potboiler for the south
demand by the Liberation Tigers for the immediate setting up of an
interim administrate in the north east “affording them legitimacy”
seems to have raised a hornet’s nest, though in truth, it is rather an
old demand accepted in principle by the two main political parties in
like the present weather conditions, the political climate too grew
bleak when the LTTE decided to unilaterally suspend peace talks in
April, piqued ostensibly by the US’ decision to exclude them from a
vital preparatory donor conference in Washington. While withdrawing, the
LTTE also blamed the government for its failure to implement decisions
reached at the discussion table and delays in resettling refugees.
this backdrop, Japan’s visiting special peace envoy Yasushi Akashi’s
attempts to convince the Tigers that their presence was vital at the
crucial Tokyo donor parley proved futile. Akashi sought to impress upon
the guerillas that if they were keen to demonstrate their interest in
playing a participatory role in rebuilding the north east, they should
reach Tokyo where over 40 countries would gather to pledge assistance to
rebuild Sri Lanka.
a while, it appeared that the Tigers would eventually return to the
table, pressurised as they were by the international community and their
own cash strapped situation. But, three weeks before the donor parley,
the guerillas are linking their possible presence in Tokyo to a previous
demand for an interim administration.
Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan last week formally requested visiting
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen to initiate the establishment of
a “new and innovative structure for the northeast with adequate
authority and legal status for rapid implementation of humanitarian and
development activities.” On Thursday, Tiger Political Wing Leader S.P.
Tamilselvan declared that their presence in Tokyo would essentially
depend on “the government’s response to their suggestions that
should be concrete, trustworthy, honest and not based on verbal pledges
with regard to the setting up of an interim administration for the north
critical, he told the media in Kilinochchi that the government should go
beyond the parameters of the constitution and not be held prisoner by
it. “It would give our organisation legitimacy and authority over the
north east,” he added.
it would establish the LTTE’s authority or not, it appears that the
Tigers are demanding the space for ‘transition.’ The call for an
interim administration, however, seems to cause much heartburn to the
majority of the people who feel that the LTTE cannot be trusted as yet
and need to prove their credentials before they are allowed to exercise
administrative powers over two provinces. And such powers they feel
would effectively wipe out all other political expressions from the
north east landscape.
its own brand of diplomacy, the Tigers last week sought the Tamil
National Alliance’s (TNA) assistance to pursue the demand. A TNA group
met American Ambassador Ashley Wills on Thursday to explain that such an
interim administration was mandatory to effectively rebuild the war
ravaged areas and rehabilitate the displaced families.
group also briefed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the outcome of
the talks they had with the LTTE leadership following it up by meetings
with envoys of Norway and Japan.
of the demand
to senior Tamil politicians, the call for an interim administration is
nothing new. “It was understood that we would have to look at such a
structure when the militant parties require a period for transition,”
says V. Anandasangaree.
should understand that a militant group that has not engaged in politics
would definitely require some time to transform itself from a military
movement into a political one,” asserts Lands Minister Dr. Rajitha
concept, according to Anandasangaree has been touted for at least 15
long years. Following talks
between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J.R.
Jayewardene prior to the brokering of the Indo Lanka pact,
it was agreed that an interim administration could be set up,
which would be headed by the LTTE.
LTTE was supposed to nominate three persons as possible leaders and due
to some misunderstanding, it did not materialise,” asserts the TULF
need for such a structure was first recognised in the Indo Lanka Peace
Accord of 1987, under which the north east was temporarily merged.
in the sands of time, focus next fell on the issue of an interim set up
when President Chandrika Kumaratunga who came into office by pledging
extensive power sharing with the LTTE, offered the Tiger Leader 10 years
of self-rule in 1998.
to the Time Magazine of February 9, 1998, “she promised
Prabhakaran an autonomy package and also said if he stopped fighting he
could run the Northern Province, using his guerillas as a police force,
without having to face elections for up to 10 years.
She says the Tiger Chief did not respond.”
was bitterly attacked by the opposition UNP “for offering the north
east to terrorists on a platter then” and two years later, when
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe offered an interim administration
to the LTTE for two years, the UNP was at the receiving end of a
vituperative government attack for “compromising sovereignty.”
it is interesting to note that Kumaratunga who called upon the Tigers to
“stop fighting,” when making the offer, did not urge them to give up
Minister Ranil Wickreme-singhe who offered an interim administration in
the UNF manifesto of 2001, reiterated that such a set up would be a
perfect threshing ground for the Tigers.
“We are willing to discuss extensive internal power sharing
without dividing the country. There is no compromise on the sovereignty
of our state. Presidents Premadasa and Kumara-tunga both attempted to
discuss core issues at the discussion table. We have to take the
discussion forward and in the near future, we should be able to discuss
the modalities on how to share power,” he noted.
a public rally following the Jana Bala Meheyuma (people power
campaign) in September 2002, he noted that President Kumaratunga had
offered a much longer administration to the guerillas.
the official positions of both the main political parties here, the
issue of sharing power has often posed a dilemma to the south who fail
to see it as a measure falling short of dividing the nation.
the Tamil political parties feel that the two main political parties
should reach a compromise on the matter soon. “There is no way that
they could back off now. It is what the PA leadership promised the Tamil
population earlier and now that the party is in opposition, they should
not attempt to go back on their word,” says General Secretary, TULF,
Chairman and Power and Energy Minister, Karu Jayasuriya told The
Sunday Leader that the LTTE should not link their participation at
the donor parley to the issue of an interim administration,
though the government definitely understood and accepted that the talks
would eventually lead to the establishment of such a set up.
Spokesman Dr. Sarath Amunugama who has been campaigning for extensive
power devolution as a means to end ethnic strife told The Sunday
Leader that the PA saw no reason to give into the demands of the
LTTE at this juncture.
cannot accept a settlement outside the present constitution. According
to the 13th Amendment, such a decision has to be taken by the President.
Therefore, the Prime Minister cannot take a decision single-handedly
even if he wished to,” he said.
defended the PA’s original offer of 10 years of self-rule, stating
that Kumaratunga merely “suggested” the creation of an interim
administration and any salient proposal she created would have fallen
well within the ambit of the constitution.
Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne sees this as a political move aimed at
whipping up communalism for political mileage. “There is no way for
either party to renounce its stance. We are committed to a position. But
there is no need to get excited as it is only a suggestion with
modalities yet to be worked out.”
Senaratne said that there were two schools of thought. Some feel that
presidential sanction is necessary to move the necessary legislation
while some believe cabinet sanction is adequate. “Many things need to
be worked out. But the Tigers should not link this to the Tokyo aid
conference,” he said.
not, seems to be the question raised by most Tamil politicians. “We
have pursued our cause with commitment. What is the purpose of attending
donor conferences to seek money to rebuild the north east, if we have no
measure of control over how the money is utilised in our areas?”
Sihala Urumaya, Tilak Karunaratne finds nothing original in the demand.
“Kumaratunga made her first pledge on those lines prior to the 1994
presidential elections and had this gazetted in August 1999.”
The election manifesto of the UNP in 1999 had Ranil Wickremesinghe
pledging a similar administration. After all these offers, the Tigers
are now demanding their pound of flesh, he noted.
rejects the entire concept as one that seeks to permanently divide the
country and a total sell out. The position of the Sihala Urumaya and the
Mahajana Eksath Peramuna are similar. They feel that the Tigers have
received much more from the peace process than what they have fought and
captured during 20 years of warfare.
other Tamil political parties like the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC)
remain noncommittal. “It is only at a demand stage. No discussions
have been held and decisions are not even thought of,” says Party
Leader, Minister Arumugam Thondaman.
member, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam encapsulated the need for the south to
come together if the problem is to reach a final solution. “We believe that the request is not unfair.
There is a great need for the formalisation of such a set up if
we are to pursue rehabilitation and resettlement goals. After all,
nobody feels the pain as much as we do,” the parliamentarian said.
believes that such an administration could help streamline the present
structure such as the pradeshiya sabhas that exist in the
northeast. “Why should there be unnecessary fear? It is part of a
process of transition for the Tigers,” he asserted.
such, the Tamil politicians feel that there is a silver lining in the
seemingly hardcore stance adopted by the LTTE.
“The LTTE no longer believes in a military solution. As
reiterated by Tamilselvan at a recent media briefing, the Tigers no
longer feel that a military solution is feasible.”
“They are slowly passing that phase of militancy. The modalities should
be worked out for a set up that is acceptable both to the north and the
south, but this opportunity to transform themselves into politicians, a
chance we allowed the southern militants of the JVP, should be offered
to the Tigers as well,” said Minister Rajitha Senaratne.
agrees to interim administration
The ruling UNF declared its
official position on the interim administration in their 2001
The manifesto declared that “we will set up an interim
council in the north and east for a limited duration.”
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the final Jana
Bala Meheyuma rally at the Colombo Town Hall on September 9,
2002, declared that there indeed was a need to take up the issue
of setting up an interim administration by the LTTE in the north
“The LTTE has functioned as a military outfit and hence
demand an interim administration to complete its transition into a
political organisation. This is the thinking behind the demand for
an interim administration,” he said.
With no particular reference to the setting up of an interim
administration, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his May Day
speech too reiterated that “any matter that does not seek to
divide Sri Lanka could be taken up at the discussion table.”