all towns are one, all men our kin.
|Home||Whats New||Trans State Nation||One World||Unfolding Consciousness||Comments||Search|
Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Third Session of Peace Talks in Oslo & Aftermath > LTTE settles for Federalism comments Sri Lanka Sunday Leader
LTTE settles for Federalism
Sri Lanka Sunday Leader, 8 December 2002
the much touted December 5 deadline for the dissolution of parliament passed
without much ado, the peace process gathered momentum last week in Oslo with
both the government and the LTTE focusing on the basis for a political
In a major breakthrough, the LTTE delegation said it was prepared to discuss power sharing under a federal system, the surest sign yet that the war will be a thing of the past and peace is at hand.
third round of peace talks itself got off to an auspicious start in the wake of
LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran for the first time publicly announcing his
decision to compromise for a negotiated settlement within a united Sri Lanka,
provided the government was prepared to consider regional autonomy on the basis
of internal self determination for the Tamils.
the LTTE position thus laid on the table, intense behind the scenes negotiations
got underway in Oslo between Head of the government delegation, Professor G.L.
Peiris and LTTE's Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingham in the lead upto Monday's
hand to help in the deliberations was a team of experts from the Forum of
Federation based in Ontario, Canada. That team comprised the former Premier of
Ontario and Chairman of the Federation, Bob Rae, Professor of Political Science
and Former Constitutional Affairs Minister of Ontario, David Cameron and Karl
courts and police stations
there was one issue which the government delegation wanted sorted out before the
talks proper commenced on Monday, that issue being the LTTE's establishment of
courts and police stations in the north east, which were used to whip up public
emotions in the south. Though the government knew only too wellLTTE courts have
been in existence since 1993, it did not countenance the LTTE continuing to
establish courts at a time the peace process was gathering momentum especially
due to the currency it would provide to those opposing the current initiative.
Minister Peiris who arrived in Oslo Sunday morning following a meeting in London
the previous day with the former Head of Amnesty International, Ian Martin met
with Balasingham for a meeting the very Sunday, where the issue of the courts
and police stationswas broached.
Peiris pointed out there was a perception created in the south by those opposing
the peace process that the LTTE was making use of the ceasefire agreement to
consolidate and extend its sphere of authority in the north east with a view to
establishing a de facto state of Eelam.
Minister said such a perception being created was harmful to the peace process
and the LTTE should take steps to allay such fears from the public's mind.
was further pointed out to Balasingham there were stories to the effect that the
LTTE was issuing summons to people in cleared areas to attend courts in
uncleared areas which also tantamounted to a violation of the ceasefire
listened to the Minister, Balasingham said the LTTE will not in anyway interfere
with the government administration in cleared areas and was unaware of the
issuance of summons in cleared areas.
such a thing is happening, it is without the knowledge of the LTTE hierarchy and
an immediate stop would be put," Balasingham said.
LTTE theoretician went on to tell the Minister the court houses and police
stations in LTTE areas have been in existence since 1993 and was simply formed
to ensure there was some system in place where the government machinery was not
there will be anarchy in these areas. In any event, we will not do anything to
undermine the peace process and will curtail all such activity. It must be also
pointed out that there is not a single court house or police station in
government controlled areas and as for opposition agitation, these court houses
and police stations were in existence even when we held discussions with the
Chandrika government in 1994," he pointed out.
the ground work thus laid, when the talks commenced on Monday, December 2, both
Ministers G.L. Peiris and Milinda Moragoda formally raised the issue of the
court houses and Balasingham once again gave a formal assurance nothing would be
done to undermine the peace process and that the LTTE would ensure the
government administration will in no way be disrupted.
with that issue out of the way, the talks focused on strengthening the ceasefire
agreement and moving forward the work of the Sub Committee on De-escalation and
Normalisation with a briefing given by Defence Secretary Austin Fernando on the
current status in the north east, particularly in relation to the high security
that issue, LTTE's Eastern
Military Wing Leader, Karuna said he was particularly happy with the work
carried out in the east with no cause for complaint through the issue was far
from satisfactory in the north.
the north, the LTTE said, Commander Sarath Fonseka was not cooperative in
restoring normalcy and that the government should take cognizance of it, a
matter Austin Fernando said he would discuss with Major General Fonseka.
apart, the government delegation explored the possibility of reconstructing a
temple in Kilinochchi, which is an uncleared area and the LTTE responded
said he was not in principle opposed to the proposal but would like the
government to identify the temple in question since some temples were built by
the army during times those areas were under army control. The government agreed
to furnish the necessary details to enable the reconstruction of the temple.
stopping at that, the government delegation also broached the issue of Delft
Island, which Minister Peiris too raised in his informal talks and the EPDP's
right to engage in political activity.
again the LTTE said the EPDP was an instrument of Chandrika Kumaratunga, which
ran a dictatorial administration in the island and that the LTTE has no
objection to any party indulging in political activity provideda conducive
climate can first becreated in the islands under EPDP control to remove the fear
psychosis of the people.
LTTE agreed accordingly to forward a proposal in terms of the ceasefire
agreement to settle the dispute in the Delft Island which too came to be
incorporated in the final document released by the Norwegian government at the
conclusion of the talks. (See box)
was the following day, Tuesday, the political issues came to be taken up for
discussion with the Canadian team standing by for informal consultations which
got underway at 8:30 a.m.
this meeting, Minister Peiris was assisted by Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke,
while the LTTE team included Balasingham and Thamilchelvan and the Canadian team
gave an insight into how the Canadian model worked in the overall context of the
gone through the various constitutional arrangements, Minister Peiris and
Ambassador Goonetilleke left the briefing, allowing the LTTE duo to discuss at
length with the Canadian experts on the systems of government.
was after this briefing that the formal talks on the political issues were to be
taken up but both Ministers Peiris and Moragoda who were at breakfast prior to
the commencement of the talks received information of another LTTE court being
established in the Trincomalee District and which had been given ample coverage
in the Tamilnet website. The ministerial duo realised this report would lead to
emotion being aroused once again in the south and moved swiftly to nip the issue
in the bud.
a print out of that report, both Peiris and Moragoda strode into the King's
Suite conference room and showed it to Balasingham no sooner the talks
said a certain understanding was reached the previous day on the issue of courts
and having the Tamilnet highlight the establishment of another court albeit in
the uncleared area was not helpful.
to this query, Balasingham said he was unaware of the report in question but
that it was possibly due to a lack of communication of the decisions reached the
previous day at ground level.
said Karuna had some time back requested the LTTE Leader to establish a court
house each in the districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee and it was possibly
that proposal being implemented belatedly.
however, said he wants to redress the issue sooner than later and both Peiris
and Moragoda requested the LTTE theoretician to clarify matters to the media the
very day, lest it be used once again to whip up public emotions .
agreed to do so and no sooner the morning session was concluded, he called a
press conference where the issue was clarified and a public assurance given that
the LTTE will in no way hamper the government administration.
that out of the way, the talks focused on the political issues with the LTTE
quite candidly stating they need to consult many experts on the systems of
pointed out the LTTE was not happy with the term 'devolution of power' but was
agreeable to a suggestion by Minister Peiris that it could be described as
at length the difficult path that lay ahead for the LTTE to reorient its cadres
to accept a political settlement within a united Sri Lanka, Balasingham appealed
for patience from the government delegation.
said he has pushed Prabhakaran to the maximum leading to his statement agreeing
for substantial regional autonomy within one Sri Lanka and he cannot push him
any further without having anything to show for it.
a practical note, Balasingham said the movement was nurtured on the basis that
the Tamils cannot live in one country with the Sinhalese, hence the need for a
is not easy to now tell the Tamil people of whom 17,000 have sacrificed their
lives that we have given up that goal and are now prepared to live with the
Sinhalese in one country. In order to convince our people to accept such a
position, we have to give them a viable alternative and that cannot be done
overnight. It is a time-consuming process and I seek your patience,"
burden, Balasingham said, LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has placed on his
shoulders and that he has to now return to Wanni and start convincing their
people of the new thinking.
LTTE ideologue further said as much as there are extremists in the south, there
are extremists in the north as well who have to be convinced a settlement within
a united Sri Lanka is feasible and as such there can be no quick fix solutions
but what was called for was patience and tact.
added that in the given circumstances expert opinion needs to be obtained to
arrive at the best system of government and also assured the delegation that a
final format would be arrived at having consulted Muslim opinion as well.
the difficulties to be overcome by all parties to the conflict, Minister Peiris
agreed the talks on the political issues will be long and arduous and only the
naive would expect overnight solutions.
have made substantial progress so far, and let us build on it by consolidating
the ceasefire agreement. I agree we should not raise public expectations of an
overnight solution since negotiations on complex issues on the structure of the
state, systems of government are only just beginning," Minister Peiris
following day, Wednesday, the LTTE had a further round of discussions with the
Canadian team of experts, where once again the discussions centered on the
system of government.
this respect, the LTTE has a genuine problem in making its demands for regional
autonomy into a practical reality and hence the request for patience to consult
experts not only from Canada but also elsewhere.
by Wednesday, when the third day's talks commenced, once again the political
issues were taken up following the meeting with the Canadians and the LTTE
announced it was prepared to discuss a settlement on the basis of federalism
within a united Sri Lanka with the principle of internal self determination
also said it should be a "power sharing" arrangement as opposed to
devolution of power and he would also consider issuing a statement acknowledging
this position in what was to be a major breakthrough.
groundwork for this major breakthrough of course was done the previous night of
Tuesday, December 3, where the Norwegians burnt the midnight oil with the LTTE
delegation, stressing the importance of sending clear signals to both the local
as well as the international community that the organisation was ready to move
forward on the commitment made by the LTTE supremo, that a settlement based on
regional autonomy would be acceptable as an alternative to a separate state.
that was the way to go, Balasingham said he would himself make the proposal at
Wednesday's session when the political issues come up for discussion.
when the subject on the agenda was taken up, almost on cue, Minister Milinda
Moragoda inquired whether Balasingham had any specific ideas or a specific
formula and the LTTE ideologue then moved his proposal for federalism.
the broad framework agreed on following this announcement by Balasingham,
Minister Moragoda went out of the room and telephoned Prime Minister
Wickremesinghe in Tokyo where the time was 2 a.m. and broke the good news.
Moragoda told the Prime Minister the LTTE has agreed to work a power sharing
agreement based on the federal model and that if the Prime Minister is prepared
to give the greenlight, a joint statement could be issued on Thursday, December
about to miss such a golden opportunity of giving the peace process a huge boost
and realising it would be the surest guarantee of the war being a thing of the
past paving the way for huge economic development, the Prime Minister told
Moragoda to proceed with the announcement without delay.
who told the Prime Minister the announcement will be made at 3:30 p.m. on
Thursday was told to advance it to 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning to ensure maximum
media coverage at the earliest opportunity.
Prime Minister told Moragoda when the timein Oslo is 3:30 p.m., the time in
Colombo would be 8:30 p.m. and that it was too late to get maximum coverage both
in the electronic media as well as print, particularly in the provinces and to
accordingly advance the announcement. Moragoda also told the Prime Minister the
LTTE had agreed to use the language of the Indo-Lanka agreement when reference
is made to areas of habitation. They had also dropped the use of the wording
'traditional homeland,' it was said.
also realised that the draft constitutions forwarded by President Kumaratunga
too were federal in character albeit couched in other terminology such as a
'union of regions,' etc., and that even the PA would be hard put to oppose a
settlement based on federalism with the alternative being war.
constituent parties of the PA such as the LSSP and CP have advocated federalism
and even the MEP endorsed President Kumaratunga's draft constitution of 2000 by
contesting together with the PA at the general election that year.
in the final analysis, the public too will be given an opportunity of expressing
their views on the final settlement with the issue placed before the people at a
the government seems to have finally hit the jackpot on putting an end to the
war that has crippled the country for 20 years but it will do well to remember,
the long and winding road towards nation building and forging national unity has
only just begun and Wickremesinghe will have to trek ever so slowly if he is to
reach the final destination given the landmines which will undoubtedly be placed
on his path by those for whom the war is not just a livelihood but a lucrative
And that is the only way the Prime Minister can not just for himself, but for all the people of the country, regain Sri Lanka.