TAMIL CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS - TCHR/CTDH
CENTRE TAMOUL POUR LES DROITS DE L'HOMME
(Established in 1990)
(UN accredited NGO to the World Summit on Information Society and the Warsaw Conference)
Ref : FG022/PR/2008 30 January 2008
Failed talks and unilaterally abrogated pacts of Sri Lanka
Bureaucrats and decision-makers in World bodies should know
actual and factual happenings and history of Sri Lanka
“Sanctions and negotiations can be very ineffective, and indeed foolish, unless the people you are talking with and negotiating with and trying to reach agreements with, are people who can be trusted to keep their word”. - Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense from 21 January 1981, until 23 November 1987.
After their beginnings in the stone-age and barbarism, human beings became civilised and put faith in negotiations, agreements and accords between different races, ethnicities, religions, cultures and other diverse groupings in order to live in peace and harmony.
However, it is a pity that in Sri Lanka there is a trend backwards to the stone-age, where the opportunity to negotiate is totally opposed and a belief in full scale war and a military solution, has set in. In other words, blood thirsty killings of individuals and groups who oppose the government, are taking place over night. Civilised people must analyse this phenomena to understand what has actually been happening in this island since independence from the British in 1948.
Many bureaucrats and decision-makers working for world bodies and important institutions may find it easy and comfortable to talk about the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. But when its come to the question of the island’s history and to conflict resolution, many of them have very limited knowledge. For example, in October 2006, we members of TCHR had a meeting with a regional inter-governmental body. The person holding a top position in this body told us, that the MOU to work out a common approach in search of a political settlement to the ethnic conflict, was due to be signed between the two largest Sinhalese political parties (SLFP and UNP). According to her, this would make it easy for the government to deal with ethnic issue. We tried to tell this person that political packages, all party conferences and a SLFP-UNP agreement to find a common approach, are all to mislead the international community. This person was reluctant to believe us. We told her about the failed Band-Chelva pact, the Dudly-Chelva pact and also the Liam Fox agreement signed between the SLFP and the UNP on 4 April 1997. Immediately, without any hesitation, she became puzzled and asked, what is this new story, about a Liam Fox agreement? When we explained what it was, she admitted that she had never heard of it. As we predicted to her, the SLFP-UNP MOU signed on 12 October 2006, came to an end on 28 January 2007. In fact, this is part of a systematic pattern of tactics used by all Sri Lankan governments, when international pressure is applied, regarding the island’s bloody ethnic issue.
Devolution package drafted by the APC
The latest “All Party Conference - APC”, - drafted a devolution package and handed it over to the President on 23 January. This is yet another show game, replete with delay tactics, designed for the consumption of the international community. First, Mahinda Rajapaksa himself opposed the very provisions of the 13th amendment to the constitution in 1987, which he says, he is now going to revive. Second, even though known as an All Party Conference, apart from Sri Lanka Muslim Congress no other opposition party has participated in the discussion or consultation. Third, the Tamil National Alliance – TNA which represents, in the parliament, 21 MPs out of 22 in the whole of North East, was neither invited to participate nor agrees with its present proposal. Fourth, this proposed package has to be passed by a two third majority in parliament, to amend the constitution. In fact, the present government does not have a two third majority in the parliament. Fifth, twenty-one years ago the Tamils rejected the 13th amendment to the constitution as it fell far short of their political aspirations. Sixth, there cannot be any political solution to the North East, ignoring the LTTE, which is considered by the majority of the Tamils as their saviour. In conclusion, knowing these facts well, Sri Lanka is making yet another proposal to bide time and to fool the international community, while Sri Lanka attempts to win this war militarily.
On 16 January 2008, in a meeting held in the Grand Committee Room in the UK Parliament building, Dr. Raj Chandran of the UK Conservative Party stated that he is not a supporter of the LTTE, however, because of the LTTE, the Tamils today are able to walk with pride.
“...... There seems to have been a long period in which the Sri Lankan Government have employed delaying tactics....” Jeremy Corbyn, MP-UK said in the House of Commons on 17 January 2008
Those who know the history of Ceylon/Sri Lanka will agree that negotiations between Sri Lankan rulers (since 1948) - the government - and Tamil leaders, date back to 1927. This was when the Donoughmore commission announced its recommendations, negotiations in fact, between then Tamil leader Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and then Sinhala leaders. It brought nothing good for the Tamils.
Failed talks and unilaterally abrogated pacts and accords
"The ‘truth’ is said to be the first casualty of war. The government has unlimited resources to carry out false propaganda, which the Liberation Fighters cannot match". (Excerpt from an article written by Nadodi in ‘Sangam’ December 4, 2007)
Under the so-called democracy in Sri Lanka, many talks have taken place but no durable solution has been found to the Tamil’s ethnic question. Here we quote some important ones:
Between 1927-1931, Sir Ramanathan had talks with Sinhala leaders when the Donoughmore Commission announced its recommendations in 1927. Talks brought no positive outcome, as the Sinhala leaders ignored the aspirations of the Tamils.
In 1957 when the Sinhala only act was introduced by then Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake, the talks between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Federal Party, Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam took place, and an agreement known as the Banda-Chelva pact was signed. Then again in 1965, talks between the Prime Minister Dudley Senanayaka and the leader of Federal Party Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam took place and an agreement known as the Dudley-Chelva pact was signed. These two pacts were unilaterally abrogated without any implementation by the Sinhala Prime Ministers.
In 1971 when the government was formulating the Republican constitution, the Tamil leaders of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) had several rounds of talks with then Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranayake on constitutional amendments. Eventually the republican constitution was passed in 1972, without the support of the Tamil parliamentarians from the major Tamil political party, the TULF.
The Sinhalese governments’ violent responses to the Tamil’s non-violent struggle and parliamentary demands, for nearly twenty five years; and plus discriminatory legislation in Education introduced in 1972 ("Standardisation") – and the "Republican Constitution” which denied fundamental rights to the Tamils - gave birth to Tamil militancy in 1972. But the armed struggle started only in 1983.
In July 1977, the Tamil United Liberation Front - TULF, contested the general election in the North East and won overwhelmingly in the Parliamentary elections. Tamil people give them a mandate to establish the “Right to Self-determination” in the North East.
Between 1977-1982, the TULF leaders had several talks with then President J.R. Jayawardena but no meaningful political solution was reached. Soon afterwards, the worst island communal riots took place in July 1983, paving the way for the beginning of armed struggle in the North East – Eelam war I.
On 8 August 1983, J. R. Jeyawardena as the first executive president of Sri Lanka, enacted the 6th amendment to the constitution, rejecting the right to self-determination of the Tamil people in the island. This amendment outlawed the mandate voted by Tamils in the 1977 general election.
In 1985 Indian facilitated talks took place in Thimbu, the capital of Bhutan, between Tamil political activists including the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. Two rounds of direct negotiations were held in July-August and on 17th September.
All Tamil parties worked out four cardinal principles as the basis for the negotiation with Sri Lankan government, known today as the “Thimpu principles”. The Sri Lankan government's reluctance to devolve powers and its refusal to recognise the Thimbu principles as the basis for the talk resulted in the abrupt and premature termination of the negotiation. The Thimbu principles are: recognition of the Tamils of Sri Lanka as a nation, recognition of the existence of an identified homeland (North East), recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation and recognition of the right to citizenship and fundamental rights of all Tamils in Sri Lanka.
In November 1986, the talks between LTTE Leader Pirabaharan along with political advisor Anton Balasingham and President J. R. Jeyawardena took place through the mediation of the Indian Prime minister in Bangalore, India. But the talks ended in failure as J. R. Jeyawardena refused to recognise the right to self-determination and the homeland of the Tamils.
On 29 July 1987, a peace accord known as the “Indo-Lanka” pact was signed between Sri Lanka and India, under the guise of settling the Tamil ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka . Even though this pact aimed to bring an end to the island’s ethnic crisis, it failed to recognize the political reality of the Tamil Nation and it was signed, without any consultation with Tamils, nor the LTTE, the main party to the conflict. The Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Permuna – JVP (Peoples Liberation Front), vigorously opposed the “Indo-Lanka” pact and brought the whole of the South of Sri Lanka to a standstill by committing arson attacks on public transport and government buildings.
Under this accord, by a special decree of the Executive President of Sri Lanka, the merger of the North Eastern province took place on 8 September 1988. But, after exactly 18 years of this merger, the JVP filed a case in the Supreme Court, demanding the de-merging of these two provinces. The Supreme Court delivered its biased political decision on this case on 16 October 2006, stating that the merger of these two provinces by the then President was invalid. Once again another agreement/accord, in this case one that even had international status, was abrogated with the biased legal support of the Supreme court.
In January 1989, newly elected President Premadasa invited the LTTE for talks. While the talks were in progress, the LTTE formed a political party and named it, “People’s Front of the Liberation Tigers (PFLT)”. It was registered with the Election officials and the LTTE prepared itself to participate in the Elections to demonstrate the peoples’ support to the LTTE. Also the PFLT representative attended the All Party Conference as an “Observer” in Colombo on 12 August 1989, in which twenty six political parties in Sri Lanka participated.
To prevent the International Community from gaining awareness of the support that the LTTE has among the Tamils, the Sri Lankan government started Eelam war-II. Since no third party was involved in the talks, the government found it very easy to put the blame on the LTTE.
In August 1994, talks started between the LTTE and newly elected Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunge of People's Alliance who later won the Presidential elections in November of the same year. The government announced the lifting of the economic embargo to the Tamil region which had been enforced for many years. On 5 January 1995, the President Chandrika and the LTTE Leader V. Pirabahakaran signed an agreement for cessation of hostilities.
Like previous governments, Chandrika’s government was not interested in a negotiated political settlement, and the promise of lifting the Economic embargo dragged on and on. In the meantime the government prepared a military assault on the LTTE. In March, the LTTE gave a two-week ultimatum to the government urging implementation of what had been promised to the civilians, namely the lifting of the Economic embargo. This ultimatum was later extended by another three weeks until 19 April 1995. Still there was no response to the desperate humanitarian situation of the people. Talks ended in failure and Eelam War III started on 19 April 95. Later Chandrika’s government argued that there had never been an economic embargo in the Tamil region.
As a result of failed talks and the unilateral abrogation by the government Sri Lanka of so many pacts signed without a third party, the LTTE thereafter maintained the position that further talks and agreements should be only through internationally mediated facilitation and supervision.
On that basis, a CeaseFire Agreement - CFA (Memorandum of Understanding - MOU) was eventually signed on 21 February 2002 between the LTTE and government of Sri Lanka. This was facilitated by the Royal Norwegian government and several rounds of negotiations took place in Thailand, Norway, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland.
Even while Norway was a facilitator and the Nordic countries monitored the CFA, the Sri Lankan government failed to implement the CFA and the agreed outcomes of several rounds of peace talks. Many deliberate obstacles were created by the Sri Lankan military.
Despite the government’s reluctance to implement many of the clauses in the CFA – the LTTE, in order to respect the CFA and as an administrator of a de-facto state, worked out an interim solution known as the “Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA)” in November 2003. This was presented to the Sri Lanka government through the good offices of the Royal Norwegian government. The Sri Lankan President not only ignored this proposal but also sacked the government which had signed the CFA with the LTTE. It was the end of the ISGA and the government which came to power later refused to have any further talks, either on the ISGA or with the LTTE.
Many Tamil journalists, academics, parliamentarians, human rights activists and others in the North East were killed during the period when the CFA and the Monitoring Mission were in force.
Meanwhile, the devastating Tsunami struck the island and the North East parts were the most badly affected. With the aim of ensuring equal distribution of Tsunami aid to the worst affected North East, an agreement known as the Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure - PTOMS was signed between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.
A case was filed by the JVP against this Tsunami agreement – PTOMS. This case too, received a biased political judgement from the Supreme Court and it was made null and void.
Both cases, the demerger of the North Eastern province and the blocking of the PTOMS denied justice to the Tamils. This was witnessed by the international community. The judiciary in Sri Lanka is used by the Sinhala rulers, as a political tool, to support their discrimination against the Tamils.
Anyhow due to continous pressure from the International community, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government agreed to have peace talks in Geneva which took place in February 2006. During the talks, the government of Sri Lanka agreed to abide by the ceasefire, including its clause 1.8, and disarm paramilitary groups operating in army-controlled areas.
However, when the 2nd round of talks took place in Geneva in October 2006, the talks failed, as the government of Sri Lanka had not implemented what had been agreed in the first round of Geneva talks. The international community, especially Norway and Switzerland witnessed this at close hand.
Since Mahinda Rajapaksa became the President, more than 5000 people have been killed and horrendous human rights violations have been reported in North East and other parts.
The Chief negotiator of the LTTE, S. P. Thamilselvan who took part in many of the talks was killed in an aerial bombing by the Sri Lanka Airforce on 2 November 2007. The Sri Lankan Military Commander openly stated his intention to eliminate the LTTE, by killing at least ten cadres each day. The Sri Lankan military, the President, Defence Secretary, Cabinet Ministers, political parties which are in alliance with the ruling party and many Buddhist monks are intent on eliminating the LTTE, which is a signatory to the CFA and party to the conflict.
The international community was alarmed by the horrendous human rights violations in Sri Lanka. During the very first session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2006, a resolution was tabled by Finland on behalf of the European Union, against Sri Lanka. The country (Sri Lanka) which made the bogus claim of being one of the “founders” of the Human Rights Council, was ashamed that a resolution had been tabled against it, in the opening session itself. This resolution is still on hold for a debate in the Human Rights Council.
In fact, within the terminology of the United Nations – forums, committees, conferences, etc do not have “founders”. Such matters are decided by the votes of all 192 member countries. However, one cannot blame the Sri Lanka representatives, because many of them do not know the functions of the United Nations and its mechanisms.
No surprise to the Tamils that CFA was withdrawn
While this was going on in the UN Human Rights Council, members of President Rajapaksa’s coalition – the Janatha Vimuki Peramuna - JVP and Buddhist-monk led Jathika Hela Urumaya - JHU, along with the Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya - SJS challenged the Cease Fire Agreement - CFA in the Appeal Court, alleging that it violated Sri Lanka’s constitution.
On 6 March 2007, the Appeal Court rejected the petition by JVP, JHU and SJS. But these parties re-appealed to the Supreme Court. The case hearing has been fixed for 10 March 2008.
The international community may not be aware that all these actions are calculated staged dramas of the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinist forces backed by the Sri Lanka government. It came as no surprise to the Tamils, that on 3 January 2008, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama officially conveyed in writing to the Norwegian Ambassador Tore Hattrem in Colombo, that the Government of Sri Lanka would withdraw from the CFA.
This move is designed purely to ensure survival of the parliamentary majority until the end of the present period. President Rajapaksa’s government cannot have the parliamentary majority without fulfilling the demands of the JVP and the JHU.
Mr. Andrew Love (Labour MP for Edmonton) said in the UK Parliament on 2 May 2007 (1607) - “........... The first concerns the drift back to war that has been going on for some time. Almost immediately after the ceasefire agreement in 2002, despite six rounds of talks that seemed to be very positive — the LTTE discussed prisoner exchanges and was going to drop the idea of an independent state — by 2003 the LTTE had pulled out, suggesting that it had been sidelined. That resulted in a serious loss of momentum.” (Excerpt)
“........... it was the Sri Lankan Government who unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement in January this year?” Barry Gardiner, Minister & MP-UK said in the House of Commons on 17 January 2008. (Excerpt)
“.......... it was unfortunate that the Sri Lankan Government abrogated the peace agreement unilaterally, and I had a discussion with the high commissioner this morning in which I made that very point. Mr. Clifton-Brown, MP-UK said in the House of Commons on 17 January 2008. (Excerpt)
“The SLMM will close its operation at 1900 hrs today.” (Lars J Solvberg, Major General, Head of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, Colombo, 16 January 2008 - excerpt)
The UN Secretary General, the EU and many countries around the world were shocked and disappointed by the announcement of the Sri Lanka government. Some countries were even ashamed because they had believed all the lies told by Sri Lanka about the ethnic conflict and had supplied arms and ammunitions to Sri Lanka. Also they had turned a blind eye to the horrendous human rights records of Sri Lanka. But Tamils who have known and experienced the attitude and behaviour of the government of Sri Lanka over decades were not astonished by this decision. In fact, Tamils may be relieved that the international community could at last see the true colours of the Sri Lankan rulers, and understand the broken promises of the last sixty years.
Denial of fundamental rights in the name of sovereignty and democracy
“I have to say that without international adjudication and verification, the Sri Lankan Government will not be regarded as acceptable. I understand the arguments about sovereignty, but if they are trying to win credibility in the world after 30 years of civil war, the UN must be represented in the country and able to go about its business there. The Sri Lankan Government must change their view on that.” Simon Hughes, MP-UK said in the House of Commons on 17 January 2008. (Excerpt)
Bureaucrats and decision-makers in world bodies, inter-governmental regional bodies and other important actors should be aware of Sri Lanka, clothed in its own style of democracy. To quote a few examples:
(1) The national flag of the post independence Ceylon has only a symbol of Sinhala Lion carrying a sword with bo-leaves at the four corners of the flag. These represents the Sinhala race, Buddhism and the lion's tail signified the eight-fold path of Buddhism. After many protests, two vertical stripes – orange and green were inserted to mark the Tamils and Muslims in the flag.
(2) Under the Citizenship Act passed on 15 November 1948, nearly a million Plantation Tamils, (brought by the British from South India to work in the plantations in 1862) who had voted in the 1947 elections were deprived of their citizenship and their right to vote, reducing the proportion of Tamil representation in the Sri Lankan parliament.
(3) Under 60 years of state-sponsored Sinhala colonisation in the Tamil homeland (North and East), Sinhala governments and their destructive agents have plundered and robbed 50% of the ancestral land of the Tamils. This was to deliberately change the demography of the Tamil homeland.
(4) Sinhala was made the official language of the country in 1956 and made as a compulsory language for the Tamils.
(5) Five anti-Tamil programs (1956, 1958, 1977, 1981, and 1983), unleashed by various Sri Lankan governments, Sinhala extremist groups and thugs, ruined the socio-economic and the political rights of the Tamil people. Thousands of Tamils were massacred, burnt or hacked to death, women were raped and millions of rupees worth of properties belonging to the Tamils were looted and destroyed. Until today, no proper investigation nor any compensation was paid to the victims.
(6) In 1972, state discrimination against Tamil students' admission to Universities reached the peak with the introduction of "Standardisation". University admission based on merit was abandoned deliberately to stop Tamil students entering Universities.
(7) In 1972, the "Republican Constitution" was introduced and the Tamils lost even the minimum protection that they had under the Soulbury constitution of 1947.
(8) In 1978, another new constitution was enacted, introducing an Executive Presidency system and promoting Buddhism as the country’s foremost religion.
Sri Lanka's Constitution of 1978 - Chapter II Buddhism , Article 9, says "The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana,…….."
(9) In July 1979, the government enacted the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), along with the Emergency Regulations (ER). Emergency rule has become the norm - for more than 36 years since independence.
(10) In June 1981 the Jaffna Public Library, one of biggest library in South Asia, was burnt down by the Sri Lankan armed forces - 95,000 volumes of books including numerous culturally important and irreplaceable manuscripts and the buildings were totally destroyed by arson.
(11) In 1998, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances stated that, "Sri Lanka had the second highest number of disappearances in the world, ranking next to Iraq". Also Sri Lanka is the only country that the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has visited several times. So far no proper remedies have been found for these disappearances.
In 2007, Sri Lanka was ranked as the country, with the third highest number of journalists killed during that year, after Iraq and Somalia. (Press Emblem Campaign monitoring system)
Can the Tamils expect justice from this government?
In Sri Lanka, if the Minister of Labour Mr. Mervyn Silva could walk into the Canadian High Commission with a pistol in his hand to demand a visa for his son (September 2007), and who could assault a news editor of the state owned Rupawahini cooperation for not to broadcasting his speech (December 2007) - and still remain as a cabinet minister with impunity, what justice can the Tamils expect from this government?
When Tamil civilians are killed or massacred by the Sri Lanka security forces, either the international community remains silent or even if they issue a mild statement, they accuse both parties to the conflict. When there is any accusation against the LTTE, the reaction of the international community is always very strong and the opportunity is taken to praise the government for its feeble efforts. This itself is an unbalanced approach by the international community to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
So far the Tamils have voted in thirteen general elections and five presidential elections with the hope of living in peace and harmony with the Sinhalese. But day by day, generation by generation, the Tamils have been oppressed and ignored by the Sinhala rulers. Tamils hear only justifications of the atrocities and negative responses to their genuine grievances.
13 General Elections :
1947, 1952, 1956, 1960 March, 1960 July, 1965, 1970, 1977, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2004
5 Presidential Elections :
1982, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2005
“Having chosen to end the ceasefire arrangement, the Sri Lankan Government have a clear responsibility to live up to their commitment to address the grievances of the Tamil people.” Dr. Kim Howells, Minister for the Middle East-UK said in the House of Commons on 17 January 2008. (Excerpt)
A well known Sinhalese historian, late Mr. Adrian Wijemanne once told me, "why negotiate over what is yours? I am a Sinhalese Nationalist as much as you are a Tami Nationalist. I must have my Sri Lanka and you, your Eelam. The two countries should sign a friendship pact, and I should be able to visit you in Jaffna and you should be able to visit me in Colombo." (Excerpt from an article written by by Nadodi in ‘Sangam’ December 4, 2007)
During recent years, many new states have eventually been born in the world because of obdurate and persistent denial of justice and equality. From Bangladesh to Kosovo, it has been proved that continuous rejection of a just redress for horrendous human rights violations and failure to accept the history and realities, makes a path for international intervention. The Tamil Eelam conflict is no different to Kosovo or any other newly born state. Those who support, advocate and go hand in hand with Kosovo, cannot ignore the Tamil Eelam crisis.
It is the right time for the International Community to give a fair judgement concerning the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka.
Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR/CTDH
9, rue des Peupliers - 95140 Garge les Gonesse - FRANCE
Contact person : S. V. Kirubaharan – General Secretary
Tel/Fax: + 33 1 42 67 54 36 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR/CTDH
PO Box 182, Manchester M16 8ED, UNITED KINGDOM
Contact person : Deirdre McConnell – Director International Programme
Fax: + 44 161 860 4609 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Tamil Centrum voor Mensenrechten- TCHR
1703 TE Heerhugowaard
Contact person : I. Chinniah
Tamilen Zentrum fur Mensenrechten - TCHR
P. o. Box : 319
8172 – Niederglatt, SWITZERLAND
Contact person : Thambirajah Genegatharan
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org