PEACE PROCESS IN SRILANKA DURING TAMIL INSURGENCY
BY: SALEEM RAZA
MS, PEACE AND CONFLICT STUDIES, DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, UNIVERSITY OF KARACHI
1. Sri Lanka is a tear drop or pear shaped island with an area of 65,610 square km (122nd in the world) and a population of 20,277,597(57th 2011 censes),located south of Indian subcontinent which is 22 miles of Palk Straight(shallow water) in Indian ocean . On the whole country is divided in nine provinces, 22 districts and 133 revenue divisions . Sri Lanka is a grand mix of different classes and creeds composed of 73.95% Sinhalese, 12.7% Sri Lankan Tamils, 5.52% Indian Tamils and 7.05% Muslims and rest are Malays, Burghers and Europeans . The religious distribution of Sri Lanka is almost according to its population ratio as Sinhalese follow the Buddhist religious code and Tamils are Hindus. Sinhalese and Tamils also include 10 % percentage of Muslims and Christians . Tamils are generally concentrated in the North and eastern province. Sinhalese and Tamil both claim to be the oldest inhabitants of the Island. Sri Lanka, with no exception to the subcontinent region, has remained under the rule of exchanged hands of Dutch, Portuguese and under influence of British East India Company from 1775 . In 1802 the state was formally transferred under Royal British Crown . It remained part of British Raj till independence on 4 Feb 1948 and declared as Democratic Republic of Sri lanka (resplendent land) from Cylone in 1972 .
2. The assignment will be covered in following sequence:-
a. Origin of political, religious and ethnic divergence.
b. Peace process during Tamil insurgency.
c. Analysis of peace process.
Origin of Ethnic, Religious and Political Divergence
3. The ethnic and religious divide between Tamils and Sinhalese is traced back to its mythology and religious values . Mahavemsa (great chronicles) first written in 16th century highlights the insight of Tamil and Sinhalese religious polarity . The British policy of divide and rule, Indian involvement of creating unrest in neighboring countries, bias of Sinhalese government in job employments coupled with corruption of the monks has slowly and gradually led to political spill over to ultimate ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka. Tamil, Sinhala riots took place in a violent mode in 1956 when S.W.R.D Bandranaike the founder of Sri Lanka freedom party (SLFP) declared Sinhala as the official language which led to conspiracy and assassination of Bandaranaike in Sep 1959. Elections of 1956 and riots during 1957-58 forced the withdrawal of Tamils from government in 1968 became a gradual progress towards violence from a lacking liberal democratization . Tamil extremist youth formulated LTTE, while the government of Sri Lanka may it be the UF government of Mrs Bandaranaike or UNP regime of JR Jaywardene mishandled the situation .Use of violence by Tamil military groups provoked the Sinhalese police forces to use counter action force. The July 1983 riots are considered to be the parting point in Sinhala Tamil relations. While the process of deviation was begun several decades earlier, the July riots brought forth, for the first time, the commutative action on the part of Sinhala majority to “plan, direct and execute” with the Army and the government. Complicity, violent retribution, which lost faith in the impartiality of the Army and the police and the riots from 1956 to 2009, claimed the lives of 35,000(unofficial) and 5600(official statement) inhabitants of Sri Lanka .
Peace Process during Tamil Insurgency
4. The peace process between Government of Sri lanka and LTTE can be divided in five distinct phases including three direct processes between both the parties and two distinct peace processes through mediation of third party (India and Norway) .The seriatim chronological order is enumerated as following:-
a. Thimpu (Bhutan) Peace Talks – Jul/Aug 1985 . The first attempt of peace process started at Thimpu, Bhutan between Government of Sri lanka and LTTE during the period of President J R Jayewardene. Peace talks, headed by Dr H W Jayewardene from Sri Lanka and L Thilakar from LTTE, were organized from 13 Jul 1985 to 12 Aug 1985. Besides being divided in various groups, LTTE started the process with four points agenda which was rejected by Government of Sri lanka and became the major reason of failure of the process:-
(1). Tamils distinct nationality.
(2). In alienation right to self determination.
(3). Tamil Ealam (homeland) in north and eastern provinces.
(4). Right to equal citizenship.
b. The Sri lankan government out rightly rejecting clause (3) of (Ealam) homeland, being an attack on sovereignty and after a year’s long process reached to no conclusive achievement.
c. Colombo Peace Talks- Jul 1987. This phase of peace process was also organized and arranged between Indian and Sri lankan government at Colombo in Jul 1987.A memorandum was signed between PM Rajiv Gandhi and President J R Jayewardene on 27 Jul 1987 which led to direct induction and involvement of Indian Peace Keeping Force against LTTE. Moreover, Lankan government amended the constitution (13th amendment) which merged the powers of northern and eastern provinces thereby creating sense of ambiguity and ultimately causing the failure of process. LTTE was also asked to lay the arms and Indian forces fuelled the peace process; facing 1138 deaths of their soldiers.
d. Columbo-Jafna Peace Talks- May 1989 to Mar 1990. Peace dialogue of this phase was directly held between both the affected parties on the assumption of presidential seat by Ranasinghe Premadasa who ordered Indian peace keeping force to leave Sri lanka on 8 Jun 1989 and a cease fire agreement was taken place between the rivals. The peace process was held in Colombo headed by Minister A C S Hameed (Sri Lankan government) and Mr. A Balasingham representing LTTE. The peace process was held in two rounds but element of mistrust and lack of confidence building measures (CBMs) let these talks to a dismal. However, during this phase LTTE organized suicide attacks on minorities and naval crafts by black sea tigers. Moreover, Indians, on visualizing the spillover of insurgence in Tamil Nadu and assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, decided to remain away from the Lankan turmoil.
e. Jafna Peace Talks of four rounds – Oct 1994 to Apr 1995. President Chandrika Kumaratunga, on assumption of the seat on 17 Aug 1994, announced an unconditional phase of direct peace dialogue with LTTE, which brought a cease-fire agreement. Four rounds of lengthy dialogue sessions, from 13 Oct 1994 to 10 Apr 1995, were quite pressing on Sri lankan government in which almost all the demands of separatist movement were accepted less the closure of military camp of Pooneryn. It was expected that this phase of peace process would prove a ripe moment and new era of peace settlement, which was left incomplete by Chandrika Kumaratunga’s father but it was an unfortunate result ended in a suicide attack on her also. The cause of failure of this process can be related to suicide attack on president and Sridalada Temple where relic tooth of Buddha was placed.
f. Peace Process through Norwegian and foreign countries- Sep 2002 to Oct 2006. PM Nanil Wickramasinghe in 2002 accepted the mediation proposal from outside world and Norway was the prime country including USA, Japan and European Union as facilitators. Six sessions of peace talks were organized from Sep 2002 to Mar 2003 at Thailand, Norway, Germany and Japan where Minister G L Pieris headed government naming Sri lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and Mr. A Balasingham representing LTTE. This phase of talks was oriented on reconstruction and development of Sri lanka with a package of 4.5 billion $ in Tokyo Declaration in 2003. LTTE on the other hand demanded separate exclusive economic aid and concessions in restrictions as CBMs and humanitarian reasons. The mediator countries promised to induct handsome amount packages for development of Sri lanka with a condition of continuation of peace process between the government and LTTE. Peace process as usual was futile while Sri lanka was hit by worst natural disaster of tsunami in 2004. Post tsunami operation management structure( P-TOMS), foreign aid and interest of IMF/World Bank forced both parties on cease fire till 2005 but with the election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Nov 2005 peace talks were resumed from Feb 2006 to Oct 2006 at Switzerland (Geneva) and Norway (Oslo). President Rajapaksa finally divorced all peace processes and final blow of military action was carried out which ultimately eliminated LTTE with a toll of casualties of both parties including civil population.
Analysis of Peace Process
5. It is scholarly argued that peace process and reforms in insurgency-hit states are a colossal challenge, which is different on case-to-case basis that was quite evident in Sri lanka. Moreover, four distinctive reform phases are seen in the peace process in Sri lanka . First phase is termed as reforms refusal phase where Tamil demands, due to Sinhalese class politics and authoritarian regime, were considered as agitation for illegitimate power sharing. Second failure phase of peace reforms was unilateral and /or direct reforms which due to mistrust between both the parties caused failure of process. Third phase of peace reforms were also futile despite involvement of external pressure for reforms due to pre-conditionality (ies) and paradigm shift of separatist movements after the terrorist attack of USA on 9/11. Final phase of peace process reforms ultimately proved disastrous despite a ripe moment of tsunami due to power tussle and lack of appointment of interim joint management in tsunami-hit areas. Analysis of peace process may be summarized as following:-
a. Political will of both the belligerents to resolve the issue was lacking due to mistrust and power struggle.
b. Prolonged time line of peace process inculcated its invalidity to fruitful solution and development of unfavorable public opinion due to prolonged period and atrocities to civil population.
c. Ripe moment was not cashed despite international mediation, due to divergent views, pre- conditions, lack of win-win situation and peace agreements.
d. Limited involvement of media and aid agencies and international donors, who were not well received rather considered as threat to both the parties.
e. Limited role of researchers, institutions and think tanks of Sri lanka in resolving the issue due to life threats.
f. Limited economic reforms in northern and eastern provinces of Tamil majority.
g. Constitution reforms for power struggle that created mistrust at parliament level despite popular and majority mandate of minorities.
h. Limited role played by the youth of Sri lanka specially the students of colleges and university.
i. Indian negative role in peace process by viewing it as trial process for own insurgency hit areas.
j. Inconsistence policies for peace building measures due to change in governments and prolonged insurgency.
k. Paradigm shift in politics against terrorism especially after 9/11 which termed Norwegian Model as non state military actor.
l. Limitations of UNO in intra state insurgency.
6. Sri Lanka with a rich history of traditions and mythology remained under a state of turmoil since independence in 1948.Tamil, Muslim, Christian and Sinhalese communities ethnic and political differences changed into a prolonged almost thirty years bloody conflict during 20th and 21st centuries with a major portion of casualties of power game rivals of Buddhist Sinhalese and Tamils. Sinhalese Buddhist community, considered as nonviolent religion proved otherwise. Language riots of 1957-58, violence in 70’s and armed insurgency by Sinhala youth are testimony to violent Sinhala attitude towards Tamils. Tamil leadership’s moderate treading of peaceful path was overtaken by Tamil Youth to form Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has given a new dimension to insurgency. Peace process remained a question in Sri lanka despite international intervention. Government of Sri lanka and LTTE has blamed each other for failure of peace process. The blame game theory led to not only the failure of peace process but also death of citizens of Sri lanka.
Mahavemsa mythology highlights the creation of Sinhalese community from the cohibitance of lion with the daughter of King Vanga which gave the birth to twins, Sihabahu(son)and Sinhasvali(daughter)who after marriage gave birth to Prince Vijaya who landed in Srilanka exactly when Buddha died(543 BC). Hence claiming Srilanka as land of lions (same is projected on the national flag). This also leads to Damthgamni mythology in which Tharvada Buddhist Bhukkas(monks) believe in “Just Wars” against Tamils.
Gunnar Sorbo, Pawns of Peace - Evaluation of Norwegian Peace Efforts in Srilanka pp 59,60 and 61 and Humanitarian Operation- Factual Analysis(official report by Government of Srilanka), pp,2,28,29,111 & 112.
Gunnar Sorbo, Pawns of Peace - Evaluation of Norwegian Peace Efforts in Srilanka pp 59,60 and 61 and Humanitarian Operation- Factual Analysis(official report by Government of Srilanka), pp,29,30,31&32.
Sarah Holt, Aid and Peace building and Resurgence of War- Buying Time in Srilanka pp 77,78 & 79. Gunnar Sorbo, Pawns of Peace - Evaluation of Norwegian Peace Efforts in Srilanka pp 59,60 and 61 and Humanitarian Operation- Factual Analysis(official report by Government of Srilanka), pp,2,,29,33,34,111 & 112.