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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > LTTE Suspends Negotiations > LTTE reaction to Tokyo Conference, D.B.S.Jeyaraj, 15 June 2003

Norwegian Peace Initiative

LTTE reaction to the Tokyo conference 
D.B.S.Jeyaraj in the Sri Lanka Sunday Leader
15 June 2003

�It is the little rift within the lute, that by and by will make the music mute, and ever widening slowly silence all� 
� Alfred Tennyson 

Twenty four hours was all that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) took to dispel the euphoria generated by the �successful� Tokyo donor conference aimed at strengthening the peace process in Sri Lanka. 

The LTTE issued a hard-hitting statement from its Kilinochchi based headquarters in the Wanni on June 11. While reiterating its hardline stance on the question of establishing an interim administrative structure for the Tamil majority North Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, the LTTE also made it crystal clear that it would not be bound by any provision in the unanimous declaration adopted at the tail end of the conference in Japan. 

Furthermore, the Tigers went on to complain about international interference in Sri Lankan affairs and even implicitly censured the accredited facilitator, Norway. 


Unable or unwilling to publicise its inner motivations in keeping away from Tokyo, the LTTE increased pressure on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to yield on the interim issue. The international community, however, felt that the LTTE�s course of action was inappropriate and that the Tigers should have participated in Tokyo in the interest of the Tamil people. 

With the LTTE defying such opinion, the international community too began flexing its muscles. It became a matter of prestige, particularly for the hosts. A strong signal that the world would not be cowed by Tiger threats had to be sent. 

The congratulatory words of US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage to Japan for not capitulating to LTTE �blackmail� is indicatory of this international mindset. The Tokyo summit, therefore, went ahead in spite of the LTTE boycott. 

The two day sessions resulted in an unprecedented bonanza for Sri Lanka. Earlier it was envisaged that Sri Lanka would get US$ 3 to 3.5 billion for a three year period. The Tokyo conclave went far beyond these expectations. A staggering amount of US$ 4. 5 billion for four years from 2003 to 2006 was pledged. 

It appeared that the donor community wanted to impress upon the LTTE that its absence would not hinder support for the peace process in anyway. Contrary to predictions in the Tiger camp that envisaged aid will decrease because of LTTE non-attendance, the Tokyo summit resulted in a massive increase that left the Sri Lankans jubilantly stunned. 

The generosity displayed by 51 countries and 22 international organisations at Tokyo was not unconditional. Even though the Tiger absence prevented a joint signatorial obligation by both the government and the LTTE the donors did make certain stipulations governing the pledged aid that linked aid to progress in the peace process. 

Special attention was paid to the plight of the north east and recognising the LTTE�s importance in this regard; the door was left open for a Tiger re-entry. These formed part of the Tokyo Declaration and relevant excerpts are as follows: 

�The conference notes that during the past sessions of the peace talks, significant progress was achieved. Donors remind the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE of the importance for both parties to make their utmost efforts to further promote the peace process founded upon the principles reflected in the Oslo Declaration. Donors recognise the urgent need to support the people in the conflict-affected areas of the north and east, and make allocations towards this purpose. 

�With regard to the north and east, priority-setting and project-implementation will take place with the government working in partnership with the LTTE, and with adequate safeguards for the interests of all communities. The conference expects that the government will ensure that the assistance pledged by the donor community to the reconstruction and development of the north and east is utilised specifically for that purpose. 

�The conference also urges the parties to move expeditiously to a lasting and equitable political settlement. Such a settlement should be based upon respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In this regard, the conference looks forward to the parties reaching early agreement on a human rights declaration, as discussed at the sixth session of peace negotiations at Hakone. 

�The conference welcomes the LTTE�s commitment to the negotiated peace process and urges the LTTE to return to the peace talks as soon as possible. The people in the conflict affected areas of the north and east must be able to enjoy the dividends of peace immediately. Manifest commitment by both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to further the peace process will be necessary for the provision of international assistance to the reconstruction and development of the conflict affected areas of the north and east. 

�Assistance by the donor community must be closely linked to substantial and parallel progress in the peace process towards fulfilment of the objectives agreed upon by the parties in Oslo. The conference encourages the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to enter into discussions as early as possible on a provisional administrative structure to manage the reconstruction and development aspects of the transition process.� 

Roadmap with clear milestones 

�The process would need the expeditious development of a roadmap with clear milestones indicating the path towards a mutually acceptable final political solution. With this in view, the international community intends to review and monitor the progress of the peace process closely, with particular reference to objectives and milestones including: 

a. Full compliance with the ceasefire agreement by both parties. 

b. Effective delivery mechanisms relating to development activity in the north and east. 

c. Participation of a Muslim delegation as agreed in the declaration of the fourth session of peace talks in Thailand. 

d. Parallel progress towards a final political settlement based on the principles of the Oslo Declaration. 

e. Solutions for those displaced due to the armed conflict. 

f. Effective promotion and protection of the human rights of all people. 

g. Effective inclusion of gender equity and equality in the peace building, the conflict transformation and the reconstruction process, emphasising an equitable representation of women in political fora and at other decision-making levels. 

h. Implementation of effective measures in accordance with the UNICEF-supported action plan to stop underage recruitment and to facilitate the release of underage recruits and their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. 

i. Rehabilitation of former combatants and civilians in the north and east, who have been disabled physically or psychologically due to the armed conflict. 

j. Agreement by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on a phased, balanced, and verifiable de-escalation, de-militarisation and normalisation process at an appropriate time in the context of arriving at a political settlement.� 

The Tokyo Declaration, therefore, laid down some basic expectations of the donor community as to how the peace process should continue. While the LTTE had escaped being a signatory to specific guarantees, the declaration certainly outlined some behavioural principles. 

The explicit condition that money allocated to the north east should be spent only in those areas and that the government should work in partnership with the LTTE to that purpose was quite favourable to the Tigers. Thus, Colombo too could not ignore the LTTE in utilising aid. Continuous aid depended on the pace of peace, thereby making the LTTE indispensable in sustained procurement. 

Administrative structure 

Wickremesinghe himself announced the government�s decision to install what he termed a �provisional administrative structure� for the north east. He invited the LTTE for direct talks to formulate the structure. This meant that the Tigers could re- enter the process again and determine the modalities of reconstruction and development in the region. A needs assessment study had allocated US$ 1. 38 billion for north eastern utilisation. 

Despite this enticing carrot, the LTTE feared the hidden stick more. After decades of being a law unto themselves, the Tigers were not prepared to accept international dictates in spheres like �human rights for all people; recruitment of underage children as combatants; phased, balanced and verifiable demilitarisation,� etc. 

The Tiger response was swift and brutal. Commenting on the resolutions and declarations adopted by the donor community at the Tokyo conference, the LTTE�s statement said that the document has no binding obligations on the organisation. 

�The LTTE was not involved in the deliberations or in the formulation of these declarations. We have not been consulted on the set of propositions and resolutions enunciated in the Tokyo Declaration. The Colombo government, with the active assistance of the facilitator and its international �tactical allies� has formulated this strategic paper to super-impose its own agenda on the LTTE. This is unacceptable to us,� the LTTE statement said. 

Thus it was patently clear that the LTTE regarded the Tokyo outcome as an exercise in entrapment and an effort to impose conditions on it. It was not prepared to accept those conditions. It was the LTTE�s version of an �aid without strings attached� requirement. 

The Tigers went on to deliver what was perhaps a severe indictment of international involvement. It charged �the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe for complicating the peace process by allowing undue and unwarranted interference by extra territorial forces in the ethnic conflict, which is an internal political affair that has to be resolved by the parties in conflict,� according to the statement. 

LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham in a previous letter to Wickremesinghe had made veiled references to the international factor in Sri Lanka. Now this official LTTE statement was bluntly critical. It accused the Colombo government of conspiring with its international tactical allies in imposing conditions on the LTTE. 

The somewhat uncomplimentary reference to Norway for providing �active assistance� in this enterprise was intriguing. Oslo had become facilitator due to the consent of the then government under President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the LTTE. 

President Kumaratunga has been critical of the Norwegian role in recent times and members of her party had even denigrated the Scandinavians as �salmon eating busybodies.� Now the LTTE too was expressing its disapproval for different reasons. 

This meant that �locus standi� for a Norwegian role in Sri Lanka was diminishing. With the LTTE having announced a temporary suspension of the peace talks, Oslo too had been circumscribed. Norway was present in Tokyo as a delegate nation and not as facilitator. Earlier it was expected to be a co-chair of the conference. Now its role was shrinking further. 

Interestingly enough it was the LTTE that had insisted upon international mediation saying that Tamils could not trust a Sinhala government. Now the Tigers were saying that it �is an internal political affair that has to be resolved by the parties in conflict.� 

This assertion is somewhat reminiscent of the time India was involved directly in Sri Lankan peacemaking. The very same LTTE that said �we love India,� did an about-turn later and described India as an outsider intefering in a dispute between brothers. 

Safety net 

�The compulsions that arose from severe economic and political bankruptcy have compelled the government to seek the ultimate refuge in the so-called �international safety net� to resolve the economic and political crisis of the country. 

�By seeking this �safety net� the Colombo regime has shifted the peace process from third party facilitation to the realm of international arbitration by formidable external forces that has far-reaching consequences to the political and economic destiny of the island,� the LTTE�s statement declared. 

Wickremesinghe had been describing the international role as a �safety net� in a bid to reassure the Sinhala people of the viability of the peace process. This attempt to strengthen the process has seemingly had a counterproductive effect. The LTTE suspects Wickremesinghe as using that net to trap the Tiger. The international safety net was an entrapment device in Tiger eyes. 

Apparently, in Tiger perception, the international dimension was becoming a problem. As long as LTTE�s wishes were fulfilled unconditionally, international �interference� was �good.� The moment it sought to introduce universal standards of human rights and democracy it was �bad.� 

Nothing is wrong with external forces as long as the political and economic destiny of the country is shaped according to Tiger whims and fancies. Any sign of deviation and the tryst with destiny has to be censured and possibly ended. 

The international donor community, pledging massive amounts of aid, was entitled to lay down some conditions. The Tigers, however, were reversing the proverbial saying about �he who pays the piper calls the tune.� 

The LTTE wants the money as well as call the tune. If this is not agreed upon, then international involvement is criticised. With both President Kumaratunga and the LTTE becoming critical of Norway�s facilitatory efforts, the continuing role of Norway as facilitator has become tenuous and questionable. 

In a stinging blow to Wickreme-singhe�s hopes of an early rapprochement, the LTTE reiterated its position that it would �participate in the negotiating process only when the Sri Lankan government puts forward a clearly defined draft framework for an interim administrative structure for the north east.� 


The LTTE also rejected in its statement �the offer made by the Prime Minister, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe of a �provisional administrative structure� within the laws of the land as a re-statement of his previous position with a new terminology.� 

�We are disappointed to note that the Prime Minister�s statement does not offer anything new. The so-called �provisional administrative structure� is the new name given to the apex council proposed by him for development and rejected by us as extremely limited and inadequate,� the LTTE statement said. 

�The Prime Minister has not responded to our call for a draft framework for an innovative and effective politico-administrative structure. Contrary to Mr. Wickremesinghe�s statement to the international donor community, we seriously differ in perception in connection with what the LTTE leadership proposes and what his government offers. While our leadership has proposed an interim administrative framework, a politico-administrative structure for the north east with wider participation of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government has offered a council with a structure and mechanism for the development of the region. The Prime Minister is taking cover behind the laws and constitution of Sri Lanka, which have effectively institutionalised racism against which the Tamil people have been struggling for decades,� the statement observed. 

�Furthermore, the LTTE and Mr. Wickremesinghe�s government also hold starkly divergent views as to the nature of the final political solution to end Sri Lanka�s protracted ethnic conflict. While the Prime Minister envisages piecemeal reforms to the present constitution, the LTTE has proposed a radical transformation of the system of governance in Sri Lanka, through the institutionalisation of a new, secular and equitable constitution which recognises the Tamils� right to self-determination and homeland. It is whilst recognising that this is an impossible task for Mr. Wickremesinghe�s fragile ruling coalition that our organisation proposed the establishment of an interim administration,� the LTTE statement further said. 

If there was any chance earlier that talks could resume on a �re-defined agenda� on setting up an interim administration for the north east, those hopes were dashed by the LTTE statement. Four aspects of LTTE strategy were highlighted in the statement. 

Firstly, the LTTE was not going to rush into any type of discussion to lay its hands on the pledged aid. It wants to ostensibly set up a mechanism beforehand. The government may have been successful in persuading the donor community to pledge money for an exercise in placing the development cart before the conflict resolution horse, but the LTTE was going to insist on a north eastern administrative structure under its full control being set up before financial aid was procured. 

Secondly, the LTTE wanted the framework of Wickremesinghe�s proposed provisional structure to presented in writing. There were two reasons for this. One was that Wickremesinghe�s earlier pre-election promise of an interim structure had been merely conceptual. Later, from a Tiger perspective, he had backtracked. 

Specific outline 

Now the Tigers wanted a specific outline instead of vague intentions. Two, the Tigers know that there are legal and constitutional hurdles to setting up an innovative structure. Written documents would help the LTTE to gauge government opinion better and perhaps suggest improvements and alterations. 

Thirdly, the LTTE wants to emphasise the divergence in perspective between itself and the government. The LTTE sees the interim structure as one having great politico-administrative powers encompassing the north east. 

The government perceives it as a provisional arrangement for rehabilitation and reconstruction needs alone. The Tigers want it to be an extra-constitutional authority. The government envisages it as conforming to the laws of the land. 

Even though Balasingham has said that the Tigers are not seeking an interim administration as an end unto itself, there is no doubt that if the provisional structure is �innovative� enough for the LTTE it would continue with this arrangement for an extremely long period under the guise of �exploring� federalism. 

Fourthly, the LTTE wants to de-link international involvement from the workings of the interim mechanism. Wickremesinghe has set about conceptualising the structure as one spending the money pledged in Tokyo for the north east. This means an enhanced role for the donors in monitoring and indirectly supervising projects. 

It also means the LTTE should adhere to the minimum levels of good governance required. This is anathema to the Tigers. The LTTE, living in a world of its own, wants to use the money without interference. So it is quite particular about the proposed structure and wants to ensure international non-involvement. 

It is against this backdrop, therefore, that the LTTE has issued its recent statement concerning the Tokyo summit. In one stroke it has undermined the success of the Tokyo conference. It has also been daringly defiant of international opinion by asserting its independence towards the Tokyo Declaration. 

By continuing its politics of brinkmanship, the LTTE is hoping to pressure a beleaguered Colombo into granting all that it desires on a platter. It remains to be seen, however, as to whether this dangerous course of action will result in the LTTE gaining its desired ends or lead to a complete collapse of the fragile peace. 


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