propelled peace process in Hakone
tension prevailed in the run up to the sixth round of peace talks
in Hakone, Japan following the Mullaitivu incident, backroom
diplomacy and international pressure saw compromises reached and
the talks ending on an optimistic note.
the eve of the talks, speculation was rife that the LTTE would at
least stage a token walkout as a mark of protest following the
death of 11 cadres in the Mullaitivu incident and this saw both
the Norwegian facilitators and Japan's Special Envoy to Sri Lanka,
Akashi working round the clock to ensure there were no unnecessary
the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) submitted a report stating no
definitive finding could be made as to who was in violation of the
ceasefire agreement also helped diffuse tension greatly and building on
this were the Norwegians and Akashi during individual meetings with the
Head of the LTTE delegation, Anton Balasingham and government Ministers
G.L. Peiris, Milinda Moragoda and Rauf Hakeem.
the formal sessions scheduled to commence in the afternoon of Tuesday,
March 18, Akashi initially met Ministers G.L. Peiris and Milinda
Moragoda separately the previous day and stressed the importance of
averting clashes and making progress in the peace talks if substantial
aid is to be forthcoming at the June donor conference.
is no secret that both the government and the LTTE are dependent on a
huge inflow of capital by the donor community for the reconstruction and
redevelopment of the north east as well as the south and that leverage
was used to the optimum by Akashi to stress the importance of keeping
the peace process on an even keel.
Tuesday, March 18, Akashi had a breakfast meeting with Anton and Adele
Balasingham at the Prince Hotel in Hakone where once again he emphasised
the importance of making progress in the talks if funding for the
reconstruction of the north and east is to be forthcoming.
gave an insight to his thinking at the very outset, when he shook
Balasingham's hand and asked whether he was satisfied with the
accommodation in Hakone to which the LTTE ideologue responded in the
We want the environment to be conducive for progress to be made in the
talks," Akashi said.
told Balasingham that unless progress is made in the talks and the
international community is satisfied in that respect, the anticipated
funding will not be pledged at the donor conference, a statement which
saw Balasingham allaying the special envoy's concerns.
Head of the LTTE delegation told Akashi despite the ups and downs in the
process, the organisation was committed to it, had given up the armed
struggle and would show its sincerity to the international community. He
said soon after the breakfast meeting he would be meeting with the Head
of the government delegation, Professor G.L. Peiris for informal talks
with a view to sorting out contentious issues before the formal talks
commenced in the afternoon.
at the 10 a.m. meeting between Minister Peiris and Balasingham, where
Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgessen and Special Envoy Erik
Solheim were also present, it was agreed by both parties not to use the
Mullaitivu incident for a slanging match, but to instead benefit from
the experience and put in place a mechanism with a view to averting such
incidents in the future.
course, at this meeting both Peiris and Balasingham stated their
respective positions with the LTTE ideologue accusing the navy of using
excessive force in international waters in violation of the ceasefire
agreement and an equally insistent Peiris stating the navy was not in
violation but that the LTTE was by neither flying a flag nor identifying
the growing rapport between Peiris and Balasingham both parties finally
agreed to disagree on whose fault it was and the decision was arrived at
to strengthen the role of the SLMM not only in relation to sea movements
but also on land.
that backroom diplomacy done, the formal sessions commenced at 2.15 p.m.
with what has now become a traditional handshake between Peiris and
at the very outset of the formal talks, having already agreed to avoid
confrontation over the Mullaitivu incident, Balasingham raised the issue
in a muted manner and said he has to make a formal protest on behalf of
LTTE Leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.
lost 11 of our cadres. Some of them were close to our leader. This
happened in international waters. You must see that the ceasefire
agreement is abided by the security forces. I am not going to raise the
issue of international waters but we must have a mechanism in place to
avert such incidents," he said.
also said senior cadres of the LTTE were angry and concerned at these
developments and queried how their cadres came to be killed if a
ceasefire is in place.
went on to say that the security forces were modernising and
strengthening themselves under the ceasefire agreement whereas the LTTE
was put under pressure with the perception created through the media it
was smuggling in weapons without a shred of evidence to back the
view point Balasingham had earlier stressed with both the SLMM and the
Norwegians as well.
argument was that if the balance of power was to be maintained under the
ceasefire agreement then it should not be a one way street where the
government is able to modernise and strengthen its armed forces while
the LTTE maintains the status quo but was accused wrongly of smuggling
had also earlier said the ceasefire agreement should not work to the
detriment of the LTTE especially when the President is threatening to
dissolve parliament and the SLFP-JVP alliance was calling a halt to the
Minister Moragoda downplayed the issue stating the government was not
modernising the forces to battle the LTTE but to fulfil its own needs.
know certain things are happening. It is not against you. We must have
the capability to even stop Indian fishermen coming and fishing in our
waters," Moragoda said.
the same time, Minister Peiris pointed out that a sovereign nation had a
right to interdict a vessel in international waters if it failed to
identify itself and was moving without a flag.
Balasingham, "You can use minimum force to apprehend such a vessel
rather than use maximum force. We have registered merchant vessels
operating but we don't want to divulge names here. We also need money
for administration purposes."
stopping at that, Balasingham said some of the senior commanders of the
security forces have told the SLMM they are not bound by the ceasefire
agreement because the President is not a signatory to it.
there a possibility to get her also to be a signatory to it? Then we can
avert such clashes which threaten the ceasefire agreement,"
suggestion, however, found no resonance with the government delegation
and Minister Peiris said as much. Said Peiris, "That is an exercise
in futility. It was only recently the President gave a written pledge to
the speaker she will not dissolve parliament. She has now said she is
not bound by that written pledge. Therefore, even if she becomes a
signatory to the CFA, there is no reliance that can be placed in her
after further discussion on the subject, it was decided to strengthen
the hand of the SLMM in a bid to avert volatile situations in the future
in addition to increasing its numbers. In doing so however, the
Norwegians asked for specific assurances on the security of its members
and a commitment to abide by the SLMM rulings.
it was decided that a team of government representatives including the
navy, a LTTE delegation including the Sea Tigers, the Norwegians and the
SLMM would meet within three weeks to put in place a mechanism to settle
not only disputes arising from sea movements but also on land.
that volatile issue out of the way, both delegations decided to focus on
the donor conference and financial arrangements, the following day,
Wednesday, March 19, with Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi slotted to
at the very outset, Akashi made it clear to both parties there will be
no international assistance forthcoming to Sri Lanka if substantial
progress is not made in the peace talks.
said while both parties have agreed on a federal set up, the
international community expects it to go beyond the mere concept and
deal with the core issues such as the powers to be devolved.
donor community will make their pledges in June only if progress is
shown. That is a very important factor for the donor community. Even if
war breaks out in Iraq, there won't be a drop in aid for Sri Lanka but
it is contingent on progress being made on the peace process," he
also said progress meant not only on the power sharing arrangements but
also in respect of human rights of the people. At the same time he
commended both parties for handling the Mullaitivu issue with wisdom.
the course of this session, a report by Ven. Banagala Upatissa was read
out which stated the Buddhist clergy in Japan were supportive of the
current peace process and requesting a meeting with the LTTE to which
Balasingham readily agreed and fixed a time for the following day. The
LTTE delegation met with the Buddhist delegation on Thursday as
scheduled and agreed to develop a closer rapport with the south.
that as it may, in discussing the financial aspects, the LTTE delegation
requested that the powers of the sub committee dealing with immediate
relief and humanitarian assistance be enhanced, which Peiris and
Moragoda said can only be done when more progress is made on the talks
though in principle they are in agreement with the proposal.
Minister Peiris said while more power can be given at AGA division
level, the time was not right to introduce legislation on this issue at
this respect, LTTE's Political Wing Leader S.P. Thamilchelvan drew
attention to the poor condition of the roads in the north and east and
said nothing was being done to repair them.
his own contribution on this issue, LTTE's spokesman on rehabilitation
and reconstruction, J. Maheswaran said while roads in the south were
reconstructed, it was not the case in the north east.
is one country. So why can't some of these monies be used to reconstruct
the roads in the north east?" he asked.
at this point, Thamilchelvan also pointed out that the presence of
security force camps was affecting the resettlement programme of the
internally displaced persons.
was Defence Secretary Austin Fernando who responded to Thamilchelvan
stating the government has already earmarked certain camps to be reduced
but needed assistance from the LTTE to implement it.
said while there were only a limited number of government locations to
shift these camps to, there were many unoccupied private properties
which can be used.
that suggestion did not find favour with the LTTE, with Balasingham
informing the government delegation most of those lands belonged to
expatriates who are wanting to return.
any event, it would tantamount to re-occupation. Think of another way
and expedite it," Balasingham said.
Minister Moragoda. "There is no other place for these troops to
Balasingham - "Already there are 40,000 troops. You can reduce the
numbers. If there is a requirement for more troops later, you can bring
them by air or sea by having a rapid deployment plan. It is a question
Moragoda was not willing to concede and having consulted Major General
Shantha Kottegoda said, "That is not practically possible. The
government has no idea of reducing the numbers at this point. We must
sort out the housing problem. The reduction of troops must be linked to
the progress of the talks," he said.
too did not relent and called for the early release of Lt. General
Sathish Nambiar's report on the High Security Zones (HSZ), stating it
should be ready at least before the next round of talks scheduled for
given the cordial atmosphere of the talks despite the divergence of
views, Balasingham joked, "There was a famous villain in Tamil
films called Nambiar."
apart, the afternoon session took a more serious turn with the LTTE not
totally receptive to the draft road map on human rights prepared by
rights expert Ian Martin.
"Human Rights Issues Relating To The Peace Process," Martin
read out his six page report initially after which Balasingham was the
first to respond picking on specific areas for comment.
seized on the references to self determination, the Prevention of
Terrorism Act and training of LTTE cadres in the report and called for
prompt action but was non committal on areas where specific action was
called for on the part of the Tigers such as pluralism, justice etc.
LTTE ideologue was also not keen on foreign human rights activists
getting involved in the monitoring aspects, wanting it instead handled
by the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, a suggestion Minister Peiris
was also comfortable with.
Minister Hakeem had other ideas and said it was of paramount importance
to have foreign monitors in the early stages. He also said the LTTE
cannot pick and choose what areas of the human rights proposals it wants
to adopt since human rights was not a negotiable subject.
Balasingham was not ready to play ball stating they are not fully geared
at this point of time to follow internationally accepted standards on
human rights due to the difficult conditions they were placed in.
to the issue of child conscription, Balasingham said while reference is
made to it in the proposals, the rights of children on education,
health, etc., have not found reference. He went on to say the LTTE
police and court systems were still not fully geared to adopt
international human rights standards but would be in a position to do so
once these institutions are legitimised in a final settlement based on
internal self determination and federalism.
approach of the LTTE to human rights saw a strong reaction from the
Norwegians, with Vidar Helgessen practically reading the riot act to
said, as did Hakeem, human rights was not a negotiable subject and that
issues such as pluralism cannot be swept under the carpet.
Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister said if the LTTE does not accept the
universal application of human rights, they will not be able to sell it
to the donors and that the donors will not accept a situation where
international monitors are kept out on the subject of human rights.
a bid to compromise, Minister Peiris suggested the use of the Sri Lanka
Human Rights Commission with advise from international rights experts
but that too did not find favour with Hakeem.
believing the LTTE was not prepared to accept the human rights report
since it would prevent the subjugation of other political parties in the
north east, Hakeem said, it is not just a case of giving confidence on
the parties sincerity to the international community but more
importantly the people of Sri Lanka.
people must have confidence in our deliberations and what better way to
achieve that than by ensuring their human rights," Hakeem said.
Balasingham, "We will ensure the full implementation of human
rights by incorporating constitutional guarantees in a final
proposal too did not meet with Hakeem's approval.
he, "It is during this transitional period respect for human rights
is of paramount importance to ensure people's confidence in the process.
When a final solution is achieved, there will be no need for
international human rights experts. In El Salvadore, Guatamala and other
such places, there were international players at the transition phase.
They will assist in a progressive manner the improvement of human
too once again stressed the importance of accepting the monitoring of
human rights. But Balasingham was equally adamant on his line of
Balasingham, "It is for the parties to the conflict to decide what
we are going to do on the issue of human rights and the involvement of
back Helgessen, "You can certainly decide but then the donors will
not come up with the money. If you are not prepared to abide by
international norms in respect of human rights, the support of the
international community will not be forthcoming."
Special Envoy Erik Solheim, "Why don't you call in civil society
and experts on human rights and get their ideas as a preliminary
the tough stance taken by the Norwegians, Balasingham said they were
prepared to consult other Tamil political parties and MPs in addition to
civil society with regard to the issue of human rights.
it was decided to ask Ian Martin to present a fresh paper at the next
round of talks scheduled from April 29 to May 2, where concerns of all
parties will be incorporated, whereby a declaration by the parties can
be adopted as an initial step towards a memorandum of understanding.
to his credit, worked overnight and prepared a brief second report and
handed same to both Peiris and Balasingham on Thursday morning which
found the acceptance of both parties.
this time, more leg work was also being done to make the June donor
conference a success despite the prospect of the war on Iraq continuing
and Minister Milinda Moragoda on March 16 wrote to all the finance
ministers of the donor nations seeking continued support for Sri Lanka.
This is what Moragoda wrote:
Tokyo Sri Lanka Seminar
14, 2003, Washington DC
ongoing peace process in Sri Lanka with the facilitation of the Royal
Norwegian government is making steady progress. The signing of the
ceasefire agreement an year ago has changed the lives of our people and
provides hope for the future.
peace and economic growth are intractably intertwined, it is impossible
to build lasting pace without significantly improving economic
performance in Sri Lanka. In seeking to garner wide international
political and economic support for the Tokyo conference on
reconstruction and development of Sri Lanka, hosted by the government of
Japan in June this year, Mr. Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
will be hosting a pre-Tokyo Sri Lanka seminar in Washington DC, on April
14, 2003, from 10.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. at the State Department,
following the G-24 development committee, IMF/World Bank spring
meetings. The seminar will focus on the peace process and international
support of the Tokyo conference.
attendance at the Pre-Tokyo Sri Lanka seminar hosted by the US
government in Washington DC will send a strong signal that the
international community stands united and ready to support the peace
process in Sri Lanka.
for Economic Reform, Science and Technology
24 hours lapsed before Armitage himself wrote an equally supportive
letter to the finance ministers of the donor nations. Following is what
Tokyo Sri Lanka Seminar
14, 2003, Washington DC
you know, the United States has been actively supporting the
international effort led by Norway to facilitate the ongoing peace talks
in Sri Lanka between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Anyone who has visited Sri Lanka since the
ceasefire began can see clearly how the end of violence has transformed
the lives of Sri Lankans and provided hope for their future.
April 11 and 12, leaders from around the world will be in Washington DC,
for meetings at the World Bank and the IMF. If at all possible, please
stay in Washington and attend the seminar I am hosting at the State
Department on Monday, April 14, from 10.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. The Sri
Lanka seminar will focus on the peace process and international support
for the Tokyo conference. Our discussion is designed to be a prelude to
the Tokyo conference on reconstruction and development of Sri Lanka to
be held in Japan from June 9-10.
attendance will demonstrate that the international community stands
ready to support peace if the two parties are willing to make the tough
choices necessary for the process to succeed.
give a further impetus on the US front, Minister G.L. Peiris too is
scheduled to meet with Armitage in Washington tomorrow, Monday, March
24, which itself is a signal on the importance the US is attaching to
Sri Lanka considering Armitage's busy schedule due to the war on Iraq.
in a bid to move on with the peace process, the fiscal aspects of
federalism were taken up for discussion Thursday morning and a fair
degree of progress made.
the LTTE once again insisted on expanding the scope of the sub committee
on immediate humanitarian relief on Thursday morning, the government
while agreeing in principle reiterated its position that such legal
expansion should be linked to the progress of the talks.
agreement was reached on providing for the regional units to raise their
own finances while also maintaining a link with the center to ensure
there are no disparities between different regional units in relation to
financial resources. Towards this end, it was also decided to draw up
two road maps, one on political issues for power sharing and the other
on human rights.
the final analysis, despite the initial hiccups, a fair degree of
progress was made in Hakone, Japan and it remains to be seen whether
both the government and the LTTE can build on it in the weeks to follow
to maximise the benefits for Sri Lanka at the Tokyo donor conference.
post-mortem of the Monitors' report
confrontation on March 10th on the high seas resulting in the
destruction of a merchant vessel owned by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) has caused much tension over the past two weeks. The
mutually recriminatory stances adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL)
and the Tigers over what had allegedly transpired threatened at one
stage to disrupt the sixth round of talks in Japan. Saner counsel
however prevailed and the Hakone talks got underway as scheduled without
crucial factor that contributed to this pacifying process was the
conduct of the Norway led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) itself.
Despite the shabby treatment meted out to the SLMM, the monitors handled
the situation reasonably well within limits. The entire incident and its
aftermath was in a sense a baptism of fire for the new SLMM Chief, Major
General Tryggve Tellefssen.
the media hype, it was the expectation that the SLMM would adjudicate on
the incident that helped douse passions. The SLMM played it safe and
released a determination aimed at reducing rather than exacerbating
tensions. It avoided blaming any agency explicitly but drew specific
attention to mutual lapses. It was a damage control exercise calculated
to dispel heat rather than shed light over the incident.It succeeded to
some extent in this goal but raised more questions than answers. A post
- mortem of some sections of the report released to the public on March
17th provides an interesting insight into what occurred and implicitly
lays blame on those 'at fault.'
preliminary paragraph of the SLMM determination states - " At 10.00
in the morning of March 10th 2003 Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission received
information from the Sri Lanka Government's Secretariat for Coordinating
the Peace Process, that the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) was engaged in a sea
incident around 240 nautical miles off the east coast of Sri Lanka. The
SLN was said to have intercepted an unknown merchant ship believed to be
a LTTE vessel. Major General Tryggve Tellefssen immediately contacted
the Sri Lanka Navy Commander and requested that the navy keep the
merchant ship under close observation, maintain a certain distance from
it and avoid any confrontation until a SLMM monitor had been moved to
the scene. The Navy Commander informed the Head of SLMM that a firefight
had already taken place between the vessels.
reveals several things. Firstly that the original official version
clearly stated that the location of the ship was 240 nautical miles
away. This meant that the ship was located in international waters and
therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Sri Lanka Navy. The right of
hot pursuit does not seem applicable in this context.
it shows that there was a particular procedure to be followed by the
navy in instances of this type. The SLMM Chief had " requested that
the navy would keep the merchant ship under close observation, maintain
a certain distance from it and avoid any confrontation until a SLMM
monitor had been moved to the scene." This therefore was the
correct course of conduct for the navy in such situations.
Navy Commander however informed the Head of SLMM that a firefight had
already taken place between the vessels.So the navy had already gone
ahead with its own plans and had contacted the SLMM only after events
had moved beyond a certain point.This is tantamount to a high handed act
by the navy that no amount of rationalisation by government
personalities could justify.
is also apparent from the report that even at 10. 10 am the LTTE had no
'official' knowledge of the ship.The report observes "At 10.10 am
SLMM contacted the LTTE Headquarters in Kilinochchi via telephone, and
asked if LTTE had information on any LTTE vessel in this area. The
question was to be relayed to the LTTE leadership as soon as
possible." The SLMM report goes on to say "At 12.00 the LTTE
leadership contacted SLMM and confirmed that an LTTE merchant ship was
engaged in a sea incident with the SLN. The LTTE stated to SLMM that;
"the ship is sailing in international waters, the SLN has no right
to intercept it and we ask SLMM to intervene."
interviews with SLMM, LTTE later stated that; 'this was a merchant
tanker of approximately 700 tons, 8 meters wide and 61 meters long. It
had 11 crew members, all members of the Sea Tigers, and was operated by
an independent shipping company supporting LTTE financially. The ship
had a legal cargo of diesel and was sailing in the direction of India.
At 11.30 its position was 220 miles east of Trincomalee.' The LTTE has
not been able to inform SLMM about the name and registration of the
tanker or its port of departure."
paragraphs indicate that the LTTE had been 'ignorant' of the incident
until the SLMM contacted the Tigers. Whether this was genuine or feigned
is a moot point. While the LTTE assertion that the ship was only a
merchant vessel carrying diesel may have been correct, the inability or
unwillingness of the LTTE to provide accurate details about the ship
like name, registration, or port of departure weakens the Tiger case
SLMM report continues further - "According to the SLN report on the
incident, 'the Sri Lanka Navy received credible information on 09th
March that a LTTE vessel carrying war-like material was approaching the
Mullaitivu coast with the objective of unloading weapons at mid sea onto
small boats.' According to SLMM interviews with members of the eastern
naval command and the captain of the SLN vessel;
suspicious vessel was visibly detected 185 miles from the coastline. .at
06.30 on 10th March. and . The suspect vessel, which conformed to the
intelligence received, was identified around 07.45. .at approximately
185 miles north east of Mullaitivu.' There was radio communication
between the vessels. The SLN claims that the information from the LTTE
crew on the ship's cargo, registration and crew was characterised by
discrepancies. The SLN also claims that the vessel did not have a
national flag or a visible name on the ship and because it did not
follow the SLN orders to stop; - 'The SLN vessel fired warning shots
over the bow of the LTTE ship at approximately 09.00-09.30, and
subsequently received fire from the LTTE merchant ship. The SLN fired
back at the ship using all her weapons. and . the suspect vessel caught
fire and became disabled around 10.30.'
LTTE states that at approximately 14.00 it received a message from the
tanker via the LTTE Sea Tigers, that it was 'under attack, on fire and
sinking.' The SLN states that the LTTE merchant vessel sank 195 miles
east of Mullaitivu at 15.09. The sinking of the ship can be seen from
the video produced by SLN. However, it still remains unexplained what
actually caused the ship to sink."
observations highlight vividly the discrepancies in the navy's and GOSL
positions on where the ship sank. It is seen that the official position
on the exact location has been shifting or rather floating. This has
eroded official credibility immensely. Compounding matters further has
been the contradictory testimony of the SLN to the SLMM.
report notes in its findings - "Asked why SLMM was not informed and
a monitor called to the scene, the Navy Commander, members of the
eastern naval command and the captain of SLN Sayura have stated that
they did not know it was a LTTE vessel but were only informed about a
'suspicious gun running vessel.' This is contradictory to the initial
press release from the Ministry of Defence and also the SLN report on
the incident, which both state 'The SLN received credible information on
09th March that a LTTE vessel carrying war-like material was approaching
the Mullaitivu coast.'" The navy has been caught with its hands in
the biscuit jar.
SLMM in its findings debunks the much flaunted claims about the video
tape taken by the navy of the battle. This is what it says - "The
SLN video taken by a SLN vessel arriving to the scene after 11.00 cannot
be considered entirely impartial evidence, as it is taken and produced
by one party to the conflict. However, on that video, the front and back
of the hull of the LTTE merchant ship can be seen quite clearly. At the
time of filming, no flag or name is visible and the same applies to the
front of the bridge and the mast of the ship. On the other hand in the
intelligence the SLN received on the LTTE merchant ship it is stated
that the ships' name is MV KOIMAR. The SLN report states 'the suspect
vessel. . conformed to the intelligence received.' On the SLN video it
can also be seen that the LTTE merchant ship had isolated fires on the
front deck, in front of the bridge and on the aft, until it sank."
report goes on to say - "The SLMM inquiry team found around 30
fresh bullet marks on the super structure and bridge of SLN Sayura, the
SLN vessel involved in the incident. SLMM inquiry team also met and
questioned three servicemen of the SLN Sayura, who were wounded in this
incident, on their return from sea early morning 11th March". The SLMM avoids controversy and attempts to wriggle out of
definitive comment on the fundamentals of the skirmish. This is what the
report says on these salient aspects:
government of Sri Lanka accuses LTTE of carrying war-like material in a
merchant vessel claming