Feature Article

Will EU declaration help Sri Lanka's peace?

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 October 2005, 02:54 GMT]
The European Union’s (EU’s) announcement that it "will not receive members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in its member states until further notice," and is considering formally listing the LTTE as a terrorist organization has raised both controversy and questions over whether the move will aid or hurt the island’s stalled peace process.

It was only a week prior to the EU declaration the LTTE Peace Secretariat in a statement urged the international community, particularly the EU, against exerting pressure targetted only at the Liberation Tigers. “Ground realities notwithstanding, Colombo expects that the international community exert indiscriminate pressure on the LTTE. This pressure, the Sinhala ruling elites believe, would weaken the Tamil cause and we trust that the international community is aware of it. If the international community complies with what Colombo intends, then the Tamil people are made to feel being left alone in their struggle for justice,” the statement said.

The 43-month-old peace process has stalled and the ceasefire is under strain largely due to the lack of direction, consensus and continuity within the Sinhala polity, the failure to establish an interim administration structure, failure to implement the agreed joint structure to handle the tsunami disaster reconstruction efforts, the LTTE feels. The non-implementation of key clauses of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) by both sides including continuation of killings and violence, vacation of government troops from public places, restoration of normalcy in the war-affected lives of the people in the North and East, and the failure to disarm paramilitary groups are other key factors that have contributed to the lack of progress.

The failure to disarm paramilitary forces in the NorthEast has been largely blamed for the current crisis facing the Ceasefire Agreement. The “shadow war” which started in the East after the current government took office last April has escalated and has spread to the Northern and Southern parts of Sri Lanka.

Noting the escalation of killings and violence, and increasing CFA violations, the Co-chairs released a statement warning that the peace process was “facing its most serious challenge since the Ceasefire Agreement came into force in February 2002.” The statement highlighted the need for the LTTE to stop its killings and the Sri Lankan government to disarm paramilitary groups.

While Sinhala polity is in a state of disarray, fractured across and within party lines, Tamil Tigers appear to have maintained their political, military and economic strength. It is suggested that EU was driven to target the stronger LTTE to bring balance between the parties in an effort to salvage the peace process.

The LTTE Head of the Political Wing, S P Thamilchelvan, has said the public statement by the EU has been counterproductive to the peace process and has harmed the LTTE-EU relationship. Recent Resurgence events organized by NorthEast Tamils brought out the message that they are already disillusioned with the peace process and the ceasefire agreement, and are also losing their trust with the EU.

Rather than helping to find a solution to the Tamil National question during what Tamil people see as critical and historic juncture of their struggle, blaming the Tamils for the current state of affairs is unwarranted, and a great tragedy, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians have said.

Although many in the South feel both India and the US should play a larger role in the peace process, the proscription of the LTTE by these two countries will be a barrier to US or India becoming directly involved in the process. Proscription limits the political space in which peace process could be advanced.

UK's colonial past is often considered as one of the factors responsible for the current ethnic trouble in Sri Lanka. By playing an active role behind the EU declaration, UK too has lost the trust and confidence to be able to a play a meaningful role in the future of the peace process, analysts say.

In all attempts at conflict resolution, continued engagement of the warring parties is critical to sustain the process. Closing the door for engagement by placing constraints on one party, impedes adherence to this principle, proponents of peace argue. The EU, which until now has played a crucial, critical role in the peace process, has alienated itself from the peace process by its one-sided action.

Sri Lanka Government conducted campaign of “war for peace” and led by late Kadirgarmer convinced the international community that they were fighting a “terrorist group.” Sri Lanka's military defeat at the Jeyasukrui offensive and the loss of Elephant Pass marked the failure of "war for peace" and highlighted the new military balance between the two antogonists.

The Government of Sri Lanka is now regressing to its once failed policy, and the EU action will likely embolden the new government to embark on a more belligerent approach to resolving the Tamil National question. Tamil Guardinan, a UK expatriate publication, last week pointed out the inevitability of the Sri Lankan state favouring a military solution again. “The Tamils – and we suggest the international community, too – should brace themselves. It is inevitable that Sri Lanka will attempt a military solution again,” the editorial warned.

With the absence of face-to-face talks in over two years in what analysts have dubbed as a “hurting stalemate” in the peace process, partisan punitive actions by the EU is more likely to hasten the disintegration of the peace process rather than salvage it.


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