|On 29th September, the European Union (EU)
in a sternly worded statement announced to the world at large
that delegations from the LTTE would no longer be received in any of
the EU Member States until further notice. In making this
announcement, it linked the LTTE to the murder “of Foreign Minister
Lakshman Kadirgamar and of so many others”.
There was nothing in the statement on the murders of Tamil
journalists, activists, and senior members of the LTTE by
paramilitary forces operating in tandem with the Sri Lankan armed
forces. Nor was there any mention of the non-implementation of
clause 1.8 of the Cease-Fire Agreement, which, had been
identified by the co chairs to the peace as the major impediment to
the peace process. Instead, there was an explicit warning that the
EU was “actively considering the formal Listing of the LTTE as a
The Statement by the EU was clearly meant to be partisan and
designed to leave no doubt as to where it stood in the conflict
between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka.
Until then the EU had appeared and acted in a neutral manner
befitting a facilitator. There were not only visits by LTTE
delegations to EU countries but also a visit by the EU’s Minister
for External Affairs, Mr Chris Patten to the Tamil controlled area,
during which he met the national leader. On these occasions and
others, the LTTE had conveyed to the EU its own point of view on
developments during the peace process, its disappointment with the
collapse of mechanisms to deliver humanitarian relief and its
frustration at the failure to
implement clause 1.8 of the CFA.
The LTTE clearly regarded this access to the international
community as a useful and constructive approach to resolving its
conflict with the Sri Lankan regime. There was hope that despite the
‘power politics’ that was being played out in the South, the
international community could help the Tamil people in their quest
for a just solution.
In July this year, frustrated by the intransigence of the Sinhalese
and pinning their hopes in the international community, Tamils had
called on the international community to help them realise peace
The declaration by a cross section of the Tamil people who had
gathered in the ‘border’ town of Vavunia was specifically directed
at the international community.
The EU travel ban has served to demonstrate the futility of placing
Why then did the EU impose such a ban?
The EU's patently partisan position in imposing this travel ban
appears to have been influenced by one or all of the following:
• The personal and sustained diplomatic attempts of career
diplomats of the calibre of Jayantha Dhanapala (followed by
visits by the Sri Lankan President) seeking measures 'to
pressure the LTTE'. While on the surface, the ban seems to be
the answer to Dhanapala’s assertion in Washington that “The
route of appeasement or the ‘carrot and more carrots’ approach,
have (sic) not worked with the LTTE”, it is unlikely to be the
• The notion that three and a half years of ‘no war, no peace’,
the defection of Karuna, the activities of the paramilitary and
the immense hardship imposed by the tsunami had weakened the
LTTE's resolve. The EU ban in this context can be interpreted as
a further attempt to pressure the LTTE and impose an arrangement
favourable to Government of Sri Lanka.
• The assumption that the Sinhala polity could be weaned away
from the 'extremist' Sinhala chauvinists by enabling the
'moderate' Ranil Wickramasinghe to claim that the EU ban to be
the 'safety net' that he had sought.
What then are the immediate and potential consequences of the EU
First and foremost, the EU travel ban has effectively destroyed the
LTTE’s capacity to negotiate with the Sri Lankan regime as an equal.
And not being an equal the LTTE is constrained in its capacity to
negotiate. Nelson Mandela’s observation that “Only free men can
negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts” aptly reflects the
Secondly, it has made the Tamil people realise that their faith in
the International Community was misplaced and that the situation is
not unlike the one they faced when the Indian Government turned on
Thirdly, it has strengthened the hand of those Sinhalese opposed to
any kind of political power sharing with the Tamil people. In its
Statement on the EU Ban, the
Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations had this to say
“The obvious glee with which the Sinhala media responded to
the travel ban is a clear indicator that the Sinhala polity
regards the EU as not being opposed to a military solution
anymore and the GoSL is free to pursue its own agenda.
Influential sections of the Sinhala owned media have referred to
the EU Declaration as a “slap in the face” to Norway and an
“ultimatum” to the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement. What is
worse, they see the Declaration as virtual support for the Sri
Lankan government’s non-implementation of key provisions of the
February 2002 Cease Fire Agreement”
The belated attempt on 4, October by the British High Commission
on behalf of European Union in its capacity as the Chair of the EU
that such an interpretation was 'false and misleading' is unlikely
to have any effect on the Sinhala polity.
The Sinhala ultra nationalists who control the Sri Lankan armed
forces can only be emboldened by the EU's action which was announced
in the wake of an
unprecedented increase in the defence budget to US$700m.
In combination, the EU ban does not augur too well for negotiations
to take place. Instead, it can encourage the Sinhala nationalists to
resume their attempts to impose a military solution and the LTTE to
regain its equality by thwarting this attempt.