Feature Article

Balasingham questions ‘Oslo Declaration’ in new book

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 26 October 2004, 09:31 GMT]
In a critical analysis of the Norwegian facilitated peace process in his new book ‘War and Peace,’ the LTTE’s theoretician, Mr. Anton Balasingham, calls into question the concept of the ‘Oslo Declaration.’ Mr. Balasingham points out that there was no specific proclamation titled the ‘Oslo Declaration’ on which many claims of the Tigers unconditional abandonment of the right to secession – i.e. external self-determination – are based.

The Liberation Tigers’ decision to explore federalism on the principle of internal self-determination, as a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict, does not entail an unconditional abandonment of the Tamils’ right to external self-determination and secession, Mr. Balasingham says.

He points out that the Tigers’ demand for self-rule under the principle of internal self-determination, outlined in LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s Heroes’ Day speech of 2002, was twined with a clear warning that if this is blocked or denied, the Tamils would be left with “no alternative other than to secede and form an independent state.”

Pointing out at that the decision by the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government (at the third session of talks in Oslo) to explore a federal solution “has been projected as a major political break through, a ‘paradigm shift’, and has become known as the ‘Oslo Declaration’, with interpretations claiming that the LTTE has abandoned the right to external self-determination and secession,” Mr. Balasingham states “ I feel it necessary to clarify our position on this controversial issue.”

“Firstly, it must be stated that there was not any specific proclamation titled the ‘Oslo Declaration’. The decision to explore federalism was included in the record of decisions at the Oslo talks and signed by the chief negotiators of both delegations and the head of the Norwegian facilitating team.”

“Secondly, the decision was made in accordance with the proposal outlined by the LTTE leader in his Heroes’ Day speech. Mr. Pirapaharan operates his concepts and categories within the over-all framework of the right to self-determination, with its internal and external aspects.”

In his 2002 speech, Mr. Pirapaharan stated: “We are prepared to consider favourably a political framework that offers substantial regional autonomy and self–government in our homeland on the basis of our right to internal self-determination.”

But at the same time, Mr. Balasingham points out, Mr. Pirapaharan “cautioned that if this internal element of self-determination is blocked or denied and that the ‘demand for regional self-rule is rejected we have no alternative other than to secede and form an independent state.’”

“In this context [Mr. Pirapaharan] enunciates the right to external self-determination as the last and the final option. Therefore, it is very clear that he operates with both aspects, the internal and external elements of the right to self-determination,” he writes.

Having provided the background, context and events at the third session of talks that led to the LTTE’s decision to explore federalism, Mr. Balasingham, the movement’s theoretician for several decades, proceeds to set out in ‘War and Peace,’ a detailed explanation of the LTTE’s position on internal and external self-determination.

Citing the ‘Principles of Equal Rights and Self-Determination’ enshrined in the 1970 UN Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning the Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States, Mr. Balasingham points out that “the right to self-determination is normally realised internally, within existing states. … The Declaration upholds the territorial integrity and political unity of sovereign and independent states.”

“Nevertheless, 1970 UN Declaration on Self-Determination qualifies its statement by stating that states can only invoke the principle of territorial integrity if they are ‘conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.’”

“The internal and external aspects of the right to self-determination are [thus] interlinked. If a people are denied their right to internal self-determination, deprived of access to governance and subjected to conditions of oppression and discrimination, they are entitled to external self-determination.”

As such, whilst having invoked the principle of internal self-determination, Mr. Pirapaharan calls upon the Sri Lankan state to offer self-rule to the Tamil people in their own homeland, the LTTE leader “was not confining himself to the parameters of the principle of internal self-determination,” Mr. Balasingham points out.

“The LTTE’s theoretical position is based on the specificity of the conditions of oppression of our people and their political struggle, a legitimate struggle that combines the internal and external dimensions of the right to self-determination,” Mr. Balasingham further argues.

“In essence, the LTTE’s policy orientation is charted in compliance with the principles of international law and UN resolutions.”

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