There have been series of attempts to resolve the civil war peacefully by political arrangements until the Rajapaksa regime decided to declare war against LTTE1 in 2006. The first peace rounds were marked by Bandaranaike and Chelvanayagam in 1957. The Senanayake- Chelvanayagam peace talks in 1965 followed by Round Table conference 1983, All Party conference 1984, Thimpu Bhutan talks in 1985, Political Parties conference of 1986, Indo Sri Lanka Accords (1987), All Party Conference of 1989, Dialogue with the LTTE in 1990, Select Committee of Parliament (1992), Jaffa Peace talks of 1995 and Ceasefire agreement and peace talks in 2001.2 The entire peace process in Sri Lanka failed in finding a political solution to the ethnic conflict. Particularly, the Indo- Sri Lanka Peace Accords and the 2002 Peace process were able to gain international attention. However, the failure of the peace process changed the political map of Sri Lanka in a larger context. The failure of 1987 and 2001 peace activities problematized the international involvement in the peace process in Sri Lanka. With these contextual annotations, the author looks at the catastrophe of the peace process of Sri Lanka through two case studies: 1987 Indo- Sri Lanka Peace Accords and 2002 Peace rounds. The final portion of the paper describes the linkages between human security approach and peace agreements in Sri Lanka.
Review of Literature
Background note on 1987 Indo- Sri Lanka Peace Accords
Since 1947, statecraft in Sri Lanka was driven by the Sinhala Buddhist majoritarian political ideology. This political connotation influenced the two major parties in Ceylon3: The United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) sought to implement national policies in Sri Lanka against the rights and liberties of the Tamil community. In 1956, the SLFP government approved the Sinhala Only Act and in 1972 the Constitution gave the foremost position to Buddhism and the Sinhala community.4 These activities rolled back the positions of the Tamil groups in Sri Lanka in different clusters of society including education, employment, and national political hierarchies. According to Ralph Premdas and Samarasinghe, since the 1980s the state dominated by Sinhalese politicians were “[un]willing” make significant concessions to minority Tamils. This created a brutal but effective and efficient military movement which sought self-determination of Sri Lankan Tamils.5
According to Crisis Management Group, ethnic tension reached its peak in 1983; sporadic clashes broke down between Tamil community and government military forces in Sri Lanka.6 Amita Shastri stressed that longtime discrimination against Tamil community provided a social and political background to the emergence of Tamil military groups mainly, LTTE, EROS, TULF, TELO, PLOTE, EPRLF, and EPDP.7 In 1983, the hushed Tamil military groups launched their first attack in Jaffna and 13 government police officers were murdered by the Tamil military groups.8 As a response to this incident, the Sinhala community started to slaughter Tamils in Colombo and southern areas with the funding of Sinhala Buddhist ethnocentric political parties. Around 1000 Tamils died due to these ethnic clashes.9 According to Pfaffenberger, this incident made the manifestation of the civil war noticeable in the larger context. The stalemate of the war was briefly resolved in 1987 with the Indian intervention and Indo Sri Lanka Peace Agreement.10
“The GOSL signed the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord with the Indian government on 29th July 1987 when it had limited options after being denied support from the western powers.”11 Article 1.1 of the Peace agreement states that “intent of the agreement is to preserve and unify the multi-ethnic, multilingual and multi-religious society of Sri Lanka, especially with respect to Tamils in the Eastern Province.”12 However, Tamil militant groups including LTTE, EPRLF, TULF, TELO, PLOTE, EPDP did not take part in the peace agreement. The Indian Prime Minister “presumed to append his signature on behalf of the island’s Tamil population.”13 According Shelton Kodikara elimination of Tamil militant groups from the peace agreement was one major reason for the failure of the 1987 peace accords.14 Similarly, Peace accords did not have a proper mechanism to address the political outcomes at a larger level. The article number 2.10 and 2.11 clearly mentioned that the law enforcement in the Northern and Eastern provinces does not differ from the law enforcement procedures of other areas and government-granted amnesty to violators of the Prevention of Terrorist Act.15 However, the Sri Lankan government did not release the political prisoners. Furthermore, the political solutions provided by the agreement did not address the political demands of the Tamil populations in Northern part of the country. For an instance, the accord admitted to “recognizing that the Northern and Eastern provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking peoples, but qualified this claim by conceding similar residential rights to other people.”16 These political solutions diminished the trust towards the peace agreement while Tamil military groups underway to strive for a robust military solution to accomplish their demands. The ambiguity of the political parties and hardline politics negatively affected the success of peace agreement in 1987 and this particular issue is visible in 2002 peace agreement as well. Amita Shastri stressed that both of the peace agreements failed to secure the human security and the role of international mediators provided a considerable reason for the failure of the peace process in Sri Lanka.17 These two problems are discussed under the 2002 peace agreement.
Background note on the Peace Process in Sri Lanka (2002-2006)
“The ceasefire Agreement has lasted has lasted for nearly two years, much longer than any previous agreements, and it was created unique [sic] opportunity for long-lasting peace.”18 The Peace Process in Sri Lanka was initiated in 2002 with a unilateral ceasefire declared by LTTE. Both the parties agreed to accept the involvement of international mediator because “all the parties may be stuck in what has been denoted as a mutually hurting stalemate and seek ways to escape this costly deadlock.”19 The role of the Norwegian mediation had been questioned by the international community after the failure of the peace process in Sri Lanka. Particularly, the Norwegian government had their own political agenda during the peace process. Norway’s self- perceptions and intentions to build up the international image and the consequent political- economic gains cannot be ignored in this regard.20 Furthermore, the “critics of the Norwegian mediation efforts, mainly based in a Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist ideology, have argued that the main motivations behind its involvement should be sought in Norwegian economic interests in Sri Lanka.”21 According to Peace Crisis groups, the Norwegian government did not identify the local requirements properly and their role seemed ambiguous too. At times, they played a mediator role and at other times, they acted as a facilitator. This jeopardized the outcomes of the peace process and complicated the role played by the international community.22
Six peace rounds took place between 2002 &2006, and Paramanathan highlighted the structural and power asymmetry of the negotiation parties. Predominantly a non-state actor, the LTTE faced power disadvantages throughout the peace process.23 The power asymmetry tags a negative recognition about Norwegian mediation. According to this perspective “Norway is too lax on terrorism and holds a generally sympathetic attitude towards non-state actors using armed means to pursue political means.”24
The Muslims have a bitter joke about their role in the conflict; “it’s like a football match. One side the LTTE, the other is the government. We Muslims are the football.”25 In the 2002 peace talks between Sinhalese and Tamil communities, however, according to the International Crisis Group, the LTTE and SL government brought massive destruction to the Muslim community. The LTTE brought massive destruction to the Muslim community including “the massacre in Kattankudy in 1990, forceful displacements, expell[ing] them from the Northern area and ethnic cleansing. There have been regular clashes in the east between Tamils and Muslims, particularly over LTTE attempts since the 2002 ceasefire to establish control over Muslim communities in the east and tax their business activities.”26 During the Peace agreement in 1987 between the Indian and Sri Lankan governments neglected the political rights of the Muslim community. They were neglected from the main peace development process, though they were victims of the political violence perpetrated by the LTTE as well as the government military.27 The elimination of the ethnic minorities and different stakeholders from the peace process directly facilitated the collapse of the peace process in 2002 as well as 1987.
Divisions in the Sinhala Majoritan community and the political games with the Sinhala Buddhist ethnocentric political parties was also a reason behind the failure of Sri Lankan Peace process. According to Shelton Kodikara, during Indo-Sri Lanka peace agreement; JVP recognized India as an expansionist power. The role of the JVP negatively affected the peace process and particularly, the JVP along with minor Tamil parties started to pressurize the UNP government to withdraw from the peace agreement. Because of these actions, the government failed to secure majority support of the Sinhala community in favor of a peace agreement.28
“The LTTE has attempted to overcome the divisions in the Tamul community through repression. Among Sinhalese politicians, on the other hand, the decisions are formalized and accentuated by a highly pluralistic society.”29 Paramanathan stressed the political power game which took place between President Chandrika Bandaranaike and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the Peace process. Mainly, Ranil Wickramasinghe government did not appreciate the president's involvement in the peace process and himself as the PM signed the Peace agreement with the LTTE. Chandrika and her party openly criticised the political behavior of Ranil Wickramasinghe's government.30
“In November 2003, President Chandrika Kumaratunga, incited by the perceived audacity of the LTTE proposal and also in response to her perceived exclusion from the peace process by the Prime Minister, declared a state of emergency, deployed troops in the capital, fired three ministers holding key positions and suspended the parliament. From that point on, the peace process between government and LTTE never recovered.”31 Many political parties in the south including JVP, JHU, MC, CLP were excluded from the peace process and it divided public opinion regarding the peace process.
The peace process failed to address human security requirements. Particularly Indo- Sri Lanka peace agreement stressed that IPKF promoted and secured the individual rights and liberty.32 According to Shinoda, IPKF committed to many human right violations including crimes, mass killings in northern areas. These notorious military actions facilitated the Tamil community to organize against the IPKF.33
“Human rights remain one of the key issues that have been the focus of criticism of the CFA since it was signed. The focus of this criticism has ranged from the continued recruitment of children, extortion and political assassinations, on the other hand, the rights of return IDPs and refugees and the HSZ on the other. Movement in the peace process that does not take any human rights question into account will risk the continued loss of Public support and legitimacy for the peace process.”34
The literature reviewed reflects upon the main issues which facilitated the failure of the peace process in Sri Lanka in 1987 and 2002. These problems are inherent features on the Sri Lankan peace process since the 1950s to 2006; because of that any of the peace initiatives was failed to meet their expected outcomes.
Field Work Report
I shall now try elaborating the insights that I have gained from the conversations that I have had with various scholars who have worked in the field. Two respondents are Masters students of South Asian University which belong to Sri Lankan Tamil community. One student is a Masters Student of the same university belonging to Tamil Nadu. These communities were directly involved in the Sri Lankan peace process and the civil war.35
Dr. Maneesha Wa Pasqual identified the government of Sri Lanka, LTTE, and Tamil community as a major stakeholder of the 1987 Indo- Sri Lanka peace agreement even though LTTE did not sign the peace agreement.36 However, Shelton Kodikara identified that the limited number of stakeholders provided a narrow political space to the Tamil militant groups and followers of those groups. This was a negative aspect of the peace process and a major cause of its failure.37 However, Kethika S holds a different opinion regarding this representation issue. According to her, Tamil military groups including TELO, TULF, EROSE, EPRLF, PLOTE did not carry a larger number of communal support. Majoritarian support, according to her, was with the LTTE. Entire Tamil community in northern areas accepted LTTE as their sole representative and their leading power.38 Udayani Nawarathnam holds the same position regarding this issue and mainly she highlighted that the Tamil political parties failed to address the communal rights and requirements of the Tamil community, but LTTE won the hearts of the Tamil people because they fight to secure the dignity of the Tamil community.39 The academia identified the limited representation as a weak point of the peace agreement in 1987 and even in 2002. Especially, Neli De Votta stressed that in the 2002 peace process did not recognize the voice of EPRLF: the biggest criticizer of the LTTE.40 However, the field works have emphasized that Tamil community has not accepted any other Tamil military or political group as their representative in the peace process. In that sense, the role of the LTTE and exclusion of other Tamil military groups from the peace process cannot be identified as a failure. However, under a liberal democratic system, the unilateral representation has damaged the fair representation of the stakeholders and it has led to the failure of the peace process in 1987 and 2002.
The foremost problem of the 2002 peace process was the political intentions of the major parties of the peace process. Professor Sasanka P emphasized that none of the stakeholders in 2002 ceasefire agreement had an intention to bring peace to the country. Mainly, both of the parties entered into the peace agreement under the condition of mutual hurting stalemate. From the perspective of LTTE, they wanted to rebuild their military and manpower while regaining the international recognition. Similarly, the government of Sri Lanka wanted to raise their financial capabilities after the LTTE attack on Katunayake International airport.41 The LTTE attack on the airport directly destroyed the financial stability of the country and indirectly it negatively influenced the tourism industry.
Bhim Ra a social activist and LLM student of South Asian University pointed out that the main reason for the ceasefire agreement was to enhance the government ’s political power. Particularly, the government got a strategic advantage through the peace process and most of the donor nations provided aid to Sri Lanka along with development grants. During the time of peace process, LTTE was able to speed up their military recruitments. In 2003, immediately after the LTTE decision to avoid peace talks, Prabhakaran stressed that they were ready for the final battle.42
Both the parties entered into the ceasefire agreement due to mutual hurting statement and with the intention to gain the relative political advantages. The power asymmetry and the intention of private relative gain was a major reason which affected the failure of the peace process.
Professor Sasanka pointed out an impressive factor which influenced to the crackdown on the peace process. According to him, LTTE did not have a proper intellectual capacity to maintain the peace process. Especially, the death of Anton Balasingham was a turning point of the peace process. He was the main person who represented the LTTE in international peace talks. However, his death was negatively affected by the strategic position of the LTTE and they started to deviate from the peace process.43
According to Dr. Maneesha Wa Pasqual the domestic politics and hardline politics played a notable role during the peace process from 1987 to 2006. In 2003, LTTE decided to boycott the peace talks and after that, they demand an interim administration. This idea was introduced by the UNP government in 2001 through their election manifesto. However, the UNP government failed to recognize the LTTE political demands due to political pressure from the South.44 Hideaki Shinoda provided an explanation regarding this issue. “LTTE withdrew from negotiations in April 2003, citing their exclusion from a meeting with international donors and lack of government cooperation. LTTE presented a proposal for an Interim Self-Government Authority in October 2003 as a basis for new negotiations. But President Kumaratunga largely excluded from the peace process, acting on Sinhala anti-negotiation sentiment and anger at LTTE’s ceasefire violations, took over the defense and other crucial ministries to effectively stall the peace process, which never benefited politically.”45 Somehow, President Kumaratunga dissolved the parliament in 2004 and called a fresh election. The victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa led SLFP coalition government started deviation from the peace process and initiated the use of military power to eradicate LTTE.
1 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
2 Paramanathan 2007
3 Sri Lanka identified as a Ceylon up to 1972 because it was dominion state under the British empire
4 Internationl Crisis Group 2006
5 Premdas and Samarasinghe 1988
6 Internationl Crisis Group 2006
7 LTTE- Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; EROS- Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students; TULF- Tamil United Liberation Front; TELO- Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization; PLOTE- People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam’ EPRLF- Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (Suresh Wing); EPDP- Eelam People’s Democratic Party
8 Shastri 2009
9 Kodikara 1989
10 Pfaffenberger 1988
11 Paramanathan 2007, 6
12 Cambridge University 1987
13 Shinoda 2000
14 Kodikara 1989
15 Cambridge University 1987
16 Premdas and Samarasinghe 1988
17 Shastri 2009
18 Ferdinands, et al. 2004, i
19 Hoglund and Svensson 2009, 178
20 Paramanathan 2007
21 Hoglund and Svensson 2009
22 Internationl Crisis Group 2006
23 Paramanathan 2007
24 Hoglund and Svensson 2009, 182
25 Internationl Crisis Group 2006, 10
26 Ibid, 10-11
27 Wicramasinghe 2009
28 Kodikara 1989
29 Internationl Crisis Group 2006, 14
30 Paramanathan 2007
31 Lunn and Townsend 2009, 12
32 Cambridge University 1987
33 Shinoda 2000
34 Ferdinands, et al. 2004, 24
35As part of the Assignment requirements I conducted seven interviews, four of them scholars who have written andworked extensively on the topic. My fifth respond is a student from Tamil Nadu. The four interviews with scholarswere conducted in April after seeking prior appointments with them. Other interview was conducted in the samemonth. In this section, I shall elaborate the insights I have got. The seventh respondents are:
1. Professor Sasanka Pe Vice President, South Asian University, New Delhi, India.
2. Dr. Maneesha Wa Pasqual, Department of International Relations, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
3. Thyagaraja Wa Senior Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
4. Punsara Am Visiting Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
5. Udayani N MA candidate, South Asian University, New Delhi, India
6. Kethika Su MA Candidate, South Asian University, New Delhi, India
7. Bhim Ra LLM Candidate, South Asian University, New Delhi, India
Consent was obtained through e-mail and verbally and permission was also sought to record in the case of respondents 2, 3 and 4. The conversation with Respondent 1, however was not recorded. That said, his consent (verbal) was taken for the information presented in the paper and also a draft was shown to him before the submission.
36 Pasqual 2018
37 Kodikara 1989
38 Subramaniyam 2018
39 Nawarathnam 2018
40 Votta 2004
41 Perera 2018
42 Raj 2018
43 Perera 2018
44 Pasqual 2018
45 Shinoda 2000, 7