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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2960

Sack Truce Monitors - Tigers demand

Colombo, 06 June, ( angry LTTE team led by S. P. Tamilselvan, head of the Political wing of the LTTE, will be filing into the Oslo meeting tomorrow with one main item on their agenda: change the composition of the Nordic Truce Monitors (officially known as the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM)).

Their main objective will be to get rid of three out of the four Truce Monitors: Sweden, Finland and Denmark who joined the EU in banning them. Only Norway declined to join the other three countries. Head of LTTE Peace Secretariat, S Pulithevan said the organization will raise the issue of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) having three EU countries as its members. He added: “We are going to discuss about the SLMM activities and the future of the SLMM,” he told BBC Sinhala language service

This demand requires critical changes to the Ceasefire Agreement. It will also present a major legal and political problem to the LTTE-friendly Norway who will be presiding over the meeting.

The LTTE demand amounts to a change in the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) which says: “3.5 The SLMM shall be composed of representatives from the Nordic countries.” According to the CFA, “both parties agreed to set up an international monitoring mission” and, therefore, both parties must agree to any change.

Dr. Palita Kohona, leading the government team, has described the new LTTE demand as an “interesting situation”.

So far the main criticism against the Truce Monitors has come from either the government sources or the leading political parties, or the media in the south. The Truce Monitors have been frequently criticized for being biased towards the LTTE. The LTTE has had no serious complaints against the Nordic Truce Monitors up until now.

This is the first time that the LTTE is leading a serious protest demanding the removal of those Nordic countries that joined in the EU ban. Unless the government team agrees to the latest demand of the LTTE Norway cannot accommodate the LTTE under any pretext.

Besides, the Truce Monitors came with the blessings of Norway. As key stake-holder in the CFA Norway also hand-picking the head of the team of Truce Monitors.

Analysts are convinced that if this move goes through then CFA will be wide open for other changes as well. This would provide an opening for the government to bargain for the changes it wants. If the LTTE insists on changing Article 3.5 it could be argued that the government could also insist on changing, among other aspects, Article 1.8 which deals with the disarming of the “para-militaries” – the main bone of contention that is sticking in the throat of both parties.

The LTTE move to insist on removing the three Nordic countries that has banned them is seen as a tit-for-tat act to send a message to the three Truce Monitors. LTTE argues that these countries are biased and they can no longer play an independent role in monitoring the ceasefire. But analysts agree that changing Article 3.5 will open a Pandora ’s Box with several issues popping out of it: 1) which other countries will replace them? 2) can both parties agree on the new monitors? 3) Since the LTTE initially agreed to Nordic monitors because they thought they would be favorable to them, will not their move boomerang on them with more independent monitors taking over? etc..

Analysts tend to believe that if both sides refused to budge on these knotty issues this round too will end in a stalemate.

The Oslo talks will also focus on the security situation in the north and the east. Pulithevan said that the LTTE plans to raise the issue of “killings and abductions happening mostly in the Sri Lankan government controlled areas.”

But Plan implementation minister Keheliya Rambukwela accused the LTTE of using child soldiers to an attack in Welikanda in which 13 civilians were killed.

Pulithevan however denies any LTTE involvement in the incident.

The security of the truce monitors too will be another issue. The Norwegians were concerned after a Sri Lanka Navy vessels with monitors on board came under LTTE fire.

Analysts say that the LTTE is not likely to score many points on all these issues. Without Anton Balasingham, without the earlier international backing, and without any experienced negotiators on their side, the LTTE will be batting more on the back foot than playing confidently to put winning runs on the board.

- Asian Tribune -

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