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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki) > ISGA entails concepts and structures of final solution

Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)

ISGA entails concepts and structures of final solution

4 August 2004

The peace process has reached an absolute deadlock. But all parties involved in the attempt to make permanent peace in Sri Lanka - the UPFA government, the LTTE, sundry conflict resolution experts and the Norwegians - continue to say nice things. There is no doubt that the ceasefire is there to stay for a while despite the killings, attacks and the renegade factor. But the peace process (if one may still call it so) is at a dead-end.

A critical mass of public opinion across the political spectrum in the south weighs heavily against restarting the talks on the basis of the LTTE's Interim Self Governing Authority proposal. I say a critical mass because neither President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government nor the United National Front is in a position to defy this powerful body of opinion and restart the talks on the basis of the ISGA proposal. (This critical mass of public opinion is now growing intolerant of views that reflect the thinking on the other side of the island's ethnic divide).

The LTTE has clearly stated that there is absolutely no alternative to the ISGA for restarting the talks.

If the Norwegians or any other foreign country that is desirous of getting the peace talks going again entertain illusions that a compromise is still possible between the Tigers and Colombo on the content and agenda for resuming peace talks, then they are making a terrible mistake.

It is futile for anyone to keep harping on fresh confidence building measures between the two sides.

The hacked refrain would be pleasing to the ears of conflict resolution and conflict transformation specialists but the bare fact of the matter is that no confidence building measure is good enough to coax the parties towards a middle ground. No political leader in the south is prepared to risk his/her reputation and career for the sake of restarting the talks on the basis of the ISGA.

The argument that negotiations on ISGA proposal would also include, by necessity, the basic concepts and structures of a permanent political settlement to the ethnic conflict falls on deaf ears.

One does not see anything in the distant horizon that can break the absolute impasse in the peace process today.

The government cannot prevaricate on the ISGA for long. The critical mass of opinion in the south is building up further towards the total rejection of the LTTE's proposal.

The UPFA Government has to be bit more prudent in rejecting the ISGA totally as a blueprint for a separate state (as it did when it was in the opposition) because international opinion would not completely back such a rejection.

If the government of Sri Lanka does not have the full backing of India, the US and the European Union in telling the LTTE once and for all that talks cannot restart on the basis of the ISGA, then it would be a tad difficult to successfully coerce the LTTE, short of waging a full scale war again, to accept a middle ground which would be saleable in the south.

If the ISGA was the zany creation of a reclusive megalomaniac and his 'vernacular' educated henchmen with no parallel or precedent then we could reasonably expect the three blocs that have a say on Sri Lanka's peace process to fully back a firm decision by the UPFA to throw the LTTE proposal into the dustbin.

This is why the LTTE and its legal experts studied the Machakos Protocol in formulating the ISGA. In fact one can see that some basic aspects of the LTTE proposal is modelled on the Machakos Protocol.

The US and its ally UK were principally involved in exerting considerable pressure on the Government of Sudan to make it accept the basic principles of the Protocol. The Norwegians facilitated the talks between the main rebel group demanding the right of self-determination for the non-Muslim people of oil rich South Sudan and the Islamic Government in Khartoum. The European Union and India too were involved in the sidelines of the Sudan peace process that led to the signing of the Machakos Protocol in July 2002.

The international parties that backed the 'Protocol' saw it mainly as the basis for "a negotiated, peaceful, comprehensive resolution to the Sudan Conflict within the Unity of Sudan" (Second Para of the Preamble) although it has a clear provision for holding a referendum at the end of the interim period to decide whether the people of South Sudan wish to remain part of that state or want to secede.

Actually the LTTE and its legal experts have a more compelling preamble to the ISGA for making their case than what the South Sudanese have been able to do despite powerful backing from the US.

International opinion may find it difficult to reject the argument that the ISGA, like the Machakos Protocol, is a good historical opportunity to convince Tamils to remain within a united Sri Lanka.

The following are some relevant portions of the Machakos Protocol:


1.1 That the unity of the Sudan, based on the free will of its people democratic governance, accountability, equality, respect, and justice for all citizens of the Sudan is and shall be the priority of the parties and that it is possible to redress the grievances of the people of South Sudan and to meet their aspirations within such a framework.

1.2 That the people of South Sudan have the right to control and govern affairs in their region and participate equitably in the National Government.

1.3 That the people of South Sudan have the right to self-determination, inter alia, through a referendum to determine their future status.

1.4 That religion, customs, and traditions are a source of moral strength and inspiration for the Sudanese people.

1.5 That the people of the Sudan share a common heritage and aspirations and accordingly agree to work together to:

1.6 Establish a democratic system of governance taking account of the cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic diversity and gender equality of the people of the Sudan.

1.7 Find a comprehensive solution that addresses the economic and social deterioration of Sudan and replaces war not just with peace, but also with social, political and economic justice which respects the fundamental human and political rights of all the Sudanese people.

1.9 Formulate a repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development plan to address the needs of those areas affected by the war and redress the historical imbalances of development and resource allocation.

1.11 Undertake the challenge by finding a framework by which these common objectives can be best realized and expressed for the benefit of all the Sudanese.

2.4.1 The composition of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission shall consist of equal representation from the GOS and the SPLM/A, and not more than two (2) representatives, respectively, from each of the following categories:

1.Member states of the IGAD Sub-Committee on Sudan (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda);

2.Observer States (Italy, Norway, UK, and US); and other countries or regional or international bodies to be agreed upon by the parties.

2.4.2 The Parties shall work with the Commission during the Interim Period with a view to improving the institutions and arrangements created under the Agreement and making the unity of Sudan attractive to the people of South Sudan.

2.5 At the end of the six (6) year interim period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, for the people of South Sudan to: confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for secession."

It is obvious that the LTTE won't budge from its position that the ISGA has to be the basis for restarting talks. It is also evident that the UPFA government won't accept it unqualified. Yet the UPFA cannot think of cutting the Gordian Knot by completely rejecting the ISGA given international attitudes shaped by the Machakos Protocol in recent times.

This deadlock cannot continue for long.



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