Sri Lanka Peace Talks, India, Norway and LTTE

India is not an Acceptable Mediator for the Sri Lankan Conflict

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2000 (ID.2000-06-01)

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ABBREVIATIONS

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

1. Two Brothers and a Cunning Old Man

Let me tell you a little story first.

There were two brothers in a village. They were constantly quarreling over a piece of land that their parents left them. Seeing this, an elderly man from the village came to them and said, "This quarrel of yours is going on for too long. I will settle this matter for you." The brothers said, "alright". This cunning old man went to the bigger brother and got a bribe secretly and promised to settle their dispute in his favor. That he did. The little brother refused to accept the old man's settlement. The quarrel between the brothers continued.

After a while another elderly man from a nearby village came to the brothers and said, "Brothers, let me arrange talks between the two of you. May be you can reach an amicable settlement". Hearing of this, the cunning old man who took a bribe from the big brother years ago came again and offered to mediate the dispute. Do you thing this elderly man should be accepted as the mediator? Do you think this man should be allowed any part in the talks? Don't you think that this man should be disqualified as a mediator or arbitrator because of his past corrupt action of taking a bribe?

2. India, Sri Lanka and the Tamil Minority

What is happening between the Sri Lankan government (the Sinhalese majority), its Tamil minority and India parallel the little story told in Section 1. Sri Lankan government (the Sinhalese majority) is the big brother, Tamil minority is the little brother, India is the cunning elderly man of the village, and Norway is the elderly man from the nearby village.

There was (and is) a dispute - an armed conflict - between the Sri Lankan government (Sinhalese majority) and the Tamil minority over how much power the minority Tamils may have in their traditional Tamil homeland. India, as the big neighbor, said that it would settle the dispute and implemented a settlement in 1987. The dominant Tamil militant group, the LTTE, refused to accept it as inequitable to the Tamil minority.

Then a newspaper revealed two secret letters signed by the Prime Minister of India and the President of Sri Lanka on the same day they signed the settlement agreement (July 29, 1987). While the settlement agreement (The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord) was made public to the entire world, the letters were kept secret from even the leaders of minority Tamils who were affected by the settlement. The Tamil minority, even those Tamil groups that accepted the settlement, was not told of the secret letters.

The secret letters between India and Sri Lanka behind the back of the Tamil minority were revealing. Here is the relevant extract from one of the secret letters (from the Prime Minister of India to the President of Sri Lanka):

You had, during the course of our discussion, agreed to meet some of India's concerns as follows:

i) Your Excellency and myself will reach an early understanding about the relevance and employment of foreign military and intelligence personnel with a view to ensuring that such presence will not prejudice Indo-Sri Lanka relations.

ii) Trincomalee or any other ports in Sri Lanka will not be made available for military use by any country in a manner prejudicial to India's interests.

iii) The work of restoring and operating the Trincomalee oil tank will be undertaken as a joint venture between India and Sri Lanka.

iv) Sri Lanka's agreement with foreign broadcasting organizations will be reviewed to ensure that any facilities set up by them in Sri Lanka are used solely as public broadcasting facilities and not for any military or intelligence purposes.

These points have absolutely nothing to do with the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil minority. These are military and economic concessions to India. In exchange for enforcing a settlement that is favorable to the Sri Lankan government (Sinhalese majority), the Sri Lankan government agrees not to allow military ships of countries "unfriendly" to India in its ports and agrees not to allow intelligence listening posts that may spy on India. Sri Lanka was also forced to take India as a joint venture partner in the lucrative Trincomalee Oil Tank Project, instead of getting the best business deal in open international bidding. These three points (2 military, 1 economic) are nothing but bribes; that is why the letters were kept secret.

What is the purpose of a bribe? If one party to a dispute bribes the judge, mediator or arbitrator, do you think the judge will settle the dispute justly, or unjustly in favor of the one who bribed him/her? India asked for and took the bribe from the Sri Lankan government secretly behind the back of the minority Tamils and settled the matter in favor of the Sri Lankan government.

Those in Indian politics and Indian media who praise the settlement imposed by India in 1987 as a just solution for the Tamil minority never mention the bribe taken by India. How can the settlement be anything but tilted in favor of the bribe-giver, the Sri Lankan government?

Let us leave the past aside. Today, in May 2000, India has again offered to mediate between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil minority (specifically the LTTE). Sri Lankan Government immediately welcomed the offer although both Sri Lanka and LTTE agreed only a few months ago that Norway will act as the facilitator (or mediator), and Norway is in fact putting the groundwork for peace talks. Who knows what secret deals and bribes India demanded and got from Sri Lanka this time? We can never trust India to be a honest mediator. No one will allow a corrupt judge to mediate or arbitrate a dispute. So India should be disqualified to take part in any manner in peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE; neither as the sole mediator nor as a co-mediator with Norway. India should be kept out of any peace talks. World governments should ask India to stay aside and not to put a monkey wrench in a possible peace talk with Norway as facilitator or mediator.

----    2000-a1d

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