ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 39
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Wijeya Pariganaka

A dead CFA better than none

There was much ado this week, almost over nothing – the 5th anniversary of the Ceasefire Agreement, the CFA which is only observed in the breach and which has been reduced to a mere scrap of paper.

For those in Government today – and those who support it from the sidelines – the CFA has become an embarrassment.

Over and above the cacophony of voices that are now demanding that it be torn to shreds, the 2002 CFA signed between then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran must be seen in perspective.

The Norwegians were already here as facilitators under then President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the LTTE had declared a unilateral ceasefire which was reciprocated by the security forces when the UNP entered into a formal truce – the CFA, with the LTTE in February 2002.

The UNP had a political strategy in tackling the LTTE's demand and like all political agendas, this was also a gamble it took. The strategy was to rope in the LTTE with an "international safety net" that was to ensure the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity remained intact.

The CFA was meant to be the precursor to negotiations towards a political settlement to the LTTE's demands for a separate state, devolution, laying down of arms and multi-party democracy in the North and East.

Clearly, the LTTE was going to exploit the situation during the interregnum.

But as time went by, they seemed to be getting cornered, entangled in an international web – peace talks were held in world capitals; the Trincomalee oil tank farms were leased out to an Indian company – not for nothing.

In the process, the Government of Ranil Wickremesinghe seemed to yield too much, probably to suck the recalcitrant rebels away from their jungle way of life.

The Defence Correspondent of this newspaper and a few others revealed each and every instance the government of the day wavered – much to the wrath of the UNP hierarchy – and the advantage of the then Opposition.

A sulking President, egged on by forces whom she now says she regrets having embraced at the time, torpedoed this process using the full force of Executive powers drawn from what she called the 'Bahubootha' Constitution. Disregarding a solemn pledge to the Speaker not to do so, she dissolved Parliament despite being in the minority.

In the ensuing victory of a new coalition, which included those vehemently protesting against it now, the CFA continued to be savaged.

Much of today's miseries are being placed at the door of the CFA. But Army camps were overrun, thousands of troops slaughtered, civilians killed on all sides, assassinations of VVIPs were carried out, the Central Bank bombed, civilian trains blasted, the Kolonnawa oil refinery raided, the international airport destroyed, all before the CFA.

On the other hand, the voices that say that the biggest military setback to the LTTE fighting machine – the breakaway of its Eastern Command – was a "product" of the CFA and that UNP peace process, are muted because it is fashionable now to whip the defeated.

Even the UNP cannot claim credit for it publicly, for fear of earning the ire of the LTTE, whose favour it has lost anyway.

The biggest compliment paid to the UNP came from none other than the LTTE supremo who told his cadres last November that the UNP of Ranil Wickremesinghe spun an "international trap" on the LTTE, which explained why the Tamils of the North and East were prevented from voting for him, a move that helped the incumbent President to win.

The big question now is whether the Government should abrogate the CFA.

Its own attitude appears to be one of 'if the LTTE is violating it with impunity but not abrogating – two can play the game'. Why take the blame – especially from the international community, by doing so.

The Norwegian Ambassador seems to think, despite some 8,000 CFA violations that it has "prevented the escalation of many dangerous situations". That sounds more the comment for self-preservation of a no-good failed facilitator. But who knows what would have been if there was a complete free-for-all?

The LTTE says that the CFA provided it with a de-facto state-in-waiting via an LoC (Line of Control) like what one finds in Kashmir, though this could be a ploy to further provoke the anti-CFA forces towards wanting to abrogate it.

In the final analysis, a useless CFA is still better than a free-for-all situation now that the LTTE has pledged war and the Defence Secretary has said there will be no change in the government's counter-terrorism measures.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.