Devolution proposals 'no basis for solution' - LTTE

[TamilNet, Friday, 30 June 2000, 09:36 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers said Friday the Sri Lankan government's devolution proposals were unacceptable as the basis of a solution to the Tamil national question as it "failed to address the national aspirations of the Tamil people" and it was intended to "promote the majoritarian [Sinhala] interests."

Speaking exclusively to the London-based Tamil Guardian, the LTTE's theoretician and chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham said on June 29 the government's devolution package "fails to address the key demands or the national aspirations of the Tamil people as articulated in the cardinal principles of the Thimpu declarations."

"The LTTE will not accept this package because it has nothing substantial to form the foundation for a permanent solution to the Tamil national question," he told the paper.

"These proposals for constitutional reforms are not specifically addressed to resolve the national question of the Tamils but rather seeks to promote the majoritarian interests," he said further.

"The LTTE will not study or comment on any package or proposals that tends to ignore the key issues of self-determination and nationhood of the Tamil people," he told the Tamil Guardian.

The full text of the interview, e-mailed to TamilNet Friday morning follows:

Tamil Guardian: The fighting in Jaffna seems to have subsided. The government claims that the LTTE's offensive campaign has been stalemated by the armed forces using modern weapons systems. What is your comment?

anton_balasingham.jpg
Liberation Tigers' theoretician and political advisor, Anton Balasingham Photo:Tamil Guardian
Balasingham: The Tigers' offensive is not stalemated by the army. Our combat formations are consolidating their newly gained positions in Jaffna. The offensive campaign has been temporarily suspended to evacuate the civilians trapped in the battle zones of Chavakachcheri. The army has been using the Tamil civilians as human shields to protect themselves. They have been bombing and shelling recklessly in the LTTE controlled areas causing heavy casualties among the innocent people. The army is desperate and demoralised and taking their vengeance on Tamil lives and property.

[Operation] unceasing waves will never stop until our strategic objective is achieved. That is, when the Jaffna peninsula is fully liberated from the alien military occupation.

Tamil Guardian: Have the LTTE fighters faced any setbacks due to the army's use of new weapons systems, i.e. the multi-barrel rocket launchers?

Balasingham: The heavy use of this weapon system has been the primary cause of civilian casualties. This has also caused heavy damage to property in the Chavakachcheri sector. Our fighters are familiar with this weapon system. We ourselves have been using them against the Sinhala troops.

The government is operating with the misplaced notion that the introduction of new weapons systems will change the course of the war in their favour. It is not the weapons that determine the success of a military campaign. It is the will, determination and commitment of the combatants that determines the war. The LTTE is blessed with those human virtues, and therefore its victory is assured.

Tamil Guardian: The government and the Opposition have agreed to set up an Interim Council for the administration of the Northeast. The government has stipulated the laying down of arms as a pre-condition for the LTTE's participation. What is your comment?

Balasingham: I think the government is living in a fool's paradise. The LTTE controls more than seventy percent of the landmass of the Tamil homeland. We are also confident that we will take control of the Jaffna peninsula in the near future. We have already instituted a de facto state in the territories under our control. We run a permanent administration there. We are not that stupid to seek a few seats in a temporary administrative set up renouncing our people's only means of defence. i.e. arms.

Even if the government establishes an Interim administrative council it will not be able to function in the Northeast, under the prevailing conditions. The Northeastern Provincial administration could not function even under the might of the Indian army. The Kumaratunga administration is mooting ludicrous ideas for the solution of the ethnic conflict completely disregarding the stark realities of the ground situation in the Northeast.

Chandrika may want to throw a few rotten bones in the form of an Interim Administration to those power hungry Tamil mercenaries in her alliance. Yet those who seek after powers and privileges from an oppressive regime at the cost of the immense suffering of our people should realise that history will not forgive their treachery.

Tamil Guardian: Colombo has become a hive of political activity this week. The final stage of the devolution package is being worked out between the PA government and the UNP. The Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim has been meeting the government leaders. But there seems to be a studied silence in the LTTE quarters. What is your position regarding the devolution package? Is the LTTE prepared to study and comment if the package is given to them?

Balasingham: The LTTE rejected the package when it was first presented to the public in 1995 as the Devolution Proposals. We rejected the package on the grounds that it had serious limitations and that it failed to address the national aspirations of the Tamil people. Since then there were two more sets of proposals, the legal draft of 1996 and the proposals for constitutional reform of 1997. Several changes have been made from the original proposals and powers of devolution have been further whittled down in the draft constitution. The PA government and the UNP in an attempt to reach a consensus engaged in deliberations for the last several months diluting further the constitutional reform proposals of 1997. Having sucked the blood and flesh out of the original package, a skeleton is now remains as the final draft.

The LTTE will not accept this package because it has nothing substantial to form the foundation for a permanent solution to the Tamil national question. It fails to address the key demands or the national aspirations of the Tamil people as articulated in the cardinal principles of the Thimpu declarations. The LTTE will not study or comment on any package or proposals that tends to ignore the key issues of self-determination and nationhood of the Tamil people.

These proposals for constitutional reforms are not specifically addressed to resolve the national question of the Tamils but rather seeks to promote the majoritarian interests. Sri Lanka has enacted several constitutions but they have been woefully inadequate for resolving the ethnic conflict. As long as constitution makers are constrained form instituting radical structural reforms in the polity enacting new constitutions has little or no meaning.

Tamil Guardian: Do you think that there is any prospect for cease-fire and peace talks in the near future?

Balasingham: There is a prospect for a cease-fire and peace talks only if the troops occupying Jaffna are withdrawn. If the government is determined to continue the military occupation of Jaffna, then the conditions of war will prevail. The LTTE has already liberated large territories in the peninsula. This liberation process will continue until our final goal is achieved.

Tamil Guardian: The world's sole super-power, the United States and India, the regional super-power have insisted that a solution to the Tamil conflict should be found within the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Do you think that these assertions will have a negative impact on your struggle for self-determination?

Balasingham: America and India have made these statements for specific reasons. We understand their geo-political concerns and interests. These views are articulated not with an intention to undermine the Tamil struggle for political freedom but to encourage the parties in conflict to seek a negotiated political settlement.

In so far as the ultimate solution to the Tamil question is concerned it is not the American superpower nor the Indian regional power or the Sri Lankan state power that have the power of determination. It is our people, the people of Tamil Eelam, who will ultimately determine their own political status and destiny.

Tamil Guardian: What is the LTTE's position with regard to the Indian assistance of 100 million dollars credit to Sri Lanka?

Balasingham: Though the financial aid is provided as a gesture of humanitarian assistance, we feel this credit facility will enhance the resource position of Sri Lanka and indirectly help its war effort. The Tamil people are dismayed because the Indian assistance will not be going to serve a humanitarian purpose but rather it will encourage the Sri Lanka regime to pursue the military path intensifying the suffering of the Tamil people. It is the Tamil people in the North, dying without food and medicine, who urgently need humanitarian assistance. Yet this pathetic human tragedy has not touched the spirituality or conscience of India.

Tamil Guardian International:

"The Tamil people will determine their own destiny"

 

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