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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Interim Self Governing Authority & Aftermath > We are awaiting the announcement from Norway says LTTE
We are awaiting the announcement from Norway,
the delay is on the part of Sri Lanka government
Sri Lanka Sunday Leader, 23 May 2004
LTTE Political Wing Leader, S.P. Tamilselvan says the Tigers will not consider a constituent assembly. "We do not know how far the President is going to be successful in that - in consolidating forces, but it is not very much material to the Tamil side because what matters most importantly to the Tamil people is the aspirations of the Tamil people first. And also the immediate requirements of the Tamil policy - the Tamil people to have in place an effective and practically a pragmatic mechanism that can cater to the needs of the reconstruction, rehabilitation and refugees, which are all humanitarian needs," he told The Sunday Leader in an interview.
Following are excerpts;
Q: There were various statements issued by Anton Balasingham as well as Norwegians with regards to the peace process on the Sri Lankan government's response. Can you give us a brief overview as to what the latest situation is with the resumption of the peace talks?
A: The Norwegians having met the government side came to the Wanni and met with the Tamil national Leader, Mr. Velupllai Pirapaharan and had indepth discussions on the matter. And in our discussions we found that there is satisfactory consensus on the various aspects of the peace talks and we have expressed our views on that and are awaiting a response from the government which would be conveyed to the Norwegian facilitators.
Through many facts of the negotiations and the peace talks are to a certain extent satisfactory, as regards consensus, we yet remain to see what the final announcement of the government is going to be - which we believe the Royal Norwegian facilitators will be able to spell out as soon as they get if from the government. We are waiting for that response.
Q: Some of the preliminary issues raised by the LTTE such as the recognition of the LTTE as sole representative of the Tamils and the resumption of peace talks should be a continuing process from where it was stopped at the last time and as such should be based on the interim self administration proposals - now has the government of Sri Lanka and President Kumaratunga accepted these two issues in principle?
A: Yes. Most certainly on those two preliminary aspects the government appears to have reached a consensus and accepted the position - that the Liberation Tigers are the sole and authentic representative of the Tamil people and the interim administration proposal submitted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on October 31 last year definitely forms the basis of future discussions. To commence with or rather recommence and having said that we must correct one position - that is - it is not the liberation Tiger's sole prerogative that the interim administration proposal should be the basis of negotiation.
These interim administration proposals have been formulated with sufficient consultation with the civilian lay society and the Tamil people's participation was fully envisaged. And at the same time Tamil people as a whole have exercised their franchise in the most democratic manner in the last elections. And said in very clear loud tone that the Liberation Tigers are their representatives.
It is the Liberation Tigers who will be the party to negotiate with the government of Sri Lanka. It is the interim administrative proposal put forward by the Liberation Tigers Organisation on behalf of the Tamil people that will form the basis of future discussions. So this has been ratified by the people and therefore it is the people's wish that the Liberation Tigers negotiate with the government of Sri Lanka.
As regards the position of the government the Royal Norwegian facilitator have very clearly said that there is agreement on the part of the Executive President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, and final touches on it are underway. When we say final touches it probably refers to some procedural arrangements or modalities to recommence the negotiations. That probably may take sometime and we believe the delay is because the final touches are to be given by the government and once that is given by the government the facilitators are to inform us and then we are hopeful that we can recommence peace talks at a very early time.
Q: Don't you see an ironic situation here because you are taking moral high ground that the Tamil people have almost unanimously endorsed the setting up of the interim administration. The civic groups, various experts internationally have come together to draft these proposals and given the LTTE the mandate of carrying it forward. Now that is the moral high ground you are taking. On the other hand you are going to negotiate with a party that got a mandate from the people to do just the opposite. They said in their manifesto they will not recognise the LTTE as the sole representative - they will not consider the interim administration proposals as a basis for negotiations. In fact the Foreign Minister just a few days ago in Washington said the very same thing. He said that this is the basis for a separate state - no sovereign nation could accept these proposals. Don't you find that the moral high ground that you are taking is being eroded by the partner with whom you are going to negotiate because they are taking away that moral high ground by going against the mandate of the people?
A: We are conscious of the ironical contradictions that you have mentioned. Yes there are contradictions. This government is composed of elements that are diametrically opposed to each other on various issues. Diametrically opposed to issues connected with the national problem.
And we are also conscious of the fact that the recent pronouncements made by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lakshman Kadirgamar go very much against the sentiments expressed by Her Excellency the President of Sri Lanka. But as a responsible organisation representing the Tamil people, our main concern is the overwhelming mandate the people give the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to take forward the peace process with commitment and sincerity. And for that purpose we have on board the ceasefire agreement and a facilitator and the international community.
Now we understand from the facilitators that Her Excellency the President of Sri Lanka is genuinely and sincerely interested in the peace process and her pronouncements made known to us, through the facilitators are such that make us believe that we have to stick on to the pronouncements conveyed to us through the facilitators by President of Sri Lanka as the right statements and right position of the government. Politicians, whether they be responsible or otherwise may say many things and if we got to take all that into account and decide on our future progress of the negotiations it may not be very helpful. So the official position is conveyed to us through the Norwegian facilitators from the President of this country. In that position we are satisfied that there is bona fide stance on the part of the Executive President.
Q: Now you said that you are expecting a response from the government to the proposals that you have made through the Norwegians and an announcement is expected shortly. Anton Balasingham said the announcement was expected in a day or two. But now several days have gone and an announcement has still not been made. What is the response that you are expecting from the government? Are you expecting a written statement from the government outlining its position to clarify what its exact position is with regard to resuming the peace process because these inherent contradictions within the ruling alliance?
A: We cannot definitely point out any particular reason why there is a delay but our position was made very much clear to the Norwegian facilitators and who understanding the various aspects of our position have also expressed our position to the government, to the President very clearly and are probably expecting a final reply from the government of Sri Lanka, especially from the President of Sri Lanka.
The reason why there is a delay we do not know, but we can presume as you rightly pointed out since the government is composed of various elements, various forces who are sometimes opposed to each other in different positions. In that sense maybe Her Excellency the President may not be in a position to consolidate the opposition forces for peace talks and is in the process of consolidating the element, we do not know. But the assurance given by the Norwegian facilitators that it will lobby with the President and in course of time come out with a statement or response to us conveyed in such a form that the governments position is this and therefore the re commencement can take place now.
So we can only wait for that position now. But our wish is not only the President but everybody who is interested in the resolution of this national problem should endeavour to sink differences and consolidate the positive forces and make the re-commencement of the negotiations a quick one, a successful one. So if all of us consolidate our forces we wll be able to make this a reality.
Q: So going by the statements made by the LTTE the impression one would get is that the LTTE wants to start the talks as early as possible. It is ready to start talks straight away but the delay is on the side of the government for it to make its response to start the process?
A: Yes. Certainly the delay is now on the part of the government. But once the decision is made on the government level and conveyed to us by the facilitators we will immediately proceed with taking the next steps of moving forward, the fixing of location, time, venue and all that. And then as you rightly mentioned, we are prepared to recommence negotiations at any time the government notifies us.
Q: Now this raises a serious question in my mind as well as certainly it will raise in the public mind as to the reason for the delay because the government has accepted the four major issues which they agitated against while in opposition. For example, the President has now agreed to accept the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils. The President has agreed to start the talks on the basis of the interim administration proposals. The President has accepted Norwegian facilitation and the President has also agreed to conduct talks outside the country in addition to which the President has also said she will honour the cease-fire agreement without any amendment what-so-ever. Now if the President has agreed to all these five provisions they agitated against, what more is there for her to consider which is causing the delay?
A: According to what was conveyed to us through the Norwegian facilitators, we are made to understand that her excellency the President has expressed agreement on the four aspects that you mentioned but the Royal Norwegian facilitators who have met the Liberation Tigers twice including the one meeting with the national Leader, Mr. Velupillai Pirapaharan and in those meetings we have expressed to them very clearly our position and they have also conveyed the same to the government side. Probably the delay maybe due to the procedural arrangements.
Modalities on hearing from the government the final word and official communiqu‚ is the element that is absent at the moment. Though in principle the President has expressed her agreement the official communiqu‚ has to come of course from the facilitators. And we are waiting for that.
Q: So you are waiting for the President to officially communicate to the facilitators these agreements she has communicated to you through them?
A: Norway is to prepare a statement based on the consensus and the agreement reached between the parties - agreed upon mutually between the parties and formulate it into an official statement which will spell out the location, the time and whether Norway to decide the conducive atmosphere has already been created fully for the negotiations to re-commence. So that official position has to come from Norway.
Q: Does that mean that notwithstanding the inherent contradictions within the government over policy with regard to recognising the LTTE as the sole representative, negotiations to be based on the ISGA proposal, acceptance of the provisions of the MoU which the JVP for example has opposed, notwithstanding all that once this statement is issued the LTTE will take it as an official position of the government and not part of the government, in other words, the whole government will be bound by that agreement and not only a part of the government?
A: The official assurances conveyed to us by the Norwegian facilitators as that of the government of Sri Lanka or the Executive President of Sri Lanka would be; the decision making times for us to start the procedures that we need to put in place preliminarily for the re-commencement of the negotiations.
When we say preliminary arrangements it is mostly concerned with: first we had the constitutional experts, the legal experts, and the Tamil diaspora who participated in the drafting of the ISGA proposals. Now there is a necessity for us to first re-convene the very same academics, intellectuals and legal experts, have a final discussion on the procedures that have to be adopted as regards the discussion of the ISGA proposals in consultation with the Tamil National Alliance members of parliament. So these are the steps we need to put in place before we actually enter into the re-commencement process. So that may also take a little bit of time. But then the official announcement of the Royal Norwegian facilitators will make us move onto the next step of re-commencement of negotiations.
Q: Now apart from the contradictory statements made by Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, the SLFP itself as a party - the President as the leader of the party - issued a very critical statement against the ISGA proposals of the LTTE saying that they cannot be even considered. It said that especially with regard to issues concerning the coastal areas and a number of other issues that it cannot even consider them. There is no reference to an auditor general, so on and so forth on a wide range of issues. Now how prepared is the LTTE to whittle down its proposals to reach a compromise?
A: According to the dictates of our conscience, or to put it in a different way, the Tamil conscience, the ISGA proposals constitute pragmatic and realistically based issues. It addresses urgent humanitarian problems relating to war devastated landmarks. The inputs were from intellectuals, experts in international law and people with sufficient experience in conflict resolution, in the various locations of the group. And therefore also taking into consideration the ground realities pertaining to the situation prevailing here and the necessity to upgrade it to a level of building confidence in the minds of the people, they have been formulated.
And it is therefore considering that, by conscientious study of our interim administration proposal will make any sensible person not think about rectifying it. And the President, according to reliable information that has come to us through the facilitators, in principle has agreed that discussions may commence on the proposals. So it is not prudent and appropriate for us to comment on how best we can whittle it down or dilute it or whatever before the commencement of discussions on the subject.
Q: Let us assume for the sake of argument that there is a compromise and both the government and the LTTE agree on the interim administration. Do you then expect it to be introduced outside the present constitution or through a constitutional amendment to the existing constitution with a two thirds majority?
A: The concept of an internal interim administration for the north east is based purely on the premise that the final resolution of the national conflict cannot be resolved within the parameters of the existing constitution and therefore the necessity arose to introduce a mechanism that can in the interim cater to the urgent humanitarian needs of a nation, of our people. If the interim administration's internal self governing authority itself becomes an instrument that meets the rectification through the normal course of constitutional arrangement, then the national problem cannot be resolved at any time because the major constraint in the resolution of the conflict is the constitution itself.
And one must also be conscious of the fact that making a constitution more appropriate to the Sri Lankan nation for a just and fair society definitely needs the final resolution, during which time the amendment to the constitution maybe affected. So the humanitarian problem the Tamil people face cannot wait till that.
Therefore again the necessity arose for us to submit an interim administration proposal. Now if the government in power thinks that it can understand the seriousness of the problem, understand the legal implications involved in the amendment of the constitution, understand the lack of capacity, the incapacity of the government to bring about the official legislation to charge the constitution with the available majority - the government of course has to find ways and means of meeting this requirement and provide for an interim arrangement not within the constitution but maybe outside the constitution as an interim arrangement and wait for the final amendment of the constitution to meet the needs of the periphery at a later date.
Q: In that context how do you see the President's move of trying to rush through the constituent assembly at this time to amend the constitution to abolish the executive presidency and change the electoral system without addressing the issue of the Tamils?
A: We are conscious of the fact that the government, the incumbent government does not have the sufficient majority to bring about amendments with the two third majority necessary to change the constitution. At the same time we are also conscious of the fact it is only in the lack of such a premise that it necessitated the Tamil people also to put forward a proposal to go outside the constitution and institute an interim self governing authority.
Whether the President will be successful in consolidating a opposition forces to make her individual attempts, the purpose to change the constitution, to accommodate an executive prime minister in the Westminster style as against the executive president style is the question.
We do not know how far the President is going to be successful in that - in consolidating forces, but it is not very much material to the Tamil side because what matters most importantly to the Tamil people is the aspirations of the Tamil people first. And also the immediate requirements of the Tamil policy, the Tamil people to have in place an effective and practically a pragmatic mechanism that can cater to the needs of the reconstruction, rehabilitation and refugees, which are almost all humanitarian needs. For that purpose the government has to take action to institutionalise it.
Whether the government is able to marshal its support to bring about changes in the constitution only to accommodate the wishes of a single individual or not is not a motive of serious concern for us at this stage. Because we consider this stage as the most important stage to bring about the interim administration so that we can proceed with the final resolution.
Q: But should not it be a matter of serious concern for you, because if any government can change a constitution without even a simple majority, without even 50% of the vote, then what assurance and what guarantee do you have that any settlement reached with the LTTE cannot be similarly thrown out by a future government with a similar mandate?
A: We see this only as an attempt by an individual or an entity to bring about a change which as suggested by you runs contrary to accepted norms and will infringe on the rights of the Tamil people, even if a solution is found so on and so forth. When we see an attempt being taken by an individual we don't see the prospects of how best the entity can garner the support of the legislators to give effect to it.
Since we are concentrating more on the welfare of the Tamil people and the re-starting of normal life for the Tamil people we will at the moment concentrate on the interim proposal and at the appropriate time when this matter comes up for discussion and voting, of course, at that stage we may have to seriously think about it. In the backdrop of the facts that you mentioned these are matters that concern the Tamil people.
At that stage we will consider it appropriate to decide on the course of action that we as a responsible leadership have to take at the time. But at the moment it is not prudent . It is not appropriate for us to comment on just some attempts being taken by an individual or an entity.
Q: Now that the President has agreed to honour the ceasefire agreement to the letter without any change, without any amendment, how soon would the LTTE expect the President who is also the Defence Minister to agree to allow the displaced people to return to their homes, which are within the high security zones?
A: Her Excellency the President indicated the fact that she accepts the ceasefire agreement in total - necessarily means that all what is said in the ceasefire agreement relating to normalcy which includes re-settlement. We are convinced that the President accepts it. She definitely must take positive steps to make arrangements for the resettlement of the people. We consider displacement, internal displacement and the re settlements as very serious humanitarian problems.
If the humanitarian problems are not accepted immediately we are definitely not fulfilling all the salient features - salient promises or rather the promises made in the ceasefire agreement as regards normalcy in civilian life.
So if the President respects the ceasefire agreement, naturally it boils down to the fact that she has to not only as Defence Minister but also as President, and the one who respects the ceasefire agreement, put in place arrangements to ensure that the resettlement takes place immediately, notwithstanding the fact that the high security zone is a contentious issue, that has to be resolved immediately and we will endeavour to bring home the fact that this is a very serious issue, a humanitarian issue and that has to be resolved quickly