In the ACSLU analysis of the situation in SL at the start of 2008 regarding the separatist problem (see Blog 8.01) it was argued that the abrogation of the CFA would be meaningless unless it is also coupled with a ban on the LTTE. In the News Report below by Indian journalist P.K. Balachandran it is said that Foreign Minister Bogollagama has assured the Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi that there would be no ban on the LTTE. This means that the LTTE is regarded as a political and not a terrorist organization. Bogollagama's tame excuse that there is "sufficient legal infrastructure" to tackle the menace of terrorism is repeatedly refuted by the rampant killings and bombings all over Sri Lanka. In almost every case SL has not been able to use its "sufficient legal infrastructure" to bring the perpetrators to justice. The plain fact is the GOSL is unable to prevent terrorism, not only in the so-called "liberated" EP but anywhere in Sri Lanka. No wonder Foreign Ministers who trot such arguments are treated as fools.

If SL has the means of tackling LTTE terrorism without actually banning the LTTE why is it expecting other countries to ban it? Almost all Western countries have their list of banned Terrorist groups, but this is not because they have no legal infrastructure to deal with terrorism. In fact banning a terrorist group provides the most powerful legal basis to tackle terrorism. True it will not end terrorism on its own but it will give the strongest signal that the organization banned is a terrorist organization. This is not merely a reflection that terrorism is effectively handled in SL but that for various reasons the LTTE is allowed to operate legally in the country.

Bogollagama claimed that the political process is very much in track, and that if Japan were to cut off aid it could "jeopardize the government's initiatives in the peace process". What these initiatives in the peace process are never specified other than that the APRC will present its devolution package on Jan 23. Many deadlines had been passed over in silence over the past few years. But even if the Jan 23 deadline is met merely presenting a devolution package is not a magic solution. We will have to postpone any judgment on this package only when it contents are known.


No ban on LTTE now, Sri Lanka tells Japan

By P.K. Balachandran, IANS

Colombo : Sri Lanka has told Japan that it does not contemplate banning the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at present, though the ceasefire agreement (CFA) with the rebel group is set to formally end Wednesday. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama conveyed Sri Lanka's view to Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi when they met here Monday, a foreign ministry communiqué said. Bogollagama told Akashi that there was no need to proscribe the LTTE "at the present time" as there was sufficient legal infrastructure already in place to tackle the menace of terrorism.

Akashi had expressed concern about the sustainability of the peace process. But the Sri Lankan foreign minister assured him that the process was on and the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) set up by the president of Sri Lanka to draft a devolution package to satisfy the Tamil minority and other stake holders would be submitted Jan 23.

"The political process is very much on track," Bogollagama told Akashi. Apparently alluding to news reports Monday, quoting Akashi as saying that international development assistance to Sri Lanka might not be forthcoming if the war continued, Bogollagama cautioned against any international action that could jeopardize the government's initiatives in the peace process and trigger increased violence in the country.

Japan has been playing an informal but important role as a mediator in the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. It organized an international donors' conference in Tokyo in 2003 to extend a development aid package worth $4.5 billion if the Sri Lanka government and the Tigers showed progress towards peace and a negotiated settlement. Japan, along with US, EU, Britain and Norway, was a co-chair of the Tokyo conference. The co-chairs eventually came to be identified as the "international community" in the search for peace in Sri Lanka.

However, no progress was made on the peace front and the huge aid package remained largely unused. Nevertheless, Japan continued to render bilateral developmental assistance to the Sri Lankan government saying that the continued conflict could not be allowed to adversely affect the life of the common man in the island. One of the unstated reasons for this stance was that the LTTE had consistently spurned Japan's offer of aid contemptuously saying that it was "cheque book diplomacy" and a clever way of trapping the Tamil movement for independence.

LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran had refused to meet Akashi though he is a very senior Japanese diplomat who has handled top UN assignments earlier. However, since the Sri Lankan government unilaterally called off the ceasefire agreement Jan 3, Japan, like the other co-chairs, has been very concerned about the continuation of the peace process.