Successes and failures of 3rd party mediation by Norway in Sri Lanka

This post comprise of highlights of an assignment submitted to the  Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences  in May 2012 

“We tried everything to transform our conflict while simultaneously trying to end our war. ‘Pausing’ our war through a ‘Cease Fire’ Agreement (CFA) together with Norway as the third party mediator, gave us the opportunity to transform our conflict peacefully. But what we did not realize was that we unwittingly sowed the seeds for a military end to war (2008 – 2009). Now, we have ended our war but our conflict still remains”   – (Jayawardena & Rathnapriya, 2012; 01)  –  

Although the CFA and the 2001 – 2005 peace process was largely seen as a failure in terms of bringing an end to the Sri Lanka conflict according to most parties (Seneviratne, 2009: 229-255) it actually brought numerous positive outcomes for the scholars in conflict resolution as well as technical experts in the field. This section of the paper will analyse the role of Norway in Sri Lanka as a third party mediator. In that regard my personal experience participating in the process will be mélanged together with the secondary literature analysis.

Norway’s record in Sri Lanka reflects a rare degree of resilience and persistence amidst of any criticism. The utmost success of Norway in Sri Lanka was being entrusted to mediate the conflict by the conflicting parties themselves (Moolakkattu, 2005:399). Moreover, involvement of higher officials in the process by Norway at various levels together with the amount of funds allocated for the process from their foreign aid budget were significant successful achievements of Norway (Ibid). Norway has been instrumental in organising multilateral efforts aimed at bridging the gap between the conflicting parties as an expert in negotiation.

The fact that even after the LTTE withdrew from the CFA in 2003 it still continued over three years informally at various levels including track 1.5 stands definitely to the credit of Norway and places it more securely as a potential dedicated third party mediator in small conflicts around the world (Ibid). As a third party mediator in the process it supplemented the peace-making role by organising donor conferences and harnessing support from the international community, including USA, EU and Japan bringing the true sense of ‘peace work’ as a mediator as Galtung (1996) explains (Moolakkattu, 2005:400). As a peace lover, Norway has been extending peace specially standing as a third party mediator irrespective of the accusations of being partial by the Sinhalese majority (Ibid). Most importantly, the CFA created an atmosphere in which a more comprehensive and sustainable peace could have been negotiated. (Ibid) Norway was successful in ceasing the violent phase of the conflict for the longest period in its history for a period of more than nearly six years amidst some incidents were reported time to time (Goonathilke, 2009:26-27).

Most significantly, Norway as a mediator could bring various positive outcomes to the entire process:
• Psychical security was improved and thousands of deaths and causalities were averted during the no war period.
• Access to and movement of goods and services greatly improved for all communities and all people living in Sri Lanka.
• Economic activity rejuvenated in the country as a whole.
• Humanitarian agencies gained increased access to vulnerable populations, and relief and rehabilitation activities expanded substantially.
• Sri Lanka received financial support from the international community of an unprecedented magnitude in country’s history (Seneviratne, 2009:241).

The CFA was structured on demarcating the territory of Sri Lanka into LTTE controlled and government controlled area. This in a way was interpreted by political elements as a ‘undermining’ of the Sri Lankan state’s territorial integrity. It was also contended that the attempts to demarcate ‘no go’ areas, also known as exclusion zones in respect of the movement of the Sri Lankan Navy, off the coast of certain parts of the Eastern seaboard, allowed the LTTE to facilitate illicit smuggling of weapons and war material (Fernando, 2011:16).
On the other hand the vulnerability of other Tamil militant groups that had held arms before but joined the democratic process later; Ealam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Ealam (PLOTE) and (Ealam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) was heightened (Ibid). Immediately after the CFA was signed these groups were required to demilitarize, irrespective of their security situation (Yusuf, 2011:16). This created a situation where parties to the conflict were treated differently violating an important principle of third party mediation.
Moreover, under the CFA, LTTE cadres were permitted to engage in ‘political work’ in the cleared areas in the North and East, whereby the LTTE was able to extend its influence into areas they did not previously control in the North and East. There was no corresponding access for the Government or other political parties, into the ‘un-cleared’ areas dominated by the LTTE. The issue of reciprocity taken up by the Government but had not been accommodated (Ibid).
Furthermore, there was “a significant lacuna” in the role of Norway in Sri Lanka as a third party mediator was the absence of a Human Rights component in the CFA which resulted in a failure to bind the parties involved in the conflict towards the observance of Human Rights norms (Goonathilaka and Wijemanna, 2010:18). This eventually paved the way for both parties to freely engage in such activities whilst the mediator had no control over such action as well.
Although peoples representatives from the Muslim community kept demanding from the LTTE, the GoSL and Norway to ensure that an independent delegation of Muslims be allowed to take part in the negotiations process, this was not accommodated. This led towards the Muslim community holding a perception that there were deliberate attempts to exclude them from the negotiation process which also violated the main principle of involving all parties of conflict in the process (Yusuf,2011:16).
Norway’s role as expected by the GoSL was facilitation that later developed by themselves as third party mediation. Whilst being the third party mediator of the peace process Norway also took office as the Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission creating a ‘conflict of functions’ (Seneviratne, 2009: 242). However, my personal experience highlights the fact that Norway at times tend to neglect some serious violations of the CFA with the objective of keeping it live, that were negatively articulated as favouring the LTTE by the GoSL.
According to Norway, the most significant reasons for the failure of the CFA are indeed more political (Norad, 2011:xv-xvi). According to them, both the government and the LTTE while staying committed to their cause, made any no significant shift in how they defined their political outcome which continued with the gap between what the south expected (a unitary state with limited devolution) and what the LTTE demanded (a separate state (Ibid). In fact, I personally raise the question whether Norway failed to understand the political climate in Sri Lanka that is completely different to that of there, which made all their efforts unsuccessful in bringing peace to Sri Lanka. The best example with this regard is how they handled both the President and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka during the process; who were from two different parties. Their act of marginalising the President standing in line with the Prime Minister ideally paved the way for the collapse of the CFA.
Moreover, according to them the window of opportunity for a negotiated settlement was only a short one and based upon a unique constellation of domestic and international factors – including a hurting stalemate, leading to an acceptance by both sides of a measure of military and political parity, a Western oriented government and multi-faceted international backing for negotiations (Ibid). Once again the question lies is it that the opportunity for a negotiated settlement was only a short one or that the mediation efforts could not take the maximum benefit out of that short window of opportunity to extent it to bring peace to Sri Lanka.
With the success and failures of Norway in Sri Lanka as a third party mediator it can draw various lessons for the similar processes in future as well.

 

Should Nepal go back to a Monarchic System?

I made my first visit to Nepal about a month ago. With a rich culture and the Himalaya’s as a backdrop I thought it is such a romantic place to be. In fact, I happen to hear that it is one of the world’s poorest countries as well. Leaving the UN decided poor conditions aside; as someone who believes in democracy I agree that Nepal is another poor country in South Asia that is suffering due to lack of citizens, or a civil society for that matter.

 

The present politicians in Nepal have failed to agree on a constitution to date since the decade-old Maoist insurgency ended in 2006. Prime Minister is motivated to call fresh elections. Nepal’s Supreme Court has rejected a proposal by the interim assembly to extend its term by three months so it can draft a new constitution. Three political parties have resigned from Nepal’s Maoist-led government as fears grow that the country is descending into constitutional chaos. The country is in a real anarchic situation.
Nepal is a new democracy. Democratic politics was introduced to the country only in 1991 after popular protests. Maoist rebels waged a decade-long campaign against the monarchy and were successful in appointing a democratic government with Maoist-dominating it. During the past 6 years the interim government has failed to build consensus on the principal law of the land: the constitution. There could be so many reasons and justifications for the ruling and opposition parties for this move.

 

There seems to be no collective vision for Nepal in the post-war era. Vision for the country as I see it is ‘compartmentalized’ based on ethnicity, political party, socio economic status and position in relation to political power etc. While there seems to be no consensus among the politicians in relation to the key drivers of the state should be, the government continues on its unimpeded ‘top to down’ approach. As a result I see constant disagreements amongst actors involved in Constitution Making as to options should be followed during its post war phase. Although there have been discussions during the past few years amongst policy makers, they do not seem to be bringing any intervention or impact in practice or any solid outcome. Hence, there are no ‘concrete steps’ taking place to drive the state towards a collective vision to benefit everyone in Nepal: to build consensus on power-sharing arrangements in the country.

 

This anarchic situation is one of the best examples for the failure of democracy in another state with mere voters with no citizens. If or when elections take place there is definitely going to be a danger of violence. The political campaign events will of course be the new battleground for increasingly divisive communal issues. Do these conditions assist Nepal to complete its transition to peace and democracy?
In this context, the time has come to rethink whether democracy is really for countries like us; Nepal or Sri Lanka. We wish to have an all mighty king above all of us like an old Sri Lankan poem says “Oh dear ants, even you have a king, but not us”. Having democratic structures in place will not bring democracy and peace to our countries. If the legitimacy of the republic scenting the opportunity for a revival and leaves the country in complete anarchy, monarchic system probably is the best that suit the people.

Returning sovereignty to the people?

The general assumption of ‘the return of sovereignty to the people’ implies that Governments across the world regularly call upon sovereignty to demand that the international community “mind its own business” while they will manage their own state of affairs. They declare that the sovereign rights to be free from international intervention and to permit the countries to carry out their domestic affairs subject to their own discretion. This has also been one of the famous arguments articulated by the Sri Lankan government in the present context. We hear them blaming the USA and various European states about their intervention on Sri Lankan affairs.
What is the sovereignty that we are talking about? Relying on classical interpretations of sovereignty, it is understood as the power of the people. Hence, sovereignty ideally lies in the people and any government is entitled to sovereignty rights only as the legitimate representative or a mere trustee of the people. Therefore, the government is bound to fulfil its duties to the people that they have promised at the time of the social contract made during a democratic election.
However, through-out history and even today, we have seen how governments manipulate the emotions of the people in order to claim sovereign rights and maintain power. Creation of Pakistan, 1983 ethnic riots in Sri Lanka and Ayodhya incident in the recent past in India are some of the ideal examples where the power holders manipulated the emotions of the people for petty power agendas. In fact, the question that I am trying to race via this article is, whether the finger should ideally be pointed at the power holders or the people who claim to hold sovereignty but who has no proper sense about the powers they hold for being citizens.
In that regard, the key issue to address is whether these new nations really have ‘citizens’ for that matter? If these countries actually had people with civic consciousness, how possible would it be for the power holders to manipulate them based on petty power agendas? One may argue that the sovereign rights are lost when governments commit less than the most egregious manipulation of human emotions and needs. For me it’s not the case. It is ideally lost due to ‘stupidity’ of the people themselves, who claim to be the owners of the same sovereignty.
What is the plight of a state when the governments are waiting to manipulate the sovereignty rights and when people are not with a civic consciousness, not to understand that their rights have been manoeuvred? The present situation in Sri Lanka or India or any other South Asia state for that matter is not different to the above context. A country of that nature is like a fleet of ships that has no direction.
In this context, I strongly believe the biggest challenge for new nations through-out is lack of a civil society. West may say it’s our ethnic conflicts or corruption or mismanagement etc. But the bottom of the problem is that we have no people with civic consciousness in this part of the world. They will vote at elections based on the gifts they get from the politicians beforehand. Once elected, they are not bothered at all about what their representatives do. Even though they have a concern they will never stand against it. This shows how an ideal pale society functions. Therefore the answer lies in not demanding to return the sovereignty to the people, but for ensuring that we understand the meaning of the sovereignty that we hold as peoples.

Thinking of Freedom of expression: But not forgetting the emotions of the people

The debate on freedom of information in Sri Lanka has come to a forefront once again. The contemporary discourse takes me back to the dilemma I was in when Salman Rushdie was not permitted to attend Jaipur literary festival. I recall a discussion with a Norwegian journalist in India. She strongly believed banning Rushdie’s novel “the satanic versus” was a threat to freedom of expression in India. In fact, I always looked at it with a question mark…

While we understand and of course agree that the essence of free expression is the ability to think and speak, write or communicate freely and to obtain information from others through publications or public discourse or any other means without fear of retribution, restriction, or repression by the government and that it is through free speech, people could come together to achieve political influence, to strengthen their morality, and to help others to become moral and enlightened citizens, I have a simple question. Are we talking about a radical freedom here? Or are we adopting it within the cultural framework of the society that we live in?

My thesis is simple. Let me not complicate it here. It is a fact that people in our part of the world are very emotional about certain things, out of which religion and ethnicity are probably their primary concerns. These are the people who burn or attack the cricketers and their property when they fail matches. We are very well aware about how they have reacted to various incidents based on ethnicity or religion: Ayodya incident in India and 1983 July in Sri Lanka are some of the best scenarios with this regard.

How do we really draw the line between these incidents and the freedom of expression in this part of the world?

My personal belief says the nature of people and about the fact that they are extremely emotional on their religion or ethnicity cannot be ignored. To make things worse, politicians through-out history have successfully manipulated such emotions as well. In such a context, a deeper sensitivity on that is to be considered in making new laws or updating the existing ones. Most importantly it is to understand the context in a western developed country with a greater political maturity is far more different to India or Sri Lanka.

Women are essentially realpolitikal …

I accidently read something different from a more contemporary liberal, Francis Fukuyama who is famous for his “End of History?” argument. He employs a reasoning that attributes a central role in politics to ‘masculine values’ that are rooted in biology. Based on a number of studies with the use of chimpanzees he claims that female and male ones demonstrate different behaviour. According to him, males are more prone to violence and domination while females form relationships. Based on these, he argues that world can be separated into two spheres: a cooperative “feminised” zone composed of advanced democracies, and a brutish world beyond this pacific zone where the masculine pursuit of realpolitiks pre-dominates.
In fact, the little politics I know have brought me an understanding that women are good in forming relationships as they are biologically and essentially multi-dimensional. It is this character of multi-dimensionalism that made the man in hunting era to accompany her always behind him. So that while the man who is single dimensional by nature is chasing an animal the woman who is behind and who is multi-dimensional could see all other aspects that facilitate his hunting. This little example further re-confirm one saying I happen to hear in a movie named: ‘My fat Greek wedding’ where it was said ‘if the man is the head, woman is the neck that controls it’. To think about it again, it sounds biologically rationale and politically correct as well.
In that sense, while I may agree with Huntington up to a certain degree to believe in the fact that biologically males are more prone to violence. In fact, what he probably missed was that females encourage it most of the time. The day today experiences in life have not brought any supporting evidence to prove that Huntington’s thesis is right. But it proves the other way around. We have experienced the war during 3/4 of our lives or more. We have seen how mothers, wives and daughters are proud about the fact that their son, husband and father is fighting in the war front. It brings them great pride to say that he died for the country. While a majority of them are worried about the soldier who is fighting the war, it is on the other hand encouraged by them as well.

 

Where I do not agree with Huntington’s argument is that although males are more prone to violence, does not mean that women are essentially cooperative. As men are naturally single dimensional democracies are essentially possible with them, mainly given the fact that they will continue to have a black and white picture about most of the things. On the other hand, although women are not actively participating in direct violent behaviours, does not mean they are essentially peaceful. For me in person realpolitks is a reality only when women are engaged in it. With their multi-dimensional characteristic it is practically not possible to bring about democracies with their participation. Hence, Huntington’s thesis ideally should be “…that world can be separated into two spheres: a cooperative zone composed of advanced democracies with single dimensional males and a brutish world beyond this pacific zone where the feminine pursuit of realpolitiks pre-dominates”. A step beyond this thesis I would further argue that the ’64 charms’ (heta hathara mayam) that are given to females are for this purpose: the purpose of a realpolitikal animal.

Security is not only about ‘states’ and ‘Regions’, but about ‘us’ as well

Notion of security in the contemporary world is probably one of the most complex ones. The scholarly study of security traditionally has been limited to states and has generally moved to the regional level. The state not only was the object of security, but also was the primary provider of security as well. However, a wide range of security threats through-out the human development has confronted states, regions, individuals and societies.
Understanding of security in Asia varies from inter-state tensions to civil wars to terrorism to environmental dangers to terrorism to cyber viruses to pandemics to new forms of nationalism to biological and chemical warfare to all kinds of security threats that exist at all levels of the society. Across these wide ranges of security threats three distinct features can be highlighted: notion of security up to a certain degree has surpassed the state-boundaries, it further has continued to be state-centric with regard to the military security as yet and security as a concept is interconnected due to globalisation, so that state or regional levels are merged. However, unlike in the West security still remains a state-centric concept and Asia still has the need to continue it given that the notion of uncertainty lies at all levels: state, region, community or individual.
Within the two main approaches of security: prophylactic and reflexive security the western scholars highlight the end of Cold war as a breaking point that differentiate the two approaches (Burgess. 2012). Hence according to Burgess the West, particularly the Europe that used prophylactic measures to ensure security during its bunker life has moved to the liberal society with the wake of the Cold war. However, my argument explains that in terms of security in Asia it continues to be a mixture of the two. Asia continues to use the prophylactic measures such as armies, police, road blocks and surveillance whilst challenging the basic values such as trust, integration, solidarity, recognition as used in reflexive security.
Given the fact that Asia continues to experience intrastate conflicts and inter-state tensions it is important to follow state-centric approaches for security on one hand. On the other hand, as it is also very well integrated to the rest of the world and been the most successful region to benefit out of neo-liberalism it continues to have the need to step beyond the state-centric security measures. Therefore, my thesis with continue to be that the discourse of regional security within the context of Asia has to be analysed within the two main approaches to security: prophylactic and reflexive security and cannot be marked as a shift from one to the other. Hence, security in Asia is not ONLY about ‘states’ and ‘regions’ it is also about ‘us’ the individuals.
Reference:
Burgess, Peter (2011) Mapping Uncertainities and black swans in dealing with traditional and non-traditional security threats, [ONLINE] http://jpeterburgess.com/ Accessed 27th March 2012
Burgess, Peter (March, 2012) What is Security?, Lecture in Pondicherry, India
Clark, S L (1993) The central Asian states: defining security priorities and developing military forces, Institute for Defence Analysis, Virginia
Kolodzeij, Edward (2005) Security and International Relations, Cambridge University Press [ONLINE] www.cambridge.org Accessed on 27th March 2012

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Diaspora in the middle of its ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Friendship battle

President Rajapakse has been maintaining a healthy relationship with China since he came into power in 2005. During the first few years of his term of office neither India nor the US was too worried about this new friend of Sri Lanka.

“Although Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa trumpets the importance of Sri Lanka’s friendship with China, the relationship is very lopsided in terms of trade. For example, in 2008 Chinese exports to Sri Lanka constituted 96% of total bilateral trade. In terms of investment, Hong Kong has become a key source of foreign direct investment to Sri Lanka, while China proper focuses on direct government aid. In contrast, Sri Lanka investment in China consists of a few tea shops. Though at times the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) asserts it does not need the U.S. and the West since it can turn to new friends such as China, there is no indication that China can replace Western export markets. In terms of investment and trade importance, Sri Lanka’s new friends cannot compete with her old ones in the United States and EU.” -the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington in 2009 on http://www.colombotelegraph.com/

However, the question lies whether Sri Lanka’s new friend actually commenced competing with its old one unexpectedly. As a middle income country that doesn’t continue to be a ‘donor darling’ further was rescued by China’s massive development loans not only from the international economic pressure but also from human rights abuses and other International pressure. By 2011, China became the biggest lender to Sri Lanka by 2011 pledging more than $3bn for infrastructure development, maintenance and other projects, BBC Sinhala Service reported. This novel relationship brought an unexpected state for China in terms of Sri Lankan affairs.

USA and India; good old friends of Sri Lanka that never expected such consequence were disheartened by the whole scenario and were looking forward for means and ways to regain their significant influential capacity in terms of Sri Lankan affairs. The critical question that I raise in this regard is whether the US resolution that was brought-up at the 19th UNHRC session using the support of the Tamil Diaspora was another such attempt to regain their influential power and in the presence of the USA’s scapegoating, whether the Tamil Diaspora also gave up their initial demands for an Independent International Investigation on Sri Lanka’s war crimes.

From the inception of LLRC the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora had been extremely critical about each and every aspect of the commission: its members, its structure, the hearings, the interim-report etc. including its final outcomes. Their demands were strongly in line with an International Independent Investigation on war crimes committed by the Government of Sri Lanka as recommended by the UNSG’s Panel Report on Sri Lanka. This whole paradigm shift is a dilemma for me as yet. How did this shift in the thinking and believes of the Tamil Diaspora go through such a sea-change within such a short period? I can think of two main aspects to it: it could be because anything against the government of Sri Lanka keeps the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora motivated or it could have been that USA was extremely smart enough to manipulate their strong network and worldwide political communication for the benefit of their cause. Was this whole drama on ‘UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka’ actually created to stop the whole wave and demand for an Independent International Investigation on Sri Lanka that would have imposed allegations on the Defence Secretary and the then Army Commander who are also citizens of the USA on one hand and to regain the trust of the Sri Lankan government? In this whole context, have ‘Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora’ been fooled in the middle of diplomacy and politics?

However, at the end of the drama I see the ties between Sri Lanka and its old friends re-gaining…, but are they strong enough to compete with her new friend, China as yet?

Restorative Justice and Reconciliation

I participated in a workshop on ‘Restorative Justice’ in Pondicherry, India yesterday (March 13, 2012). Restoring justice is an essential element of reconciliation. The little I know about it is only through readings of reconciliation efforts in South Africa. After reading the book ‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation’ Forwarded by Desmond Tutu early this year, I learnt that reconciliation in polarized societies after violent conflicts is really case of ‘putting Humpty Dumpty together again’. The following quote is the best to summarize what Tutu means,

“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.” – Desmond Tutu –

What is the difference between restorative justice and retributive justice? Dominic Barter explains (http://www.restorativecircles.org/) retributive justice as a means of maintaining social order. In that, a dominant justice system maintains the social system via imposing the punitive ethos and legal apparatus i.e. the state justice system. But the question is whether such a system can bring trust among people who are polarized and gone through violence over decades. On the other hand, restorative approach focuses on not at who has done wrong but at what needs are unmet. It seeks not to label and condemn but to alert us to our place in the power structure and to act and our power to mend.
What fascinated me in this regard is the fact that the conflict is not seen as something that needs to be changed or managed within this process, but as an essential part for personal or communal wellbeing. I remember learning about sociological functions of a conflict for my bachelor’s degree at the University of Colombo. And it was yesterday that I first exposed myself to its use in the society. That is through, ‘Restorative circles’.
A restorative circle is a community process for supporting those in conflict. It brings together the parties to a conflict with an intentional systemic context, to dialogue as equals. Ideally, participants invite each other and attend voluntarily. The dialogue process used is shared openly with all participants and guided by a community member itself. The process ends when actions have been found that bring mutual benefit. The underlying pillars of the process are shared power, mutual understanding, self-responsibility and effective action. On the other hand, any society that develops these will reconcile its conflicting issues without causing further harm to the society.

TNA is confused …

I remember reading Asanga Welikala’s analysis on TNA’s (Tamil National Alliance) response to the LLRC on http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/4439 few weeks back and he had rightly mentioned

Without conceptual clarity as to both how Tamil nationalism is politically articulated as well as the substantive constitutional claims it seeks to make, the TNA’s political strategy, in dealing especially with a recalcitrant and triumphalist regime in Colombo, risks confusion in theory and disarray in practice”

I wish to draw the attention of those who read this to highlight the utter confusion that TNA is in with regard to its position on LLRC and the need for an accountability process on the war crimes committed during the last phase of the war. While TNA has described the LLRC’s observations on constitutional reforms as “exceedingly vague” and “mostly rhetorical” they have not set out a serious critique of the overarching constitutional measures and “modest” proposals for the post-war Sri Lanka.

Let me not confuse you further on TNA’s confusion. TNA’s position on the recommendations of the LLRC, particularly on an accountability process highlighted that,

“…the need for an accountability process that meets international standards while delivering on the right of victims to truth, justice and reparations (including guarantees of non-recurrence) is an urgent and important one. Given the government’s failure to institute a process that meets these benchmarks, the TNA calls on the international community to institute measures that will advance accountability and encourage reconciliation in Sri Lanka in keeping with the recommendations of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts.”   

Irrespective of that position, TNA expressed its fullest support (http://www.adaderana.lk/news.php?nid=17263) to the draft resolution tabled by the USA at the UNHRC last week and it mainly includes,

“Noting with concern that the LLRC report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law,

1. Calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations in the LLRC report and take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans,

2. Requests that the Government of Sri Lanka present a comprehensive action plan as expeditiously as possible detailing the steps the Government has taken and will take to implement the LLRC recommendations and also to address alleged violations of international law,

3. Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedures to provide, and the Government of Sri Lanka to accept, advice and technical assistance on implementing those steps and requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a report to the Council on the provision of such assistance at its twenty-second session.” [http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/9147]

 This confusion raises few questions. Is TNA’s political agenda for Tamil Nationalism a mere strategy to gain power leaving them mere signifiers of ‘identity politics’ [Kaldor Mary in her essay on ‘The politics of New Wars’ use the term ‘identity politics’ to mean movements which mobilize around ethnic, racial or religious identity for the purpose of claiming state power]. Or is it that TNA is merely scapegoated by the diaspora leaders who fix the agenda for them as their financial supporters? Either way, TNA’s confusing position at this juncture put Tamil Nationalist struggle at a greater threat, a risk in the presence of a triumphalist ruler in the South.

The history has showed us that power politikal agendas have scattered the dreams of Tamil Nationalism. I only hope TNA will not repeat the same mistake once again.

UN has repeatedly failed in Sri Lanka’s confict: And this time …?

The recent history of UN interventions in any conflict has told us that the UN will only intervene when the various ruling blocks within the body consider it in their interests to do so. But what is there limit of ‘interest’? Whilst we have read and heard about timely UN interventions has saved major human catastrophes their reluctance to intervene in other cases have resulted in human tragedy, irrespective of the motives behind the decision. On the other hand, genuine UN military interventions and concerns at times make the whole situation much grave, causing thousands of loss for civilian lives, injuries or displacements.

 

In the case of Sri Lankan conflict, I fear that UN interventions to-date has not brought any notable fruitful outcomes. In its recent history, the Sri Lankan conflict has undergone three different phases: Ceased-Fire Agreement (CFA) and the Peace Process, War and Post-war context.

 

The Norway facilitated CFA and the entire peace process was an ideal window of opportunity to bring peace through dialogue to the country. In fact, UN failed to play an active role in the process in order to ensure its continuation. UN should have taken on a bigger role in the peace process if it wanted the ceasefire to be successfully implemented and lead to a permanent peace. UN could have definitely enhanced its role by pressuring both sides to increase the pace and the commitment to negotiation, by accepting to monitor the ceasefire, or by announcing retribution for both sides in case of non-compliance. At the failure of UN involvement, the ceasefire did not only loss even a little chance of evolving into long-lasting peace for Sri Lanka, but also exacerbated the conflict by allowing both parties to regroup and increase their fighting capabilities which ended up in a brutal war causing thousands of deaths.

 

Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, that was put out on March 31, 2011 openly admits UN’s failure during the final stages of war.

During the final stages of the war, the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take actions that might have protected civilians…”  (Page vi)

Although it is recommended now to conduct a comprehensive review of actions by the United Nations system during the war in Sri Lanka during the war and aftermath, regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates, the human cost that occurred due to its inefficiency and unproductivity cannot be brought back.

 

Today, after nearly three years since the end of war UNHRC is getting ready to find the ‘truth’ hidden in the final phase of the way. While truth and reconciliation are crucial aspects of bringing peace to Sri Lanka, I would have expected UN to act much sensitively on the whole issue. Today’s UN intervention is to correct them after all what happened due to their non-intervention. It is probably their final chance to correct themselves in Sri Lanka. Most importantly, their first and the last intervention should not mark a beginning of another insurgency in Sri Lanka. It has a significant role in ensuring that this step would not be another ‘Syria friendly’ intervention, but ensure the ‘truth and accountability’ prevail without making further cost to the lives of innocent civilians in the country.

 

Reference:

Bouffard, Sonia and David Carment (2006) ‘The Sri Lankan Peace Process: A Critical Review’ in Journal of South Asian Development, Vol 1, No 2.

Rajakulendran, Victor (2007) ‘Is UN intervention a possibility in Sri Lanka?’ in www.responsibilitytoprotect.org

United Nations (2011) ‘Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka’ in www.un.org