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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2784

Abrogation of the Ceasefire Agreement does not hamper a negotiated political settlement – Sri Lanka Foreign Minister

Colombo, 04 January, (Asiantribune.com): The abrogation of the flawed Ceasefire Agreement entered between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will not hamper in anyway hamper the process of moving towards a negotiated political settlement,” and “that infact it gives broader space to pursue this goal through an inclusive process which includes all minority groups of Sri Lanka,” said Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.Rohitha Bogollagama: it must be underlined that this Agreement with the LTTE was seriously flawed from the very inception. It was entered into without proper consultation by the Government of the day, with even the Cabinet of Ministers not being privy to its contents. Rohitha Bogollagama: it must be underlined that this Agreement with the LTTE was seriously flawed from the very inception. It was entered into without proper consultation by the Government of the day, with even the Cabinet of Ministers not being privy to its contents.

The Minister made this observation at a news conference held on Friday (4th January 2008) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to provide a briefing on the Government’s decision to terminate the Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed on 22nd February 2002. and 23rd in Vanni as well as in Colombo.

Earlier on Thursday Foreign Minister Bogollagama, on behalf of the Government, had formally notified the Norwegian Government of its decision at a meeting with Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo Tore Hattrem. The Minister had also briefed the Heads of Missions of the Co- Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference and the High Commissioner of the India of its decision. This was followed by a briefing for the heads of Diplomatic Missions and UN agencies based in Sri Lanka on Friday morning. The Minister has noted that the Government will look forward to the continued support of the international community as Government work towards securing a sustainable peace.

Text of the Statement by Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Ministry on 4 January 2008” is given below:

Foreign Minister says termination of the CFA does not hamper the process of moving towards a negotiated political settlement

The Government of Sri Lanka yesterday (3rd January 2008) formally notified the Royal Norwegian Government of its decision to terminate the Agreement on a “Ceasefire (CFA) between the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” concluded on 22nd February 2002. This notification was in terms of Article 4:4 of this Agreement and will take effect 14 days from the date of this notice i.e. 16th January 2008.

Accordingly, the Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) on the Establishment and the Management of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) dated 18th March 2002 between the Royal Norwegian Government and the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka will also stand terminated with effect from 16th January 2008.

The decision of the Government to terminate the Ceasefire Agreement has been taken after very careful consideration of all relevant facts.

Firstly, it must be underlined that this Agreement with the LTTE was seriously flawed from the very inception. It was entered into without proper consultation by the Government of the day, with even the Cabinet of Ministers not being privy to its contents. Legitimate concerns of the security forces had not even been taken into account. It had the effect of alienating the democratic Tamil political forces and focussed solely on the LTTE. However, notwithstanding these shortcomings evidently made in the hope that sustainable peace could be achieved, at no stage in its six rounds of talks from Sept 2002- March 2003 with the then Government did the LTTE seek to engage in any substantive political discussion aimed at moving towards a political settlement.

On the contrary, under the cover of the CFA, the LTTE continued to take strategic advantage on the ground as they had in all previous peace processes, seeking to dominate areas such as Sampur, as well as continuing to smuggle in large hauls of lethal arms, explosives and ammunition. It must be noted that it is during this period that the LTTE most brazenly assassinated among others, the serving Foreign Minister, moderate Tamil Member of Parliament, Lakshman Kadirgamar on 12th August 2005 and eliminated many of Sri Lanka’s intelligence officers through attacks including in Kiribathgoda, Dehiwala, Bambalapitiya and Jaffna.

Secondly, despite the LTTE launching a wave of attacks against the security forces only 14 days after the assumption of office by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in November 2005, every effort was made by the new Government to engage in political negotiations with the LTTE, which had unilaterally pulled out of the peace process since April 2003. This included two rounds of talks held in Geneva and technical talks scheduled in Oslo. Infact, in Oslo, the LTTE delegation having arrived in the city, refused to show-up for negotiations, once again underlying its lack of commitment to the Peace Process. The LTTE spurned all opportunities at discussing the core issues aimed at arriving at a political settlement, and continued its duplicitous action of escalating the violations of the CFA. Notwithstanding LTTE attacks on the Army Commander, Secretary Defence and the assassination of Major General Parami Kulatunge, the third highest ranking officer in the Sri Lanka Army, the Deputy Secretary General of the Government Peace Secretariat Ketheshwaran Loganathan in August 2006 and numerous attacks targeting innocent civilians including bus bombings in Kebitigollawa, NIttambuwa, Seenigama and Cheddikulum, the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa remained steadfast in its efforts to seek an honourable peace with the LTTE, even as it pursued negotiations on a political settlement with all political parties represented in the Parliament through the APRC process. It should be noted that it was only following the LTTE blocking of water supply to the East at the Mavilaru anicut, that the Government was compelled to undertake military operations against the LTTE in order to protect the civilian population and vital strategic assets including the Trincomalee Port.

Thirdly, it must be noted that throughout the period of the CFA, protestations by GOSL to the Norwegian Government as well as to the SLMM, about the increased illegal activities of the LTTE under the cloak of the CFA including development of its air wing and unabated child recruitment by the LTTE amounting to 1743 cases as ruled by the SLMM as at 30 April 2007, were to go unheeded. In addition to the LTTE’s thousands of ceasefire violations already committed, by its stepping up of deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians including women and children in recent weeks including bomb blasts in Nugegoda, Kebitigollawa, Slave Island as well as the killing of UNP Parliamentarian T. Maheswaran on the first day of the New Year and the failed assassination attempt using a paraplegic female suicide cadre on Social Services and Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda last month, it becomes ominous that the LTTE seeks to continue to engage in provocative activities that could create unrest in the South, making a mockery of the CFA.

In the meantime, I wish to underline that the termination of the CFA does not in anyway hamper the process of moving towards a negotiated political settlement. In fact, it gives us broader space to pursue this goal in a manner that involves all sections of the Sri Lankan polity, which remained sidelined due to the CFA, an agreement solely between the Government and the LTTE. As stated by His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 26 December 2007 in Matara, the doors remain open for the LTTE to join this process. It should be recalled that the Thimpu Talks of 1985, the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987, the 1990 talks between President Premadasa and the LTTE, as well as talks between President Kumaratunga’s administration and the LTTE in 1994, were not done with the presence of a CFA.

The Government of Sri Lanka will, while dealing militarily to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from our land, will spare no effort in our bid to arrive at a practical and sustainable political settlement. In doing so, our Government is conscious that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution signed following the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 itself, is yet to be fully implemented.

The Government is appreciative of the Norwegian facilitators and the SLMM as well as the role played by the co-chairs in their efforts to assist the peace process in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka while reiterating its sincere commitment to a negotiated political settlement through an inclusive process which includes all minority groups of Sri Lanka, will look forward to the support of the International Community, as we work towards securing a sustainable peace.

- Asian Tribune -

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