ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY PT 1
Posted on November 18th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The Eelam wars came to an end on May 2009 with a humiliating defeat for the LTTE and a triumphant win for the government. The entire world was amazed and surprised. None of the other countries had been able to end such a war, said observers.

Nalin de Silva observed that Eelam War IV was undoubtedly a great victory. The government of a small country had defeated a terrorist outfit supported and sponsored by the western powers. Col. C.R.Hariharan said LTTE has been outwitted, out-gunned and out-strategized by the Sri Lanka army. This must be accepted”, he said.,

 Dayan Jayatilleke said that by defeating the Tigers so completely and utterly, Sri Lanka and its armed forces made a contribution to regional and global security. ‘We have got precious little thanks for making the region a little safer’ he added. Gotabhaya Rajapakse said that other countries facing terrorism should follow Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had shown that terrorism could be defeated. 

Analysts also noted that throughout the thirty years of war, the government unfailingly delivered all essential services to the LTTE controlled areas in north and east. The government paid salaries and pensions, ran the state schools, paid salaries of teachers and kept the state hospitals going. They did so through the Government Agents in the north, including GAs of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.

Sinharaja Tammita Delgoda says one of the most striking things about Eelam War IV was the chorus of derision and condemnation in which the operation was conducted. No other fighting force had faced this kind of ridicule during a campaign. Bogollagama noted that the war was fought in an unhelpful and hostile background.  The army was winning, but it was publicly ridiculed by a section of the political elite.

However, there was considerable gratitude among the  Sinhala public for this victory. Those who were affected by the LTTE attacks were especially grateful. When I was in Trincomalee some time ago, the owner of a tourist stall told me Madam, people who live in Colombo do not understand   how we suffered during LTTE rule. We slept in the jungle at night. When a husband or child went out during the day, we could not be sure that they would return. We are grateful to Mahinda Rajapaksa for ending the war.”

But after winning the war, Rajapaksa government failed to consolidate the win. Rajapaksa did not declare at any time that this was a secessionist war, which was legitimately won by the Sri Lanka army. The government stupidly took the position that the war was a “terrorist war”, not a secessionist war. Despite the fact that the said terrorists called themselves, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”, indicating clearly that it was a separatist war.

Mahinda Rajapaksa stated repeatedly that this war was not against the Tamil people, it was against the terrorists. Critics did not agree with Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was not terrorism. It was   civil war, they said.Sri Lanka fought a just war by just means, they said.    

The Eelam Wars were outright civil wars.  They were secessionist wars, with the purpose of dividing the island and setting up a new littoral (coastal) sovereign state.  The land area of future state of Eelam started at Kalpitiya went northwards up to Jaffna, then down past Trincomalee, Batticaloa and ended at Ampara.  A ‘friendly country’ was ready and waiting in New York, to get the new state recognized at the UN.

Critics pointed out that Separatism is prohibited by law in Sri Lanka. The Sixth Amendment to Constitution of Sri Lanka, which is also Act no 6 of 1983,   said that it was the duty of the state to safeguard the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. 

Article 157A of the Constitution said that no person shall, directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka.  No political party or other association or organization shall have as one of its aims or objects the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka. Any political party supporting such an aim shall be proscribed and any MP unseated from Parliament and deprived of civic rights.

The first thing  Mahinda Rajapaksa did after winning the war, was to  let the UN in. the Eelam wars were outside the scope of the UN, They were an internal matter. But President Mahinda Rajapaksa permitted UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to visit as soon as Eelam War IV ended.

Moon arrived on 23.May 2009.  He visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) sites at Vavuniya and flew over the area near Mullaitivu, that was the scene of the conflict. He spoke with the President and senior officials. He also ‘consulted other relevant stakeholders, members of international humanitarian agencies and civil society”. 

Rajapaksa thereafter issued a joint statement with Moon. This statement   did not make any reference to the praiseworthy victory of the government of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka  did nto congratulate itself. Instead, the statement spoke of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. 

The statement said, inter alia, htat  the government would work towards a lasting political solution.  The aspirations and grievances of all communities would be addressed.  And a national solution acceptable to all sections of people will be evolved.   To do so, the government would begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties. It was a sort of pro-Eelam statement which implied that the government was in the wrong. The statement implied that the government was at fault for creating a situation where the Tamils had to take to arms. That Tamil Separatism was justified and should be   taken into consideration.

Thereafter, in May 2010 Rajapaksa appointed a Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (LRRC). The members of the LLRC were C. R. De Silva, PC (chairman)  Attorney General (2007–09), Solicitor General (1999–2007).  A. Rohan Perera, PC  former legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and  Chairman of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and member of the International Law Commission.

Karunaratne Hangawatte, Professor of Criminal Justice at the Department of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and former consultant to the United Nations[ Chandl Chanmugam, Secretary to the Treasury (1987–88).,Manohari Ramanathan ,former Deputy Legal Draftsman and former member of the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka Maxwell Paranagama, former High Court Judge M. T. M. Bafiq, Senior Attorney at law and member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. and H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, former Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Permanent Representative to the United Nations 2008-2009. Palihakkara had trained in international human rights and humanitarian law at the Raul Wallenberg Institute, Lund University, Sweden.

The committee was asked to study the circumstances that led to the failure of the Ceasefire Agreement and report on the lessons learnt from the war thatwouldprevent recurrence.  They were asked to recommend the best way to make restitution, and ways to promote national unity and reconciliation among all communities. The time period for the survey would be 21. February 2002 to 19 May 2009. The report was completed in November 2011, tabled in the Parliament and published in December 2011.

The LRRC report was a gift to the Tamil Separatist Movement. The conclusions of the LLRC report are now used exclusively by the Tamil Separatist Movement.

The LLRC accepted that the North and East had issues that required addressing and that reconciling was needed to heal wounded Sri Lanka. It advocated demilitarization, vacating of all private and public land occupied by the security forces, solving of land ownership disputes through special land commissions. It wanted the establishment of a politically independent civil administration. The long standing Tamil grievances needed to be provided with a political solution which included devolving power.

LLRC report also called for a comprehensive investigation into the crimes of the LTTE, hitherto not undertaken, also to look at the accountability of the UN and international organizations.  They should be subject to scrutiny. These two recommendations of the LLRC have been ignored by the government and the Tamil Separatist Movement.

Instead of following up on the victory and crushing the Tamil Separatist Movement, Rajapakse government took a defensive approach after the war ended.  This was an invitation to the  Tamil Separatist Movement to take steps to erase the Eelam victory. This series examines the attempts made by the Tamil separatist movement to do so. (continued)

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