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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2431

LTTE fails to get land route opened; no date fixed for next round of talks

By H. L. D. Mahindapala - Editorial Consultant, Asian Tribune

Geneva, 30 October, (Asiantribune.com): The second round of talks in Geneva ended yesterday with the Tamil Tigers pressing hard to get A-9 road opened through international pressure and getting nowhere.

Tamil Tigers’ press release issued yesterday at the end of the talks, indicates that the Tigers came to talks, under international pressure as admitted by them earlier, not to advance peace but to see how far they could advance down the A-9 road.

This was the key issue that was thrashed out at the talks.

According to the BBC, Suppiah Tamilselvan, Head of the LTTE delegation had said that they were persistent with their request to reopen the A9 route in view of the civilian misery caused by the closure.

Head of the Government Peace Secretariat, Dr. Palitha Kohona told BBC that the sea route was "quicker and efficient." He added: "The Government raised the issue of supplying Jaffna peninsula by ship and the LTTE did not adequately respond to it."

The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) told the Tigers that they should cooperate and not blow up ships carrying supplies to Jaffna if they were genuinely concerned about the humanitarian crisis.

The Tiger press release too indicates that their main concern was to get A-9 road opened through international pressure. The press release said: "The LTTE agreed to fix a date for next round of talks and asked the A-9 high way is opened before that date. However, the GoSL did not respond positively. The LTTE has requested the facilitators and the SLMM to use their good offices to have A-9 opened before fixing a date for the next round of talks."

Prior to attending the talks the Tigers even threatened not to participate if A-9 land route was not opened. Tiger propaganda aimed at catching the Western eyes says that "the closure of A-9 constitutes a new "Berlin Wall".

According to analysts the Tigers insist on opening up the land route that runs through territory under their control purely to (1) impose illegal taxes and (2) siphon off supplies to their cadres without letting the supplies go freely to the people of Jaffna. It is estimated that the Tigers have lost nearly 300 million rupees in revenue since the route was closed. It has also put out of job thousands of Tiger employees manning the checkpoints en route to Jaffna.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian facilitator, Erik Solheim, trying to strike a positive note stated in his press release that the parties agreed that the peace process will need to address the three following areas:

1) Human suffering

2) Military de-escalation and reduction of violence

3) Political components leading up to a political settlement

Judging by the escalation of violence by the Tamil Tigers ever since President Mahinda Rajapakse came into power, and also by the preparations made by Velupillai Prabhakaran to launch his "final war" to capture Jaffna, it is unlikely that any of these expectations could be achieved before the next round of talks begin, or even later.

Solheim’s statement also said: "Both parties reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire agreement and promised not to launch any military offensives. The international community has repeatedly expressed that it expects the parties to show restraint and fulfill these commitments." Analysts believe that this hope is not likely to be achieved. Even as Solheim was writing it there were reports of the Tamil Tigers violating the CFA and reports Sri Lankan Army reinforcing its bases in preparation to meet offensives of the Tamil Tigers.

The Tiger press statement also highlighted that they countered the GoSL attacks based on the denial of human rights, democracy, pluralism and rule of law. The Tigers claimed in their press release that they were "more committed to the democratic principles" than the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL).

Analysts noted that the press release issued this time was the weakest and lacking in substance. For instance, analysts pointed out that the Tiger claim to be more democratic than the GoSL is closer to fairy tales than to reality. Also, after being exposed by the Norwegian-led Truce Monitors for committing 95% of the violation of the Ceasefire Agreement and reducing it to an ineffective piece of paper the press release says: "The LTTE maintained that one hundred percent implementation of the CFA and strengthening the role of SLMM will bring normalcy to the lives of the people in the homeland and help in taking forward the peace process to a satisfactory conclusion." Tamil Tigers are clinging on to the CFA not to promote peace but to add more to the gains they received from the CFA in 2002, according the government sources.

Looking back at the two-day talks it is clear that the Tigers had used Geneva II as a platform to air their propaganda than to put runs on the board for peace. The fact that the meeting ended "without any agreement," according to TamilNet, indicates that the talks had concluded on predicted lines: agree to meet again.

The only two concessions in the press release are: 1) welcoming the agreement between the SLFP and the UNP and (2) agreeing to fix another date for talks. But Solheim states: "No date for a new meeting was agreed upon. Norway will be in ongoing dialogue with the parties to discuss all possible ideas on how to move the peace process forward." The signs are that Norway’s expectations of carrying on an "ongoing dialogue" even to fix a new date for talks will be rather a prolonged one if Tamil tigers insist on opening A-9 before the talks begin.

Here is the full text of the LTTE press statement:

Geneva October 29, 2006: Geneva talks October 28-29, 2006

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) met in Geneva on 28-29 October 2006 for talks under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian Government. The talks were hosted by the Government of Switzerland.

The Co-chairs in August 2006 called the parties to cease hostilities immediately, to support and guarantee the security of the SLMM personnel and to take the peace process forward.

The LTTE in its opening statement addressed the urgent humanitarian crisis caused by the GoSL and its security forces. The LTTE maintained that one hundred percent implementation of the CFA and strengthening the role of SLMM will bring normalcy to the lives of the people in the homeland and help in taking forward the peace process to a satisfactory conclusion.

During the talks the LTTE pointed out the suffering of the people including access through highways and roads in all parts of the homeland. The LTTE stated that the closure of the A-9 highway has resulted in open prison for more than six hundred thousand people in the Jaffna peninsula under the occupation of sixty thousand Sri Lankan military personnel. The LTTE also pointed out the closure of A-9 constitutes a new “Berlin Wall”. The closure of A-9 high way is a violation of the CFA and the right to free movement resulting in separation of family members and causing untold human misery. The LTTE further stated that providing food alone through sea routes is akin to feeding prisoners. No satisfactory explanation was given by the GoSL for the refusal to reopen the A-9. The LTTE stated that GoSL must be having a hidden military agenda. GoSL pointed out that the A-9 was closed earlier from 1994 to 2002. The LTTE responded that it was during the war and questioned the GoSL whether it wanted to push the people back into a war environment and a humanitarian catastrophe and to negotiate with the Tamils as a subject people.

The LTTE insisted on the implementation of the CFA and Geneva-I and strengthening of the role of SLMM. However the GoSL paid scant attention to the above. The LTTE expressed its disappointment and asked the GoSL to identify a document other than the CFA which has brought an end to the two decades of war and laid the foundation for the peace process.

The LTTE welcomed the MoU signed by the two major Sinhala political parties. The LTTE also stated that once the Sinhala polity reaches a consensus with respect to the resolution to the conflict, the LTTE will enter into political negotiations with the GoSL. The LTTE expects that by this time normalcy returns and a conducive environment created.

The GoSL raised the issues of democracy and pluralism in the homeland. The LTTE stated that it is more committed to the democratic principles than the GoSL and cited the ISGA as an example. The LTTE challenged the GoSL to repeal the sixth amendment as a token of its commitment to democracy and pluralism. The sixth amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution prohibits peaceful advocacy for a separate state through democratic means. The LTTE also challenged the GoSL to remove its armed forces from the homeland and allow the holding of a referendum under international supervision to ascertain the aspirations of the people in the homeland.

The LTTE agreed to fix a date for next round of talks and asked the A-9 high way is opened before that date. However, the GoSL did not respond positively. The LTTE has requested the facilitators and the SLMM to use their good offices to have A-9 opened before fixing a date for the next round of talks.

4.	The leader of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's political wing S.P. Tamilselvan shakes hands with the head of Sri Lanka's government delegation Nimal Siripala de Silva at the end of a news conference following peace talks4. The leader of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's political wing S.P. Tamilselvan shakes hands with the head of Sri Lanka's government delegation Nimal Siripala de Silva at the end of a news conference following peace talks

Norway's Erik Solheim (L) speaks with the head of Sri Lanka's government delegation Nimal Siripala de Silva during a news conference in Geneva October 29, 2006Norway's Erik Solheim (L) speaks with the head of Sri Lanka's government delegation Nimal Siripala de Silva during a news conference in Geneva October 29, 2006

S.P. Thamilselvan, left, chief negotiator of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam , speaks with Erik Solheim, right, Norwegian Minister of International Development, under the glance Jon Hanssen-Bauer, center, Norway's Special EnvoyS.P. Thamilselvan, left, chief negotiator of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam , speaks with Erik Solheim, right, Norwegian Minister of International Development, under the glance Jon Hanssen-Bauer, center, Norway's Special Envoy

6.	 LTTE delegates seen on the final day of the Talks in Geneva  - 29 October 2006.6. LTTE delegates seen on the final day of the Talks in Geneva - 29 October 2006.

5.	Members the Sri Lankan government's delegation, Rohitha Bogollagama,  and Dr. Palitha Kohona during the Sri Lanka peace talks in Geneva.5. Members the Sri Lankan government's delegation, Rohitha Bogollagama, and Dr. Palitha Kohona during the Sri Lanka peace talks in Geneva.

- Asian Tribune -

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