EU ban, one-sided and counterproductive - Balasingham

[TamilNet, Sunday, 04 June 2006, 09:25 GMT]
The EU ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is "extremely harsh, unfair, untimely and one-sided unlike the Donor Co-chairs declaration," LTTE’s Chief Negotiator and Political Ideologue, Mr. Anton Balasingham, has told the Colombo based weekly, The Sunday Times. It is a "misguided strategy," to assume that international proscriptions will "encourage" the penalised organisations to pursue the road maps and guidelines prescribed by the international actors, Mr. Balasingam said adding that the "anti-terrorist age," ban on the Tigers, ignoring the political context, historical background, was counterproductive and created serious obstacle to productive engagement.

Mr. Anton Balasingham
The ban on the Tigers, in this "anti-terrorist age," when all forms of violent struggles against state oppression and injustice, irrespective of their political context and historical background, are conflated into a singular phenomenon of terror, tarnishes the Tamil political struggle as a "phenomenon of terrorism," severely undermining the moral validity of the political movement, says LTTE's Chief Negotiator and Political Ideologue.

Some excerpts from the Interview follow:

Sunday Times: How does the LTTE view the EU ban imposed last Monday?
Mr. Anton Balasingham:The LTTE is deeply disappointed. It has its implications for international recognition of our people's legitimate struggle for self-determination.

I think the European Union ban is extremely harsh, unfair, untimely and one-sided, unlike the Donor Co-chairs declaration, which is a well-crafted, well balanced statement censoring both the parties for the escalation of violence.

In a conflict situation where both the principal parties or protagonists are equally blamed for misconduct and serious breaches of truce obligations, penalising one party harshly while condoning the other with gentle admonitions (EU Presidency calling on the GoSL to curb violence in government controlled areas) is unjustifiable and unacceptable. The ban is biased towards the state actor and therefore one-sided.

In the LTTE's view the European proscription will have a negative impact on the legitimate political struggle of an oppressed people. This action is not limited in its scope to blacklist the LTTE as a "terrorist organisation". Rather, it will tarnish the Tamil political struggle as a phenomenon of terrorism, severely undermining the moral validity of the political movement. In this anti-terrorist age, when all forms of violent struggles against state oppression and injustice, irrespective of their political context and historical background, are conflated into a singular phenomenon of terror, it has become extremely difficult for us to convince the world of the legitimacy of our freedom struggle, where as Sri Lanka, as a state actor, utilising the current trends of the global war against terror, can easily condemn their opponents, who violently resist state repression, as terrorists.

In our view the ban will not achieve its intended objective of curtailing the sympathy and support of the European Tamil Diaspora for the Tamil Tigers and their cause. On the contrary, this penalising act, that has deeply offended the expatriate Tamils, will kindle the spirit of patriotism and heighten the passionate support for the Tiger movement, as evidenced in the mass rallies staged world wide, expressing solidarity with the organisation.

It is generally assumed that international proscriptions will "encourage" the penalised organisations to pursue the road maps and guidelines prescribed by the international actors. I think it is a misguided strategy. Such punitive measures may have a counter-productive effect. Discredited, humiliated and globally isolated by world governments, the LTTE leadership may stiffen its attitude and adopt a singular, individualistic approach, as if it is freed from the constraints of international norms and pressures. In such an eventuality it is those proscribing international actors who may stand to lose their moral and political authority to exert influence on the proscribed entity and hence, their active, determinate role in the peace process will be severely diminished.

I think the European proscription is ill-timed and premature. In spite of allegations of serious violations of the truce, the LTTE has been reiterating its commitment to the peace process. It has not abandoned the CFA, nor has it withdrawn from the peace talks. Geneva talks were delayed by the acts of bad faith of the government, which failed to contain the criminal violence of the paramilitaries and made trivial issues into serious problems Therefore; the LTTE does not deserve such harsh punishment for the stalemate in the peace talks. I cannot understand why the European Union rushed to proscribe the LTTE before allowing time and space for the intervention of the co-chairs.

Sunday Times: What impact will it have on the peace process? Does this mean the end of the Ceasefire Agreement?

Mr. Balasingham: The European Union proscription will certainly have a negative impact on the peace process. The LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka entered into the Ceasefire Agreement on the basis of strategic equilibrium and the peace negotiations resumed between the parties on the basis of parity and equal status. These symmetrical relations between negotiating parties (between a state and a liberation movement) will be seriously impaired when international governments who are active supporters and custodians of the peace process, decide to penalise one party as a terrorist outfit. This one-sided state biased action will certainly deepen asymmetrical relations between the protagonists to the advantage of the state actor, creating a serious obstacle to productive engagement.

The European ban will encourage the hard-line nationalist elements aligned to Rajapaksa Government to adopt a hard-line position on the Tamil question and embolden them to seek the military option to crush the LTTE. This situation might create conditions for the current conflict to escalate into an all-out war.

In so far as the future of the CFA is concerned, the LTTE leadership will continue to insist on the effective implementation of the truce agreement. The only way to avoid the country sliding into the abyss of an ethnic war is to protect and preserve the CFA and to implement the truce in word and spirit.

Sunday Times: In the light of the above developments does the LTTE want to continue the peace dialogue with the government?

Mr. Balasingham: The LTTE is seriously committed to the peace process and a negotiated political settlement. We will not abandon the peace dialogue. The government has to create congenial conditions for peace negotiations by implementing the resolutions adopted at the Geneva talks.


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