Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"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 > Tsunami & Aftermath > Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE sign Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) > Text of Memorandum of Understanding for Establishment of a Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure >  Sri Lanka Government Explains P-TOMS in Statement tabled in Sri Lanka House of Representatives > The United National Party &  P-TOMS - Having it Both Ways? ISGA & the Law - Professor M. Sornarajah > Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga wants joint mechanism amended > Supreme Court Decision on P-TOMS  > Lesson from the Supreme Court Decision on P-TOMS The President  & the Chief Justice - Two Minds with but a Single Thought? -  நான் பேச நினைப்பதெல்லாம் நீ பேச வேண்டும் > Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam

Norwegian Peace Initiative

Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam
at Briefing orgainsed by Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Washington D.C.

27 July 2005

Chairman Davis, Chairman Chabot and Members of Congress:

First of all, let me thank the Human Rights caucus for inviting me to apprise you of the ground situation in the island of Sri Lanka, and particularly the Tamil speaking Northeast of the island, and to share my thoughts with you. I also would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Congressman Davis for visiting the Tsunami affected Tamil areas of the Northeast of Sri Lanka. I am confident that your visit, which enabled you to see first hand the devastation and destruction, would be of immense help in planning and executing relief work. Needless to say, your visit lifted the spirits of our people during this difficult and unfortunate time, especially since your visit came at a time when the Sri Lankan Government was going out of its way to prevent prominent world leaders from visiting the devastated Tamil Northeast.

The Tamil areas of the Northeast sustained approximately two-thirds of the total casualties and over 60% of the destruction on the island. This has created a serious humanitarian crisis for a people who have suffered immensely during the last two decades of war that had already destroyed the entire infrastructure and economy of the region. The little that our people were able to gather for their livelihood during the ceasefire has now been devastated by Mother Nature�s fury. It is this backdrop that makes the impact of the disaster particularly devastating to the Northeast in all respects. The period when the Tsunami hit the island of Sri Lanka was a perilous one. The three years of the peace process provided asymmetrical consequences to the island. Whilst the predominantly Sinhala South enjoyed the peace dividends, the Tamil areas of the Northeast, the area most affected by the war, did not enjoy them. Despite one of the primary objectives of the Ceasefire Agreement signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE was to create conditions of normalcy, three and a half years have lapsed and normalcy remains a very distant dream for the Tamil areas.

- The withdrawal of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces from private property of civilians and public buildings as mandated by the Ceasefire Agreement did not take place. As a result, hundreds of thousands of civilians who are refugees, and are internally displaced have been unable to return to their homes.

- The disarming of Paramilitary Forces as mandated by the Ceasefire Agreement did not take place. On the contrary, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have been protecting and promoting new Paramilitary Forces. This has resulted in killings and grave incidents that are seriously jeopardizing the Ceasefire Agreement, which significantly have all occurred in Government controlled area.

- More than one and a half years have passed since the LTTE submitted proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) to address the urgent humanitarian and existential needs of the people of the Northeast, but the present Government, after coming to power in April 2004 failed to recommence negotiations from the point at which the previous Government left office.

While the previous government, in which the Ambassador was also a member of the negotiating team, agreed to resume the talks on the basis of the LTTE�s proposals for an Interim Self-Governing Authority, the present Government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga failed to do so. All the above contributed to the perception that war was imminent when the Tsunami hit the island.

It should be noted that the ISGA was based on Art 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states the will of the people shall be the authority of the government and the international law principle of effectivity.

As you may be aware, the LTTE is governing 70% of the Northeast with their own police, judiciary, customs, immigration, etc. In the ISGA, the independence of the Judiciary is recognized, the rule of law is enshrined, the human rights are guaranteed, the minority rights are preserved, the role and international and domestic civil society are ensured, and the separation between the state and the religion is assured.

Therefore, it was at a time when there seemed very little hope of the resumption negotiations, and the Ceasefire Agreement itself was becoming increasingly unstable, that Mother Nature�s fury struck. Despite the tremendous human tragedy the Tsunami created, it was hoped that out of the catastrophe something positive could come. The International Community correctly recognized that the Tsunami had created some space for the Government and the LTTE to work together, that was previously nonexistent, on what should have been an apolitical, humanitarian response. It was hoped that Nature�s fury will inspire peace and reconciliation. However, tragically, but not too surprisingly, the six months following the Tsunami has further polarized the parties, and further resulted in the deterioration of the peace process.

When the current additional disaster struck, the LTTE did not delay � with whatever resources it had � men and material � it put a mechanism together at the District level working with government officials, the TRO, UN agencies, INGOs, NGOs, and Members of Parliament based on the very efficient, tried and tested coping systems that had evolved during the 25-year war to deal with similar humanitarian crises, and monitoring the process rigorously. This mechanism was rooted in the local affected community, and gave them ownership to the relief and reconstruction process and was based on the recognition of the link between relief, reconstruction and sustainable growth.

The Government response to the LTTE�s initiative was to take advantage of the situation by militarizing and re-centralizing its control, showing callous disregard to the concept of Conflict Sensitivity. Further, the Paramilitary activities that targeted prominent unarmed LTTE political cadres were increased. Mr. Kausyaln, the head of the LTTE�s Eastern political wing and the Tsunami Eastern Province coordinator�s assassination in an army-controlled areas, is but one of many such incidents.

In this backdrop, coupled with past experiences spread out over the last 50 years, the Tamils were unable to rely on pious pronouncements made by the government, that there would be a just and equitable distribution of all international financial and other assistance in a manner commensurate with the damages suffered by different areas. The international community also recognized the legitimate concerns of the Tamils. In view of the above, the international community proposed that a joint mechanism for the Northeast be created where the Government and the LTTE work together, which would contribute to the creation of a conducive environment for the resumption of the peace process. The result was the Post-Tsunami Operations Management Structure or P-TOMS Agreement, which has the explicit backing of the International Community, including the US Government.

However, the reaction from the Sinhala polity has been sad and shocking. The Sinhala nationalists, led by the JVP, a Marxist radical party, and the JHU, a party of Buddhist monks, vehemently opposed the signing of the Joint Mechanism � a simple administrative machinery to handle relief work in 2 Kilometer area from the sea coast. It brought back the memory in the Tamil psyche, of the repeated breaking of agreements with the Tamils by consecutive Sinhala Governments. Despite over 50 years having passed, more than 60,000 people having died in the twenty-year armed conflict and more than 30,000 people having died as a result of the Tsunami, still the Sinhala Polity�s refusal to share power with the Tamils, remains undiminished.

These Sinhala nationalists resorted to the Supreme Court, which by granting a preliminary injunction against four salient features of the P-TOMS agreement effectively made it defunct. It must be seriously noted that the Sinhala nationalist forces that have been at the forefront in perpetuating Sinhala hegemony over the Tamils, this time resorted to petition the Supreme Court, and cited the Constitution of the Sri Lanka to achieve its goals! And they succeeded!

I would like to take this opportunity to address the constitution of Sri Lanka. The Tamils never participated nor consented to the making of the Sri Lankan Constitutions. The U.S. Declaration of Independence states �� Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.� Every constitution gets its legitimacy only from the people giving their consent. The Tamils did not give their consent to the Sri Lankan constitution. They do not owe their allegiance to the Sri Lankan Constitution. Indeed, the Sri Lankan constitution, which does not provide a political space for the Tamils to articulate their grievances and seek redress is the main cause for the armed conflict. Sovereignty does not reside in an abstraction called the State, but with the people. The Sinhala polity�s fidelity to its Constitution is nothing but a naked attempt to entrench the Sinhala Polity�s hegemony over the Tamils.

Since the last six months, political events in the South have demonstrated yet again that the Sinhala polity neither has the will or the power to engage in a collaborative effort with the Tamils, whether it is to address the urgent needs of the Tsunami victims, or the larger peace process. Instead of negotiating with the LTTE in good faith, the Sinhala Polity continues to do its utmost to undermine and destroy the collective will of the Tamil people. When this is in fact the state of play, it is quintessential that the international community recognize that the peace process is based on the fragile balance of power that should not be altered or tilted in one way or the other.

The question before the international community is �what next�? Accordingly, I strongly urge that the International Community face certain undisputable facts, namely that, there two parallel state structures in the island of Sri Lanka; One under the writ of the Government of Sri Lanka, and the other under the writ of the LTTE.

For the immediate task of Post Tsunami recovery, if the Government of Sri Lanka is unwilling or unable to work with the LTTE governed Northeast administration, as has been amply demonstrated by events, then the international community must seek innovative steps to ensure that the Tsunami victims of the Northeast, including LTTE governed areas, are not deprived. Accordingly, it is strongly urged that the US resolve any legal issues that prevent the US government from directly, equitably and expeditiously providing all forms of assistance to all parts of the Northeast.



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