Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2678

LTTE’s claim to sea and airspace rejected by the Peace Secretariat

The Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), headed by Dr. Palitha Kohona, former head of UN Treaty Section, has dismissed the claim of the LTTE that they have the right to access the adjacent sea and airspace of areas controlled by them as “irrelevant and fallacious.” Earlier, the European-led Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) too ruled that the sovereign right to access the sea belong to the Sri Lankan government.

The LTTE, after withdrawing from the naval battle off the cost of Jaffna, then issued a statement saying: "We entered into the Peace Process based on the status quo achieved in the battlefield in our country. Nobody has the right to pass judgment on the sovereign rights of our access to the adjacent sea and airspace of our homeland." He further adds that the “ceasefire and the entire peace process between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is a process based on parity of status and military power balance.

In its latest press release SCOPP rebutted this claim of the LTTE. SCOPP said: “With regard to the claim of sovereignty over the sea, the assertion of sovereign rights, jurisdiction or any form of sovereign control over maritime zones is an essential attribute of a State and accordingly such rights can be asserted only by States under International Law. No entity could assert such rights unless recognised as a State entity. A unilateral assertion by an entity of attributes of statehood does not confer on such entity any legal status.

The LTTE’s perception of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) is also clearly flawed. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), which is the sole authority to make rulings on the CFA, made a categorical ruling following the Sea Tigers attack on ‘Pearl Cruiser’, that, “it’s very clear that the Sea Tigers have no rights at sea – we have ruled it here in this mission that this is a government-controlled area, because non-state actors cannot control sea and open waters, so this is a very, very serious ceasefire violation.

The mere fact that the LTTE has a de facto naval capability, does not give it any legitimacy whether under international law or under the Sri Lankan Constitution. Similar naval capacities of other sub-state entities have never been recognized by the international community.

As regards LTTE’s position that the CFA is premised on the notion of parity of status and military balance of power, it must be conceded that any negotiations should be governed by mutual-respect, even if it is between a State and a non-State actor. The GoSL has applied that principle in all high-level negotiations with the LTTE, facilitated by Norway, and will continue to do so. But, it is clearly untenable to extend that principle of negotiations to apply to relations between a sovereign State and a non-State actor.

Likewise, although it has been argued by some conflict resolution experts that it was a hurting military stalemate that led to the parties to sign the CFA, it is fallacious to posit that a military balance could be frozen in time and space. In any event, the balance of power concept applies only to inter-state conflicts and not to internal conflicts.

It must be clearly borne in mind that the primary objective of the CFA, as manifest in the preamble to the agreement signed on February 22, 2002 by the GoSL and the LTTE, are two-fold: (i) To bring an end to armed hostilities; and (ii) To create a positive atmosphere in which further steps towards negotiations on a lasting solution can be taken.

It is implied that the lasting solution would be within a united Sri Lanka, although one cannot preclude a permanent settlement that would entail acceptable constitutional restructuring, but within an undivided Sri Lanka and in a manner that does not violate its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Neither the notion of parity of status nor military balance of power, in addition to being fallacious and irrelevant in the manner that the LTTE uses it, can detract from this reality.

- Asian Tribune -

Share this