Colombo ‘in a military mindset’ – Balasingham

[TamilNet, Sunday, 23 April 2006, 13:50 GMT]
With Sri Lanka’s government refusing to disarm Army-backed paramilitaries whose ‘shadow war’ against the LTTE is spiralling into increasingly cycles of revenge killings, the Ceasefire Agreement is ‘falling apart,’ the LTTE's Chief Negotiator and Political Strategist, Anton Balasingham, said this week. Colombo’s support for the paramilitaries and the escalated repression against Tamil civilians in government-controlled areas of the Northeast means "we can safely assume that Rajapakse administration has not given up the military option," he told The Sunday Leader newspaper.

Mr. Anton Balasingham
Mr. Anton Balasingham
“The appointment of hard-line, hawkish elements in the defence establishment, the adoption of an acrimonious, irreconcilable attitude at the peace negotiations, the hostility and suspicion shown to the Norwegian facilitators, the malicious propaganda campaign launched internationally against the LTTE, and demonising the organisation as a 'terrorist outfit,' demonstrate the fact that the Mahinda Chinthana is entrapped in a military mindset,” he said.

The text of Mr. Balasingham’s comments to The Sunday Leader follow:

"You are certainly aware that the ground situation in the north east is fast becoming grave and dangerous. The escalating violence is gradually assuming the ugly character of a shadow or subversive war, reminiscent of the last December and January turbulence. This time the violence started with the assault on LTTE's sentry posts in the east by Tamil paramilitaries soon after the Geneva talks.

LTTE cadres have claimed that Karuna's raiding party was given artillery cover by the Sri Lankan armed forces during these encounters. The situation became worse following the assassination of Mr. Vigneswaran, a well respected Tamil leader of Trincomalee. We have evidence to believe that Tamil paramilitaries in collusion with military intelligence were behind this murder.

These events depict the harsh reality of paramilitary violence in the government-controlled areas of the north east. Nevertheless, the Rajapakse administration continues to make incredulous pronouncements that Tamil paramilitaries do not exist. This shameful denial of truth by the government has made the Geneva agreement meaningless and absurd. How can there be an authentic peace effected by total cessation of hostilities if Tamil armed paramilitaries are protected, encouraged and assisted by the Sri Lankan armed forces in their violent campaign against the Tamil Tigers and their civilian supporters?

In our perception, the violence of the paramilitaries and the reluctance of the government to contain them has become a major threat to peace. Now the violence has taken an ugly turn, in which Tamil civilians are brutally eliminated in the form of revenge killings. The situation in the Tamil areas is very gloomy and the cycle of revenge killings in this dirty subversive war is plunging the country into a horrible ethnic war.

Now the million dollar question is what to discuss at the next round of talks in Geneva. The Cease Fire Agreement (CFA), for which the parties made a solemn pledge to uphold and respect at Geneva I, is falling apart. There is increasing mutual distrust, suspicion and animosity among the protagonists. We have our grave doubts whether this government is sincerely and seriously committed to seeking peace.

The Rajapakse regime is acting in bad faith on the issue of Tamil paramilitaries. In the military calculation of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse, the Karuna group is an asset to launch internecine warfare among the Tamils. We can safely assume that Rajapakse administration has not given up the military option.

The appointment of hard-line, hawkish elements in the defence establishment, the adoption of an acrimonious, irreconcilable attitude at the peace negotiations, the hostility and suspicion shown to the Norwegian facilitators, the malicious propaganda campaign launched internationally against the LTTE, and demonising the organisation as a 'terrorist outfit,' demonstrate the fact that the Mahinda Chinthana is entrapped in a military mindset.

Some of the government ministers have suggested that the next round of talks should focus on north east economic development. This is a ridiculous proposition in view of the grave security situation prevailing in Tamil areas. Economic development projects cannot be undertaken in an unstable environment threatened by war.

Furthermore, the Rajapakse government is systematically losing control of governance in the so-called 'cleared areas' of the north east. The law and order system there has collapsed and the state can no longer safeguard and protect the ordinary Tamil citizens. The state's security forces rule the occupied Tamil territories with emergency laws, enforcing brutal force. General [Sarath] Fonseka's tyrannical administration in Jaffna and other occupied Tamil cities is systematically losing the hearts and minds of the civilian population, creating objective conditions for popular insurrection.

There are also suggestions from the government circles that substantial issues underlying the Tamil national question should be taken up for discussion at Geneva II. We are fully aware that the Mahinda Chinthana is a closed ideological universe where there is no space for imaginative policies or projects.

Upholding a rigid unitary constitution and opposing the concepts of Tamil speaking homeland and regional self government, this government, aligned to chauvinist extremist elements, cannot offer a fair and reasonable solution to the ethnic conflict.

As far as the LTTE is concerned, de-escalation of the conflict situation and normalisation of civilian life in the north east are critical at this conjuncture, which could only be secured by the effective implementation of the CFA.

The talks are unlikely to take place on April 24 due to the current situation and particularly due to the transport dispute. Talks may be rescheduled for a further date if the transport dispute is resolved."

 

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