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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2733

Legitimacy of the De Facto Eelam & the False Sense of Security in the South

By Dr. Siri Gamage

It seems that the political discourse on Sri Lanka's political crisis and the impending war between the Tamil Tigers and the State forces as a result of the collapse of Oslo talks is solely focused on the form and content of devolution (or to use the terminology from the LTTE 'self-determination). It is true that the option being pursued by the President at the present is to create a southern consensus and an emerging solution from the all party conference minus the TNA and by implication the LTTE.

With the failure of the latest round of talks between the protagonists, the ban on the LTTE by the European Union, and the escalating violence in the north and east of Sri Lanka - the government has no other option but to proceed with a unilateral development of a political solution. This reminds of the utterances of newly elected Prime Minister of Israel about implementing a unilateral solution to the Palestinian issue if his government cannot come to a mutually acceptable solution with those in power in Palestinian territories.

In the context of this discourse not much attention has been given by the commentators to the legitimacy of the de facto state -70% of it - in the north and east provinces that the LTTE claims to have established already with its armed forces, judiciary, civil administration, maritime forces etc. What is its status in international law? Can LTTE claim its administration gained by force of arms, military victories over the government armed forces over the decades, and allowed a free run after signing the CFA?

Even the Sri Lankan government seems to maintain a remarkable silence on the legitimacy of LTTE administration in the areas it controls -thanks to the CFA. Is this a sign of powerlessness in the face of LTTE expansion and nurturing of a de facto state or is this a sign that the government does not want to engage in critical comments about the right of the LTTE to do whatever it wants in the areas listed as LTTE controlled areas under the CFA for fear of international criticism?

In either case, the LTTE seems to be operating on the conviction that they have already established a de facto state in 70 percent of the so-called Eelam - the ideal state it aspires to (see the OSLO communiqué issued recently). This situation has given rise to the LTTE belief that:

1. It is only a matter of time when some countries will recognize their de facto state in its current form, and India is not to be excluded from the countries with the potential to recognize Eelam if the Sri Lankan government does not come up with a sensible political solution as advocated by international players and local commentators,

2. The ceasefire agreement signed in 2002 effectively legitimized the military victories and capture of land from the Sri Lankan government authority until that time,

3. If more land could be captured by military campaigns -even violating the CFA the LTTE may be able to claim not only more land but also its claim to the sea adjoining the land thus liberated,

4. A new ceasefire agreement has to be negotiated by the parties to the conflict under the new conditions on ground after a period of military confrontations and in that context the LTTE will be able to claim more land and sea compared to what it has now.

5. Such a CFA signed in future will be favorable to the LTTE and it will receive international acceptance because as in the past local and international players will be satisfied with cessation of hostilities in the absence of a full agreement negotiated and agreed by the two parties to the conflict.

Is the Sri Lankan government ready for this scenario? This is the million dollar question that needs to be addressed not only by the government authorities but also peace loving citizens who are for a multi ethnic, plural democracy in the country. When I raise this scenario and the question I am not only asking about the military preparedness of the government but also the government's capacity to provide security to the citizens in areas outside the north and east as well. It is important to visualize the casualties of war and their impact on the economy, safe conduct of government business, tourism, education of children, and ultimately the ability of the government to claim sovereignty over land and sea effectively controlled by the LTTE. it is not wise to take the current international support for granted in the absence of a political solution developed and implemented by the government sooner than later. This includes India.

Legitimacy is obtained by a politico-military organization by two means - Firstly from the people in the area and Secondly from the international community including governments, UN agencies, NGOs etc. By all accounts it appears that the LTTE is receiving local legitimacy from the people in the area it claims to control under the CFA- even though there are dissenting voices from Karuna group etc. Going by experiences before 2002 CFA when the government lost key military camps such as the Elephant Pass and Mullatievu, as well as the LTTE attack on the airport prior to the September 11 attacks in New York, there is no reason to believe that it won't be able to carry put similar or even more lethal attacks on government installations if the war breaks out.

It is not reported that during the period after 2002 Sri Lanka armed forces have increased its ground capabilities for a full scale war as such. It seems that the governments in Colombo and provinces have gone on doing normal business as if peace arrived in the country while the LTTE prepared for a final war even by enlisting the civilian population in the areas it controls for self defence in such eventuality.

Perhaps this is the difference between a government and a de facto government the later of which is still to acquire its final goal -liberation? Who wins on ground is a matter of speculation at this stage. War is lethal, ugly, and catastrophic -whether it is low intensity or high intensity.

However the recent history of Sri Lanka's political make -up shows that it is high intensity war or clashes between the two armies that makes the local leaders and the international community take things seriously. Unless a miracle happens unexpectedly, it seems that Sri Lanka is heading towards a high intensity war. The
South does not seem to be least prepared for such an eventuality. The government and the population seem to be operating with a false sense of security thinking the Americans or the Indians or even the Pakistanis will come to their rescue when the worst happens.

Good luck to them!

Dr. Siri Gamage: Writer of this article is a Senior Lecturer, School of Professional Development & Leadership Faculty of Education, Health and Professional Studies University of New England, Armidale NSW Australia 2351. Also Member of the Centre for Research on Education in Context, Affiliate Fellow, UNE Asia Centre, and Australian Migration Research network. Dr. Siri Gamage submitted this article to “Asian Tribune.”

- Asian Tribune -

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