Who won in the Geneva talks?

In the following report the veteran journalist HLD Mahindapala describes the outcome of the Geneva talks as a victory for Mahinda Ranjapakse. However the official communiqué given at the end of his report paints a different picture. These comments will be largely devoted to analysing this communiqué and how it square with HLD's interpretation.

The joint communiqué shows that once again GOSL has completely caved in to the LTTE. The most significant statement is: " The GOSL and the LTTE are committed to respecting and upholding the Ceasefire Agreement, and reconfirmed their commitment to fully cooperate with and respect the rulings of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)." Both in his election manifesto and in statements prior to the talks President MahindaR had made great play of the need to revise the CFA. In fact the head of the GOSL delegation Siripala de Silva (SdeS) even said that the CFA was contrary to the Constitution and the Law. It required only a threat from Balasingham to walk out of the talks for SdeS to reverse his claims and respect and uphold the CFA, the very thing he had said was contrary to the Constitution and the Law.

The implication of this backdown is that it can no longer be claimed that the CFA is the work of RanilW. MahindaR's failure to change even a comma in the CFA means that this notorious document can now be attributed to MahindaR as well. It is true that even before this he accepted the CFA but he claimed that this was not in the course of negotiations with the LTTE. Now the formal acceptance of the CFA means that MahindaR has adoped a position that is identical to that of RanilW.

It is also significant that GOSL agrees to abide by the rulings of the SLMM even though that body has demonstrated its partiality to the LTTE. This is another erosion of the sovereignty of the country.

The second significant of the point that GOSL has agreed to the disarming of the "paramilitaries". The wording here reads "GOSL is committed to taking all necessary measures in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement to ensure that no armed group or person other than Government security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations." The implications of this is that SL is divided into two areas of control that of GOSL and the LTTE and in each the controlling power alone is allowed to carry arms and conduct armed operations. Since there are no non-LTTE armed groups in the LTTE territory any anti-LTTE armed group can only have shelter in the GOSL sector. Now GOSL is undertaking disarm these groups and interdict them from carrying out anti-LTTE armed operations. This is in effect doing the dirty work for the LTTE.

Whether GOSL can disarm these groups, especially the Karuna faction, is questonable. But if GOSL does not do so it will give an excuse for the LTTE too to violate the CFA.

The third point is that both parties agree to "no intimidation, acts of violence, abductions or killings." It is also specifically stated the LTTE will take steps "to ensure that there will be no acts of violence against the security forces and police". (This latter statement is redundant if the LTTE agrees to no acts of violence.) It is on the basis of this clause that HLD claims that MahindaR has "won" becaue there will be no war. But the LTTE has agreed to such things before but the reality is that they have violated these when it suits them. Only time will tell if the Tiger has changed its stripes. Certainly this undertaking will be honoured, if at all, only during the forthcoming rounds of talks in April and beyond. But this round will have the same fate as the previous one unless the LTTE gets its way. So the claim of avoiding war is certainly premature.

From the joint communiqué it is clear that it is the LTTE that has won. GOSL has been forced to climb down, especially on the matter of revising the CFA. Their endorsement of the CFA is a serious climb-down and another blow to the so-called Mahinda chintanaya. Now virtually nothing of this chintanaya is left standing.

Apart from forcing GOSL to accept the CFA as originally agreed to, the LTTE has also obliged GOSL to prevent the non-LTTE Tamil opponents from attacking them.

The Geneva outcome has also posed a serious problem for the cyber patriots (who are now in fact cybre traitors). They were abusing RanilW and praising MahindaR. Now that MahindaR has accepted to uphold RanilW's agreement without a single comma changed they are confronted with a dilemma. Are they to continue their old policy or to praise both Ranil and Mahinda, or to condemn both. It will be interesting to see in which way they will turn.

Victor Gunasekara

Mahinda Rajapakse wins in Geneva by avoiding war.

by HLD Mahindapala - Reporting from Geneva

Asian Tribune : 2006-02-24

All smiles around beneath seething .... what? From left: Siripala De Silva, Hans Brattskar, , Erik Solheim, Vidar Helgesen , and Anton Balasingham.. Erik Solheim speak to the media during a press conference of the two delegations at the Geneva peace talks at the second day of 'Geneva Sri Lanka Peace Talks' in the Castle of Bossey in Bogis-Bossy, Switzerland, February 23, 2006.

Celingy, Switzerland, 24 February, (Asiantribune.com): The talks between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE ended on an optimistic note after going through rough patches in the negotiations. Both side agreed to meet in Geneva again in April 19-21 April 2006. Erik Solheim Norway's Minister for International Development and the Peace facilitator described the results of the Talks as "above expectations."

Both sides were arguing and sticking to their points of view initially. On several occasions the talks were on the point of breaking down.

The media that gathered Chateau de Bossey where the delegations of both delegations were residing were kept waiting for nearly three hours until the finishing touches were put to the final communiqué.

The positive sign is that both parties were determined, as they stated at the press conference, to continue in the sprit of preserving peace.

The fact that the talks did not breakdown and both parties agreed to meet again is a healthy sign despite the ups and downs. Political analysts agree that the end result of the talks is that there will be no war in the immediate future. In essence the de-escalation of the violence since both sides agreed to talk will continue. This signals that President Mahinda Rajapakse's Government has scored a major victory, according to the analysts.

The original fear that the Government and the LTTE holding extreme position will not be able to arrive at a compromise was dispelled when Erik Solheim announced that:

Given below the full the text of the Agreement:

Statement - Sri Lanka Talks
22-23 February 2006, Geneva, Switzerland

The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) met in Geneva 22-23 February 2006 for talks on the Ceasefire Agreement.

The parties discussed issues related to the ceasefire, including the concerns of the Muslim, Sinhalese, and Tamil civilians.

The GOSL and the LTTE are committed to respecting and upholding the Ceasefire Agreement, and reconfirmed their commitment to fully cooperate with and respect the rulings of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

The GOSL and the LTTE are committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure that there will be no intimidation, acts of violence, abductions or killings.

The LTTE is committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure that there will be no acts of violence against the security forces and police. The GOSL is committed to taking all necessary measures in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement to ensure that no armed group or person other than Government security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations.

The GOSL and the LTTE discussed all issues concerning the welfare of children in the North East, including the recruitment of children.

The SLMM will report on implementation on the above agreements at the next session of talks.

The parties requested the Swiss Government to host the next round of talks in Geneva on 19-21 April 2006.

Tigers threatened walk out at Swiss talks: Balasingham

By Amal Jayasinghe

CELIGNY, Switzerland, Feb 24, 2006 (AFP) - Tamil Tiger rebels extracted an agreement from Sri Lanka to uphold a controversial truce after threatening to walk out of talks, the top rebel negotiator told AFP.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they were ready to storm out of discussions in a chateau in this Swiss village when Colombo insisted on amending the Norwegian-brokered 2002 truce.

The LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham said he told his government counterpart Nimal Siripala de Silva that the Tigers would not agree to tinker with the ceasefire agreement, something demanded by Colombo's new administration.

Balasingham told AFP that he said to his opposite number: "If you are questioning the validity of the ceasefire agreement, then we will walk out."

"From our side it is a success. What we wanted was a commitment from the government to implement the ceasefire," Balasingham said in an interview with AFP Friday morning

He was speaking just hours after the two sides agreed over two days of talks to stop violence and decided to meet again here in April. "We had told the Norwegians also that we will talk only about implementing the agreement," he said.

"On the first day we could not agree on the agenda because the government wanted to take up revising or amending the ceasefire. We firmly said no. The government's chief negotiator said the ceasefire was seriously flawed and they want to revise it. "What we told them is that this ceasefire is not just a document between two parties. Five Nordic countries monitoring the ceasefire are involved. The international community is involved. We can't just tear it up." A Sri Lankan government delegate admitted that there were differences but played down the Tiger threat to storm out.

However, Balasingham said the government ate humble pie and climbed down on the issue of militias that allegedly receive the backing of Sri Lankan security forces to attack the Tigers.

"The government has agreed to implement a clause in the agreement in relation to the paramilitary groups. This is a good sign," Balasingham said. The Tigers faced an unprecedented split in March 2004 and the main rebel group has since accused Colombo of backing the breakaway faction.

Balasingham said although the just concluded Swiss talks focused only on issues relating to the truce, they were also ready to take up contentious political matters at a later date.

He said both the new government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Tigers were poles apart on a political settlement. Colombo wants an accord within a "unitary state," while the Tigers are seeking at least a federal system.

"Both parties are living in two different ideological universes," Balasingham said.

Full blown political negotiations were still not on the horizon although they have not been ruled out. Balasingham said the pace of political talks could be dictated by the improvement of security on the ground.

Some 153 people were killed in a spike of violence between December and January, before Norway's top peace envoy Erik Solheim clinched a deal for both warring parties to meet here and save their truce.

In a brief joint statement late Thursday, the two sides said they had agreed to stop the cycle of violence but later gave separate press conferences underscoring the lack of confidence between them.