LTTE rejects government's new proposals

[TamilNet, Friday, 30 May 2003, 06:55 GMT]
The leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has rejected the new set of proposals submitted by the government of Sri Lanka instituting a development structure for the rehabilitation and development of the Northeast.

Criticising the government for not specifying the participatory role of the LTTE in the proposed institution, the LTTE characterised the new structure as a new apex bureaucracy linked to defunct state agencies, which would not able to carry out the immense humanitarian task of rehabilitation and development efficiently.

The Tamil Tigers' critique is set out in a four-page letter written by Mr. Anton Balasingham, the movement's Chief Negotiator and Political Advisor, on behalf of the LTTE leadership to Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister.

Mr. Balasingham also blamed the government for rejecting the proposals by the LTTE leader, Mr. Vellupillai Pirapaharan, for an interim administrative structure to rebuild the economy and restoring normalcy in the Tamil-speaking homeland.

The full text of Mr. Balasingham's letter follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

Having carefully and critically examined the set of proposals submitted by your government through the Norwegian facilitators, the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has requested me to respond to you clarifying the position of our liberation organisation.

Before we set-out our critical elucidation of the contents of your government's proposals, I wish to draw your attention to my letter addressed through Mr Helgesen in which we have elaborated the reasons or rather the 'frustrating circumstances' that led the LTTE leader Mr Vellupillai Pirapaharan to propose an interim administration for the northeast. In his deliberations with the Norwegian Foreign Minister Mr Jan Petersen, Mr. Pirapaharan suggested an innovative interim administrative structure vested with adequate authority and legal status 'with greater participation of the LTTE in both decision making and delivery of the tasks of rebuilding the war damaged economy and restoring normalcy in the Tamil speaking homeland.' You would have observed that we did not elaborate on the powers, functions and mechanisms of the proposed administrative structure. We entrusted the task of formulating the framework to your government with the hope that you will act with courage and creativity to accommodate the aspirations of our people since your government has an overwhelming mandate from the Sinhala masses to establish an interim administrative structure for the northeast.

As we have already explained to you our leadership was compelled to seek an interim administrative structure set-up for two reasons. Firstly, we realised that a permanent political settlement in the form of regional autonomy and self-government for the Tamils through radical constitutional transformation is not feasible under the current unstable political environment created by the dual, ferociously opposed power centres in Colombo. Secondly, the institutions created by laborious dialogue at the negotiating table failed to function effectively to address and redress the immense humanitarian problems faced by hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees who need immediate and urgent relief. You will certainly appreciate that we are sincerely and seriously committed to the peace process and are doing our utmost to seek a settlement through negotiations. On our own initiative we declared a unilateral ceasefire during a strategically advantageous conjuncture when the Sri Lanka forces were severely drained of combat capability and the Sri Lanka state was deprived of funds to prosecute the war. During the negotiations we have been very flexible, accommodative and conciliatory and offered major political concessions from our entrenched positions and maintained peace under extreme provocations. We have done our best to advance the negotiating process even at the risk of losing grass-root support. But our sense of equal partnership in peace building and reconciliation suffered a severe blow when the main international and regional players continued to treat the LTTE shabbily as a proscribed entity with a 'terrorist' label to be excluded from international forums. We are also concerned over the growing involvement in the peace process of formidable international forces from whom you have been soliciting not only aid but the setting-up of a grand international 'safety net' to bring undue pressure on the freedom of our people to determine their political status and destiny. Though your government has de-proscribed our organisation and substantial progress has been made in the peace process and that we have renounced violent struggle and war, the continuous hard-line attitude adopted by powerful international governments against the LTTE under their proscription laws casts a negative impact in promoting peace and ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

Having studied the contents of your proposals we are surprised, and at the same time, dismayed that your government did not address the critical issue of setting up an interim administrative structure for the northeast as suggested by the LTTE leadership. Instead, you have proposed a development orientated structure with extremely limited administrative powers in which the participatory role of the LTTE is not clearly defined, or rather, left deliberately ambiguous. Essentially, what is sought and what is delivered are two different sets of structures. In offering a development structure you have effectively rejected our proposal for an administrative structure maintaining a studied silence without specifying any reasons for your stand. We can only assume that your administration has found refuge under the existing constitution to deny even an interim measure to the Tamils. You have commented that the government has to operate within the laws of the land. We can certainly understand the fragile position of your government caught up with an enraged President seeking revenge and an entrenched constitution that allows no space for manoeuvre. You will certainly agree that if the political system is unstable and your administration is powerless, it will be impossible to resolve the ethnic conflict either by interim means or by permanent settlement. How long can our people wait and tolerate their hardships if your government seeks refuge under legal and constitutional obstacles? Have they not been waiting for more than half a century for redemption while the Sinhala political classes fought ferociously among themselves to deny the inalienable political rights of our people?

As a liberation organisation which has fought a freedom struggle for more than two and half decades with enormous sacrifices, the interests and welfare of our people are of paramount importance to us. You must understand our predicament when no progress has been made through the peace effort towards alleviating the extreme hardships and suffering of our people. The people are loosing confidence in us as if we are involved in a futile exercise that produces no dividends. Having realised that the inefficient, defunct bureaucracies of the government administrative system have been the stumbling block for the implementation of programmes and projects, we suggested a new innovative administrative structure with greater participation of the LTTE. We hoped that your government would find a radical and creative method of establishing such a structure over-coming the legal and constitutional obstacles. But to our dismay you have proposed a structure for rehabilitation and development with the central government having a determinant and dominant role.

We do not wish to provide a detailed critical elucidation of all the elements of your proposal. We will confine our criticism only to some crucial aspects of the new development structure.

The proposal contains a three layered structure consisting of a 'representative Apex Body' (or Council) at the uppermost level which will function as a 'policy advisory and review board' having decision making authority in regard to reconstruction and development work. The middle structure consists of a Management Board with power to co-ordinate state agencies to ensure speedy implementation of the decisions of the Apex Body. The Board will be chaired by a Special Commissioner and will have a Secretariat under him. Bodies implementing the projects at the third level consist of existing government ministries and bureaucracies and non-government organisations. The main objective of this structure is 'to expedite efficient implementation of programmes and projects relating to relief, rehabilitation and development in the North' as outlined in the title of the proposal. This is the essence of the new structure. Let us now look into the powers, functions and composition of this development body and the participatory role assigned to the LTTE.

The Apex Body has no administrative powers but is only an advisory council whose functions include the formulation and approval of plans, schemes and projects for reconstruction and development. Surprisingly, the government document does not refer to any participation by the LTTE in this so-called decision-making body. With regard to the composition and constituting members, para 2 of the proposal states, "The Apex Body shall be constituted in a manner that it reflects the ethnic composition in the North-East and comprise members who are truly representative of the ethnic groups constituting the Northeast." The government has not clearly spelt out as to who are these 'true representatives' of ethnic groups. It could be assumed that the government is referring to the non-LTTE elected representatives of the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala people. The failure to define the participatory role of the LTTE in the Apex Body is a major flaw in the entire project.

The most powerful position of the proposed development structure is the post of the Special Commissioner who will be appointed by the Prime Minister with 'adequate authority and legal status to ensure rapid implementation by the state agencies of all development activities'. He will also head a Secretariat to manage his affairs. The other powerful body is the Management Board, whose members will be public officials selected by the Prime Minister, with the authority to co-ordinate the administration in the Northeast and 'to ensure effective management and speedy implementation of the decisions of the Apex Body'.

We wish to point out that the envisaged new structure does not offer significant participatory role for the LTTE, except in the low level Development Committees and in administering the North East Reconstruction Fund. Situating the development structure within the parameters of the constitution you have effectively placed the proposed institution under the authority of the central government, particularly under the authority of your office and Parliament. Having completely rejected our suggestion for an interim administrative structure with significant role for the LTTE, your proposal clearly states that the 'administration of the Northeast is the responsibility both of the Northeast Provincial Council and the central government'. In this context, you have conveniently ignored the stark reality that the LTTE runs a de-facto administration of its own in vast tracts of territories under its control in the Northeast.

As you are aware we have been critical of the functions of multiple government structures and agencies that work at cross purposes at various levels of administration and have created serious impediments for rehabilitation and development activities. We are of the opinion that the proposed new structure for rehabilitation and development will turn out to be a new apex bureaucracy administratively linked to several other inefficient and defunct state agencies and mechanisms and will not be able to carry out the immense humanitarian tasks efficiently. For the reasons set-out in our critique the leadership of our liberation movement regrets to inform you that the new proposal submitted by your government for our perusal is unacceptable to us.


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