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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2641

UNP’s Defence of the CFA: A Belated Apology for Muddled Thinking by Its Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe

Philip Fernando in Los Angeles

The UNP has spoken against the abrogation of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA). The crux of their opposition to the CFA abrogation was based on claims, first, that under the CFA normalcy was being achieved in Sri Lanka; second, security measures are required to counter terrorism; third, long-lasting peace is possible only through a negotiated settlement; and finally, the eradication of terrorism is possible only through democracy. All four positions are not based on facts but a belated explanation of muddled thinking by the UNP leaders.

For example, to state that security measures will eradicate terrorism is a myth. Even under the most stringent security measures imaginable, the LTTE either assassinated or tried to harm many people such as Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragama, President R Premadasa, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Dedfence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Army Commander Sarath Fonnseka, etc. Also, UNP seemed to have forgotten that democracy and elections are anathema to Prabhakaran. The UNP’s defence of the CFA is examined in detailed below.

First: The claim that UNP brought near normalcy and economic boom. This is wishful thinking and refutes reality. CFA provided a safe haven to the LTTE to build bunkers and prepare for a deadly assault paving the way for EELAM as the Sri Lankan army had to vacate strategic points of utmost importance. That was the normalcy desired by Prabhakaran. In thirty days the armed forces had to vacate buildings and other sites completely negating all that had been achieved by the military for years. Normalcy was nothing but surrendering territory to the LTTE.

UNP talks of new bonds of friendship and lasting ties established between the north and south due to the CFA. While such delusionary scenario erupted with a vengeance, the LTTE was bent on carrying out thousands of violations against the CFA, including mass murder through suicide bombers and land mines.

Sri Lankan businessmen trying to establish new ventures in Jaffna were rudely shocked to know that they were not welcome and turned away-Seylan Bank branch opening was a good example. Ther were furniture dealers trying to open new stores in Jaffna as furniture was a hot item there. They returned no sooner they landed there. LTTE did not want anyone from the south to do business there. They had done the ethnic cleansing and quite happy about it. Even a few retail traders and vendors trying to make a quick buck were driven away. Instances of normalcy that the UNP now boasts about are sheer nonsense. The state of war existed for the LTTE at all times and they were thriving under the freedom provided by the CFA but the government was strictly prohibited from even trying any defensive moves. The people were so enamoured by UNP’s normalcy and economic resurgence that they have kept its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in political wilderness for over a decade. Two dozen of his trusted followers have joined the government.

Second, the claim terrorism could be wiped out by imposing security measures is a pathetic disregard of LTTE’s acumen and deadly unhindered outreach. The budgetary allocations by the Sri Lankan governments from 2002 to present day to tighten security was over 5 percent of the Sri Lankan annual budget. The LTTE rode rough shod over that with the greatest of ease. Security, my foot is what thalaivar Velupillai said. While the UNP talks of security measures, the CFA gave LTTE unrestricted access to do whatever it wanted. They did it with the greatest of ease. The CFA specifically mentioned cement and iron rods as urgently needed items to be sent to the north. It is not food, clothing and medical supplies that are vital but cement and iron rods. Today the armed forces and the air force are detroying the very bunkers that Prabhakaran built with the help of Ranil Wickremesinghe's CFA. Already two dozen have bit the dust.

The mind-set of the UNP leader embodied in the CFA was glaringly apparent during the victory march of the armed forces that took Mavil Aru and Thoppigala, which were characterized as “Thoppigala is a jungle” or “ any donkey can wage a war” in contrast to the heroic efforts of the Sri Lankan armed forces. The same folks who belittled the victories in the east, did not see through Prabhakararan's demand that "a new railway line be constructed from Killinochchi to Welikanda." Prabhakaran knew the strategic importance of Welikanda. That area was the real Ruhuna in ancient times, the granary of the east. Without that area it is impossible for the LTTE to even think of a separate state-built on the arid desolate northern province. Ranil Wickremesinghe was totally oblivious to what went into the CFA.

It is one thing to make generalized statements to sooth the gullible supporters of your own party with yarns lessoning the importance of the war that the people of Sri Lanka are now claiming as their own path to a terror free country, but it is down right vicious and unacceptable that such narratives be allowed to go as the unadulterated truth as described the UNP leaders.

Finally the two claims that only a negotiated settlement and democracy can solve the terrorist problem is baloney when in fact there are many paths to that goal. Even UNP’s own attempts to negotiate ended in failure as the LTTE walked out when Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister. Poor Ranil, even the LTTE had given up on him totally when Prabhakaran prevented the people in the north from voting at the presidential election of 2005. Those with short memories are usually made to re-live these things.

The ruthlessly executed battle front to wipe out all remnants of the parasitic terrorism must be accompanied by negotiations with the moderate Tamils who are showing that they totally distrust the LTTE unlike the UNP leaders. Talking democracy with an avowed apostle of unmitigated terror can only come from those incapable of standing up to these deadly disseminators of the poisonous doctrine of hate.

There is nothing that President Rajapaksa or anyone else should be apologetic about. Taking the war to the enemy who had captured a vast territory owned by Sri Lanka and threatened to establish a separate state covering nearly two-thirds of the coastal area of the country is nothing to be shamed of but the birth right of every Sri Lankan who heard the battle cry of LTTE leader on November 26th 2007 when he posed the question "where is the Tamil nation for 80 milluon Tamils?" If Ranil Wickremesisnghe does not get his cue, somebody will have to stick it up his throat.

Produce below is the UNP statement:

“During the Presidential Election of 2005 Mahinda Rajapaksa pledged to abolish the Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Yet having understood the advantages of the CFA, by February 2006, President Rajapaksa had revised his position and the Government of Sri Lanka gave a written assurance at the talks with the LTTE in Geneva that they will uphold the CFA. This was why the UNP agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the SLFP in October 2006 to cooperate on a negotiated political settlement referred to in the CFA. The CFA was also upheld by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.

It is in this background that the GoSL last week informed the Norwegian Government of their sudden decision to abrogate the CFA. Up to now they have not provided a reason for this decision. The only conclusion that can be arrived at is that this was a politically expedient decision at the behest of the JVP and JHU to protect the government in parliament. It is clear then that they have worked for their own gain to rectify their precarious position in power and not for the advantage of the country.

The UNP government entered into the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE in 2002 at a critical time when we had suffered severe military setbacks, and the economy was in shambles. The LTTE had captured key military bases in the North and attacked vital economic targets such as the Katunayake Airport. The Colombo Port was not operational and the economy had recorded a negative growth. Under these circumstances, the main objective of the ceasefire was to find a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict and to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country.

The ceasefire was sincerely welcomed by all communities in the country as it signified fresh hope for the cessation of violence and a peaceful future. Sixty- seven countries and international organizations supported this agreement and committed themselves to its implementation. As a result of it the economy regained its momentum: the cost of living stabilized; the rupee held at Rs. 93 to a dollar; there was self-sufficiency in rice; there was an increase in investment resulting in the creation of new job opportunities; funds for development were made available from the US Millennium Challenge Account; and a further four and a half billion dollars were pledged for investment in Sri Lanka’s future at the Tokyo conference.

The international prohibition on the supply of military assistance to Sri Lanka was removed. USA, India and the UK provided us with military advice, training and arms. Increased intelligence was made available to us. Furthermore, a gift of a warship to Sri Lanka from the USA symbolized the international communities’ faith in the ceasefire agreement and their backing for the ongoing peace initiative. As the country became stronger with these measures, the LTTE agreed to explore alternatives to a separate state during the Oslo round of talks. Due to the environment created by the CFA, there was a strengthening of national unity. After years of mistrust, fragile bonds between the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims of the North and South were re-established. The renewing of traffic between the North and the South led to the revival of old friendships and the establishment of new ties. The degree of normalcy created resulted in the return of migrant communities back to the country and the forging of a Sri Lankan identity that accounted for the differences of each ethnic group.

However, in April 2003, the extremists in the LTTE succeeded in getting the organization to withdraw from the talks. Yet, due to the pressure exerted by the international community the LTTE agreed to return to the table. By July of that year ceasefire violations had been reduced to a minimum. But due to the sudden dissolution of Parliament in 2004, the UNP government could not proceed with the gains accrued on the peace front. Nonetheless, the international community stood firmly by the CFA as they understood it to be the only framework in place that bound together the government, and the LTTE and which held both parties accountable. It also provided a space for negotiations - despite its many violations.

As the country became stronger with these measures, the LTTE agreed to explore alternatives to a separate state during the Oslo round of talks. Due to the environment created by the CFA, there was a strengthening of national unity. After years of mistrust, fragile bonds between the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims of the North and South were re-established. The renewing of traffic between the North and the South led to the revival of old friendships and the establishment of new ties. The degree of normalcy created resulted in the return of migrant communities back to the country and the forging of a Sri Lankan identity that accounted for the differences of each ethnic group.

Now it is the Government of Sri Lanka that is liable for the abrogation of the CFA. And it is they who are being condemned by the international community for their racist and war-mongering policies. The country’s reputation as a democracy is gravely undermined. Friendly countries such as the US, Japan and India as well as the UN have voiced their strong disappointment and disapproval of the current situation. Many donor countries are of the same view. An added reason for this condemnation is that the government time and again misled the international community during the past few months by promising proposals for a credible political solution.

Today, Sri Lanka’s international credibility is in tatters. We will no longer get international support. Even those who advocated Sri Lanka’s cause in friendly countries will be compromised by this act. Donor assistance will be reduced, new investors will be scared to invest in a war zone. Military assistance will abate. With the abrogation of the ceasefire some countries will reclassify Sri Lanka as a country affected by civil war with severe consequences.

The international setback for the nation will be so severe that it will be a strengthening of the LTTE. This is not all - the reality is even more disturbing. It is doubtful that those against the ceasefire realized that it had certain features which made it unlike other ceasefire agreements. In normal agreements, the combatants on both sides are placed on an equal footing. Under Article 1.3 of the current CFA, the right of the Sri Lankan armed forces to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka was accepted both by the GoSL and the LTTE. Thus in the talks based on the CFA, the LTTE acknowledged the special status of the Sri Lanka armed forces.

Both the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Media have stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is willing to commence talks with the LTTE without the CFA. In such an instance, we will be participating in future talks on an altered basis since the GoSL has renounced the special status ascribed to the SL armed forces under the CFA. It is highly doubtful under the circumstances that either the international community or the LTTE will now be willing to re-grant this special status to the SL armed forces. Thus similar to the situation in some of the states of the former Yugoslavia. New talks would have to be in a context where all armed forces will be on an equal footing. This is a serious situation created by the short-sightedness of the current government.

We have not gained any special internal advantage by abrogating the CFA. In fact, we have lost out in terms of military strategy on the special status granted to the armed forces. A common Sri Lankan identity that amalgamated all ethnic groups in the island which was strengthened as a result of the CFA is now damaged as the government has rejected a political solution acceptable to all communities.

This self-serving decision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa weakened us both internationally and domestically; it benefits only the LTTE’s aspirations for a separate state. It does not profit the people of Sri Lanka. It is clear that not only have the blood-thirsty and war-mongering rulers of this country lost touch with reality; but they do not have the capacity to learn from past experiences - both internationally or locally.

President Rajapaksa should explain to the people of Sri Lanka why he has abandoned the framework for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in the country. And why he has placed us at an economically and internationally disadvantageous position. Moreover, he should clarify how he hopes to conduct peace talks with the LTTE from this weakened position.

The UNP reiterates its position that while security measures are required to counter terrorism, long-lasting peace is possible only through a negotiated settlement, while the eradication of terrorism is possible only through democracy.

As Lord Buddha advocated, hatred does not end hatred. Furthermore, terrorism does not end terrorism. Even at this juncture, the only way forward is a political solution to the conflict that is acceptable to all communities

- Asian Tribune -

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