Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Presidential poll 2005 Prabhakaran's fatal mistake




by Shamindra Ferdinando

Having assassinated UNP presidential election candidate, Gamini Dissanayake on the night of Oct 23, 1994 to ensure PA candidate, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s victory at the Nov 9, 1994 presidential election, the LTTE made an attempt on Mrs. Kumaratunga’s life three days before the Dec 21, 1999 presidential election. The abortive suicide mission was meant to guarantee UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s victory. Having survived the assassination bid, Mrs. Kumaratunga won a second term by polling 4,312,157 (51.12%). Wickremesinghe obtained 3,602,748 votes, while JVP candidate, M. D. Nandana Gunathilake secured 344,173 votes.

Had the LTTE succeeded in its suicide mission, Wickremesinghe would have comfortably won the election. The UNP leader would have definitely reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to Norwegian facilitation to explore ways and means of bringing the LTTE back to the negotiating table. It would be pertinent to mention that Mrs. Kumaratunga engaged Norway in May 1999 to initiate a dialogue with the LTTE. The invitation followed consultations involving the government, the LTTE and the Catholic Church.

In spite of losing to Mrs. Kumaratunga, Wickremesinghe engineered a spate of crossovers, including that of Prof. G. L. Peiris in late 2001 to bring down Mrs. Kumaratunga’s government. The crossovers took place in the wake of SLMC leader M. H. M. Ashraff’s assassination on September 16, 2001 leading to his predecessor, Rauf Hakeem deserting the ruling coalition. Parliamentary election on Dec 5, 2001 resulted in victory for Wickremesinghe’s coalition. The UNP leader lost no time in inviting Norway to continue with its initiative. Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka released in September 2011 appreciated the Wickremesinghe approach. "The Norwegian team is aware of, and worried about the fragile power balance caused by political cohabitation in Colombo and the struggles it is likely to bring about, but the UNP victory also creates a much-needed breakthrough in the deadlocked process. The UNP is seen to be more flexible and pragmatic when it comes to the peace process. Building on the earlier back-channel dialogue with both Norway and the LTTE, Wickremesinghe moves quickly. On the night of his election, he calls Norwegian ambassador in Colombo Westborg and preparations resume. Wickremesinghe’s victory clears the way to proceed as the LTTE had advocated: start with a ceasefire, normalization and confidence building measures, while pushing the core substantive political issues backwards."

Wickremesinghe and Prabhakaran reached a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) on February 21, 2002.

After having six rounds of talks under the auspices of Norway, Prabhakaran quit the negotiating process on April 21, 2003.Amidst the deteriorating security situation, Mrs Kumaratunga on Nov 4, 2003, stripped Tilak Marapone, John Amaratunga and Imitiaz Bakeer of defence, interior and information portfolios. Mrs. Kumaratunga dissolved parliament on February 7, 2004 leading to early elections on April 2, 2004, the third general election in four years.

Sarath N Silva thwarts

CBK’s move

Having routed the UNP at the parliamentary poll, Mrs. Kumaratunga felt confident that she could continue till November 10, 2006 on the basis that her second term commenced on November 10, 2000, though the election took place on Dec 21, 1999. The then Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva declared that Mrs. Kumaratunga’s term would end on December 22, 2005, when Ven. Omalpe Sobitha thera on behalf of the JHU filed a fundamental rights application seeking Supreme Court opinion.

The constitutional provision that needed interpretation was 31(3)d(i) which stipulated that if an incumbent president was re-elected for a second term, he/she will: "hold office for a term of six years commencing on such date in the year in which that election is held (being a date after such election) or in the succeeding year, as corresponds to the date on which his first term of office commenced, whichever date is earlier."

Having sent Mrs. Kumaratunga home, Sarath Nanda Silva, now one of the fiercest critics of the Rajapaksa brothers, paved the way for a presidential election on November 17, 2005.

Having lost to Mrs. Kumaratunga at December 21, 1999, poll, Wickremesinghe remained supremely confident of defeating the UPFA candidate, the then Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Wickremesinghe had the backing of Western powers, the so-called civil society groups as well as the five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), an appendage of the LTTE. Wickremesinghe felt confident that the LTTE wouldn’t interfere with the electoral process in the then temporarily-merged Northern and Eastern Provinces. The support extended by the SLMC and the CWC further strengthened Wickremesinghe, whereas Rajapaksa received the backing of nationalist political parties. Those who had been supportive of efforts to resume negotiations with the LTTE felt Wickremesinghe could kick start the stalled peace process. In fact, the TNA had assured the UNP leadership of Tamil speaking peoples’ support to defeat Rajapaksa amidst a propaganda blitz meant to portray Rajapaksa as a warmonger. Wickremesinghe had a formidable coalition which represented all three communities and he also commanded the support of the Catholic Church.

Most importantly, Wickremesinghe had the backing of an influential section within the then ruling SLFP. Mrs. Kumaratunga went to the extent of publicly endorsing Wickremesinghe’s policy vis a vis the national issue and was also in agreement with the UNP leader on the resolution of the national issue on the basis of a federal concept. The then Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike worked overtime to undermine Rajapaksa’s government. Bandaranaike attacked those who courageously backed Rajapaksa’s candidature. Wickremesinghe brought one-time UNP General Secretary, B. Sirisena Cooray and influential businessman Thilanga Sumathipala to run his campaign in the North Central Province comprising Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts. They didn’t make any impact there.

CBK appeals to Norway

Mrs Kumaratunga, in her capacity as the president, requested the then Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondvik to ensure the LTTE didn’t interfere with the electoral process. The request was made on the sidelines of UNGA sessions in New York in late September 2005 (Norway to facilitate presidential poll-The Island September 2005).

Yogarajan speaks to LTTE leaders

Contrary to the expectations of the UNP, the LTTE deprived Wickremesinghe of the northern vote to ensure his defeat. Veteran politician, R. Yogarajan, MP in a brief interview with this writer on Nov 22, 2014 explained the LTTE move as well as the UNP’s efforts to persuade the LTTE not to interfere with the electoral process. Had the LTTE listened to reason, perhaps, eelam war IV would never have taken place, Yogarajan asserted. "We knew something was amiss when the LTTE ordered public servants not to exercise their franchise at postal voting during the first week of November, 2005. All of us were seriously concerned. On the advice of the CWC leader, Arumugam Thondaman, I requested LTTE political wing leader, Thamilchelvam not to interfere with the electoral process. Thamilchelvam declined to cooperate. He also turned down my request for an urgent meeting with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to discuss the matter. I was to accompany Thondaman. But Thamilchelvam insisted there is no point in visiting Kilinochchi as the decision cannot be changed under any circumstances. Thamilchelvam faulted the UNP for not making a formal request to the LTTE leader. We never wanted the LTTE to tell the people to vote for the UNP candidate. The UNP expected the freedom for those who wanted to exercise their franchise to do so. Subsequently, we met a senior delegation of TNA representatives at the CWC headquarters to discuss ways and means of convincing the LTTE. Though the TNA realized our plight, it couldn’t do anything. TNA MP Nadaraja Raviraj raised the issue with the LTTE on the UNP’s behalf. Raviraj made a genuine effort. But the LTTE ignored our plea."

An unidentified gunman shot Raviraj, a human rights lawyer, at close range at around 8.30am on November 10, 2006 as he got into his car after giving a TV interview in Colombo.

The MP died later in hospital. His bodyguard was also killed. The TNA blamed the government for the killing.

Yogarajan revealed that the UNP expected as much as 500,000 votes from the Northern Province to enable Wickremesinghe to secure a 375,000 majority. Responding to a query, Yogarajan said he explained to Thamilchelvam the LTTE’s decision wasn’t fair by Tamil speaking people living in the South. "They yearned for Wickremesinghe’s victory though the LTTE strategy didn’t take that into consideration."

The political stalwart asserted that the LTTE may have felt that had Wickremesinghe won the November 2005 presidential poll with a comfortable majority, it couldn’t have justified the resumption of hostilities. Obviously, the LTTE believed Wickremesinghe’s strategy was meant to entrap the organization.

The TNA, on behalf of the LTTE, announced the decision to boycott the presidential poll. The announcement was made on November 10, 2005 in Kilinochchi. Confirming the LTTE directive, TNA Batticaloa District MP Joseph Pararajasingham and Trincomalee District MP and TNA leader R. Sampanthan told the writer on the night of November 15, 2005, that nothing worthwhile could be achieved by supporting either of the two leading candidates (TNA refuses to change polls boycott stance-The Island November 16, 2005).

Some blamed the then UNP MP Milinda Moragoda for causing Wickremesinghe’s defeat. They felt Wickremesinghe earned the wrath of Prabhakaran due to his close associate and colleague, Milinda Moragoda’s declaration that the Norwegian led peace process caused the split between Prabhakaran and Karuna. But the LTTE wouldn’t have engineered Wickremesinghe’s defeat merely on the basis of an interview given by a former member of Wickremesinghe’s negotiating team. Instead, Prabhakaran undoubtedly believed that Rajapaksa would unwittingly created the conditions for him to resume a large scale offensive across the northern frontlines. Prabhakaran seemed to have believed that he could overwhelm the army in about two years during Rajapaksa’s presidency.

Malik Samarawickrema on LTTE move

An angry Malik Samarawickrema, the then Chairman of the UNP said that Wickremesinghe could have easily won the election if the northerners were allowed to exercise their franchise. Samarawickrema queried the absurdity in allegations as regards a secret agreement between Wickremesinghe and Prabhakaran in the backdrop of the LTTE depriving the UNP leader of a sure victory (LTTE action belies ali-koti pact-The Island November 21, 2005).

During the last week of November, 2005, Moragoda came under fire at a meeting of the decision making Working Committee over his controversial interview about a week before the presidential poll. Moragoda was accused of causing Wickremesinghe’s defeat (Hot air at Sirikotha over LTTE polls boycott order-The Island December 1, 2005).

Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka commented on the LTTE project that led to Wickremesinghe’s defeat and the eventual annihilation of the once proud LTTE conventional fighting force. The Norwegian report: "Ironically, Wickremesinghe’s defeat is determined in the Vanni. The LTTE decides to enforce a boycott among Tamil voters, thus tipping the balance to Rajapaksa, who wins with a margin of less than two per cent."

Authors of the Norwegian report, while admitting they weren’t certain of what caused the LTTE to engineer Wickremesinghe’s defeat, mentioned three probable reasons, namely taking revenge on Wickremesinghe for snaring the group in an international peace trap, realization that only a hardliner could enforce change in southern politics and a possible financial or other arrangement with the then Prime Minister Rajapaksa ahead of the polls. The report quoted President Rajapaksa in January 2006 as having told the then Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim to thank Prabhakaran on his behalf for helping him to win the election. Solheim did as he was told when he met Prabhakaran in Kilinochchi just a few days after his meeting with the President in Colombo.

Rajapaksa polled 4,887,152 votes (50.29%) to win the election with Wickremesinghe coming a close second. The UNP leader obtained 4,706,366 votes (48.43%).

The following results of electorates in Jaffna district is evidence of the devastating consequences of Prabhakaran’s order. Wickremesinghe polled 98 votes in Kayts (total registered voters 52,986), 91 in Vaddukkoddai (total registered 62,781), 148 in Kankesanthurai (total registered 67,133), 256 in Maipaly (total registered 68,783), 267 in Kopay (total registered 63,752), 52 in Udupiddy (total registered 55,499), 25 in Point Pedro (total registered 47,188), 33 in Chavakachcheri (total registered 62022), 198 in Nallur (total registered 70,251), 301 in Jaffna (total registered 62,089), and 100 in Kilinochchi (total registered 89,454). Wickremesinghe also obtained 1405 postal votes. Of a staggering 701,938 registered voters in the Jaffna electoral district, only 8524 risked their lives to exercise their franchise. Wickremesinghe could obtain only 5523, though according to Yogarajan UNP/Opposition strategists believed their man could obtain as many as 500,000 votes. Rajapaksa polled 1967 votes.

Although the situation in the neighbouring Vanni electoral district had been much better when compared with the Jaffna electoral district. Of 250,386 registered voters in Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu electorates only 85874 exercised their franchise. However, the situation in the LTTE stronghold of Mullaitivu, was as bad as Jaffna with the Mullaitivu electorate in spite of having 66,596 registered votes recording 902 votes.

The extremely low vote in Mullaitivu underscored Prabhakaran’s hold on Mullaitivu. In the Vanni electoral district Wickremesinghe polled 65,798, whereas Rajapaksa obtained 17,197 votes.

In the Eastern Province, Wickremesinghe received overwhelming support though the LTTE-TNA boycott order discouraged some people from exercising their franchise at the expense of Wickremesinghe. Even in Batticaloa electoral district where Wickremesinghe obtained 121,514 votes, only 154,615 had exercised their franchise though there were 318,728 registered voters. Rajapaksa managed to obtain 28,836 votes in the Batticaloa district.

Had the LTTE allowed the northern electorate to vote, Wickremesinghe would have emerged victorious at the November 2005 presidential election. It had been a grave miscalculation on the part of the LTTE that led to the demise of an organization which even stood up to the mighty Indian army during Oct. Interestingly, the LTTE’s operation had been tremendous as it achieved what it desired: ensured Wickremesinghe’s defeat. Prabhakaran helped Rajapaksa, in the mistaken belief that the new Commander-in-Chief could be isolated and finished off, perhaps within two years as Kumaran Pathmanathan aka KP told the writer soon after he was brought to Colombo from Malaysia. According to Pathmanathan, Prabhakaran believed he could secure a militarily unbeatable position within two years. Instead, a relentless combined security forces campaign led to the eradication of conventional LTTE fighting capability in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, within two years and 10 months.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

P’karan’s bid to deprive CBK of a second term goes awry Dec 1995 presidential poll:



The assassination of President Kumaratunga, three days before the Dec 21, 1999, presidential poll, was meant to achieve several objectives, both political and military. Prof. Peiris, who had been conducting secret negotiations with the Norwegians, on behalf of President Kumaratunga, was among those wounded in the suicide attack. One of the main objectives of the LTTE suicide mission was to ensure the victory of UNP candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, thereby bring an end to the Norwegian-led negotiations with her government. Prabhakaran obviously believed that he could enter into a fresh round of negotiations with the new executive, under the Norwegian auspices. Prabhakaran’s strategy, in Dec 1999, had been very much similar to that of Oct 1994 when the terrorist leader assassinated the then UNP presidential election candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, to enable Mrs Kumaratunga to win.

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Having helped the then Chief Minister of the Western Province, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to win the presidential election, on Nov 9, 1994, the LTTE made an attempt to prevent her re-election bid at the Dec 21, 1999, poll.

The suicide blast, directed at Mrs. Kumaratunga, on the night of Dec 18, at the conclusion of the final rally of the then SLFP-led People’s Alliance (PA), claimed the lives of 35 persons. Over 100 received injuries, including President Kumaratunga. She received a slight injury to her face and the right eye.

It would be pertinent to discuss the attempt on Mrs. Kumaratunga’s life, with the focus on secret tripartite negotiations, involving the PA, the LTTE and Norway, at the time of the Dec 18 suicide blast. The talks were meant to facilitate resumption of negotiations between the two parties, under the auspices of Norway.

Mrs. Kumaratunga was the first politician to survive an LTTE suicide attack. The attempt on the President reflected the diabolical nature of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the so-called undisputed leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Norwegian International Development Minister, Erik Solheim, discussed the Norwegian role, in the secret three-way negotiations, at an interview with NGO guru, Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, years later (Negotiating Peace in Sri Lanka: Efforts, Failures and Lessons). Solheim’s interview was among several other interviews/opinion expressed by various personalities, involved in the peace process, accommodated in this particular volume, edited by Dr. Rupesinghe. One of the major recipients of overseas financial assistance, Dr. Rupesinghe has received the backing of Norwegian and Sri Lankan Foreign ministries and the Berghof Foundation for the project.

The trilateral discussions had been initiated by the LTTE, in October 1998, to explore the possibility of having the then LTTE ideologue, Anton Balasingham, safely moved from the Vanni region to an overseas medical facility to undergo an emergency kidney operation.

Solheim, in his interview with Dr. Rupesinghe, claimed that only a few people, including President Kumaratunga, and the then Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, and top LTTE representatives, knew of the negotiations. Having acknowledged that as Norway couldn’t facilitate Balasingham’s transfer from the Vanni, the kidney patient had to leave by other means. Solheim said: "Throughout the peace process, there have been absolutely no leaks from Norway and only a handful of people knew about it at all. So we maintained secrecy at all times until Chandrika decided to go public right after the LTTE attempted to assassinate her, just before the election, in the New Year 1999/2000. She revealed, in an interview with the BBC, that Norway had been involved as a facilitator for a long time. This came as a complete surprise to Norway. Later she apologized for announcing it before informing us, but there were no problems as a result though and I think it was better that way than having it leaked by the press or in any other way."

Dr. Rupesinghe conveniently failed to inquire from Solheim whether the LTTE bid to assassinate the Sri Lankan leader surprised Norway. The Chairman of the Foundation for Co-Existence, Dr. Rupesinghe, never queried from Solheim whether Norway demanded an explanation from Prabhakaran, as regards the assassination, attempt or whether the group offered an apology. In hindsight, perhaps, Norway knew that the LTTE had no intention of returning to the negotiating table as long as President Kumaratunga remained at the helm and the negotiations were intended to evacuate Balasingham. Prabhakaran wouldn’t have forgiven Mrs. Kumaratunga for inflicting a humiliating battlefield defeat, in Dec 1995, on the LTTE. Mrs Kumaratunga had the courage to launch the largest ever combined security forces offensive, codenamed, Riviresa, in August, 1995, to being the entire peninsula under government control. The then SLFP leader shouldn’t be deprived of the credit for giving resolute political leadership that enable the army to evict the LTTE.

Although she couldn’t further exploit the situation, to the advantage of her government, due to a string of battlefield debacles on the Vanni front, consequent to the disastrous Operation Jayasikurui, meant to restore the Kandy-Jaffna overland Main Supply Route (MSR), the Jaffna peninsula remained under military control.

Regardless of Norway’s failure to arrange the transfer of Balasingham, from the Vanni, Oslo accepted an invitation from Mrs. Kumaratunga, in May, 1999, to mediate between the two warring parties. The President move coincided with her untiring efforts to secure support from major political parties to devolution proposals. In fact, President Kumaratunga picked Norway from among five countries proposed by Prabhakaran as possible mediators. Prabhakaran assassinated TULF great, Neelan Tiruchelvam, MP in Colombo, to discourage those supporting President Kumaratunga to make her devolution proposals. The government continued with its efforts in spite of Tiruchelvam’s assassination. He was quickly forgotten. On behalf of President Kumaratunga, both ministers, Lakshman Kadirgamar, and Prof G.L. Peiris, secretly met Norwegian officials, tasked with facilitating talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. The Norwegians also met President Kumaratunga in Colombo.

Amidst bloody battles, on the Vanni front, the tripartite negotiations continued. President Kumaratunga remained confident of reaching an understanding with Prabhakaran, though an influential section of the PA administration felt uneasy. The military top brass realized that the LTTE wouldn’t suspend large scale offensive operations regardless of the negotiations. The LTTE relentlessly attacked the army on the Vanni front. By Dec 1999, residential areas, in the Jaffna peninsula, had been under artillery and heavy mortar fire with the strategic Elephant Pass base targeted. The defenders at Elephant Pass struggled to save the base. By then, the LTTE had driven the army out of all areas it liberated since 1997, thereby gaining the upper hand on the northern front. The navy and the air forces lacked the resources to ensure required military supplies to the Jaffna peninsula. The army, based in Jaffna, didn’t have the wherewithal to meet the LTTE challenge.

The assassination of President Kumaratunga, three days before the Dec 21, 1999, presidential poll, was meant to achieve several objectives, both political and military. Prof. Peiris, who had been conducting secret negotiations with the Norwegians, on behalf of President Kumaratunga, was among those wounded in the suicide attack. One of the main objectives of the LTTE suicide mission was to ensure the victory of UNP candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, thereby bring an end to the Norwegian-led negotiations with her government. Prabhakaran obviously believed that he could enter into a fresh round of negotiations with the new executive, under the Norwegian auspices. Prabhakaran’s strategy, in Dec 1999, had been very much similar to that of Oct 1994 when the terrorist leader assassinated the then UNP presidential election candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, to enable Mrs Kumaratunga to win.

There couldn’t have been such manipulation, perpetrated by a terrorist organization, in any part of the world, except Sri Lanka. Idiotic politicians acted as if they enjoyed being manipulated by Prabhakaran always believing the LTTE favoured them over their political rivals. President Kumaratunga was no exception. She wouldn’t have realized Prabhakaran deception until an attempt was made on her life.

In an exclusive interview with the former BBC correspondent in Sri Lanka, George Arney, posted on Dec 30, 1999, president Kumaratunga revealed international mediation meant to broker a peace deal with the Tigers was in progress for over two years.

The first attempt was by the Commonwealth Secretary General Chief, Anyoku, followed by the Norwegian Government.

Both attempts proved fruitless, the BBC quoted President Kumaratunga, who had been in London to undergo medical treatment, as having said. Had she not revealed the Norwegian intervention here who would have done so. Minister Kadirgamar or Prof. Peiris wouldn’t have spoken unless they were authorized by President Kumaratunga, hence Prabhakaran’s treachery wouldn’t have come to public domain at that time.

In BBC Breakfast with Frost interview posted on Oct 28, 2001, President Kumaratunga said: "Well in my case it was the Tamil terrorists quite clearly, I was at the last presidential election rally in ‘99 December and it was a young female suicide bomber who blasted herself, obviously in the hope of doing me in, 26 people were killed, I escaped with serious injuries and lost the sight of one eye."

President Kumaratunga refrained from revealing the Norwegian role when she first addressed the nation, over Rupavahini, on the night of Dec 20, 1999. President Kumaratunga used her first appearance since the assassination bid to urge the Tamil speaking civilian population to throw their weight behind the PA. Addressing the nation from Temple Trees on the day before the presidential poll, President Kumaratunga requested the LTTE fighting cadre to quit the organization.

Prabhakaran never responded to Kumaratunga’s allegations. The well-funded Colombo based peace lobby, too, remained silent. Western powers continued to turn a blind eye to LTTE terrorism with the British government allowing the LTTE to run a major propaganda operation from London. The UK, based LTTE International Secretariat coordinated a major overseas campaign against Sri Lanka. The UK allowed the LTTE to issue media statements as regards military operations, conducted by terrorists in Sri Lanka, particularly the major assault on Elephant Pass.

Having survived the LTTE assassination bid, President Kumaratunga comfortably secured a second term. Wickremesinghe suffered a heavy defeat, though President Kumaratunga polled a lot less than at the Nov 9, 1994, presidential poll.

The PA candidate polled a staggering 4,709,205 votes (62.28%) whereas her rival, Vajira Srimathi Dissanayake, managed to obtain 2,715,285 votes. Srimathi never had a chance, though the UNP named her as the successor to her assassinated husband, Gamini Dissanayake. Mrs. Kumaratunga would never have received such a huge mandate if the LTTE interfered with the electoral process. At the time of the poll, Kumaratunga, in her capacity as the newly elected premier had been engaged in direct talks with the LTTE.

At the Dec 1999, presidential polls, the incumbent President obtained 4,312,157 (51.12%) whereas Ranil Wickremesinghe polled 3,602,748.

Had Prabhakaran succeeded in assassinating President Kumaratunga, the PA would have plunged into unprecedented crisis. The PA would have had time to inform Elections Commissioner of Kumaratunga’s replacement. Wickremesinghe would have emerged victorious with whoever fielded by the PA coming a distant second. It would be important to keep in mind that Kumaratunga’s replacement would never have been Mahinda Rajapaksa, the then Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister. The bottom line is that whoever succeed Kumaratunga, his fate would have been not different from that of Vajira Srimathi Dissanayake.

What would have happened if Wickremesinghe emerged victorious? Would he have continued with the Norwegian facilitation? What would have happened to the PA?

Let me recollect a brief statement the then UNP Batticaloa District MP, Seyed Ali Moulana, gave to the writer in response to a query a few days before the Dec 21, 1999, presidential poll. Moulana said that the people had received the blessings of the LTTE to exercise their franchise in support of Wickremesinghe. The MP attributed the LTTE’s decision to Kumaratunga’s failure to solve the national issue.

Moulana, who had been leading Wickremesinhe’s campaign in both the government and LTTE-held areas, said that Wickremesinghe could comfortably win the election with the support extended by the Tamil speaking people at the behest of the LTTE. Moulana declared that the Tamil speaking people, not only in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, but living in the South as well, wouldn’t take notice of the TULF efforts to discourage them from voting for either Kumaratunga or Wickremesinghe. The UNPer revealed that the LTTE allowed the UNP to hold political meetings, in areas under its control, though President Kumaratunga couldn’t campaign in the northern and eastern districts due to LTTE threats (LTTE gives the green light to vote in favour of Ranil-UNP Batticaloa District MP says-The Island, Dec 16, 1999).

Moulana emphasized that there was absolutely no basis for PA claims that Wickremesinghe had reached an agreement with the LTTE. However, Moulana didn’t mince his words when he declared that the Tamil speaking people would make a significant contribution to Wickremesinghe victory, though the then SLMC leader Ashraff had been working overtime to cause ethnic tensions in the region.

Moulana captured the limelight, in early 2004, after his friendship with Karuna Amman was revealed in the immediate aftermath of a damaging split in the organization. Moulana had to quit his parliamentary seat at the behest of Wickremesinghe, consequent to the LTTE accusing the MP of helping Karuna Amman to reach Colombo. Fearing an LTTE attempt on Moulana’s life, he was sent out of the country. Subsequently, he switched his allegiance to President Rajapaksa.

Due to negligence on the part of successive governments, the state never made an effort to examine Prabhakaran’s strategies though from time to time the military engaged in some costly operations. In the absence of an overall strategy, vis a vis political situation, as well as status of the military status, the LTTE always had the upper hand with the UNP as well as the SLFP-led coalitions, struggling to cope up with crisis on the ground. Their policies were intended to appease the LTTE at the expense of national security interests and political stability.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

CBK waged ‘Mother of all wars’ -Rev. Dr. Emmanuel



by Shamindra Ferdinando

Last week, The Island partly dealt with Rev. Dr. S. J Emmanuel’s thoughts on the collapse of talks between the government of the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in April 1995.

The priest blamed Mrs. Kumaratunga for the breakdown of talks. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel’s views, on the conflict, are relevant, even in the post-war period, due to his high profile role in the UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF). The influential Diaspora grouping spearheads a costly campaign meant to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal.

The GTF wields immense influence, particularly in the UK, where the grouping receives access to the ruling Conservatives-Liberal Democrats coalition, at the highest level.

The GTF was among many organizations and individuals recently proscribed by Sri Lanka, in accordance with an overall strategy to counter post-war separatist movement gaining ground. It would be pertinent to mention that Prabhakaran would never have allowed the formation of such a grouping if he survived the military onslaught, in early 2009.

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel discussed the events, leading to the outbreak of war, in April, 1995, at a conference held in Lausenna, Switzerland, in July, 1997. Let me examine some critical points raised by Rev. Dr. Emmanuel, which couldn’t be discussed last week. (The writer is grateful to the GTF leader for making his submissions, Lausenna conference available to The Island).

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel condemned Mrs. Kumaratunga for conducting a brutal war, consequent to the breakdown of talks. The priest declared: "The war, as conducted by the Kumaratunga regime, added a new horror element to the ethnic war - internationalizing her efforts of war through a powerful propaganda machinery to make it appear as a justified ‘war for peace’, as a war against terrorism, and at the same time conducting it on the ground as a war behind closed doors closed to all local or international media, amounts nothing less than a genocide with an international license."

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel went on to allege: "While retaining the old international credential, and accolade, which she received as she came to power with promises to end the war and create peace, she has turned 180 degrees to conduct the mother of all wars in the name of peace."

The five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), led by Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) has accused President Mahinda Rajapaksa of conducting a genocidal war, targeting Tamil-speaking people. In fact, a group of TNA provincial council members representing the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils, in August this year, requested the UN to inquire into the genocidal war conducted by President Rajapaksa. The TNA move, against President Rajapaksa, should be examined in the backdrop of longstanding accusation made against his predecessor, Mrs. Kumaratunga.

For want of a cohesive strategy, successive Sri Lankan governments pathetically failed to counter separatist propaganda. The UK-based LTTE International Secretariat conducted a highly successful propaganda drive to justify Prabhakaran’s decision to resume hostilities. Mrs. Kumaratunga’s government couldn’t match the LTTE operation, as well as propaganda projects, undertaken by those who had brazenly accepted the LTTE as the representatives of an aggrieved and oppressed people. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel hadn’t minced his words in Lucerne, in July, 1997, when he declared: "Mrs Kumaratunga’s government did not understand the LTTE as the representatives of an aggrieved and oppressed people. Nor did they recognize the LTTE demands as the demands of the people."

Subsequently, the TNA went to the extent in declaring the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. The LTTE received the TNA recognition in the run-up to Eelam War IV.

Could there be anything as ridiculous as those who had, perhaps at gunpoint, recognized the LTTE as the representative of the Tamil speaking people, demanding accountability on the part of President Rajapaksa? Would anyone be foolish enough to believe that the LTTE waged war on behalf of the Tamil speaking people?

Those who represented the interests of the LTTE justified war as long as they felt Prabhakaran could achieve Eelam at any cost. A case in point is the large scale use of children as combatants by the LTTE. The Tamil political leadership, as well as the so-called civil society organizations, never opposed the forcible recruitment of children. In support of a high profile mobilization campaign, during the Norwegian peace process (2002-2004), TNA members participated in passing out parades on many occasions.

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel explained events leading to the LTTE withdrawing from the negotiating process on April 19, 1995. The priest recalled Thamilselvam, who led the LTTE delegation for the fourth round of talks with Mrs Kumaratunga’s representatives, in Jaffna, on April 10, 1995, reiterating Prabhakaran’s decision to quit the negotiating process unless all its demands were met.

Dr. Rev. Emmanuel said: "The LTTE announcement of its withdrawal from the peace process was not unexpected as is being made out. As early as March 16, 1995, in releasing 14 prisoners of war, LTTE leader, Prabhakaran, sent a letter to President Kumaratunga, specifically stating that if the outstanding issues, between the two parties, were not resolved before March 28, 1995, they would be compelled to take a decision to withdraw from the peace process. The government choose to ignore the deadline. Realizing that the time frame might be too short and, particularly, because of what the LTTE noted to be a positive response from the President indicating the lifting on the ban on fuel and fishing rights, the LTTE put off the deadline, by three weeks, for April 19, 1995."

Although Rev. Dr. Emmanuel accused Mrs. Kumaratunga of conducting the ‘mother of all wars’ in the name of peace, the priest conveniently forgot at least, to recollect the LTTE resuming Eelam War III with devastating attacks. The LTTE blew up two Chinese built gunboats, anchored at the Trincomalee harbour, on the night of April 19, 1995. On April 27, 1995, the LTTE mounted a sea borne attack on the army, based at the Kayts island, killing 18 soldiers. The LTTE also opened a new phase in the conflict with a heat seeking missile attack on an SLAF transport aircraft, taking off from the isolated Palaly air base. Within 24 hours, the LTTE brought down another SLAF transport aircraft, coming to land at Palaly. Nearly 100 security forces officers and men died in the twin missile strikes. The LTTE had reversed the situation in the Jaffna peninsula. Isolated Jaffna security forces bases were under siege. The Jaffna crisis brought Mrs Kumaratunga under immense pressure with the LTTE building up strength to overrun Palaly. Under tremendous pressure, on the Palaly front, the army, in August 1995, launched Operation Riviresa, undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s most successful combined security forces campaign during Eelam Wars I, II and III. In spite of fierce resistance, the LTTE ended up losing Jaffna town during the first week of Dec, 1995. Shortly, thereafter, the army brought the entire Vadamarachchi under government control. A series of counter-insurgency operations in the Jaffna peninsula resulted in the army killing scores of infiltrators. Although the LTTE launched some devastating attacks on the army, in the Vanni theater, it couldn’t destabilize the Jaffna peninsula, with the army consolidating its hold on the Jaffna theater.

Obviously, the LTTE’s gamble failed with devastating consequences to its position on the ground. To the credit of Mrs Kumaratunga’s administration, it resorted to strong response to Prabhakaran’s conventional military challenge. Had the LTTE not laid siege to the the Jaffna peninsula, with missile attacks on aircraft, in late April 1995, perhaps Kumaratunga’s government wouldn’t have felt the requirement to bring the peninsula under its control. In hindsight, Operation Riviresa created the ground conditions necessary to conduct a large scale military offensive in the Vanni region - comprising the administrative districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.

Operation Jayasikurui launched in early 1997, to restore an overland Main Supply Route from Vavuniya to the Jaffna peninsula, collapsed with disastrous consequences. In fact, massive losses suffered on the Vanni front nearly brought down Mrs Kumaratunga’s government. The President sought re-election at the Dec. 1999, presidential poll after having suffered a spate of battlefield debacles on the Vanni front. Mrs. Kumaratunga struggled both on the political and military fronts, with the LTTE poised to further intensify its campaign.

After having assassinated Gamini Dissanayake, to ensure Mrs Kumaratunga’s victory, at the Dec 9, 1994, presidential polls, the LTTE almost succeeded in thwarting the lady from seeking re-election at the Dec 1999 presidential election. The LTTE wanted to ensure UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe’s victory, in an obvious bid to resume a fresh round of negotiations.

Kumaratunga narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on the night of December 19, 1999, by a suicide bomber at the final election rally, of her People’s Alliance, at the Colombo Town Hall.

Kumaratunga sustained injuries to her right eye and face and was discharged from hospital two days later. The blast claimed the lives of 36 people, including Kumaratunga’s driver, two bodyguards, a senior Deputy Inspector General of Police and the bomber. Over a hundred were injured, including three cabinet ministers—G.L. Peiris, Kingsley Wickramaratna and Alavi Moulana. The government immediately clamped a curfew on the districts of Colombo and Gampaha.

In a statement, Kumaratunga, who was standing for a second term of office, said that the presidential election would proceed as planned.

Although the LTTE operation failed, it was the second attempt by Prabhakaran to influence the outcome of a presidential poll. The murderous bid to change Kumaratunga’s destiny should be examined in the backdrop of the LTTE thinking that she wouldn’t give in to their unreasonable demands. Prabhakaran eliminated Gamini Dissanayake for the same reason. It would be interesting to recollect Rev. Dr. Emmanuel opinion in July 1997, on CBK-Prabhakaran talks (two years before the attempt on Mrs Kumaratunga’s life): "Even after the resumption of hostilities, the LTTE has reiterated its stance by declaring through the press and through international conferences that the doors are open for future peace talks. Going by its experience of talks, both with President Premadasa and with President Chandrika, they are insisting on a third party mediation. Tamils have experienced, as the aggrieved partner, long decades of deception, death and destruction. Pacts have been unilaterally torn and promises repeatedly unfulfilled by governments. With President Chandrika, they hoped for a better future. But that hope has proved to be the worst of deceptions." Rev. Dr. Emmanuel added: "Is not this war against the Tamils ‘behind close doors’, though proclaimed to be a ‘war for peace and against terrorism’ not a deception of the whole world and a travesty of truth?"

Unfortunately, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel had chosen to ignore the LTTE’s grand strategy. The GTF leader is definitely not alone in believing in Prabhakaran’s capacity to achieve Eelam through military means. The LTTE had been among about half a dozen Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist groups, established by the government of India in the early 80s. Having militarily crushed all other groups by 1987, the LTTE demanded recognition from India to be considered the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. Having created the conditions for Indian military intervention here, in July, 1987, the LTTE declared war against the Indian army in Oct 1987, reached a clandestine understanding with the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa, in May 1989, forcing Premadasa to call for Indian withdrawal. In June 1990, just three months after the Indian pullout, the LTTE resumed hostilities, caused immense losses before killing President Premadasa, on May Day, 1993. In the following year, the LTTE, facilitated Mrs Kumaratunga’s victory at the parliamentary polls in August and then went onto assassinate Gamini Dissanayake to ensure Mrs Kumaratunga’s victory at the Dec 1994 presidential election. When Mrs Kumaratunga refused to dance to its tune, Prabhakaran made an attempt to thwart her re-election bid in Dec 1999. Had he succeeded, UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe would have definitely won the election.

The LTTE directed an almost simultaneous suicide attack at a UNP rally at Ja-ela, killing one-time Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Lakshman Algama. The LTTE not only intended to help Wickremesinghe win the presidential election, it also wanted to destabilize the entire country. Let me emphasize that the UNP couldn’t have been involved in Prabhakaran’s conspiracy in anyway. But, the LTTE strategy was meant to influence the electorate, particularly the Tamil speaking voters, to throw their weight behind Wickremesinghe. The timing of Mrs Kumaratunga’s assassination bid was crucial to the LTTE’s overall strategy. The PA presidential candidate’s assassination, just 48 hours before the election, wouldn’t have given time for the ruling coalition to make a proper announcement as regards Mrs Kumaratunga’s successor.

Had President Kumaratunga perished at Town Hall, who would have been the PA’s choice? It would be pertinent to mention that when the LTTE assassinated Gamini Dissanayake, the UNP decided to field the slain leader’s wife, Srima, though many believed Wickremesinghe should have been given the opportunity. Mrs Kumaratunga polled a staggering 62 per cent vote at the Nov, 1994, poll due to the LTTE’s message to the Tamil speaking electorate that it favoured Kumaratunga. The message to the Tamil electorate was nothing but the high profile assassination of Gamini Dissanayake.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Rev. Dr Emmanuel on collapse of CBK-P’karan talks



Rev. Dr. Emmanuel

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Within weeks after the then President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, and LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, agreed to cease hostilities, on January 5, 1995, Kumaratunga called for secret external engagement to facilitate the process.

Kumaratunga was of the view that the involvement of an external power was nothing but a necessity to ensure the success of talks between her government and the LTTE. The President believed that the LTTE would accept her suggestion, meant to facilitate political negotiations, whereas the LTTE’s requirement at that time was purely military.

The previous article dealt with Prabhakaran’s bid to exploit cessation of hostilities, to advance his strategy, by forcing Kumaratunga, in her capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of armed forces, to quit Pooneryn.

Kumaratunga pushed for whom she called a neutral and uncommitted person who could function as an intermediary, between her government and the LTTE. In a letter, dated February 20th, 1995 Sent to Prabhakaran, through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Kumaratunga proposed a retired French diplomat, Francois Michael, as the go-between. Kumaratunga had the backing of the French government. In fact, the French government had proposed Michael, one-time ambassador to Haiti and Ethiopia, as the intermediary, following Kumaratunga’s request for help.

For want of a clear understanding of Prabhakaran’s strategy, Kumaratunga seemed to have believed that the terrorists would accept her offer. The President was so naive she invited the Frenchman to Colombo, even before Prabhakaran’s consent could be secured. The President suggested that Prabhakaran could meet the Frenchman, in Jaffna or any other area, under his control. Kumaratunga suggested (as the Frenchman was in Colombo), Prabhakaran could meet him before February 27, 1995. Kumaratunga wrote: "In view of the paramount importance and confidentiality of this mission it would be appropriate that you receive him personally."

In a letter, dated February 25, 1995, Prabhakaran rejected Kumaratunga’s suggestion. The terrorist called for an open dialogue between his organization and the government. Kumaratunga reacted angrily. She accused the LTTE of opposing mediation by a foreign country. The government attacked the LTTE’s position.

The LTTE counter-attacked. LTTE ideologue, Anton Balasingham briefed the media in Jaffna, while the, LTTE International Secretariat, in London, explained Prabhakaran’s position. The LTTE accused Kumaratunga of seeking undue advantage by having a Frenchman, whom the organization called a close friend of the President, as an intermediary. The LTTE refused to accept Kumaratunga’s nominee as a French government representative. Much to her discomfort, the LTTE tagged the Frenchman as a close associate whose selection was nothing but controversial. The LTTE alleged that Kumaratunga was seeking secret negotiations, whereas the group believed in an open dialogue.

Kumaratunga responded, on March 9, 1995, to the LTTE’s media statement issued from London. Recollecting her letter, dated February 20, 1995, Kumaratunga said: "That intermediary, suggested by the French government, is a private individual and that he was a close friend of mine is wholly unfounded. In fact, he was not known to me at all. He was selected by the French government and I met him for the first time when he arrived in Colombo. In these circumstances the government regrets that the LTTE appears to have misconstrued the facts, on the basis of a non-existent letter."

The dispute, between Kumaratunga and Prabhakaran, over the former’s suggestion to involve France in the negotiating process, caused irreparable damage to the peace process. Although Kumaratunga still believed that differences with the LTTE could be ironed out, the military realized that the country was heading for a major war. Kumaratunga, and some of her close associates, believed that the government should go ahead with planned reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, regardless of the consequences. In fact, President Kumaratunga, on February 16, 1995 (four days before she suggested a former French diplomat as an intermediary), informed Prabhakaran of her readiness to launch some of the previously discussed projects, meant to improve living conditions in the Jaffna peninsula. Kumaratunga was of the opinion that there was no harm in launching rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, even though an agreement couldn’t be reached on the transformation of cessation of hostilities to a formal ceasefire.

Kumaratunga’s proposal to involve a Frenchman, in negotiations, should be examined in the backdrop of Prabhakaran’s demand that a formal ceasefire was a prerequisite for political negotiations. Kumaratunga could never have met Prabhakaran’s demand without jeopardizing the military strategy meant to suppress the LTTE in Jaffna. Prabhakaran demanded the withdrawal of the army base, at Pooneryn, to facilitate a formal ceasefire.

Faced with the collapsed of her much - touted peace project, launched at the expense of UNP presidential candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, President Kumaratunga, in her capacity as the Commander-in-Chief, authorized a major re-adjustment to the forward defence line of the Pooneryn base. The army declared its readiness to pull back its positions by 500 meters. The announcement was made on February 24, 1995. The unexpected move was made amidst the simmering controversy over Kumaratunga’s bid to involve a Frenchman in the negotiating process. The government also reiterated its willingness to allow civilians to use the Elephant Pass causeway. The government move was meant to intensify pressure on the LTTE. The government felt that the LTTE’s per-conditions could be circumvent by unilaterally giving access to civilians, to and from the Jaffna peninsula. The negotiating process was at grave risk. The government desired to go ahead with the opening of the overland route, as well as the one across the Jaffna lagoon, though it realized that the LTTE would never allow civilians to use either routes. The LTTE couldn’t have shown any weakness, on its part, as it struggled to prevent Kumaratunga from consolidating her position. Resumption of large scale hostilities seemed inevitable, though some still believed that the negotiating process could be saved. Those who still felt that the government should address Prabhakaran’s concern, even at the risk of jeopardizing military strategy, never comprehended the overall thinking of Prabhakaran and his top aides.

Strongly opposing Kumaratunga’s efforts to facilitate civilian movements, between the Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni mainland, Prabhakaran, in a letter dated February 25, 1995, accused the President of giving priority to what he called strategic interests of the occupational army, over and above the urgent needs of the Tamil civilian masses.

Kumaratunga struggled to cope up with Prabhakaran’s new demands/conditions. Prabhakaran warned of catastrophe unless Kumaratunga gave into his demands: (A) Lift the embargo on goods transported to the Northern Province (B) transformation of cessation of hostilities into a permanent ceasefire (C) setting up of a joint authority to implement reconstruction projects (D) total removal of restrictions on fishing and free movement in the north-eastern seas (E) Freedom to those deployed in the Eastern Province to carry weapons.

Rev. Dr. S. J. Emmanuel, leader of the UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF), reacted to recent articles which dealt with the assassination of UNP presidential candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, on the night of October 23, 1994 and subsequent events, with the focus on negotiations between Kumaratunga and Prabhakaran. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel, who had occasionally provided to the writer valuable perception, as regards significant conflict-related events, made available to The Island his presentation at a conference organized by the International Alert, way back in July, 1997. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel dealt extensively with the Kumaratunga-Prabhakaran talks during 1994-1995 period. (GTF came into being at the conclusion of the war in May 2009. The LTTE would never have allowed the formation of the grouping, with branches in major countries if it survived the military onslaught and managed to work out an arrangement with the government of Sri Lanka on its own).

Jaffna - born Rev. Dr. Emmanuel had been a visiting scholar, at the University of London, at the time he got involved in the International Alert project, held in Lucerne, Switzerland. Among those who had participated in the event, on the invitation of NGO guru, Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, the then Secretary General of the International Alert, were one-time Indian High Commissioner in Colombo J.N.Dixit, top public servant, Bradman Weerakoon, the then Editor of the Lanka Guardian and TLUF veteran, R. Sampanthan, among others.

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel’s piece, titled ‘Why Chandrika-Prabha Talks Failed? Was meant to place the blame squarely on Kumaratunga for the collapse of talks, in April, 1995, leading, to what the priest called, the most destructive war in Sri Lanka’s history. Having decried the international players for promoting their interests at the expense of those at the receiving end of the state military aggression, the priest also blamed the southern electorate for turning a blind eye to the suffering of the Tamil speaking people.

Alleging that Kumaratunga’s much touted promise of no more war but peace was nothing but a lie, the priest asserted that the Tamil speaking people would think a thousand times before they allowed another southern leader to deceive them with the promise of peace.

Today, the GTF is at the forefront of a high profile international campaign demanding accountability for atrocities committed during Eelam War IV. The GTF insists that Sri Lanka’s political leadership, too, should be held responsible for excesses committed by the military.

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel condemned Kumaratunga’s government for turning a blind eye to the suffering of the Tamil speaking people, particularly those trapped in the northern province. The priest alleged that Kumaratunga’s motive was political and ignored the Tamils’ thirst for peace.

Unfortunately, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel conveniently ignored Prabhakaran’s mindset. Having got rid of the Indian army, with the help of President Ranasinghe Premadasa, in March, 1990, before blowing him up in Colombo, on May Day, 1993, Prabhakaran felt that he had the wherewithal to achieve Eelam. Although Prabhakaran had experienced battle field difficulties, during the 1994/1995 period, due to a relentless siege on the Jaffna peninsula, he remained confident of ultimate victory. Obviously, Prabhakaran felt that he could reverse the ground situation if the siege on the Jaffna peninsula was to end, courtesy Kumaratunga. Prabhakaran eliminated Gamini Dissanayake as the UNPer was considered a tough negotiator and not a person easy to fool with.

In fact, those who had considered Prabhakaran as a military genius, believed his capability to turnaround the battlefield situation even after the military liberated Kilinochchi on the first of January, 2009.

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel faulted Kumaratunga for not recognizing the LTTE as the de facto leadership of the Tamil speaking people. Let me reproduce verbatim what Rev. Dr. Emmanuel said on the relationship between the Tamil speaking civilians and the LTTE: "The talks were held between the government delegation and the LTTE. Forgetting the fact that the same LTTE was involved in the fighting, as well as in the talking, the government failed to recognize the political face of the LTTE and talked to them only as a militant, if not a ‘terrorist’ group. This is a misapprehension. The government will do well, even concurrent to their understanding of a militant leadership, to clearly recognize, not only the peace aspirations of the Tamil people, but also that of their de facto leadership-the LTTE Here arises the important question for the government: Were they having peace-talks with the LTTE, taking them only as a terrorist group, divorced from the people, and hell-bent on destroying the country? Or were they talking to a de facto militant leadership that carried forward the basic aspirations of a people for peace with justice? Does the government naively usurp the idea that only those outside the war zone, namely the South and the foreigners, are genuinely interested in peace while those dying, in war, want more war?

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel went on to suggest that meaningful talks wouldn’t be possible as long as the government didn’t recognize the LTTE’s capacity for political negotiations.

Evidently, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel had accepted the LTTE as the Tamils de facto leadership, way back in the mid 90s, though the TULF was very much active at that time. The Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi - led five-party Tamil National alliance (TNA), recognizing the LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil speaking people, in 2001, should be examined in the backdrop of Rev. Dr. Emmanuel’s assertion years ago. Had those demanding accountability, on the part of the government, for alleged atrocities committed during the last phase of the conflict, urged Prabhakaran to act sensibly, he wouldn’t have ended up a corpse on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. In fact, none of those shedding crocodile tears, for the Tamil civilians today, didn’t even bother to voice their concern at Prabhakaran using the entire Tamil speaking community to achieve his military objectives.

It would be interesting to reproduce what Rev. Dr. Emmanuel said about the LTTE’s demands, which the writer had mentioned above. "The government did not understand the LTTE as representatives of an aggrieved and oppressed people. Nor did they recognize the LTTE’s demands as the demands of then people." Could anything be further from the truth. The priest went onto say: "The government overlooked the fact that in talking to the LTTE, they were actually talking to the people they represent."