The introduction of the Divisional Secretariat system which replaced the Assistant Government Agents who came under the purview of Provincial Councils has substantially and effectively eroded the power of the PCs. The Divisional Secretaries handle both devolved and reserved subjects but come under the central government.

In addition to this, Provincial subjects granted under the 13th amendment such as Police and Public Order ( P. C list no. 1 as set out in appendix I of the constitution), Land ( P. C list no. 18 as set out in appendix II) have not been devolved to the provinces despite the passage of nine years.

The implementation of Tamil as an official language has got no where at all. The TULF was promised action by the President but nothing happened.

The chairman and members of the commission which was appointed to implement Tamil as an official language (under paragraphs 2 and 4 of Article 18 of the constitution) have written to the President about the hopeless situation in which they find themselves today. The TULF is thoroughly dissatisfied with the implementation of Tamil as an official language, said a senior MP of the party.

The administrative structure of the Provincial Council in the north and east has also been systematically debilitated since 1987.

The cadre for all government departments and ministries are revised periodically to sustain and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the administrative machinery. In the north and east the administrative structure has severely been affected because the revised cadre which was submitted by the Provincial Council to the Salaries and Cadres Committee of the central government has not been approved thus far, pointed out TULF MP A Thangathurai.

Discussing the manner in which the centre has systematically eroded the powers of the provinces Mr. Thangathurai said in conclusion:

"Nothing tangible has happened since 1987 that could give confidence to the LTTE to lay down arms and join the mainstream for finding a solution. No party in the south, therefore, has the moral-political right to ask the LTTE to lay down arms as a precondition for talks".

The disgruntled leader of the EPDP, Douglas Devananda told me:

From Thennamaravaady in Trinco north to Thangavelayuthapuram in Ampara south the large number of villages from which Tamils were driven out still remain derelict. Governments used the Tamil parties against the LTTE and ignored their views on a political solution. These were mistakes. It is only through the parties (ex-militant) which joined the mainstream that one can prove that an armed struggle is not necessary and the problem can be resolved through talks. This is the only way in which faith in the democratic path can be inspired (among the Tamil people). But today the situation is such that the Tigers are able to say Look at the predicament of the other (ex-Tamil militant) parties. We will also be marginalised if we give up our arms, and hence able to justify their war.

Douglas is preparing a letter (or pamphlet) addressed to government and opposition Sinhala MPs setting out these issues in detail of the futile nine years in the mainstream.

The EROS leader was more precise:

India was mainly responsible for persuading us to join the mainstream. Delhi said it would guarantee that our peoples rights would be secured. Today it is only keen on looking after Colombos interests against the LTTE. If we could have realised even an iota of our expectations since we laid down arms, we could have justified the decision we took in July 1987 under Indias persuasion. It is foolish in this context to ask the LTTE to give up its armed struggle and engage in negotiations. These nine years have proved that the Tamil speaking people of this country have not been able to gain anything through democratic struggle.

Ultimately, as Mr. Kadirgamar may find out in due course, it may not be of much help to have the west and Delhi on the PA side to crush the LTTE if this remains the dominant mood in the Tamil body politic in the years to come.

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