one word a man is often deemed to be wise, and for one word he is
often deemed to be foolish. We should be careful indeed in what we
D. B. S. Jeyaraj
missive sent by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham to Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe on April 21 has resulted in an inevitable political
storm. After citing several reasons the LTTE informed the premier that
it was suspending its role in negotiations for the time being. It also
announced that it would not be attending the forthcoming donor meeting
in Tokyo on June 9 and 10. Later the Tigers said that they will not be
attending the SIHRN meetings too.
LTTE however said that it remained committed to the peace process. A
senior Tiger leader, Velupillai Balakumaran (formerly of the Eelam
Revolutionary Organisation) reassured the Jaffna public that the LTTE
would not be going to war. The letter written by Balasingham on behalf
of the LTTE leadership outlined some grievances and complaints.
among these was the charge that the government was guilty of excluding
the North - Eastern Province in procuring and providing international
aid for rehabilitation, reconstruction and development. It accuses the
government of ignoring the specific destruction caused in the north east
by the war and that it has not formulated any plans for the region.The
government's 'Regaining Sri Lanka' development strategy document is
confined to the south alone.
tone and tenor of these allegations were severe. Relevant excerpts are -
" Your government, in international forums, continues to place
poverty as the common phenomenon affecting the entire country. The
poverty reduction strategy forms the essence of the document 'Regaining
Sri Lanka' which defines the macro-economic policy of your government.
poverty and poverty alleviation constitute the centrality of the new
economic vision of your government as exemplified in 'Regaining Sri
Lanka,' the document fails to examine the causality of the phenomenon of
poverty, the effects of ethnic war and the unique conditions of
devastation prevailing in the north east. In our view, the conditions of
reality prevailing in Tamil areas are qualitatively different from
southern Sri Lanka. The Tamils faced the brunt of the brutal war.
years of intense and incessant war has caused irreparable destruction to
the infrastructure in the north east. This colossal destruction
augmented by continued displacement of the people and their inability to
pursue their livelihoods due to military restrictions and activities
have caused untold misery and extreme poverty among the people of the
north east. Continued displacement has also depleted all forms of
savings of these people, disabling them from regaining their lives on
their own. The war-affected people need immediate help to regain their
need restoration of essential services to re-establish their lives.
Reconstruction of infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools and
houses are essential for them to return to normal life" Balasingham
stated. " The poverty that is prevailing in southern Sri Lanka is a
self-inflicted phenomenon, caused by the disastrous policies of the past
governments (both the UNP and the SLFP) in dealing with the Tamil
national conflict. In its fanatical drive to prosecute an unjust war
against the Tamil people, the Sinhala state wasted all national wealth
to a futile cause.
massive borrowings to sustain an absurd policy of
'war for peace' by the former government caused huge
international indebtedness. The economic situation of the south has been
further worsened by the mismanagement of state funds, bad governance and
the conditions prevailing in the south are distinctly different from the
north east where the scale and magnitude of the infrastructural
destruction is monumental and the poverty is acute. Ignoring this
distinctive reality, your government posits poverty as a common
phenomenon across the country and attempts to seek a solution with a
common approach. This approach grossly under states the severity of the
problems faced by the people in the north east.
government's 'Regaining Sri Lanka' document completely lacks any form of
identified goals for the northeast. Statistics presented for
substantiating the policy totally ignore the northeast and solely
concentrate on southern Sri Lanka. However, this has been promoted as
the national strategy to the international community to seek aid. It is
evident from this that the government lacks any comprehensive strategy
for serious development of the north east.
poverty reduction strategy fails to address the poverty of the northeast
as distinct from the rest. In seeking international assistance your
government disingenuously speaks of reconstruction being needed in all
areas, thereby masking the total destruction of the infrastructure of
the northeast which has resulted from the militarist policies of the
past three decades," Balasingham charged.
assertions about the north east being overlooked in the government's
economic blueprints will definitely strike a responsive chord among most
Tamils. It may even trouble the international donor community. It is no
secret that a major contributory factor in the intensification of the
ethnic conflict was the Tamil grievance about the Tamil areas in the
north east region being systematically discriminated against by
successive governments after 1956.
unequal distribution of economic resources and uneven patterns of socio
- economic development was of great significance in pushing Tamils
towards secession. N. Shanmugaratnam,
Professor of Development Studies, Centre for International
Environment & Development Studies, Agricultural University of Norway
observes thus in a recent article. "It cannot be denied that the
ethnic conflict in Lanka is rooted to a great extent in conflicts over
distribution of resources, opportunities and political power - in what
analysts regard as horizontal inequalities.
conflicts became progressively communalised on the basis of ethnic
divisions, which were politically defined in colonial times and
subsequently modified and redefined as communalisation advanced into
structures of the state and the polity at large."
recent times the Tamil regions of the north east became the primary
theatre of war. As the conflict escalated the infrastructure of the area
was destroyed and the economy collapsed. This was due both to the
shattering effects of war and also the undeclared 'scorched earth
policy' practiced in stages by the armed forces under successive
the Tamil people of the north east have become impoverished and
disempowered. As a result tremendous economic initiatives are required
to upgrade their lives again. Against that backdrop any Colombo
government sincere about peace and reconciliation must necessarily
address these particular problems of the north east and remedy them. The
Wickremesinghe government relying on economic development as a key
strategy in bettering ethnic relations is particularly required to do
so. So for such a government to overlook the northeast as Balasingham
has alleged is a grave blunder at best and a serious offence at worst.
important question is whether the United National Front government is
indeed guilty as charged. Facts are stubborn. Do they bear out the LTTE
government and LTTE have publicly declared their commitment to the peace
process as partners. There is mutual agreement in pursuing a strategy
that places the "development horse before the conflict resolution
cornerstone of the peace talks has been the rightful focus on the
special problems of the northeast. In the absence of a proper,
representative democracy in the north
east and a pronounced reluctance by the LTTE to dismantle its
authoritative structures in certain parts, an innovative approach was
short - term alternative was the formation of the Sub-committee on
Immediate Humanitarian Rehabilitation Needs (SIHRN)as an adjunct of the
peace process. SIHRN was agreed upon as the vehicle of reconstruction
and development for the north east. SIHRN is cochaired by Peace
Secretariat Director Bernard Goonetilleke and LTTE Political Wing Head
has been quite active and has engaged in a lot of worthwhile projects
related to the rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the
north east. It would be wrong therefore to say that the northeast has
been totally ignored.
projects as well as other efforts underway are by no means sufficient to
resolve the magnitude of the task involved in rehabilitating and
reconstructing the northeast. Yet these indicate that the Government Of
Sri Lanka(GOSL) has not neglected the region totally as alleged.
Moreover every such project has been jointly endorsed by the LTTE
contingent headed by the "eversmiling" Tamilchelvan.
such the LTTE is fully aware of all what is going on. Greater
reconstruction and development of the north east is possible through a
comprehensive, integrated plan only. Is there such a plan? Or is the
government focussing only on the south for the Tokyo conference as
alleged by Balasingham? Again the position does not seem to be as
depicted by the LTTE.
government's own poverty reduction strategy Paper, better known as
'Regaining Sri Lanka' is a detailed strategy for the way in which the
government will deal with national priorities across the whole country.
The 'Regaining Sri Lanka' document as it is developed so far looks at
four key areas:
To create two million new jobs over the next few years; 2. To overcome
the crippling debt which the government inherited and return the country
to a sound economic footing; 3. To find the resources to rebuild the
country whether in the war torn north and east or the poverty stricken
south; 4. To increase income levels through higher productivity and
World Bank board recently approved support for the 'Regaining Sri Lanka'
programme and announced $800 million aid, whilst in a document just
handed to the government the IMF board also gives 'Regaining Sri Lanka'
a ringing endorsement.
four key areas are common to the north east too in a united country. But
the government wished to commission a separate paper to look at the
needs in the north and the east. It was the SIHRN jointly headed by the
LTTE that commissioned a "needs assessment study" of the north
east The assessment team comprised officials from the World Bank, Asian
Development Bank and the UN Development Programme.
67 page report was compiled and delivered both to the government and to
the LTTE on April 7 this year.The Government also released the
'Needs Assessment Document for the North and the East' to the
public on April 10. The document has been produced after months of work
and covers a wide range of issues relating to the north and east. Both
the GOSL and LTTE participated in its formulation.The views and analyses
of the GOSL and LTTE "constitute the basic parameters of the
overall needs assessment herein" says the report.
government and LTTE at this stage are supposedly studying the document.
The next stage will be for the government to study the document and to
build in the relevant recommendations into a final 'Regaining Sri Lanka'
document which will then form the framework for submission to the Tokyo
input of the LTTE will be invaluable in this regard. LTTE
recommendations and suggestions will be given pride of place in the
final document.The government has also asked for comments from the
public to be submitted to the Policy
Development and Implementation Ministry
by May 6.
needs assessment document looks at a number of important areas that are
of immediate concern in the north and east. These include protection and
resettlement, health, education and housing. It also looks into
infrastructure, agriculture and livelihoods as well as capacity
development.The document seeks to provide solutions to these areas over
the next few years. Projects have had to be prioritised since the list
is so long and the ability for both peace parties to implement all the
necessary changes immediately would prove impossible.
the LTTE instead of keeping away as announced attends the next SIHRN
meeting it could make its views known directly to the government.
Covering all eight districts of the north east the assessment segments
identified needs into eight sectors. It qualifies the needs into two
immediate need is for projects to be completed in 18 - 24 months. The
medium term needs are for projects to be completed in three to six
years. some of these could go in as long term projects too. Money
required for perceived needs in the immediate category is US $ 691
million and medium term US$ 1150 million.
money to be realised immediately is expected to be around one - third
less. So the final figure expected is US $ 459
million for imediate and US$ 921
for medium term needs. This amounts to US $1. 38 billion
to be broken up over a five to six year period atUS$ 250
million per annum.
eight sectors and estimated allocations for each sector in US$ millions
are A. Protection and resettlement-136.3; B.Health-96.0:C. Education-
66. 8; D. Housing - 247.6; E.Infrastructural
development -634.5; F. Agriculture - 107.4; G, Livelihood - 64.7; H.
Capacity development -27.3. The overall amount is US$1380. 6
breakdown for immediate needs in US $ millions for each sector are 56.
8, 35, 3, 20.5, 100.5, 165.1, 50.9, 19. 1, and 11. 1 respectively. The
medium term needs in US millions for each sector are 79. 5, 60.7, 46. 3,
147.1, 469. 4, 56. 5, 45. 6, and 16. 2 respectively.
overall amounts required for immediate needs areUS$ 459. 3 million and
medium term needs US$921.3 million. It is certainly a moot point as to
whether all money sought would be gained. It is also uncertain whether
the projects would be implemented as scheduled. It is also clear that
these plans alone are insufficient for uplifting the northeast from the
morass it has sunk into.
it is crystal clear that the LTTE through its participation as co -
chair of SIHRN has been on par with the government in all this. It has
jointly commissioned the needs assessment study and has received the
report. Under these circumstances it is nothing other than colossal
incomprehension or downright chicanery for Balasingham to charge the
government as having sidelined the north east. It seems patently unfair
for the LTTE to accuse the government publicly of bad faith when it is
actually not so. Whatever the cause of this action by the LTTE it only
affects its credibility and casts doubts as to whether the Tigers can
effectively fulfil their self - appointed role of being sole
representatives of the Tamil people. The LTTE's tragic decision to
suspend talks for comical reasons can only decrease international
confidence in their bona fides.
in turn could bring about a reappraisal in allocating funds for a
north-east region dominated by the Tigers. Furthermore, the LTTE's
obstinacy in boycotting Samurai land can amount to political hara- kiri
and could lead to a situation where all aid will be channelled in Tokyo
to the south and the north east be deprived of an equitable share of the