Sinhala nationalist extremists obstacle to peace – Balasingham

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 20:21 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers will view any further attacks by military-backed paramilitaries as an act of war and may postpone next month’s talks in Geneva unless the state fulfils the Ceasefire Agreement and disarms them, the LTTE’s Political Strategist and Chief Negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham said Tuesday. In an interview to Reuters at his London home, Mr. Balasingham also said President Mahinda Rajapakse should dump his Sinhala nationalist allies and seek support from the main opposition UNP party which led a government that held six rounds of talks with the LTTE in 2002-3.

Anton Balasingham
"If the paramilitaries continue to launch military offensive operations against the LTTE with the backing of the Sri Lankan armed forces, it will certainly be construed as an act of war against the LTTE,"

"It will lead to conditions of war and violence and it will block any forward movement of the peace talks and lead to the collapse of the peace process itself."

"The LTTE leadership will consider postponing the second round (of talks), or they might even think of attending the talks and continue to insist on the same (disarmament) theme that was taken up at the first round," Balasingham said.

"So there won't be any forward movement of the talks if these paramilitaries are not disarmed," he added.

But residents from the Northeast, particularly the garrison towns of Jaffna and Batticaloa reported heightened paramilitary activity. In Jaffna, gunmen of the EPDP were openly patrolling with Sri Lankan troops whilst in Batticaloa, cadres from the Karuna Group opened signposted offices.

Both developments – in which Sri Lanka’s military are involved - are being seen as a defiant response to the government’s reluctant agreement during the first round of talk in Geneva in February to implement the Ceasefire Agreement, which obligates Colombo to either disarm paramilitary units or absorb them into its regular forces for service outside the contested Northeast.

If the talks do go ahead next month, amongst the pressing matters the LTTE will raise are the Sri Lankan military’s continuing occupation of dozens of emptied Tamil villages in the high security zones (HSZs) and restrictions on Tamil fishing communities.

The Tigers want the vast HSZs in the far north vacated by the military so that thousands of displaced people can return to rebuild homes ravaged by years of incessant shelling. The Tigers also want the army to halt cordon and search operations and military harassment of civilians.

"The strategic objective of the current negotiations as far as the LTTE is concerned is to seek out a climate of de-escalation and normalisation, which is a necessary condition for resuming serious talks on the political issues," Balasingham told Reuters.

Even if the present talks on ceasefire progress to negotiations on political issues, President Rajapakse’s ultra nationalist allies, the Marxist JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Perumana) and hardline monks party, the JHU (Jeyathika Hela Urumaya) are likely to be spoilers, Mr. Balasingham said.

"Rather than bring in these crazy Marxists and mad monks under the slogan of inclusiveness, the only way out of this mess is for Rajapakse to work out some form of alliance with the UNP (United National Party)," Mr. Balasingham told Reuters.

The UNP-led coalition which governed Sri Lanka from Dec 2001 to April 2004 signed a truce with the Tigers and held several rounds of Norwegian brokered talks with them, despite being hamstrung by a hostile President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Rajapakse’s predecessor.

Last week, the JVP resumed its vehement opposition to the Norwegian facilitation of the stuttering peace process. JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa warned ‘undiplomatic’ activities by Norway would create a ‘storm’ that would jeopardize political stability of the country.

The JVP is Sri Lanka’s third largest party and is widely thought to be closing the gap on the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Rajapakse’s rejection of the concepts of Tamil homeland and nationhood – enshrined in electoral pacts he signed with the JVP and JHU before the Nov 2005 elections - presented an obstacle to a negotiated solution to the protracted conflict, Mr. Balasingham said.

"Unless Rajapakse...accepts the demand of the Tamils for regional autonomy, there won't be any prospect for a political solution," he said.

"If...internal self-determination is rejected, then only we will invoke the right to external self-determination - that is the right to form an independent state."


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