by T. Sabaratnam
The ceasefire came into effect on 18 June 1985. The ENLF leaders realized that Athulathmudali had outsmarted them by declaring the ceasefire unilaterally. Tamil liberation groups were forced to observe the ceasefire for fear of offending India and the international community. The U.S., Britain, the Soviet Union and some other countries praised India for arranging the ceasefire and talks.
The Tamil liberation movements were not happy. Pirapaharan was not pleased. He felt that the momentum of armed attacks and public resistance would slacken. He knew that his fighters would oppose the ceasefire. He was aware that TULF supporters had launched a whispering campaign. These supporters raised the question: 'They condemned our talking to the Jayewardene government. What are they going to do now?'
The government also launched a propaganda onslaught. It told the people through the Sinhala media thatthe ‘terrorists’ had agreed to the ceasefire because they were weak. The army tried to create the image that the ceasefire would be disadvantageous to it. Pirapaharan requested an emergency meeting of the ENLF leaders to assess this embarrassing situation. The ENLF leaders met in the ENLF office on the morning of 18 June, a few hours after the ceasefire came into effect.
The leaders discussed two matters: the ceasefire and the disquiet among their fighters.
The leaders agreed that through the unilateral declaration of a ceasefire Lalith Athulathmudali had cornered them. He had escaped the need to accept the preconditions the ENLF laid down in their proposal.
The ENLF proposal submitted to the Indian Foreign Ministry and leaked to the media visualized a step-wise implementation of the ceasefire, the setting up of district level agencies to monitor violations and adherence by the government to a list of conditions they had stipulated.
The stepwise implementation proposed by the ENLF is as follows:
|Government side||ENLF side|
|1. Home guards/civilians/voluntary armed groups to be disarmed||Will not attack paramilitary forces|
|2. Status quo with regards to settlements to be maintained. No effort should be made, direct or indirect, to change the demographic pattern during the ceasefire||Settlements already in existence will not be attacked|
|3. Security forces to be withdrawn to barracks. No patrolling/search -destroy operations to be undertaken||Stop attacks against security forces in barracks. No mining of raods, rail tracks, buildings|
|4. No new camps to be established||No new camps to be established|
|5. All checkposts of the security forces in the North and East should be dismantled||No stoppage of traffic on the roads|
The section on the monitoring agency reads:
(A) There should be an independent agency to check ceasefire violations. Representatives of Tamil Organizations and Sri Lankan Government to be formed in each district and should be allowed to visit the places of incidents to make an on-the-spot enquiry and report results.
(B)) Amnesty International or a similar agency should also be allowed in as observers, with the teams to examine the conditions of prisoners, facilities provided and monitor their release.
(C) Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) & other Emergency Regulations including surveillance should be removed. No arrests connected with past acts under PTA should be made during ceasefire.
(D) All those in custody against whom no charges have been filed up to 18th June should be released.
The conditions laid down by the ENLF were:
Lalith Athulathmudali, who announced the government decision to declare ceasefire over the radio, said that they were not going to observe any condition as the government was declaring a unilateral ceasefire. He said the government had not entered into any agreement with the terrorists.
Pirapaharan told the other ENLF leaders that Jayewardene had laid a well-planned trap. He wanted to drive a wedge between the Taml militants and India and to show the world that they were a set of terrorists, intent on violence and nothing else. He said Jayewardene was expecting them to refuse to observe the ceasefire and insist on their conditions. That would annoy India,
"We should not fall into that trap. We should act carefully and cautiously. We would go along with India and its Proposals for Ceasefire and Talks, but show India the flaws in their proposals. We should observe the ceasefire strictly and win India’s admiration. We should at the same time to launch a campaign to highlight the army’s ceasefire violations," Pirapaharan said.
The ENLF leaders accepted Pirapaharan’s strategy. Then they decided to bring to India’s notice the three main flaws in India’s proposals. They identified the three areas as:
1. The absence of safeguards to protect Tamil civilians, especially the Tamil people in the border areas in the north and the east, from attacks by the army, home guards and the armed Sinhala settlers. The proposed ceasefire agreement had provided in sections 2 and 3 for the suspension of new Sinhala settlements and had banned attacks on such settlements. Since the security forces were permitted to carry out searches and operations, they would continue their attacks on Tamil villages in the Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts.
2. The main gain of the freedom struggle, the closing down of police stations and the discontinuance of the law enforcement function by the police would be negated under the ceasefire agreement. "They are trying to win through the ceasefire what they lost in the battlefront," Pirapaharan pointed out.
3. The ceasefire proposals provided time and space for Jayewardene to drag on the talks on a political solution and thus gain time to build up the army for a final military solution. Pirapaharan pointed that there had been a history of political talks. He said they should tell India to stipulate a timeframe for political talks and to ask Jayewardene to place his proposals on the table.
ENLF leaders asked Balasingham to draft a report highlighting the flaws they had identified. Then they discussed the question of dealing with the dissatisfaction among their fighters. They decided to tell their respective members that they had not abandoned their objective of Tamil Eelam. They were using the ceasefire and talks as political tools to expose to India and the world community the real face of Jayewardene.
The following is the text of the report:
Joint report on the proposals for cease-fire, dated 18 June 1985,
submitted to the authorised representative of the Government of India
by the Eelam National Liberation Front
We have carefully considered the set of proposals submitted to us by the Government of India to bring about a cessation of hostilities between Sri Lanka's armed forces and the Freedom Fighters of our Liberation Organisations. Appreciating the mediatory role and the good offices provided by the Government of India and accepting the assurances and guarantees offered to us, we, the undersigned Liberation Organisations have made a collective decision to observe cease-fire for a stipulated time to help to create a congenial atmosphere and conditions of normality and to facilitate the Government of Sri Lanka to put forward a package of concrete proposals on the acceptability of which negotiations for a permanent political solution to the Tamil national question can be commenced.
While we agree to suspend all hostilities to a limited span of time, we wish to state that certain terms and conditions outlined in the proposed framework for cease-fire place us in a disadvantageous position. We wish to outline below some of our suggestions and counter proposals:
- We agree to observe Phase I of the proposed framework. Section 2 of Phase I demands from the 'Militants' as a reciprocal step to the suspension of new settlements to 'cease attack on civilians - both Sinhalese and Tamils - in the North, East and elsewhere'. We regret to note that during this phase, no safeguards or guarantees are stipulated to protect the lives of innocent Tamil civilians from violence emanating from the armed forces and armed Sinhala settlers. Though not specified as a condition in the framework, we suggest that the Government of India advice Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to put an end to the continuous military and civilian armed violence against the people. In case state violence continues during the first phase involving the killing of innocent Tamil civilians, we shall consider such hostile acts as serious breach of the truce agreement.
- We wish to register our serious objection to section 2 of Phase III which allows the 're-opening of the police stations which have been closed down' and institutes state power to the police to carry out law and order functions while the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Laws are in force. Such vital matters relating to the security and administration of law and order in our homeland should be elements of a broad framework of a political settlement rather than an aspect of a cease-fire agreement. Therefore, we are unable to accept such a proposal.
- We propose that the Sri Lankan Government should present a comprehensive program for a political settlement following the declaration of cease-fire between the 10th and 12th week. We wish to state categorically that the commencement of negotiations is conditional upon our acceptance of this political program. We have taken this position as a consequence of a long and bitter historical experience of deceptions and betrayals by successive Sri Lankan governments who have consistently resisted a fair and honourable settlement to the Tamil problem. It is also well known that Sri Lanka had abrogated several pacts and proposals and failed to implement agreements. We should point out that Sri Lanka also adopts an invariable practice of prolonging and postponing dialogues to evade arriving at a practical solution. We do not wish to be victims of this futile exercise, but rather demand that a concrete set of proposals in a broad framework should be submitted to us for our consideration before deciding to participate in the process of negotiations as stipulated in Phase IV.
- We have resolved that under no circumstances that we will extend the agreed time of cease-fire.
- We also wish to express our disapproval over the usage of the category 'militants' in the cease-fire document to describe the united front of major Liberation Organisations, while ascribing the notion 'Tamil political leadership' to the TULF. Such categorizations may create serious misconceptions and undermine our status as the authentic political organizations representing the aspirations of our people.
- Finally, we request the date of commencement of Phase I (June 18th) be postponed to a further date to facilitate us to make necessary cease-fire arrangements. We suggest the 1st of July 1985 as a suitable date.
We would very much appreciate if our suggestions and counter proposals are considered favourably and also communicated to the government.
The report was signed by the leaders of the ENLF - Pirapaharan, Pathmanabha, Sri Sabaratnam and Balakumar.
Balasingham sent the report to the Foreign Affairs Ministry through RAW. Chandrasekaran, on the instruction of the Foreign Affairs Ministry telephoned Balasingham a few days later and conveyed the displeasure of the Foreign Ministry.
Chandrasekaran told Balasingham that Foreign Ministry officials viewed the ENLF demand that Sri Lanka submit the framework of proposals for the settlement of the Tamil problem as an imposition of a condition on Colombo for the commencement of talks. He said the Foreign Ministry had rejected the request for the postponement of commencement of the ceasefire. Chandrasekaran told Balasingham that there was no purpose in talking about the postponement as the ceasefire had held for over a week.
The liberation groups continued to observe the ceasefire. They concentrated in the next few days explaining to their cadres why they were observing the ceasefire.
EPRLF issued a leaflet under the heading 'Ceasefire and Thimpu Talks.' The leaflet said the ENLF agreed to ceasefire and talks as a tactic to tear the peace mask Jayewardene was wearing to deceive India and the world. TELO, in its leaflet, said that it accepted the Indian plan to show the world the real nature of Jayewardene’s peace drama. PLOTE, though not in the ENLF, in its poster, called the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Sri Lankan government a ‘political trick’.
Pirapaharan issued a signed leaflet. It was titled- Our Stand on Ceasefire and Talks.
The following is the translation of that leaflet:
I do not think that a reasonable, final solution can be worked out through this ceasefire and talks. We have learnt a bitter lesson from the history of peace talks carried out in the past 35 years.
I want to assure you that we will not get caught in this peace trap. I am aware that the Sri Lankan Government is not prepared to work out a solution to our problem. The Sri Lankan Government is, firstly, not prepared to fulfill India’s desire of creating a federal constitutional framework and granting autonomy to the northern and eastern provinces. Secondly, the Sinhala people had been misled by their leaders to think that federalism will lead to the division of the country. The majority of the Sinhala people believe in that. And Sinhala chauvinists will never permit the creation of a united Tamil region comprising the north and the east.
So, the old wine of district councils and regional councils will be served on the negotiation table. The Tamil people are not prepared to accept these half-baked solutions.
If we are to live as a free people, live with dignity and self-respect, live in peace, it is only possible in an independent Tamil Eelam. I wish to assure my people that the freedom struggle will continue until we achieve Tamil Eelam.
I wish to further assure our people that while we cooperate with India’s efforts we will never falter from our resolve to attain an independent state of Tamil Eelam.
I have, in my hand, the armed strength of our fighters and the moral strength of the feeling that we are on the correct track. If the Tamil people strengthen my hand further with their support, no force in this world can prevent us from attaining our goal.
While Pirapaharan was seeking the support of the Tamil people to strengthen his hand, the TULF, which had lost popular support, was trying to regain its former political leadership role. It issued statements from Chennai giving the impression that it would do the talking on behalf of the Tamils. One of its statements claimed that it would give leadership and guidance to the "militants" in the proposed peace talks.
The TULF, which had been sidelined by the Sri Lankan Government and India since the collapse of the All Party Conference in December 1984, felt that the ceasefire and Thimpu talks gave it a role. Amirthalingam telephoned Dharmalingam, former Member of Parliament for Uduvil and S. Alalasundaram, former Member of Parliament for Kopay, who had stayed in Jaffna while the others crossed over to Tamil Nadu, and asked them to reactivate the party. He also instructed them to proceed to Colombo and commence discussions with the leaders of the government and opposition parties about a constitutional framework for a political solution to the Tamil problem.
While in Colombo Dharmalingam and Alalasundaram met Dixit, the new Indian High Commissioner, and Bhandari, who visited Colombo in the third week of June to finalize the venue, agenda and procedures for the political talks. Jayewardene agreed to the Indian suggestion to hold the talks in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. He also accepted the composition of the Tamil side - five militant groups, the four in the ENLF and PLOTE, and the TULF. Bhandari informed Jayewardene that each group in the Tamil side would be represented by two delegates. Jayewardene also accepted the suggestion that the first round of talks should commence on 8 July. On his way back to Delhi Bhandari called on MGR and met the TULF leaders in Chennai.
In Colombo, Alalasundaram and Dharmalingam issued statements saying the government leaders had assured them that they were keen on working out a political solution. They also said the government had also assured them that it would implement the ceasefire agreement in a fair and just manner. They issued these statements while the army and the police were conducting search and destroy operations, arresting and detaining thousands of Tamils under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the Eastern Province, chasing away the Tamils who returned to their villages in the Trincomalee district on the strength of the ceasefire and continuing to harass the fishermen who went to do fishing. TULF leaders did not mention anything about these things in their statements.
Amirthalingam, Sivasithamparam and Sampanthan were also busy flying between Chennai and Delhi helping the Indian and Sri Lankan authorities to work out a constitutional framework for a solution. TULF leaders became active following H. W. Jayewardene’s visit to Delhi on 15 June for consultation with K. Paraswaram, Attorney General of India, to find out ways and means of making the district councils effective within the existing unitary constitution. Paraswaram consulted Amirthalingam in that exercise and they evolved a constitutional structure acceptable to Sri Lanka and India.
TULF’s cooperation incensed the ENLF leaders who were reluctant to participate in the Thimpu talks. They were looking for an opportunity to get out of Jayewardene’s peace trap without antagonizing India. But the TULF was highly excited about the talks. ENLF leaders interpreted their statements and their enthusiasm to work out a watered-down constitutional model as an alternative to Thamil Eelam as attempts to undercut them.
ENLF leaders considered their stand about the forthcoming Thimpu talks, the role of the TULF and the ceasefire at a lengthy meeting held on the night of 28 June. The meeting was held at the ENLF office. Lights went off suddenly. Keetheeswaran, who participated as an EPRLF delegate, struck a box of matches and held up a light.
"Annai. Put it off," Pirapaharan told him.
He did not want anyone to locate where he stood.
Pirapaharan had jumped off his seat, stood by the wall with his right hand on his revolver. Ramesh told me Pirapaharan was found standing behind Sri Sabaratnam, whom Pirapaharan suspected as the only man in the group who would attempt to kill him.
Power supply resumed within a few minutes. And Pirapaharan went back to his seat with the comment, "It’s the normal power failure."
Ramesh told me of another power failure when they met in the LTTE office. When the power failed, a generator switched on automatically.
"Pirapaharan is not only alert about his security, he is always prepared to meet any situation," Ramesh said.
At the 28 June meeting, ENLF leaders, at the instance of Pirapaharan, decided to quit the peace talks at the earliest opportunity. They also decided to walk out when they could put the blame on the Jayewardene government. Pirapaharan argued that Jayewardene was only trying to buy time to strengthen the army. He told his colleagues that they should beat Jayewardene in his own game.
The strategy they worked out was to issue a joint statement informing India of their refusal to attend the peace talks. They decided to accuse the Sri Lankan army was violating the ceasefire in that statement. They decided to act as reluctant participants in the talks and place on the table the basic principles that should form the basis of the solution and to show the world that the Sinhalese would never accommodate such a solution.
Pirapaharan told the meeting that the refusal by the Sinhala side to accept or accommodate those principles would be the foundation stone for Tamil Eelam.
At that meeting, ENLF leaders decided to oppose the participation of the TULF leaders in Thimpu talks.
Balasingham was asked to draft the joint statement. It was sent to the Indian Foreign Affairs Ministry through Chandrasekaran.
The following is the text of the joint statement:
Joint Press Statement of the Eelam National Liberation Front - 29 June 1985
communicating decision not to participate in Peace talks with Sri Lanka
We, the United Front of four major liberation organizations (Eelam National Liberation Front, ENLF), have made a collective decision not to participate in the proposed peace conference to be held in Bhutan in protest against serious violations of the cease-fire agreement by the Sri Lankan armed forces.
While the Government of Sri Lanka has failed to implement the set of conditions stipulated by us to bring about a congenial condition of normality, the armed forces are continuously committing atrocities against the Tamil civilian population in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. We have resolved not to participate in peace talks with Sri Lanka while our people are continuously subjected to military violence, while there is tension, terror and insecurity in our traditional homeland. We wish to point out that by perpetuating these hostile acts against the Tamil civilians, Sri Lanka has failed to honour the pledges given to the Government of India to bring about a cessation of hostilities and conditions of normality as a prelude to negotiations.
Appreciating the mediatory role and the good offices provided by the Government of India and accepting the assurances offered to us, we agreed to suspend all hostilities and to observe cease-fire for a stipulated time to help to create a congenial atmosphere and to facilitate the Government of Sri Lanka to put forward a concrete package of proposals for our consideration. We have also stipulated a set of pre-conditions for cease-fire aimed to create a condition of normality. We demanded that Sri Lanka should:
1. Withdraw the armed forces to the barracks.
2. Lift the restrictions on the movement of vehicles.
3. Withdraw the Emergency and Curfew Laws.
4. Lift the sea surveillance and prohibited zones.
5. Suspend the proposed aggressive colonization with armed Sinhala settlers in the North and East.
6. Release all the political prisoners.
We have also demanded that the Sri Lankan Government should present a comprehensive program for a political settlement following the declaration of cease-fire between the 10th and 12th week. We have stated categorically that the resumption of negotiations is conditional upon our acceptance of the proposed framework. We have taken this position as a consequence of a long and bitter historical experience of deceptions and betrayals by successive Sri Lankan Governments who have consistently resisted a fair and honourable settlement to the Tamil problem. It is well known that Sri Lanka had abrogated several pacts and proposals and had failed to implement agreements.
Through the mediation of India, the Government of Sri Lanka had agreed to abide by our conditions and unilaterally proclaimed a cease-fire on 18th June 1985 without mutual agreement on the date of commencement of cease-fire. We responded positively by suspending all hostilities anticipating that Sri Lanka would systematically implement the pre-conditions for cease-fire. While we have been observing cease-fire in the true spirit of the truce agreement, Sri Lankan armed forces are continuing military atrocities by harassing and slaughtering innocent Tamil civilians.
The armed forces are not confined to barracks, but rather carry on with cordon, search and arrest operations, particularly in the Eastern province. Tension and terror prevails in Trincomalee and several areas of Batticaloa District as Army, Navy and police commandos carry out midnight raids plundering Tamil houses, assaulting people and raping women. Several unarmed innocent youths have been killed in cold blood in Mannar, Murunkan and Muttur areas and their dead bodies burnt to erase all identity.
Tamil refugees from Trincomalee district are shot at and chased away when they attempt to re-settle in their burnt out villages. Tamil farmers were fired at when they attempted to enter their rice fields to reap their harvest.
Though the Government formally declared the suspension of the naval surveillance zone and the prohibited zone, the Tamil fishermen are continuously harassed, assaulted and fired at. The Tamil fishermen are terrorized to venture out in the sea.
Though the Sri Lankan government has pledged to lift all restrictions on the movement of people and to withdraw emergency regulations, the Security Forces continue road blocks and search operations and curfew hours are still in force. The Government has also not taken any measures to release nearly 2,000 innocent Tamil youths who are kept in custody in various military camps.
The most outrageous of all is the belligerent statement issued by Mr Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of National Security over the Sri Lankan radio that Sri Lankan government will not implement the conditions laid down by Tamil liberation organizations towards cessation of hostilities. Such a statement clearly indicates that the Government of Sri Lanka has no sincere intention to observe cease-fire to create a congenial atmosphere.
The Sri Lankan Government has also rejected our major demand that a comprehensive package of proposals have to be submitted for our consideration. Instead, their strategy seems to be to entice us into a futile exercise of exchanging ideas and exploring problems at a round table conference.
The Front also wishes to place on record its reservations on the self-proclaimed role of the TULF as the political force which would give leadership and guidance to the "militants" in the proposed peace talks. We have taken a firm position that, since the TULF does not enjoy the confidence of our people and have lost all credibility as a political organization, it must abdicate its assumed role as the legitimate representative of the Eelam people. This is also manifest in the fact that the TULF had chosen to remain silent on instances of atrocities meted out to our people by the armed forces after the so-called 'cessation of hostilities'. This raises serious doubts regarding the TULF's capacity to adhere to strict principles and to employ correct tactics during the course of the proposed peace talks.
As the Front has repeatedly stated in its earlier joint statement on the proposed peace talks, we wish to once again reiterate our utmost confidence in the initiatives taken by the government of India to bring about a negotiated settlement that would guarantee the honour and dignity of our people. We earnestly request the government of India to pressurize the Sri Lankan government to adhere to the cease-fire agreement to create a conducive atmosphere of peace and normality.
Political Committee - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front
Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization
Executive Revolutionary Committee - Eelam Revolutionary Organization
Balasingham in War and Peace says the Indian response was hostile. India rejected all the major demands contained in the joint letter. But Chandrasekaran told Balasingham that India would take into consideration the ceasefire violations mentioned in the joint letter. Chandrasekaran told Balasingham that all ENLF leaders would be soon summoned to Delhi for a briefing about the Thimpu talks.
ENLF leaders met immediately to plan their strategy. Two main matters were considered. The first was to decide the basic principles to be placed on the conference table. That did not pose any problem. The basic needs of the Tamil people had already been identified and given form by the Federal Party at the Trincomalee Conference in 1956. They were:
1. recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation
2. recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka
3. recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation
4. recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils who look upon the island as their country.
ENLF leaders decided to place these principles as the basis of the solution to the Tamil problem.
The next question they discussed was the problem of getting the TULF to toe the line. The ENLF leaders decided to warn the TULF not to oppose the placement of the four basic principles. Since Amirthalingam had gone to Delhi they decided to convey their decision to Yogeswaran who was in Chennai. Sri Sabaratnam suggested that they call Yogeswaran immediately so that the decision could be conveyed to him in their presence. Others supported the suggestion. Balakumar telephoned Yogeswaran.
Balakumar told Yogeswaran, "Annai, Pirapa, Sri and Nabha are here with me. They want to meet you to discuss an urgent matter."
Yogeswaran agreed to go. Balakumar then gave him the address. Yogeswaran said, "Thangathurai is here with me. Can I bring him along?" Balakumar agreed.
Pirapaharan told the others Yogeswaran would try to talk nicely calling them "Thambygal" (Younger brothers)and they should not be deceived by those ‘acts’. He added, "Let Bala Annai do the talking. We must put on a serious face and keep quiet."
Yogeswaran and Thangathurai went to the ENLF office half an hour later. "Are we late? We had some difficulty in locating the place," Yogeswaran said. None of the ENLF leaders replied. They kept mum.
Balasingham asked Yogeswaran and Thangathurai to take their seats. They sat between Sri Sabaratnam and Pirapaharan. Balasingham, who was on the opposite side of the table, told them, "We are sorry for asking you to come at such a short notice. Firstly, we want to tell you that we are not militant groups. We are politico-military movements. We are experts not only in war, but also in political negotiations. We don’t need any others to talk on our behalf."
This aggressive statement shook Yogeswaran and Thangathurai. Balasingham then delivered a lengthy talk on their decision. He concluded his monologue thus: We want you to inform Amirthar not to present any other scheme. We want the four principles to form the unanimous stand of the Tamil people. Tell Amirthar to support these principles. He should not speak anything else."
Yogeswaran gave the assurance that the TULF leadership would abide by the ENLF decision. He said, "Amir Annai will never go against your decision. Your decision is our decision. You can trust my assurance one hundred percent."
Balasingham said, "The question of trusting your assurance or not depends on how Amirthar behaves in Thimpu. Please contact him and inform him what we have told you."
Then Sri Sabaratnam fired the passing shot. He told Yogeswaran: "Annai! Tell Amirthar Annai that if he disobeys our request he should stay at Thimpu."
Index to previous chapters
Chapter 35. Talks- the First Round
To be posted February 18
Posted February 12, 2005