26th October, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 15

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Tiger proposals all set for release

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians after a meeting with the LTTE Political Chief said yesterday that the Tigers' counterproposals reflect the aspirations of Tamil people.

"It is a comprehensive document which reflects the aspirations of Tamil people," TNA MP Sivajilingam told reporters. "There is no conflict between our stance (on the ethnic question) and the LTTE counter proposals," he said.

EPRLF MP Suresh Premachandra said the LTTE Political Chief had called for suggestions from the TNA delegations. "We believe that our suggestions will be included in the final proposals."

- Daily News, October 24, 2003

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The last day of this month has been fixed as the tentative date on which the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will present their proposals to Norway for setting up an interim administration for the North Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

If that does take place without any hitch then October 31 will indeed be a red letter day in the annals of the nation's contemporary history. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the proposals, it is an event of great significance because the Tigers will for the first time be presenting in written form their own suggestions for a political settlement within a united Sri Lanka.

Revolutionary constitutionalism

The Tigers in the recent past have been engaged in an exercise of revolutionary constitutionalism. Much time and work has been devoted to this project. Nominally it is only a set of counter proposals comprising a response to the four page discussion document presented on July 17 by the United National Front (UNF) government.

Its content however goes far beyond that of a formal reply and encompasses a wide range of issues. The LTTE has encapsuled in its penultimate draft the Tiger vision for constitutional change in Sri Lanka. The proposals consist of several parts and are phased out with the completion of one phase leading to the commencement of another on the road to the ultimate solution. It calls for a very bold reinvention of the Sri Lankan state and equitable structures of power sharing to ensure the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka in the future.

The Tiger draft has been a closely guarded secret with even Norwegian Peace Envoys Erik Solheim and Lisa Gold being denied a peek so far. Former EROS and current LTTE Senior Leader, Velupillai Balakumaran has gone on record that the Tiger document will alter the fate of Tamils in the country. This underscores the importance of this draft. Yet the Tamil people have neither been informed nor consulted on the whole exercise. Only a few select people labelled as 'experts' have been involved. The Tamil people therefore watch as silent spectators the unfolding of a drama that could elevate them to ecstatic heights or plunge them into despondent depths.

Eight members of the pro-Tiger Tamil National Alliance (TNA) however were provided some glimpses into the draft response. Two representatives, each from the four parties belonging to the TNA - TULF, ACTC, TELO and EPRLF - were invited to Kilinochchi and given a briefing by LTTE Political Wing Chief Subbiah Paramu Tamilselvan.

TELO MP Sivajilingam told the Daily News that the Tiger counter proposals were comprehensive and reflected the aspirations of the Tamil people. There was also no conflict between the LTTE and TNA positions on this. EPRLF Factional Leader Suresh Premachandran told the same journal that the LTTE Political Head had called for suggestions from the TNA. He believed that their suggestions would be incorporated in the final proposals.

LTTE draft not finalised

The meeting with the TNA indicates that the LTTE draft is still not finalised. Additional input is likely to go into it even during these last days of October. It is doubtful then as to whether the entire document could be finalised before October 31. Furthermore, there are two other matters capable of affecting the tentative deadline.

One is that the Tiger constitutional committee could not delve into Canadian or South African issues at the Glencree meeting in Ireland. Due to logistical difficulties the Canadian expert on Quebec, Prof. Gil Remillard could not make it to Ireland. The LTTE had invited the ex-Quebec provincial justice and inter governmental affairs minister at very short notice and then altered the dates again thereby making it impossible for him to attend.

Likewise the LTTE's failure to get the high-profile Nelson Mandela to attend the Glencree deliberations as a distinguished observer contributed somewhat to a diminished attendance of experts on South Africa. Though the LTTE had African National Congress activists and Sinn Fein MPs as observers, there was little academic input on South Africa.

Therefore, the LTTE now wants to conduct a third parley of its constitutional committee in Durban too. What is not clear is whether these efforts have been successful . If unsuccessful, then there would be no problem about the tentative deadline. If not there will be a dilemma.

Joint statement with India

The second and more important problem is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's Indian visit and the joint statement issued. The emphasis on the response being reasonable and comprehensive along with the insistence on a plural democracy is certainly likely to give the Tigers a jolt. The statement coming barely 10 days before the October 31 deadline will have its impact on the Tigers and lead to a rethink in the Wanni on some aspects at least.

Under these circumstances, the tentative deadline of October 31 faces a question mark. The Tigers are extremely annoyed by the Indo-Lanka joint statement and some of their journals have already started reflecting this. The LTTE, which already has prolonged the exercise as much as possible, could delay it further to register its disapproval of the New Delhi-Colombo axis. It could cite the meeting in the making at South Africa and the necessity to get further input from international academics as an excuse. Meanwhile it could ask Norway to provide details of the Vajpayee-Wickremesinghe meeting and its fall out.

If the LTTE does not want to postpone the October 31 deadline further for fear of eroding its credibility more, the LTTE could in fact adhere to the tentative date. In that case it may modify the draft proposals further to avoid friction with international expectations. It may be recalled that even before the Indo-Lanka joint statement the USA had wanted the response to be 'realistic' and Canada 'reasonable.' On the other hand, the LTTE could stick to its guns and adopt a maximalist position on paper and perhaps scale down during negotiations.

Another way out for the Tigers would be to submit a condensed version of their proposals as an interim or preliminary document on October 31 and then follow it up with a final and comprehensive document on the eve of face to face talks on the proposals. It is clear now that there would be a short and limited meeting between the government and LTTE in November to fix the date, time, agenda and modalities of the resumption of dialogue in January next year. With the government itself not wanting to hold talks in November and December, the Tigers - ever ready to protract proceedings - will only be too happy to oblige. In that context it would matter very little as to whether the LTTE submits its proposals in full on October 31 or not.

Comprehensive

Despite the filibustering there is no doubt that a lot of work has gone into the Tiger document. Sixteen federal constitutions along with nine agreements both successful and unsuccessful have been clinically analysed. Advisorial opinion from 18 Tamil and 14 non-Tamil experts have been obtained. Working trips too have been undertaken by the LTTE political committee to examine at first hand some of the power sharing devices in practice in Europe. There has however been a very positive input from the past too in these endeavours.

Three other power sharing models drafted by persons close to the LTTE or by others commissioned by the Tigers were also utilised. One was the document pertaining to an associative structure model drafted by Nadesan Satyendra during the time when Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu was the LTTE international secretary general and based in London. This model conceptualises two 'associated' structures of governance within a united Sri Lanka.

The second was one drafted by the current LTTE International Legal Advisor, Visvanathan Ruthirakumaran. The New York based attorney formulated this model in association with the renowned Political Scientist Prof. A. Jeyaratnam Wilson who was then based in Canada. Wilson, the son-in-law of Federal Party Leader S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, is no more. This model inspired to a great extent by Belgium envisages sharing power at the widest level in both the centre and periphery. A working paper along these lines was presented at a seminar in Sweden by Ruthirakumaran some years ago.

Input

The third was a constitutional draft compiled by a team of constitutional lawyers in Britain. It was commissioned by a group of Tamil expatriates in Britain, USA, Canada and Australia. The lawyers, all of them non-Tamil, were mandated with the task of coming up with a solution of separate administrations short of secession. A working paper condensing this model was circulated for discussion at a seminar held in Switzerland.

While the contribution of expatriate Tamils and international experts - past and present - has been immense to the current exercise, it does not mean that there has been no domestic input. For reasons of security their role has gone unpublicised. These persons participated at discussions held in the Wanni and Jaffna by two committees. Both committees were appointed by LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan.

The first was the constitutional committee headed by the LTTE's shadow 'justice minister,' Para. The other was a political committee headed by the LTTE's shadow 'information and media minister,' Balakumaran. Incidently both are ex-members of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation. Both these committees drafted two separate papers on power sharing.

Among those involved in these efforts were retired judicial officers, academics, lawyers , professionals and senior ex-government servants. Some of the participants were living within the Wanni and others outside. Both reports were submitted to LTTE Chief Pirapaharan who suggested some amendments. Thereafter Ruthira-kumaran from New York visited the Wanni and presented a working outline of a possible power sharing model to the LTTE supremo. All three documents were then incorporated into one.

This task was done by a six man committee under the direct supervision of LTTE Chief Pirapaharan. The members consisted of a senior university lecturer, a former varsity lecturer, a recently retired judicial officer, an ex-trade unionist turned lawyer, Balakumaran and Para. This document was then sent to Ruthirakumaran in New York. It is interesting to note that after some preliminary involvement, the Tiger ideologue and Political Strategist, Anton Stanislaus Balasingham was kept out of all these activities.

Fine tuning

The draft document from the Wanni was sent out to several Tamil and non-Tamil experts by Rudra. Their comments were obtained and a fresh model was drafted incorporating these suggestions. This document was up for formal discussion when the LTTE constitutional committee met in Paris in late August. After some deliberations the draft was amended again.

This in turn was taken to the Wanni by Tamilselvan and given to Pirapaharan who summoned his own expert committees and dissected it again. A further amended draft was now taken to Ireland. Once again after much discussion the draft document was fine tuned and  completed. This along with other relevant input was taken to the Wanni by Tamilselvan.

Currently the draft, hopefully a penultimate document, is being finalised along the directives of Pirapaharan. Now the TNA suggestions too will be incorporated. It is learnt that the LTTE was impressed by the input provided by senior Trincomalee District TULF parliamentarian, R. Sambandan and junior Jaffna District Tamil Congress Parliamentarian, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.

Tamilselvan has clearly informed Norway that the final document will be given on October 31. Nevertheless, the excitement caused by the Indo-Lanka joint statement, the Tiger yearning to go to South Africa and the announcement by Prof. Peiris that direct talks will commence only in January could all make a qualitative change in the Tiger timetable.

Whatever the LTTE's strategy and whatever the final document there is no doubt that painstakingly serious effort has been put into this counter proposal drafting exercise. It is of great historical importance being the first ever LTTE proposal of its kind. It is of a constitutionalist yet revolutionary nature and envisages the radical restructuring of Sri Lanka to preserve its unity and territorial integrity.

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