Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2962

The CFA that was anything but a Ceasefire

By Palitha Senanayake

The ‘Cease Fire Agreement’ entered in to between the Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on February 2002 officially ended on the 16th January 2007. It is not often that a Government of a sovereign state enters in to a Ceasefire Agreement with a rebel outfit fighting for a separate state within its own territory, because such action could be interpreted as official recognition of the rebels and what they stand for catapulting them in to international acceptance. It is a calculated risk taken by a Government, only when it considered such a prize/gamble to be worth the reward by way of calling a halt to the killing and mayhem, albeit temporarily.

A Sri Lankan Government entering in to a CFA with the LTTE could have been fraught with extraordinary dangers since on the one hand LTTE is the most ruthless and competent terrorist outfit in the world and on the other hand, it was after a lot of lobbying, helped by Al Qaeda (of 9/11 fame), that the Government finally managed to get the LTTE banned in powerful western countries. Also having known the LTTE for its past record, it would have required quite a degree of desperation on the part of the SL Government to enter in to a CFA with the LTTE in 2002.

The CFA, brokered by the Norwegians, conceded package of crucial concessions to the LTTE. It lifted the proscription on the LTTE by the SL Government, created an area within the Sri Lankan state called the ‘LTTE controlled area’ with specified boundaries, recognized the LTTE forces as conventional security forces, acknowledged the LTTE’s right to administer that area including the imposition of taxes and the maintenance of law and order, recognized the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil community, etc., etc.. The agreement also clearly stated that any abrogation of the agreement requires two weeks notice from either party to the facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government. Yet the Agreement was found wanting in its basic essence. There was no clause that upheld the cease fire with a penalty for violating the truce!

The SL Government had entered in to three truce agreements with the LTTE before this; between President JR Jayawardene and LTTE (underwritten by India), between President Ranatunga Premdasa and LTTE and between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the LTTE. All these agreements contained a clause specifying the conditions under which the truce would automatically lapse in addition to the clause that required a period of notice from either party on abrogation. But not so in the Ranil – LTTE CFA, which only contained the two weeks notice with no mention of ‘automatic lapsing’. Hence it became an open ended agreement of concessions to the LTTE with not even a commitment to uphold the CFA from the LTTE. It was a CFA with an open provision for violation or just an agreement which allowed the LTTE to ‘have the cake and eat it too’.

After the election victory in 2001 December, Ranil Wickremesinghe was in a hurry to score a political point over his rival, the incumbent President. He had his eyes set on the Presidential stakes and thought he could bamboozle the LTTE in to a peace undermining their war capability. Ranil always have a rather exaggerated estimation of himself as a master strategist and the lackeys around him feed him on this weakness. As a result he always underestimate his rival and in this instance LTTE and its machinations. He informed the Norwegian Government of his intentions and requested them to draft a CFA as soon as possible, as the facilitators.

Eric Solheim’s knowledge on the subject, as always has been, limited to what the LTTE makes him believe. Considering the intransigence of the LTTE and the eagerness of the Sri Lanka Government to have a CFA, the best way Solheim could answer the tall order was by entrusting it to his ‘drinking pal’ Anton Balasingham, the LTTE ideologue.

Balasinham drafted just what he wanted; a one sided agreement where the LTTE stood to gain all what it wanted while not giving anything away. Not even a firm commitment to peace on its part. The clause on ‘political activity’ was specially a catch that would enable the LTTE to roam the whole of Sri Lanka while the Sri Lanka Army was to be confined to the non LTTE area. Ranil was in such a hurry and his servility to whatever is western had always been such, that he signed the agreement without even bothering to understand its full significance. Hence Ranil Wickremesinghe scored his political point while the LTTE got just what they wanted. Prabhkaran would have been laughing, ‘These stupid Sinhala leaders/suckers got played out by me again!’

In no time Prabhakaran got to work. He set about killing his political rivals, more than 800 of them during the period of the CFA. Also killed more than 50 intelligence sleuths of the Sri Lanka security forces, who were involved in the LRR operation. Recruited 1400 child conscripts; unloaded eleven shipments of arms; cleared 21 undeclared containers of cargo through the Colombo port (now believed to be claymore mines). The LTTE violated the conditions of the CFA with impunity on more than 3000 occasions as such violations would not cause this unique CFA to lapse. He knew that it is soon after a period of ‘peace’ that the war initiative really comes his way. The Sri lankan nation was like the proverbial crab in a pot of water who thought ‘life was nice’ until the water started boiling.

Prabhkaran sent his men to world capitols for ‘peace talks’ earning a lot of publicity but with instructions to canvass support among the Tamil diaspora and shop for arms. After some time the Catholic Bishops of Mannar and Jaffna started casting aspersions that the youth were exposed to corruption after the CFA. According to Prabhakaran’s own calculations he had by then wrangled the maximum out of the CFA and continuing any further on it may require concessions on his part.

He refused to co-operate with Sub-Committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs, (SRIHAN,) the development mechanism, and brought the curtain gradually down on his now ‘legitimized empire’. He started his own development work building his LTTE Air force base at Iranamadu. He then scuttled the much hyped ‘peace process’ blaming the Sri Lanka Government for not being able to get the USA’s ban on the LTTE waived off. Ranil Wickremesinghe went alone to Tokyo Donor Conference and said that ‘the LTTE had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda’. With this action of the LTTE the primary purpose of entering in to the CFA that of finding an acceptable solution, became unattainable.

Chandrika Kumaratunga tried to go ‘one up’ by offering Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMs) to the LTTE, but the law of the land prevented her and finally the Jathika Hela Urumaya petition brought her tenor to close: a year ahead of what she would have wished. The unexpected turn of events caught Chandrika Kumaratunga off guard sabotaging her plans to bring constitutional changes to remain in politics. The LTTE continuing on their trail of blood killed Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar.

Then came the Presidential election…. just as much as Ranil underestimated Prabhakaran’s treachery Prabhakaran underestimated Ranil’s naivety. Since Ranil had been used already like Premadasa and Chandrika, Prabha did not expect Ranil to continue as his international ambassador any further. Prabhakaran forced the Tamils to boycott the election. Wickremasinghe was desperately telephoning Eric Solheim to get the boycott stayed. But Ranil who boasted of an ‘international safety net’ on Sri Lanka by the ‘International community’ in the event of an attack by the LTTE, realized his limits with the putative western international machinations the hard way. While 4.5million gullible ‘peace wishers’ voted for Ranil in the South, not a single discerning Tamil was allowed to do so in the north. Leave alone saving Sri Lanka, the ‘International Community’ wasn’t even bothered to save their own progeny, Wicremesinghe. With that Ranil earned his place in the political history of Sri Lanka as another UNP leader who was eliminated from Sri Lankan politics by LTTE shenanigans.

Prabhakaran issued a somewhat complimentary note on Mahinda Rajapakse on his Heroes’ Day speech, followed up with a series of attacks to soften up the new Government so that he could hold on to the ‘bargaining from strength’ position. Mahinda Rajapakse exercised caution as he knew he was caught in the ‘International (western) community trap’ called the CFA. The new Government attended two ‘peace parleys’. But when the attacks became increasingly unbearable Mahinda expected even the ‘international (western) community’ too to be convinced of the futility of peace with the LTTE. He struck back with determination and on purpose. These turned tables on the LTTE, who found themselves in the role of ‘prey’ rather than the ‘predator’ it had always been since Premadasa initiated ‘Peace Talks’ in 1991. Rajapakse government now saw no earthly reason in continuing with a cosmetic CFA that no amount of fire could cause to lapse and hence opted to abrogate it by issuing notice.

If the CFA and its aftermath made Ranil a political casualty and exposed the mythical invincibility of the LTTE, its abrogation exposed the putative good intentions of the west euphemized as the ‘International community’. Norway, Britain, Canada and other western countries issued messages expressing ‘deep concern for civilian life’, ‘continuing violence’ and ‘human rights’ etc., in Sri Lanka. This infers that these countries think that the present Sri Lanka Government does not know what it is doing. This has always been the case with these western countries. Their acknowledgement of the Government is only on diplomatic protocol but their faith and encouragement is towards the detracting forces.

Ranil and his UNP always suffer from the ‘western servile phobia’. In the eighties JR Jayawardene Government took Sri Lanka in to the western orbit and exhibited his servility by becoming the only UN member to back the UK in the Falkland Island crisis. Naturally when India violated our air space and tried big brother tactics JR Jayawardene had no friends in the true international community. Even Britain and America told him to listen to India. Mrs. Bandaranaike with her balanced foreign policy would never have found herself in such a predicament and India wouldn’t have dared to drop anything on her. In the west countries like Sri Lanka will not find friends who will help, there they will only find masters who will dictate to them.

These western countries are so concerned about ‘Sri Lankan human rights’ but it is the arms manufactured in these very same countries that find their way in to the hands of these violators. These arms are not manufactured for the local markets in these countries but they know that the demand is from conflict zone in the developing countries. When India and Pakistan resume war certain western countries have to re commission closed armament factories. The LTTE and its murderous tantrums are supported, not so much by the hapless Tamils in Sri Lanka but by the Tamil diaspora located in those very countries. In the west they counter terrorism by tough laws and shooting suspects on their heads: but for Sri Lanka they advocate CFA and Human (terrorist) rights. They want us to talk peace while continue to be embroiled in war!

The local agent of the west, the Bishop of Colombo, also issued a message ‘condemning violence from both side’. Bishop of Colombo is one citizen in Sri Lanka who does not admit the right of the Sri Lankan Government of the day to take appropriate action to maintain law and order in the country. He does not seem to understand that the Government of any country have statutory license for ‘violence’ as a tool of administration. This is a necessary ingredient in governance to prevent a society from sliding in to anarchy. May be his messages are designed for consumption in the western capitals so that those countries will harden their attitude towards the present Government and soften it towards the LTTE. Destabilizing a Buddhist/Hindu majority state would create a situation where Christian NGO’s can fish in troubled waters.

Abrogation of the CFA is bad for Ranil because it means he will not become the President now. It is bad for Prabhakaran because he may not be able to pull wool over the Sri Lankan leadership for his survival. It is bad for the Norwegian because it exposed their ‘peace making’ role. It is bad for other western countries because they may lose a veritable market for their arms. It is bad for the good Bishop because it means a missed opportunity to de-stabilize the Buddhist state.

- Asian Tribune -

Share this