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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative Geneva Talks & After > Neither party can win militarily, says SLMM Head Gen. Henricsson

Neither party can win militarily
says SLMM Head Gen. Henricsson

Sri Lanka Sunday Leader
14 May 2006

SLMM Head of Mission, Ulf Henricsson says that while the recent escalation of violence in the north and east had plunged the country towards the brink of war, it was time both the government and the LTTE returned to the negotiating table in order to end the killings in the north and east.

Henricsson says while both the government and the LTTE do not have the capacity to win a full scale war, both parties were equally responsible for the recent spate of attacks due to which hundreds had already lost their lives.

"In my own experience a military solution at this point is viable, but right now the LTTE does not have the capacity to win over the government and the government does not have the capacity to win over the LTTE. That is why the country is in this situation today," he said in an interview withThe Sunday Leader. Following are excerpts;

Q: How does the SLMM view the latest escalation of violence in the north and east?

A: The SLMM is deeply concerned over the negative developments in the peace process and we have repeatedly condemned all attacks in the north and east. Both the government and the LTTE are not innocent because it takes two to tango.

I do not see any military solution to this conflict. If there was a solution we would have seen it during the 20 years of fighting. Both parties have achieved nothing to date and only the government and the LTTE can explain the cause behind these recent attacks.

I do not know why both parties are involved in violence at a time when they should be seated at the negotiating table discussing a permanent peaceful solution.

The ongoing situation is extremely bad because it is the civilians who suffer the most. Therefore both parties must come back to the negotiating table without delay.

Q: There was an exchange of letters between your predecessor Hagrup Haukland and the Norwegian facilitators where Haukland accused Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse of making a highly controversial and explosive statement in relation to the peace process and the CFA. This was regarding a statement made by Haukland that the GoSL does not have the capacity to win a war against the LTTE. Do you agree with that?

A: Yes, I agree with this. If the government had the capacity why haven’t they fixed a victory? If the government had the capacity we would have already seen that capacity acting. In my own experience a military solution at this point is viable, but right now the LTTE does not have the capacity to win over the government and the government does not have the capacity to win over the LTTE. That is why the country is in this situation today.

Q: It transpired in the media that the controversial statement made by the Defence Secretary was that the army could win the war with the help of Karuna – a statement the Defence Secretary denied he made. Do you stand by your predecessor’s assertion on this issue?

A: Well I cannot remember if Mr. Rajapakse made such a statement but to me it is quite clear that the Karuna faction is operating from government controlled lands.

The Karuna faction is now involved in military operations in many parts of the island and it is very surprising if the government is against this situation as we have two enemies who are fighting against each other. It is only obvious that the government likes the Karuna faction and LTTE fighting against each other and it is also obvious that it will support it.

Q: There are some unconfirmed reports that the Co-Chairs will withdraw from the Tokyo and Oslo Declarations if both the GoSL and the LTTE do not get their act together and show commitment to the peace process. How accurate are these reports?

A: I do not know as this can only be answered by the Co-Chairs themselves.

Q: How do you view the alleged large movement of troops to Forward Defence Lines in the light of the peace process?

A: I see this only as a temporary exercise because as I said earlier I do not think the government has the capacity to fight a full scale war. The Sri Lanka Army is too badly trained for it and the motivation is too low.

Taking into consideration the daily attacks on both the LTTE and the government in the war affected areas and the thousands of civilians who are fleeing their homes in fear, the movement of troops along the Forward Defence Lines will only worsen the situation and this is a definite negative point to the peace process.

Q: In an interview to the state media you have said the security forces will have a lot of problems if they were to try to disarm the Karuna faction. What do you mean?

A: Taking into consideration the present attacks, I think the Karuna faction is well trained and they definitely do not want to be disarmed. There is a very high risk involved in disarming the Karuna faction and if the security forces were to do that, it will definitely cause a lot of trouble. I also have my doubts whether the government wants to disarm the Karuna faction at all.

Q: You also refered to Machiavellian tactics. Obviously then you believe that the Karuna faction is being aided and abetted by the government?

A: The Machiavellian tactics were written in the sixth century. Therefore, I do not know if these tactics can be put into practice at this present time.

However, we have strong indications that the Karuna faction is operating from government controlled areas and sometimes supported by the security forces. If you see a member of the Karuna faction walking into a Sri Lanka Army camp, then this is a very strong indication that both these parties are operating together. There are no two words about it.

Q: Is the SLMM monitoring the increasing attacks on civilians to your satisfaction?

A: No, definitely not. The biggest problem faced by the SLMM is that we only have 60 members who cover the entire north and east of Sri Lanka. Therefore, we cannot monitor all incidents which take place. Taking into consideration the increased number of attacks in the north and east, it is not humanly possible to cover all incidents with only 60 members.

However, the SLMM is trying its best to monitor all what we can and we are also trying our best to investigate all the complaints lodged to us by the government, LTTE and the civilians. However, with such few members, the SLMM is facing a huge problem mainly because many are under the impression that the SLMM is a peace keeping force.

We are not. The peace keeping should be done by the two parties. Our job is only to monitor and investigate into the complaints lodged by the parties and individuals and facilitate talks between the government and the LTTE. This is the task of the SLMM according to the Cease Fire Agreement.

The role played by the Norwegian facilitators is also very different to the role played by the SLMM as many times people think the facilitators and the SLMM do the same job. The Norwegian facilitators do not give me any orders as I am the head of an independent organization. Of course at times, the facilitators and I discuss the present crisis in the country, but that does not mean the SLMM and Norwegian facilitators play similar roles.

Q: How safe are the SLMM members in the violence prone areas?

A: Nobody is safe in a conflict area. However, I hope the SLMM is not the main target of the LTTE and the government.

What happened in last week’s incident was that army mortar fire was targeted at an LTTE bunker. However, this is a complete violation of the Cease Fire Agreement. My monitors were never at risk as the shelling was far away. I cannot comment on it much as I do not know what exactly happened. All I have heard is that there was bad communication between the army commander and his troops. I am awaiting a report from my monitors on this incident.

Up to now both the government and the LTTE have respected the SLMM cars whenever they pass the conflict affected areas. Our monitors have passed dangerous routes and they have not been harmed by either party. I hope this will continue.

Q: It is alleged that the SLMM visited the site where the bodies of the eight persons allegedly slain in the Seerani temple in Manthuvil were sighted, only 30 hours after notification. The SLMM then reported they saw no bodies. Do you think this is satisfactory and what is the truth behind this?

A: I do not know the truth behind this as we are not the ones conducting the investigations. We only conduct inquiries into what has been told to us and when my monitors visited the temple, we saw no signs of any killings. All we saw were some rifles, a few T-56 guns and a little blood splattered in the area. When my monitors visited the area the police were already present, investigating the crime. However, according to our observations, the whole scene was planted as we have not found any bodies and we do not believe any killings ever took place. Before we can confirm that the civilians were killed we need to find the bodies in order to conduct a full scale investigation.

When the SLMM investigates into an incident we need thorough information and accurate facts before we can make any conclusions.

Q: You have also said in your interview to the state media that if Karuna disarms, they would fall prey to the LTTE. You add that it would also be suicidal if Karuna now operates from LTTE controlled lands. Are you hinting that the Karuna faction is currently in some safe haven?

A: We are indicating that the Karuna faction is staying in government controlled lands and if they are disarmed then it is obvious that the situation will not be very safe because the LTTE wants to get rid of them. We have seen this in the recent clashes between the Karuna faction and the LTTE. If the Karuna faction is to operate from LTTE controlled lands then it will be suicidal because both parties want to get rid of each other. Last week’s clashes between the Karuna faction and the LTTE proved this.

Q: You say to achieve peace you must make bold compromises. What kind of compromises do you mean in the Sri Lankan context?

A: It is up to the parties to decide what compromises they are going to make as I am not the one dictating peace. All peace processes require bold compromises and firstly, both parties must agree on equal rights for all ethnic groups. This is a basic step to achieve lasting peace in the country. They also need to sort out other basic issues such as the terms of law and order for everyone.

It is very important that everybody is treated in the same manner by the police because currently there are many complaints against the inefficient and badly trained police personnel.

The government needs to improve its security forces and both parties must also come to some sort of an agreement and give the Tamils some sort of self governance. This is extremely important if both parties want peace in the country.




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