SLDF Calls on Donor Co-Chairs to Push for a Southern Consensus on a Permanent Political Solution and Reform of the Sri Lankan State
The Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF)
The Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF) is alarmed by the escalation of violence in the North and East, which threatens the possibility of reaching a negotiated political solution to the conflict. The LTTE has consistently violated the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and is responsible for human rights violations and attacks on democracy throughout the ceasefire.
In writing to the Sri Lanka Donor Co-Chairs on 15 September 2005, SLDF called on them to support a redesign of the peace process that would "address issues of continuity, inclusivity, democratisation, the protection of human rights, as well as the root causes of the conflict and its consequences." In their statement on 19 September 2005, the Co-Chairs called on the LTTE "to take immediate public steps to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process and their willingness to change. An immediate end to political assassinations by the LTTE and an end to LTTE recruitment of child soldiers are two such steps."
However, the LTTE has intensified its attacks on democracy, human rights and has further jeopardised the ceasefire. In essence, the LTTE is holding Sri Lanka's peace process and prospects of a negotiated solution hostage to the constant threat of resuming their "struggle", a euphemism for returning to war. Indeed, the recent spate of claymore mine attacks in Jaffna and the East is tantamount to the LTTE waging an "undeclared war."
It is imperative that the LTTE's belligerence should not
become an excuse for the Sri Lankan State and Southern political formations
to ignore minority aspirations and the need for a permanent political
solution. SLDF calls on the Sri Lanka Donor Co-Chairs to take the lead
within the international community in applying further sanctions on
the LTTE, while pressuring the South to reach a consensus on a permanent
political solution, and to support reform of the Sri Lankan State.
During the last two weeks, the LTTE has been attacking soldiers and policemen performing their duties in an attempt to provoke war. There have also been a number of documented cases of killings by the Karuna faction and strong allegations against State complicity in killings, each of which should be condemned in the strongest terms and checked. However, the LTTE can not hide behind a rationale of retribution - its killings over the last few years have been of a qualitatively and quantitatively different nature.
Indeed, through its actions during the ceasefire, and
its attacks in the last month, the LTTE has consistently demonstrated
a lack of commitment to democracy, human rights and inter-ethnic co-existence,
and that it is not a committed or credible partner to a principled peace
process. The Donor Co-Chairs should take the lead in the international
community to expand sanctions and penalties, until the LTTE is willing
to abide by norms of human rights and democracy crucial for any serious
The Co-Chairs mandate and their role in the Sri Lankan peace process was articulated through the Tokyo Donor Conference, which the LTTE boycotted. At this time, the Co-Chairs should reiterate their commitment to the Tokyo Declaration - which urged the LTTE and GOSL "to move expeditiously to a lasting and equitable political settlement. Such a settlement should be based upon respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law" - and hold the GOSL to the principles therein.
SLDF calls on the Co-Chairs and the international community
to insist that the GOSL stand by its obligations to meet the humanitarian
and economic needs in the North and East, which were not only articulated
in the Tokyo Declaration but also constitutes the duty of any responsible
government to all its citizens. Further, the Co-Chairs and other governments,
particularly India, should pressure the GOSL and other political formations
to reach a consensus in the South on a permanent political solution
that realises the aspirations of Tamil and Muslim minorities through
the substantial devolution of power. Such a consensus will be necessary
to move forward on a peace settlement either unilaterally or with the
LTTE, provided it chooses to commit itself to principled negotiations.
However, the wider implementation of this new policy has not extended beyond the higher levels of governance, where again Tamil is neglected. An inclusive language policy will not only address the concerns of Tamil-speaking communities in the entire country, but also those of the Sinhala-speaking communities in the North and East, and could act as an adhesive to bind the communities and regions together.
Law Enforcement and Security
Two decades later, the Supreme Court's ruling this year
that acquitted all remaining defendants of the Bindunuwewa massacre
of Tamil detainees in 2000, is a stark reminder that minorities lack
any substantive recourse to justice through Sri Lankan institutions,
even in a time of 'peace'. Deterioration of the State's law enforcement
and security institutions also affects the majority community, as is
evident from the disappearances during the JVP uprising in the late
eighties and the continuing cases of police torture and brutality in
the South. Reform of the prisons, police, security forces and strengthening
of the human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Commission
and the National Police Commission, are essential steps for the State
to recover its legitimacy.
Political marginalisation needs to be addressed through
adequate participation in governance at all levels of the State institutions.
There is a need for mechanisms that ensure participation and accountability
to prevent the lack of good governance and the resultant marginalisation
of vulnerable communities. The lack of proper recourse to address the
failure of local governance with regard to tsunami rehabilitation and
reconstruction efforts was a valuable lesson.
The LTTE leader, in his recent Heroes' Day speech has rehearsed the organisation's basic demand of "self determination, national liberation and the establishment of self-government in our homeland". He also declared, "The new government should come forward soon with a reasonable political framework that will satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people.
If the new government rejects our urgent appeal, opts for a hard-line position and adopts delaying tactics, we will, next year, in solidarity with our people, intensify our struggle for self-determination, our struggle for national liberation to establish self-government in our own homeland." This has been interpreted by many as an ultimatum by the LTTE leader to resume war at any time in the coming weeks or months.
Though the LTTE says that it is committed to the CFA, the regularity, frequency, scale and intensity of the grenade and land mine attacks in recent weeks in which scores of police and military personnel and civilians have been killed gives one the impression that the LTTE has already commenced an "undeclared war". In the meantime it has also intensified its campaign of targeted assassinations of its political opponents. In recent weeks, the attacks on members of the Muslim community in eastern Sri Lanka have increased and there are fears of mounting communal clashes between the Tamil and Muslim communities.
Throughout the nearly four year period of the ceasefire,
while both sides have been held by the SLMM to have committed breaches
of the CFA, over 90 percent of the violations and the most serious of
these violations involving gross violations of human and democratic
rights have been committed by the LTTE. These have included countless
number of politically motivated killings and a continuing campaign of
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