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.

Attacks on Democracy and the Muslim Minority
In the 2005 Presidential election, the LTTE disenfranchised almost all Tamils living in the North and East by creating an atmosphere of terror and repression through the calculated use of violence. Both local and international election monitors have documented the intimidation and violence of the LTTE's enforced 'boycott' of the elections in the North and East. Furthermore, in its attempts to control the population of the North and East, the LTTE has taken the dangerous step of targeting Muslim civilians to foment inter-ethnic violence and destabilize the East. Its disdain for human dignity was evident in its attack on the Akkaraipattu Grand Mosque on 18 November 2005, a day after the Presidential elections.

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 peace process.

Consensus for a Permanent Political Solution
The LTTE's gross intransigence must not divert the Co-Chairs' engagement with the South in Sri Lanka towards a permanent political solution. There are concerns regarding the new Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's commitment to a political solution that adequately addresses minority aspirations. The Tokyo Declaration, which was signed by the international community and the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), is particularly relevant at this moment when the LTTE is threatening to return to war.

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.

Governance and State Reform
A sustainable and just political solution requires constitutional reform; it also requires the revitalization of Sri Lanka's democratic institutions in order to address the root causes of the ethnic conflict. Without such State reform and rejuvenation of governance any political settlement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE will be precarious and will not create an environment that restores the faith of all communities in the country's democratic institutions. The reforms should address not only the legacy of Sinhala majoritarian policies, but also the broader decay of the State and its institutions. The Co-Chairs and the international community can assist such a reform process by providing technical and programmatic support for issues such as those that follow:

Sri Lanka will need assistance in implementing bilingualism and an inclusive language policy. Language policy has been a key spark behind the current ethnic conflict, as evinced by the implementation of the 1956 "Sinhala-Only" policy. "Sinhala Only" consigned the Tamil and Muslim communities to the periphery of Sri Lankan governance due to the official non-recognition of the Tamil language spoken by 30% of the population and served as the foundation of Tamil militancy. In 1987, the Sri Lankan government passed the 13th Amendment to its Constitution making Tamil an official language along with Sinhala, with English as a link language.

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
The failure of the Sri Lankan law enforcement agencies to protect the lives and properties of citizens, particularly of minority communities, has contributed to the escalation of the conflict. The climate of impunity that escalated in the late seventies with rule under Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, led to the further loss of confidence in the State and its ability to purvey justice for minorities. In 1983, the anti-Tamil riots and Welikada prison massacre were carried out with State complicity and led to the immediate escalation of the conflict.

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.

Non-discrimination and Concerns of Economic and Political Marginalisation
One of the major failures of governance in Sri Lanka is its legacy of marginalising minority communities and rural populations. This led to Tamil, and to a lesser extent Muslim, youth resorting to armed struggle and to two very costly insurrections in the South. The Sri Lankan State needs to address issues of structural discrimination and marginalisation in State institutions and in the private sector.

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 peace process has reached an impasse, and the CFA is facing its severest test at present. Following the presidential election of November 17, a new President has assumed office with a different perspective and policy approach to the peace process. His Government is seeking a review of the CFA and its operation, and has requested Noway to renew its facilitation. But it is understood that Norway would want both parties, the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the LTTE to agree to certain "conditions" before it resumes its facilitatory role.

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 child conscription.



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