26th October, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 15

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SPOTLIGHT

  • LTTE proposals on interim administration

Tigers seek united Sri Lanka in restructured form

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Important details of the set of counter proposals formulated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in response to the discussion document presented by the Sri Lankan government on the interim administrative council to be set up for the North Eastern Province are now beginning to emerge despite the secrecy maintained by the LTTE so far.

Although the final document is yet to be finalised, the penultimate draft now in limited circulation provides some insight into the Tiger political strategy and its goals and objectives. Despite the chances of the current document being amended before the final version is presented to Norway, there are reasonable grounds to believe that drastic transformation is unlikely.

Fundamentally, the LTTE seeks to present a power sharing model with maximum powers for the north eastern unit under the nomenclature of an interim administrative set up. The Tigers want an interim administration with wide powers to prevail for at least six years.

Ushering in normalcy

During this time rehabilitation, reconstruction and development work aimed at ushering in normalcy to the north east will be undertaken by the interim administrative assembly that would have both members and ministers commensurate to the ethnic ratio of the north east.

While the interim administration is in force negotiations will be on with the government and other interested parties to draft a new constitution for Sri Lanka that would afford power sharing at the centre and regions.

A referendum will be held at the end of six years to see whether the people of the country endorse the new constitution. If the referendum rejects the new constitution supported wholeheartedly by the Tamils, then the Tigers will exercise their right of self-determination and seek a political alternative outside the present constitution. This in essence comprises the Tiger political strategy as envisaged in the current draft document.

The LTTE wishes to enter into a comprehensive agreement with the government as represented by both the Executive President as well as the Prime Minister to set up the interim administration for the North Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

The agreement will have an elaborate preamble outlining the reasons for the setting up of such a council. Certain provisions of the preamble will have annexures in support .

One such clause will be related to the root causes of the conflict. This will charge the various Sinhala dominated governments of the past with acts of omission and commission against the Tamil speaking people with a view to impose majoritarian hegemonism.

Line of argument

It would be pointed out that the cumulative effect of this historical oppression led to the Tamils obtaining a mandate for Tamil eelam at the general elections of 1977 held democratically. This would be followed by vivid references to the brutal war unleashed on the Tamil people by various governments to suppress the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people.

This line of argument entails accusations of a deliberate scorched earth policy practised against Tamil villages in the east and the north and also the ethnic cleansing of the Manalaaru region, also known as Weli Oya.

The preamble will also spotlight the massive scale of death, destruction and displacement in the Tamil regions and pinpoint the deterioration in health, education, agriculture, fisheries, industry, transport and consequent unemployment and poverty.

All these contentions regarding the historical causes of the conflict, the legitimacy of the 1977 Tamil eelam mandate, brutality of the war along with ethnic cleansing and scorched earth policy, the scale of destruction and displacement, the deteriorating economy and service sector, etc., will be supported by detailed documentary annexures.

Comprehensive plan

This preamble will ultimately emphasise that immediate and radical measures are necessary to remedy the situation in the north east. A comprehensive plan of massive proportions is needed for rehabilitation, resettlement, reconstruction and development of basic infrastructure and the service sectors.

It is also very necessary to infuse a sense of hope and optimism into the beleaguered Tamil people, restore their confidence in governance and decrease their feelings of alienation. This requires the setting up of an immediate and innovative structure to plan, execute, supervise and coordinate these tasks of great magnitude.

Given the fractured state of the Sinhala polity where no party is capable of obtaining a two third majority necessary for meaningful constitutional change and the protracted nature of constitutional reform, it would be unrealistic to expect an expedited political settlement that could set up governing mechanisms to oversee rehabilitation and development. A special mechanism therefore is urgently needed.

The Tigers then invoke the doctrine of necessity and advocate the setting up of an interim administrative assembly that would take over the virtual administration of the north east for a period of six years and focus on rehabilitative and developmental functions.

Before the setting up of the interim administrative assembly to govern the north east for the interim period of six years, there would be a defined pre-interim period of about six to 12 months.

During this period the progress of the current ceasefire will be reviewed. A special review committee comprising local and foreign nationals will be set up. This committee will analyse the situation and ensure that the two year old ceasefire provisions are implemented in full.

Shortcomings must be addressed

From an LTTE viewpoint, the ceasefire has not been implemented properly and a vast number of Tamil and Muslim people are unable to enjoy the full benefits of the current peace. The LTTE therefore expects these shortcomings to be addressed before the setting up of an interim administration.

Some of the areas needing remedy are the withdrawal of security forces from residential areas, schools, places of worship and public buildings. There is also the need to remove the ban on fishing totally. Also much of the areas coming under high security zones have to be reduced in size.

The LTTE is amenable to the armed forces retaining their presence in the north east in select locations. They will have to restrain their current function of civilian administration in the north east. If they wish to continue exercising those functions, then the armed forces will have to take orders from the civil administration.

The proposed interim authority will tentatively have 100 representatives. These members will be citizens of good standing representing all regions, areas, ethnicities, religions and social groups. In order to maintain the gender balance, at least 25% will be women.

Fifty persons per province will represent the Northern and Eastern Provinces respectively on the interim authority. There will be quotas to ensure that all areas, sectors and groups are represented in each province. All members will be appointed, but those with a background of elected office in the past will be given priority.

The eastern component will reflect the ethnic composition of the province according to the 1981 census. Likewise the north will reflect the same ratio of the 1981 census.

It is estimated that 21 Tamils, 17 Muslims and 12 Sinhalese will represent the east while 46 Tamils , three Muslims and one Sinhalese will represent the north. This means 67 Tamils, 20 Muslims and 13 Sinhalese on the interim assembly. One fifth of the Tamils from the districts other than Jaffna will be of recent Indian origin.

An executive council comprising 20 or one-fifth of the representative body will be appointed as a ministerial board. The executive too will function in practice as two entities concentrating on the north and east separately.

The east will have four Sri Lankan Tamils, one Indian Tamil, three Muslims and two Sinhalese on the executive body. The north will have six Sri Lankan Tamils, two Indian Tamils, one Muslim and one Sinhalese on the executive body.

Executive body

Overall, the body of 20 will have 10 Sri Lankan Tamils, three Indian Tamils, four Muslims and three Sinhalese. At least four will be women. At least seven of the representative body and two of the executive are expected to be from the Christian community.

There will be a chairperson each for both the representative and executive bodies. In addition two deputy chairmen each will be elected to both the representative body and executive. They will belong to ethnicities and religions different to that of the heads in both.

The proposed interim authority seeks all powers allocated to the provincial council through the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Furthermore the authority also desires the doing away of the concurrent list of powers as recommended by the Mangala Moonesinghe Committee and full allocation of such functions to the interim authority.

Since land is vital to resettlement of displaced people, the interim authority wants full powers over land alienation too. Likewise, it wants financial powers enabling it to raise loans, grants, etc., from external agencies and also promote investment and projects with foreign collaboration.

Another area the LTTE wants to be under the interim authority is law and order. The LTTE wants to harmonise the functions of its own police force and judiciary with the rest of the country. How these details are to be worked out is not clear, but some control over provincial policing is desired.

An evaluative and complaints commission will be set up to assess the progress of the interim authority as well as entertain complaints of misgovernance, discrimination, corruption, abuse and misuse of powers. This will comprise of local and foreign nationals.

While the interim administrative authority discharges its functions for six years, parallel efforts will be undertaken to formulate and enact a new constitution. There is general consensus in the country that a fresh constitution is imperative. Furthermore the existing one was ushered in without Tamil participation in constitution making and consent. Also some of the entrenched clauses in the present constitution like the unitary character of the state forbids any meaningful power sharing.

Radical restructuring

The LTTE on behalf of the Tamil people wants a radical restructuring of the Sri Lankan state. A constitutional commission consisting of all ethnicities, religions and different shades of opinion should be set up to review the present set up and draft a new constitution.

Tamil participation however will be conditional on the government agreeing to certain core principles beforehand. These include the recognition of the Tamil people as a distinct nationality, the recognition of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as the historic homeland of the Tamil and Muslim people, the right of internal self determination for the Tamils of the north east, official bilingualism allowing full parity of status for the Sinhala, secularism as state policy while ensuring freedom of worship and equality of all religions, the need for equitable sharing of resources and the elimination of unequal development between regions, and the necessity for affirmative measures aimed at redressing the imbalance between ethnic communities in employment, education, etc.

Once these basic principles are recognised and incorporated as an entrenched part of the constitution in the making, the 'Tamil side' will participate wholeheartedly in constitution making.

It will adhere to the Oslo Accord to explore federalism to the maximum and seek far reaching powers for the north eastern region. This could amount to asymmetrical power sharing. At the same time the Tigers also want equitable power sharing at the centre according to ethnic ratio.

While asymmetrical power sharing prevails in the north east the LTTE will also ensure that the numerical minorities in the north east will be given full rights and privileges. This includes specific guarantees of power sharing, cultural autonomy, community policing and enhanced powers to local authorities. The LTTE expects the same rights to be given to the minorities of the Southern Province too.

Setting up of commissions

Apparently the LTTE is also not averse to commissions being set up to revise provincial boundaries according to current realities if necessary. It would also like a commission to be appointed to review the national flag and anthem and suggest alternatives illustrating the diversity of the Sri Lankan nation as opposed to the hegemonism of a numerically dominant entity.

Given the tendency to separate, it is very likely that the LTTE will like a constitutional arrangement of a confederal nature. While the unity and territorial integrity of the country is ensured, a system of shared sovereignty is expected to come into force. An associated structure guaranteeing full separation of powers while forbidding secession is desired. The Sri Lankan state according to the Tigers has to be reinvented and restructured.

Once the new constitution is adopted and presented in parliament, the LTTE wants a referendum on it. In any case a new constitution will necessitate a referendum. If the referendum endorses an islandwide approval of the new constitution, a new beginning in the history of our nation will dawn.

The hitch of course is the possible rejection of the new constitution by the preponderantly Sinhala south. In that case, the LTTE is very likely to exercise its right of external self determination and seek secession. It may hold a referendum for the north east and legitimise this secession. Of course all this can be thwarted if the country at large endorses an equitable new constitution.

Another important feature is that the LTTE does not intend decommissioning arms or dissolving its armed units until a new constitution is promulgated. It also wants specific codes of conduct for its armed units on land and sea along with those of the official armed forces during the interim period.

The activities of both combatant sectors are to be managed and restricted. The government is expected to relocate some personnel away from the north east and reduce its installations. After a final settlement is achieved the Tigers envisage a reduction of arms and manpower in commensurate to identical reduction by Colombo.

Armed divisions

It also hopes in a post-constitutional settlement for new armed divisions to be raised in accordance with the ethnic ratio and also for integrated cooperation between existing forces.

The LTTE also wants the government to officially declare the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils as a prerequisite to any interim set up or constitutional discussions.

While the current draft envisages such far reaching proposals it is a moot point as to whether the final version will be incorporating all these provisions. Given the prevailing global realities where the USA and India are expecting the LTTE to be realistic and reasonable, the Tigers may very well whittle down some clauses.

The LTTE could also present a condensed, sanitised version now and reserve the rest for a later occasion. The Tigers could also submit a maximal position now and be more flexible when direct talks occur.

Whatever the recommendations and suggestions of legal and constitutional experts, it is Velupillai Pirapaharan who ultimately calls the shots in the LTTE. The fate of this penultimate draft seeking a restructured yet united Sri Lanka depends on the Tiger numero uno.

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