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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2706

Gareth Evans’ (ICG) Declaration is aimed at Safeguarding the Tamil Tiger Terrorists ?

By Mahinda Gunasekera - President, Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada

Gareth Evans, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group delivering the Eighth Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture in Colombo, spoke at length on the ‘Limits of State Sovereignty: The Responsibility To Protection In The 21st Century’ on July 29, 2007. In analysing the substance of his speech, we find he is ‘wishy, washy and iffy’ in his attempt to make a case for international intervention in Sri Lanka, which is currently getting the upper-hand in the battle with the internationally designated terrorist group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), that has carried on an armed insurrection for the past 24 years to establish a mono-ethnic racist break-away Tamil separate state in the tiny island of Sri Lanka, which is roughly 1/16th the size of Ontario.

At a time when the world has given the highest priority to rooting out terrorism following the 9/11 attacks in the USA, and the 2001 UN Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism, we find that the western powers focused all their attention on combating the Al Qaeda and other Arab terrorist groups that were considered a threat to their own interests. They allowed the LTTE to operate with impunity within their jurisdictions cultivating politicians in exchange for campaign funds and votes of the Tamil diaspora, thereby discounting the unceasing turmoil, bloodshed and destruction caused by the Tamil Tiger Terrorists to Sri Lanka’s institutions of governance and the civilian population from all the ethnic communities. Measures have only been taken recently by the US, UK, Canada, EU and Australia to prevent the LTTE’s fundraising and arms procurement activities, but such steps have not made any serious dent as Jane’s Intelligence reports that the LTTE rakes in round $300 million a year, which would make major corporations envious of such bottom-line numbers. While these half measures are being implemented at a fairly low priority, countries such as Norway continue to provide banking facilities and funds to these terrorists with whom they maintain close ties.

India which signed a Pancha Seela Pact on Non-Interference in Bandung, trained, armed and funded the LTTE in the 1980’s to destabilize Sri Lanka, as she felt that her tiny neighbor was developing ties with the USA. When Sri Lanka’s forces were in the process of defeating the Indian trained Tamil militants in 1987, she threatened to intervene militarily in Sri Lanka, imposed her unpopular solution of creating Provincial Councils with a merged north-east unit to be controlled by the Tamils, and later withdrew her troops in 1990 having failed to disarm the marauding tiger that promised to lay down their weapons within 72 hours of the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. India thereon banned the LTTE, but still provides a porous border for smuggling of explosives and weapons for the Tigers via Tamil Nadu in South India.

Mr. Evans has labored to define what is meant by the Right to Protection (R2P) as “Protecting men, women and children from large-scale killing, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – either occurring now, or imminently feared likely to occur,” without giving the basis on which such potential situations are to be assessed. Going by his own examples involving large-scale atrocity crimes as in Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, or Kosovo where genocidal attacks took place, he himself admits it is not possible to place Sri Lanka in that category. He is aware that many Tamils including leaders of the calibre of Neelan Tiruchelvam, Lakshman Kadirgamar and others have been killed by the Tamil Tigers, with yet others being threatened, extorted and tortured by these terrorists. Clear cases of ethnic cleansing are the eviction of the 27000 Sinhalese from the north in the 1970’s and the forced removal of 90000 Muslims residents of the north with only 24 hours notice in 1990 by the LTTE.

Mr. Evans admits there is a need to forcefully deal with the LTTE. He states “Sri Lanka’s conflict presents a particularly difficult situation for would-be peacemakers in part because the very real difficulty of containing and taming the LTTE. Given the deliberately provocative manner in which the Tigers attacked the government forces in late 2005 and early 2006, and given their past willingness to target civilians and the brutal nature of their rule in the north, the government clearly has legitimate security concerns to which it must respond”. The LTTE continues to target civilians using claymore mines and bombs in public places and public transit, and have even attempted to move two trucks with over 1000 kg of explosives concealed in each to population centres in the south which were luckily detected en-route to their intended blasting sites.

The crisis expert with no military background further states that it is highly unlikely that the Tigers can be defeated militarily. Unlike in the east where the government forces were able to defeat the LTTE and take over the terrain with minimum casualties, he expresses the opinion that extending the war to the Tiger stronghold in the northern Vanni will have a devastating impact on civilians, giving rise to a R2P situation which demands preventive action in the first instance by the Sri Lankan government with possible military intervention by the international community to ensure their safety. Does he want the Sri Lankan government to stop military action against the LTTE despite legitimate security concerns which he himself drew attention to, and continue to allow this canker of terrorism to grow and spread with the associated bloodshed and turmoil which she has endured for over 25 years? Just as the Sri Lankan forces contained the casualties in their eastern maneuvers to record low numbers, and are currently re-settling the temporarily displaced civilians in de-mined villages speedily, giving them freedom and a chance to lead normal lives having been freed from the clutches of the ruthless LTTE, they will act with similar concern and skill to safeguard the civilians in the Vanni living under the jackboot of the LTTE, who along with the Tiger cadres are being fed and looked after by the government even at the present time.

Mr. Evans’ logic is difficult to understand when he says military action against the LTTE is permissible provided a package of political and constitutional reforms that appeal to non-separatist Tamils and non-LTTE parties are arrived at the All Party Conference (APC) initiated by the government. It is apparent that Mr. Evans’ realizes that the LTTE is not amenable to a negotiated settlement, as they have only used the numerous attempts to talk peace during the past 20 years to buy time to re-arm themselves and resume hostilities in pursuit of their goal of a mono-ethnic racist Tamil separate state. We wish to point out that whatever reform package is to be determined by the All Party Conference should not only appeal to the Tamil parties drawn up on communal lines, but should also be acceptable to the Sinhalese who form the majority community.

We are aware that the international community, the INGOs and foreign funded NGOs have been using their ample funds to campaign for a federal system of governance, seeking extensive devolution of powers to an area encompassing the north and east mistakenly being described by them as “Tamil areas”, ignoring the fact that a larger percentage of Tamils have chosen to live outside this region in mixed ethnic surroundings. The latter group are unlikely to uproot themselves and move over to the so called “Tamil areas” to enjoy the expected security and freedom which is currently being denied to the existing residents of the Vanni by their self-declared sole representative, the LTTE. Furthermore, in surveys carried out by these very same NGOs, they have become aware that the vast majority of the people are not in favour of a federal set-up, as it is seen as a stepping stone to separation for which the Tamils have waged war including suicide terrorism for almost 25 years. Such an eventuality could give rise to a real R2P situation as witnessed at the time of the partition of India in 1947.

We for our part have proposed to the APC to grant of the fullest possible devolution at the district level combined with a sharing of appropriate powers at the centre, where the minorities will play a participatory role in the day to day governance, planning and future development of the common homeland as equal citizens within a unitary set-up, which best suits the needs of the constituent communities. We are left to conclude that pressure being applied on Sri Lanka by the UK and their All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, West Germany, USA, Norway and yet others in the international community, to withhold promised aid or stop humanitarian aid, along with moves by the ICG, INGOs and foreign funded NGOs is nothing but an attempt to sustain the Tamil Tiger Terrorists and provide space for the cornered Tiger to re-emerge and unleash its fury in order to keep Sri Lanka in a constant state of imbalance and insecurity. Solutions prescribed by foreign governments or that decided by the APC cannot be implemented without the approval of the people, who alone are vested with that authority by the constitution.

Mahinda Gunasekera,
Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada.

Copy to: Mr. Gareth Evans, President & CEO, ICG, Brussels (By facsimile)

- Asian Tribune -

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