Sri Lanka: Truth and the Whole Truth

False Propaganda about LTTE and the Peace Process

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2002 (ID.2002-04-01)

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JVP - Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

PA - People's Alliance

UNP - United National Party

Currently there is a permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil freedom fighters, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Norway is making arrangement to hold peace talks between the adversaries. 

This writer has read the following analysis as to why the peace initiative took momentum at this point of time. This analysis has appeared in some form or other in Sri Lankan, Indian and many other foreign magazines and newspapers. According to this analysis, "the LTTE agreed to the permanent ceasefire and peace talks because of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in America and the subsequent anti-terrorism measures taken in many western countries (specifically the curtailment of alleged LTTE fundraising in some western countries)". Thus this analysis implies that LTTE is not genuinely interested in peace talks, and that it agreed to enter the talks only because it was weakened by the above-said actions in western countries, subsequent to September 11, 2001. This is a totally wrong analysis of the situation. This false propaganda started in some of the traditionally anti-Tamil media in Sri Lanka and India. Then it was picked up by many foreign media at face value, without an independent analysis of the situation. The purpose of this article is to demolish this misanalysis and shed light on the true picture in Sri Lanka.

Reason for the permanent ceasefire between the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE is not September 11 but it is December 5. What happened on December 5, 2001? Parliamentary election took place in Sri Lanka on December 5, 2001. The then opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), and its allies won the election on an "immediate and unconditional peace talks with LTTE" platform. The then ruling party, People's Alliance (PA), and its allies that included the anti-peace-talk parties like the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) lost the election. 

Seeing the pro-peace-talk party's win, and wanting to give a boost to the peace initiative, LTTE announced a unilateral one-month long ceasefire on December 19, 2001, to start from December 24, 2001.The new Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe (of the UNP) reciprocated by declaring a similar ceasefire by the military. That led to the current permanent ceasefire. This is the sequence of events. Thus December 5 is the reason for the ceasefire and not September 11. 

One more point. If September 11, 2001 is the reason, why didn't LTTE declare a unilateral ceasefire in September, or October, or November? Why did it wait for a full 3 months until December 19? The date that triggered the ceasefire is December 5, 2001. That is why.

Had the former ruling party, the People's Alliance (PA), won the parliamentary election on December 5, 2001, there would have been no permanent ceasefire now. During the past couple of years, the PA government consistently refused LTTE's hand extended in peace. LTTE declared a unilateral one-month long ceasefire from December 24, 2000 also. (Note the year. It was 2000. Almost 9 months before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.) The then PA government refused to reciprocate the LTTE ceasefire. Instead it ridiculed and belittled LTTE's unilateral ceasefire saying that LTTE was weak and thus the unilateral ceasefire. LTTE took the ridicule and extended its ceasefire one more month. Then extended one more month. Again extended it one more month. (www.geocities.com/tamiltribune) The PA government of Sri Lanka refused to reciprocate the four-month long unilateral ceasefire. LTTE did not launch an offensive even after it ended its four-month long unilateral ceasefire. But the Sri Lankan military launched an attack on LTTE positions in Jaffna on April 24, 2001. LTTE fought back, inflicted heavy  casualties on the military and repulsed the attack in just 4 days. Sri Lankan military did not gain any territory. Casualties were in fact high on both sides. According to the Sri Lankan defense ministry, 157 soldiers and officers died and 800 were wounded. The Sunday Times (of Sri Lanka) reported that Sri Lankan military's losses were 300-plus dead and 1600 wounded. This put and end to the theory that LTTE's unilateral ceasefire from December 24, 2000 was because of its weakness.

Had the then PA government reciprocated LTTE's unilateral ceasefire of December 24, 2000 (almost 9 months before September 11, 2001), there could have been a permanent ceasefire and subsequent peace talks a year earlier. This time, the newly elected UNP government reciprocated LTTE's December 24, 2001 unilateral ceasefire and thus the permanent ceasefire and the arrangements for peace talks. 

Need more supporting evidence that it is the victory of UNP and defeat of PA in the December 5, 2001 parliamentary election that lead to the ceasefire and peace talks? Some political background first. Sri Lanka has a President and a Prime Minister. Parliamentary election that decides the Prime Minister and the presidential election need not be held at the same time. Also the President and the Prime Minister could be from different political parties with entirely different policies. Before the December 5, 2001 parliamentary election, the People's Alliance (PA) held both the President and Prime Minister positions. After the election, the president continued to be from the PA (Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga who won the presidential election in 1999) but the new Prime Minister is from UNP (Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe). It is this new Prime Minister who reciprocated LTTE's unilateral ceasefire of December 24, 2001 and then reached an agreement with LTTE on a permanent ceasefire with the able help of Norwegian facilitators. The President (from PA) was obstructive to the permanent ceasefire agreement. She was not happy about the terms of the ceasefire agreement reached between LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government. It is of course her right to express her opinion about the agreement but she went much further. She publicly stated that, as the president of Sri Lanka  and the commander-in-chief of the Sri Lankan military, she could countermand the ceasefire with one letter to the military. Do you think that if PA won the December 5, 2001 parliamentary election and both the President and Prime Minister positions were in the hands of PA (headed by Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga), there would have been a ceasefire? No, there would not have been one. It is the defeat of PA in the December 5 election that lead to the permanent ceasefire and the serious preparations for peace talks, not the horrific events of September 11. (NOTE: President Kumaratunga backed off from her threat to countermand the ceasefire after a storm of criticism from countries around the world - from East to West - from Japan to America.)

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