Feature Article

Sri Lanka’s peace bid takes another nosedive

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 07 January 2004, 09:58 GMT]
The Sri Lanka’s stalled efforts to end two decades of war with the Liberation Tigers took another nosedive Wednesday when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he wanted to pull out of the ceasefire agreement he signed in February 2002. His stand has thrown President Chandrika Kumaratunga on the horns of a perilous dilemma. Picking up the gauntlet Mr. Wickremesinghe has thrown is fraught with grave risks for her. She has to either re-negotiate a new ceasefire agreement with the Tigers herself or hand back the three ministries she took over from Prime Minister in November last year.

She wont find it easy to either start negotiations with the Tigers or ignominiously give back the key ministries she arrogated from him using special powers she vested in her by Sri Lanka’s unitary constitution.

“Mr. Wickremesinghe’s move is calculated to push the President into a crisis with the Liberation Tigers over the ceasefire agreement”, charged a political commentator who is close to her.

President Kumaratunga says that Mr. Wickremesinghe compromised national security by accommodating many LTTE proposals and suggestion in the ceasefire agreement (CFA). She has often charged the CFA gave the northeast to the LTTE on a platter; that the CFA enabled the Tigers to gain greater control of the Tamil population than what they could have ever achieved through war.

Prez and PMHer foreign affairs advisor, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, claimed on many international forums that the CFA had given the LTTE impunity to augment its weapons stockpiles and double the strength of its armed forces.

The opposition lambasted Mr. Wickremesinghe as an indecisive, weakling of a leader who was working in cahoots with the Liberation Tigers to undermine the Sinhala nation.

President Kumaratunga’s chief ally, the stridently Sinhala nationalist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insists and campaigns that the CFA should be abrogated immediately.

The JVP and assorted Sinhala extremist groups also say that the CFA is illegal; that it has no status in law.

To make their point, individuals associated with these groups filed cases against the CFA – that the courts should declare it null and void.

Although what they say about the CFA is correct, Sri Lankan courts have delayed the inevitable judgment, apparently in the public interest, fully cognisant of the consequences of declaring the agreement null and void.

On the other hand the Liberation Tigers say that many provisions of the CFA have not been honoured by Colombo despite deadlines set out in the document.

It is hindering the restoration of normal life in the northeast despite the passage of almost two years since the agreement was signed, according to them.

The Liberation Tigers have also indicated that the provisions in the CFA relating to the sea are inadequate; that something similar to a line of control is necessary in the seas off the coasts which are under their control.

Therefore re-negotiating the CFA or taking over the peace process is well nigh impossible for President Kumaratunga.

“She has no lines of communication with the LTTE, official or unofficial. There is no way that she can recommence the talks”, says a United National Party official.

However, President Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance sources in Colombo told TamilNet that the PM is merely holding out a threat. “He is issuing these threats to test the waters. His utterances are a reflection of his political impotence. The President will not rise to the bait”, one of them told TamilNet.

“He desperately need the ministries of defence, interior and media to fight the next election and not to carry forward the peace process”, said another.

Mr. Wickremesinghe was away in Washington for a crucial meeting with President George Bush and senior US officials when President Kumaratunga snatched the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Media from his government.

However, the Liberation Tigers said they remain firmly committed to resolving the conflict by peaceful means despite a political deadlock between Sri Lanka’s President and PM over taking forward the peace process.

 

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