Colombo, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict

Did the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) hand over the North to LTTE?

To one Mr. N. Ethirveerasingam, on a comment he made on an article I wrote (The Commissioner of Elections: A close friend’s critique) and appeared in Groundviews, I responded: “Quite recently I read a paper at an international conference held in Colombo which I wish to summarize having read your comment to understand the political hypocrisy in the south. Hope Groundviews will agree to publish it.” This article is the fulfilling of my promise to him.

Since 2002, during the run up to any poll- i.e. Presidential, Parliamentary, Provincial or Local Authority – a criticism against the Peace Process of the United National Front (UNF) Government had been that a specified area in the north had been “handed over on a platter to the Tigers”. The intention here is not to discuss this complaint but to convey the reality.

It is somewhat difficult because of LTTE behavior during the peace process, proved by the violation statistics provided by the Monitors, which become a substantial missile thrown in the face whenever discussing this subject.  When other facts such as previous political commitments, continuity of a process, improvements to earlier peacemaking tools and the integrated nature of peacemaking by the UNF are overlooked, it is no wonder to observe difficulties arising.

Article 1 of the CFA dealing with security was the most criticized by anti-UNF / anti-CFA opinion makers. The criticism was on the handing over of a specified area to the LTTE.  The critics included President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Peoples Alliance (PA) Ministers, Opposition political groups like the JVP and JHU, many journalists, editors and commentators

I opine that these critics did not know the true status or deliberately hid it from the public. Most likely it was the latter. It motivated whipping ethnic chauvinism and emotions during elections where the majority could be stirred to gain politically. To prove that ‘separation of forces’ was  the adoption of the provisions espoused by President Kumaratunga by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COH) signed between her and Velupillai Prabhakaran in 1995[1], a comparison is made in Table 1.

Table 1-Comparison between CFA and the COH regarding Separation of Forces

CFA between UNF and LTTE 2002 COH between PA and LTTE- 1995
1.2 Total cessation of all military actions. No direct firing of weapons, armed raids, ambushes, assassinations, abductions, destruction of civilian or military property, sabotage, suicide missions, and activities of deep penetration units (DPUs). 1. There shall be no offensive operations by either party during this period and offensive operations will be considered a violation of the agreement.

4. Acts such as sabotage, bomb explosions, abductions, assassinations, intimidation directed at any political group, party or individual will amount to offensive operation.

1.3.Sri Lankan armed forces shall continue to perform legitimate task of safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka without engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE. 3. The Navy and Air Force will continue to perform legitimate task of safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from external aggression, without in anyway engaging in offensive operations against LTTE or causing any obstructions to legitimate and bona fide fishing in specified areas.
1.4. Where Forward Defense Localities (FDLs) have been established the Sri Lanka armed forces and LTTE fighting formations shall hold ground with a minimum separation of 600 meters with the right of movement within 100 meters keeping an absolute minimum distance of 400 meters between them. Where existing positions are less than 400 meters no such right of movement will apply and the maximum distance will be maintained between the Parties. 2. The Parties will keep a minimum of 600 meters between them with the right of movement within 100 meters from their bunker lines keeping a minimum distance of 400 meters between them.
1.6 In areas where FDLs have not been clearly established the status quo as regards the areas controlled by GOSL and the LTTE respectively on December 24th 2001 shall continue to apply. Sub Article 1.9 is applied in addition. 2. The Security Forces and LTTE will maintain their present positions, on the ground.
1.7 The Parties shall not move munitions, explosives or military equipment into the areas controlled by the other Party. In the COH no provision was made on this action. Administratively such movement was permitted as seen from communications between he parties.

Table 1 amply proves that the COH was the forerunner to the CFA and the CFA has improved on COH contents.

Another criticism is that there was no Cabinet or parliamentary approval for the CFA. It is true. Similarly, this complaint could be made against President Kumaratunga and her government too, for not obtaining such approvals- i.e. from the Parliament. If there had been Cabinet approval granted, on the above comparison it will be unethical, unreasonable and illogical for Ministers in her Cabinet or the political organization to which they belong to be later critical of handing over of specified areas to Tigers, which had been their prior doing.

Of course, what President Kumaratunga had done is to use Executive Presidency powers of declaration of war and peace under Article 33 (e) of the Constitution. This power and authority was not in the UNF or its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. However, with the cohabitation problems the PA and UNF had after 2002, if this was discussed in the Cabinet it would not have seen the light of day because President Kumaratunga would have devastated the peace process for which the UNF had received a mandate at the Parliamentary Elections in December 2001.

The COH was a definitely a much weaker agreement than the CFA. As a comparison to prove the worth of the CFA over the COH the following are listed.

  • The ‘offences’ have been enlarged in the CFA (e.g. inclusion of suicide missions). These were adhered to by LTTE throughout the UNF government’s term. Additionally, the limitation made on direction of offences too has been enlarged from political groups/ individuals to military and civilians.
  • The compromise for “No suicide missions” by LTTE was “No DPU operation” by GOSL, which both Parties adhered religiously. The southern CFA critics prayed for was for no suicide missions from the LTTE, but free engagement of DPUs by the GOSL in LTTE dominated areas. During conflict this was a reasonable expectation but is it so during a peacemaking exercise, though it was and is proved a very effective, efficient and cost beneficial military tool that brought mortal fear to the LTTE?
  • Performing the task of safeguarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty was incorporated in the CFA, though it was only against “foreign aggression” in the COH, making the latter redundant, because the threat was from a domestic terrorist organization, i.e. the LTTE and not from external aggressions.
  • In the COH this performance was permitted only to the Navy and Air Force and not for the Army. In fact, there is evidence in literature to prove that President Kumaratunga gave in more than the UNF regime,[2] probably due to this weakness in the COH.
  • The alleged “sell out” of the North and East orchestrated by critics was based on Sub Article 1.4 and 1.6 of the CFA. It is clear that Article 2 of the COH is the same and hence if there was a sell out it had been committed earlier by the critics. The morality of questioning such sell out by the CFA is hence questionable.
  • There was a weak construction in the CFA (Sub Article 1.3) which read as “without engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE”. But, in action there were no constraints on engagements, as could be seen from several attacks on Sea Tigers destroying LTTE vessels and killing cadres [3] or the shooting of cadres at Kanjirankudah who invaded the Special Task Forces Camp

Irrespective of this true status the UNF was mercilessly criticized and is being bashed even now.[4]

Even in COH implementation there had been more bending backward by the Kumaratunga administration than the UNF. This could be proved by the way Kumaratunga administration agreed that the LTTE cadres could enter the government dominated areas in the East –armed and unchecked- while considering removal of check points.[5] In comparison the CFA had provision to check the unarmed LTTE cadres coming across in civilian clothing after prior intimation to the military and military managing security road blocks.


In the UNF peacemaking exercise tentative separation of forces could be justified on the following grounds:

  • The UNF approach was a continuation of the PA approach and hence the political fallout was minimal.
  • The need to identify areas under domination of each party could be achieved by “freezing boundaries.”
  • To implement Sub Article 1.9 stipulating that parties should “initially stay in the area under their respective control” could be achieved by separation of forces.
  • It was advisable to keep armed persons who had fought for decades separated until they matured to understand each other better and build relationships.
  • To implement Sub Article 1.13 permitting movement of persons, goods etc there was a need to supervise, which was possible only through check points at the boundary.
  • Sub Article 1.7 (i.e. non-transfer of arms ammunition etc) on land could be supervised if there was boundary management. At sea or in air this provision was not available.
  • For normalization exercises there was a need to maintain security. The boundaries of areas as on December 24th 2001 were not co-terminus with district boundaries and hence agreement on the boundaries was important for normalization.
  • Encroachments in areas that were dominated by the parties were not possible only if the boundaries were established. Free movement would have motivated easy encroachments thus creating problems.
  • Since there were paramilitary cadres who did not honestly oblige the CFA by handing over of arms and ammunition in their possession there was a need to supervise their movements as Sub Articles 1.11 – 1.13 provided for movement of unarmed LTTE cadres in GOSL dominated areas.
  • For SLMM to decide on reported events the need to identify areas under domination of both parties was essential and this could be achieved by freezing boundaries.

On the basis of the above facts and comparisons it is obvious that “handing over of a specified area to Tigers” is not the real truth, because if it was so the critics had done it in a worse manner in 1995. This does not prevent any one being critical of operationalizing the CFA, but denies any right for the politicians to be hypocritical as it happens now. Of course, the JVP or JHU criticizing, though incorrect, could be excused on the grounds of overt or covert non-partisanship to such previous arrangements. Concurrently, in many other peace processes, such temporary stand off situations have been arranged, even by  withdrawing certain security force units (e.g. Ireland, Aceh) and this temporary stand off should be looked at in that broader sense of peacemaking.

[1] Anton Balasingham: Politics of Duplicity: pp.64-66; Anton Balasingham: War and Peace: pp. 254-256; Presidential Secretariat Press Statement dated January 9, 1995.

[2] Anton Balasingham: War and Peace: p. 269

[3] John Gooneratne in Negotiating Peace with the Tigers” (p. 13) explains that “.Mr. Balasingham had informed Mr. Solheim that the LTTE “…were prepared to give an undertaking to the Norwegians that they would not be bringing arms by sea….they have no objection to GOSL making a statement that it would take action to prevent such activities.” The Government issued a “Statement of Intent” (February 2002), which incorporated this freedom for the Army, Navy and Air Force to intercept any transfer of arms in to Sri Lanka. Perhaps, why the LTTE never questioned the inappropriateness of attacks at sea on the ground of Article 1.3 “concession” would have been due to the revelation made by John Gooneratne.

[4] Asian Tribune (July 19th 2007) reporting on the speech made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa who said that there was no country other than Sri Lanka , where the criminal act of conceding a legal area of control to terrorists has been implemented through an agreement. This was repeatedly stated by him and his ministers at all political meetings in every election and will also do so in the future.

[5] Austin Fernando: My Belly is White: Page 305

Update – 31 March 2010: The author responds to the key points in the comments following the publication of this article here.

  • Jit

    Mr. Austin Fernando rather blandly tries to hide the truth by comparing the CFA to an agreement signed by President Kumaratunga that to all intents and purposes remained as a proposal.

    Permit me to refresh Mr. Fernando’s mind on the provisions “that a specified area in the north had been handed over to the Tigers on a platter.”

    Firstly, it was the ‘balance of power’ where the status quo as at the date of signing the agreement was to be maintained by both parties. While there were clear boundaries in most areas of the north, the separation of forces was not at all clearly marked in the east. This was what prompted the drafters of the CFA to state that the SLMM would assist in demarcating the boundaries in the east. In fact, it was one of their tasks although it was not completed even at the time the CFA was abrogated.

    It was the first head of the SLMM, the late Trond Furuhovde who rather delicately stated in an interview that the balance of power must be maintained.

    Secondly, the CFA while giving the LTTE the provision of entering government controlled areas on a staggered basis for political work, denied a similar benefit to government forces thus placing them at a disadvantage. Later events proved how well the LTTE took advantage of this situation.

    Thirdly, the CFA had a provision whereby the government was required to disarm so-called para-military forces notwithstanding the fact that civilians were armed for their own safety. Again the LTTE exploited this situation and killed large numbers after they were disarmed.

    It may also be mentioned that by giving various facilities such as equipment to set up a radio station, the then government sought to strengthen the hand of a terror group thereby denying the population of the north and the east the opportunity for democracy and dissent.

    Perhaps Mr. Fernando would also recall the SOMA agreement which formed the basis for the operations of the SLMM. According to SOMA the SLMM had the provision to import the most sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment which in the hands of the LTTE would have been devastating for the security forces. At least on one occasion it was believed that the SLMM had tipped off the LTTE when the Navy had detected a ship bringing in arms.

    It is rather strange that a senior bureaucrat of Mr. Fernando’s calibre needs to be reminded regarding the adverse effects of the ceasefire agreement.

  • wijayapala

    To add to Jit’s statements, the LTTE’s control over the North through the CFA was amply demonstrated in the 2004 elections rigged by the LTTE with impunity, and the 2005 presidential elections where the LTTE successfully disenfranchised the people of Jaffna and Mannar with hardly a peep from him or his NGO buddies.

    I was in Jaffna when SSP Charlie Wijewardena was murdered. I can assure Mr. Fernando that despite the tens of thousands of soldiers and police in Jaffna, the LTTE was in control, under his watch as Defence Secretary.

    I am eagerly awaiting Austin Fernando’s next article entitled “Why I Could Never Win the War That Gotabhaya Could.”

  • Somachandra Mutukuda

    It is confusing. Anybody who organize this literature is foolish. This is the election time and trying to sabotage somebody’s credential. Is this journalism?
    I am sorry for the initiator and publisher too.

  • Sinhala_Voice

    Mr. Austin Fernando,

    LTTE was an armed separatists group dedicated to the cause of separatism based on violence. It had usurped the power of the state to carry arms.

    So UNF had no right to enter into negotiations without UNILATERAL ceasefire and handing over of arms. This is true today and will be true tomorrow.

    Therein lies the problem of CFA. It was self defeating suicidal agreement from the state of Sri Lanka led by the GoSL of UNF party.

  • Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

    Dear Austin,

    The 1995 agreement was an attempt, albeit naive, to prevent an outbreak of war. The balance of forces was very different in 2002. The Sri Lankan state had re-taken Jaffna and Prabhakaran had failed to take it back. While the LTTE had successfully attacked Katunayake, the Sri lankan armed forces had recovered sufficiently to launch deep penetration raids which had taken out six important members of the Tiger command structure and as DBS Jeyaraj wrote at the time, ‘ even Prabhakaran was not safe’.

    The CFA was lopsided. It didn’t not reflect the prevailing advantage we had on the ground. Nor did it reflect the advantage we had internationally after the war on terror declared post 9/11. It decommissioned the Tamil allies of the state while not seeking the decommissioning of even a single bullet of the LTTE. It permitted LTTE ‘ political activity’ in liberated areas while knowing that the Tigers were an army, which had disolved its own political wing. Meanwhile neither the state nor the anti-Tiger parties were permitted to engage in political work in Tiger held areas.

    The CFA was signed without the concurrence of the Execeutive , which also held the portfolio of Defence. It was hastily signed to meet a deadline set by Prabhakaran or in accordance with a fait accompli presented by him.

    Prime Minister Wickremesinghe followed this up with speeches in Washington and New York in which he said that the Tigers were not an ‘international terrorist ‘ organisation and therefore should be negotiated with , while Al Qaeda was an ‘ international terrorist’ organisation which should be combatted.

    When the Sri Lankan navy sank LTTE weapons ships, which was permitted under the CFA, the PM and the state media including the ITN took the other side and spoke of conspiracies within the armed forces! on one occasion, a top UNP Government official interceded and prevented the sinking of an arms carrying ship which then escaped.

    The transfer of electronic communication and broadcasting equipment to the Tigers during the CFA was an unprecedented act.

    I’m sorry, but your own sincerity and integrity as a public servant notwithstanding, the CFA must be recognised for what it is: our Munich, or rather the UNP’s Munich, for which the UNP will continue to pay at elections so long as it remains led by those identified with that disgraceful period.

  • longus

    It’s hilarious to gauge the pros and cons of the CFA now,as the CFA along with the entity it tried to deal with has long become a feed for the marine life off the North-Eastern coast of Sri Lanka!The perpatrators of the CFA are still facing the consequencies of their falasy at the hands of the people-stand by for another dose!

  • The sovereignty of Tamil Eelam(TE) did not begin with the CFA signed by the GOSL and LTTE It started when Bandaranayake-Chelvanayakam pact was signed.

    The status of two nations or two countries within the island of dominion of Ceylon was then confirmed and engraved.

    Vaddukoddai resolution of 1976, the democratic mandate by the people of TE in 1977, the deafcto state for moree than 20 years till 2009, confirmed the existence of such sovereignty.

    Sovereignty arises from the people. Rightly the sovereignty of TE rose from its inhabitants and has an undeniable and firm history.

  • Sinhala_Voice

    To Sam Thambipillai,

    Why is there a High Concentration of Tamil Ethnicity is Tamil Nadu Sate, India ?

    Isn’t it most likely that the Tamils in Sri Lanka came from India ?

    In that case SHOULDN’T IT BE THE CASE THAT Tamil Ethnic Sovereignity be established in and at the SOURCE of Tamilness and home of Tamil culture, Tamil Ethnicity in Tamil Nadu, India (Tamil COuntry)…

    Even if the North and the East is given as a Tamil State recognising Tamil Sovereignity it will eventually has to be ANNEXED to Tamil Nadu state , India.

    Why ??? Because the rights of Tamils in if formed Tamil Eelam will not be able to greater than the rights of Tamils in Tamil Nadu state. This will cause Tamil Nadu to agitate for separation from the Indian Union.

    The Tamils in Tamil Nadu will therefore end up in the Indian Union.

    So if you want to be Indian then go ahead and agitate for separation from Sri Lanka and the Sinhala people.

  • Sinsin

    I think Mr DJ overlooks the most significant impact of the CFA – that it allowed the monolithic mindset of the LTTE to disintegrate.

    The Tamils were a house divided, but the LTTE had succeeded in portraying the State as a common enemy. Once the enemy disappeared, the cracks started to appear, the breakaway of Karuna being the most significant. Had the CFA been in place for longer, I believe further splits would have developed. Prabakaran would have had weapons (and money), but he would have had very few fighters left.

    This is why he wanted a very quick settlement, which RW did not give and which is why he wanted to get out of it. Anton Balasingham and Prabakaran’s own heroes day speeches where they condemn RW as duplicitous bear testimony to this as do Prabakaran’s actions in ensuring that Mahinda was elected.

    All this is now past and we can wait for history to judge Mahinda’s own peace. Ones hopes it will not echo Tacitus: solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

  • Fran DS

    I think Sinsin has a point.

    I’m quite certain that the merciless critics of the CFA have never even read it. Out of the current critics of this article may be only Mr.Dayan Jayathilleke would have read the CFA.

    Regardless of our political beliefs we must not deviate from analytical thinking. We must atleast read the alleged article before making personal attacks and biased views.

    According to documented evidence , the Bandaranaike agreement with the LTTE was very similar to that with RW govt. I do not hear anyone caling her trecherous. This is because she is no longer relevant in the current political fabric. Politicians continue to villify RW not based on pure facts ,but because he is still relevant and remains a very real threat to the goverment as the leader of the largest political party in the country. I’m not a blind fan of RW. But lets not be hypocritical and not give him his due. his thinking DID divide the LTTE. He did contribute significantly to the downfall of Prabhakaran.

    And please spare the dramatics. Should we really compare Austin Fernando with Gotabhaya Rajapakse? Fernando was a civil servant who was selected to discharge the duties of a peace process. That was his job. Peace was his job. He did it. Chandrika Bandaranaike dissolved the govt, robbed the people of the mandate they gave to Ranil and didnt give the peace process a chance.

    Gotabhaya Rajapakse was put there for war. War was his job. He was given maximum support by the president who is his brother and the government. The executive and the parliamentary power was held by one party. However, Gotabhaya should be given the full credit for managing the war successfully.
    But we all know what has followed.
    How democracy is raped in our country by one family and their stooges.
    Let me tell you the difference between Austin and Gotabhaya.
    The day his brother is no longer the president, Gotabhaya cannot walk on the road. People out to get him will not be the remanat LTTErs. They will be the sinhalese that he has oppressed, maimed, and the disturbed souls of those journalists and others whom he made to disappear.

    I dont think Fernando has probelm sleeping at night.

    Thats the difference between peace and war.

    For the sake of our children, lets not confuse the difference between the two concepts.

  • Austin Fernando

    Editor Ground Views
    Dear Sir,
    I shall appreciate if the following clarifications are published. Apologies for the length of the comment.
    Thank you.
    Austin Fernando
    First, may I mention (as stated in the article) that I wrote this article to explain ‘political hypocrisy’, but took the example of the CFA, as it was convenient to me due to ease to quote from a paper written recently. It was never intended to sabotage anybody’s credentials during the run up to elections.

    I thank all commentators, even the emotionally charged.

    I may respond to Jit first.
    1. President Kumaratunga’s agreement with Prabhakaran once signed was no more a proposal, but an agreement to cease hostilities.
    2. Why the status quo had to be maintained was explained in my article. One may ask why a peace process should have all those follow up. If it is so argued one has to give up peacemaking because it is an integrated challenge.Jit must look at Aceh or Philippenes Peace Accords to learn this.
    3. It is incorrect to say that there were clear boundaries even in the North. I quote the example of Weli Oya to negate it. The areas under Government and LTTE domination were not co-terminus with the District or Divisional Secretariat or Local Authority boundaries and hence there could have been difficulties if there was no freezing of boundaries.
    3. However, due to demographic complexities freezing of boundaries was impossible in the East.
    4, There was no prohibition for government forces to go through LTTE dominated areas (Article 1.10) but the military did not accept such given opportunity for correct reasons.
    5. It is true that the UNF failed to disarm the paramilitary cadres and the LTTE. However, the number of EPDP cadres killed from 23rd February 2002 to 20th April 2007 was 64 and from this number 21% were during the ceasefire period under the UNF government and the balance was either before the CFA or when the CFA was limited to paper. Was not this reduction better than thousands were being killed?
    6. The comment on LTTE importing equipment for Voice of Tigers has nothing to do with the separation of forces and I may request Jit to read Chapter 19 of My Belly is White to understand the role played by the Ministry of Defense. (This is no way to market my book, please!)
    7. To Jit I must say that the SLMM Chief has erred in the quoted instance and I too have written my portion in My Belly is White pages 611-618. During war and peace both mistakes occur and that does not justify giving up war or peace as required. The current criticisms on incidents purported to have happened or happened during “Eelam IV War” cannot reject the justification for war action by the incumbent government. The current criticisms on incidents purported to have happened or happened during the “Peace Process” cannot reject the justification for peace action by the then government.

    To respond to Mr. Wijayapala’s comments:
    1. What is the relevance of election rigging and disenfranchising by LTTE in the north and the CFA? The uncontrolled behavior of the LTTE in 2004 and 2005 as quoted proved the inefficiency of law enforcing authorities of the successor Kumaratunga government, irrespective of the dormant CFA, and not of the UNF.Please do not forget that law and order as well defense were in the hands of President Kumaratunga since November 2003 and not mine to be blamed for inaction.
    2. As personal explanation on Mr. Wijayapala’s comment “hardly a peep from him or his NGO buddies,” I must say that I had no way of ‘peeping’ during such episodes as I was only a civilian retired public servant. Peeping by NGO buddies has to be dealt with them by Mr. Wijayapala, if he knows any.
    3. Mr. Wijayapala seems to be forgetful of facts when he says that Charles Wijewardena was killed when I was Secretary Defense and tens of thousands of soldiers and police in Jaffna were killed under my watch as Defense Secretary. Please check the date of Charles Wijewardena’s killing and be sorrowed that it happened during Kumaratunga administration. Please tell me a single name of a soldier excepting one who was shot by the LTTE when CFA provisions were violated by him during the two years I was in chrge of defense. Please tell me a single name of a policeman who was killed by the LTTE during my tenure other than six intelligence cadres and 18 civilian intelligence informants who operated in LTTE dominated areas.
    4. For clarification purposes may I tell Mr. Wijayapala that I was personally involved in safeguarding Minister Kadirgamar’s life, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was Leader of the Opposition and Minister Douglas Devananda. During my tenure nothing untoward happened to any one of them. Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was killed during President Kumaratunga’s tenure and Minister Devananda was attacked similarly. Please read my book pages 140-142 for details, if interested. As it is I am sure Mr. Wijayapala might say the LTTE attacks on Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander Sarath Fonseka too were during my tenure! He might say that the CFA was responsible for those attacks in Colombo too! Short unjust memories!
    5. About the indirect invitation he makes to me to write another article titled “Why I Could Never Win the War That Gotabhaya Could,” I must say that while congratulating the President , Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the Forces, Police etc for winning the war, I say that I do not need to write an article. If written this article will have only one sentence: “I could not win a war because I did not engage in war!”
    Sinhala Voice’s comment that LTTE was an armed separatists group dedicated to the cause of separatism based on violence is accepted, but it does not mean that there cannot be a negotiated solution with such organization.
    Usurption of power to carry arms was done during Kumaratunga regime by arrangement after the COH and not during the UNF term, as I have stated in my article. If the Sinhala Voice wishes to get the details he may read My Belly is White pages 304-306 for proof.

    To Dayan I must say as usual you have been forthright and sincere without any strings. I too agree the CFA was hurriedly prepared. This has been also the considered view of Bernard Gunatilleke who was the SCOPP /DG. I agree with you that there were weaknesses in the CFA.
    I have also said that the constitutional requirement of presidential concurrence had not been fulfilled. In the same breath if it was tried then Ranil Wickremesinghe would not have been able to move a decimal on the mandate he received from the electorate to move on a political solution.
    I personally appreciate your sentiments on my sincerity and integrity. Thank you.

    To longus I must reiterate that my intention was to show the political hypocrisy in dealing with the conflict. It must be stated that it has a history of its own. When SWRD Bandaranaike tried the UNP showed its hypocrisy. When Dudley Senanayake tried SLFP showed its hypocrisy. When JR Jayewardene tried in 1987 the SLFP and allies showed their hypocrisy. When Chandrika Kumaratunga tried in 2000 the UNP showed its hypocrisy. When Ranil Wickremesinghe tried in 2002 Chandrika Kumaratunga and allies showed their hypocrisy. When Mahinda Rajapaksa tried it in 2006 Ranil Wickremesinghe and allies showed their hypocrisy. It is also true that always the doer was hypocritical not to share the burden with others, but opted to enjoy the kudos all alone! If we can get away from hypocrisy won’t it benefit our motherland?

  • wijayapala

    Dear Austin Fernando

    Thank you for your response. You corrected my errors about what took place when Chandrika resumed power- I had mistakenly thought that you had remained as Defense Secretary until Nov 05.

    But it is still clear to me that what had happened was the result of the poorly-constructed CFA that your Prime Minister had designed and that you upheld as his Defense Secretary. You simply were not in power long enough to reap what you had sowed.

    If the LTTE did not kill anyone important (except for the intelligence operatives and the Tamil informants, who apparently were not important in your view) during your time, I think it was probably because at that time Prabakaran felt that he had a good thing going- why botch a CFA that is in one’s favor?

    How do you feel about the murder of T. Subathiran “Robert” in 2003? Do you know who he was?

    In your video interview with Sanjana, he charitably described you as “disarmingly humble” (which makes me feel somewhat guilty for my previous harsh words to you) although at the end of the interview he felt compelled to state that you raise more questions than you answer. That was not a compliment in my view.

    At the risk of sounding churlish, I am not sure how many people are willing to shell out Rs. 2000 for a book on a period that most people would rather forget. Dayan compared the CFA to Munich and I see that you did not challenge that point. And unfortunately as Sanjana pointed out, your book doesn’t answer a lot of questions.

    (on the topic of Dayan, I noted that he wrote the longest message to you, but your reply to him was the shortest! Should we take your silence as concurrence?)

    I must say that while congratulating the President , Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the Forces, Police etc for winning the war…

    You are being contradictory here. If you really believe that a negotiated solution with the LTTE was possible (despite all evidence overwhelmingly to the contrary), then Mahinda, Gotabhaya et al were not only misguided but they contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and Tigers needlessly. If on the other hand the Rajapaksas were correct to prosecute the war to its bitter end, we must conclude that they did so because it was Ranil and yourself who were misguided to seek appeasement with the LTTE.

  • Vichara

    The title of Austin Fernado’s article is “Did the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) hand over the North to LTTE?” However the presentation is focused on a “Comparison between CFA and the COH regarding Separation of Forces”. Taken in totality of the objectives and their scope the two agreements cannot be compared.

    The objective of the COH was ‘the cessation of hostilities for a specified period’. Whereas in the CFA the overall objective was much wider and was defined as ‘to find a negotiated solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

    COH was an Agreement purely between two domestic parties i.e. the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The CFA on the other hand involved a third party the Norwegian Government. According to Article 4.2 even the date of entering into force of the joint agreement was to be notified by the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the notice of termination had to be given by either party to the Norwegian Government. Such notice shall be given 14 days in advance of the effective date of termination. In the COH the notice to be given was only 72 hours.

    Norway acted as the facilitator (dictator) of the implementation of the CFA, but they also played an anomalous dual role in heading the Monitoring Unit (SLMM.) The Norwegian Head was the final authority regarding interpretation of this agreement. (Article 3.2). All Sri Lankans are aware of their biases. Austin Fernando’s book titled “My Belly is White” gives many an example of the games that they played. In the COH the monitoring committees were to consist of both locals and foreigners. These committees had not power to interpret the Agreement as vested in the Head of the SLMM. Their job was to monitor the implementation of COH and settle disputes.

    One other trap in the CFA was the requirement that parties should implement confidence measures. There was no such requirement in the COH. Although the Government went all out to win the confidence of the LTTE, there was no reciprocal attempt by the LTTE. They used the concession in Article 1.13 for free movement in the North and the East for unarmed LTTE cadres as of D-day + 90 for mass infiltration of the Government held areas, carry out recruitments and rally the civilian population against the government. Under the guise of ‘Pongu Thamil’ they mobilized even the school children against the government. It was an undiluted campaign of hate against the government and the majority community.

    Another give away was the agreement to disarm the Tamil paramilitary groups (article 1.8). Such an action was not even contemplated in the COH.

    The application of the provisions of the COH was strictly confined to the areas under conflict. But through article 2.5 of the CFA, the LTTE was able to dictate even for a review of security measures and the set-up of checkpoints, particularly in densely populated cities and towns, on the argument of preventing harassment of the civilian population.
    It was through this loophole that the LTTE was able to penetrate on a massive scale Colombo and suburbs with their intelligence and suicide cadres.
    As an accompaniment under article 1.12 there was also the agreement that search operations and arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act shall not take place. The wording this and many other articles i.e. ‘parties agree’ is laughable. It was only the Government that was making concessions for the benefit of the LTTE.

    Another favor conceded in the CFA and not in the COH was the easing of the fishing restrictions under article 2.11. This allowed the LTTE to camouflage their operations of bringing in massive quantities of arms by sea and also harass the Sri Lanka Navy.

    It is unfortunate that the major and far reaching difference between the CFA and the COH, which has had a horrible and long lasting impact on the security and the sovereignty of the country and the lives of its people has been ignored. It is the internationalization of purely a domestic issue. The grave danger of this serious situation was clearly understood and strongly resisted by the late Lakshman Kadirgamar. It was this mistake which brought in its wake unproductive and abortive peace talks in foreign locations giving the opportunity to the LTTE to strengthen their international contacts. Some claim that the international exposure was the reason for the defection of Karuna Amman. This claim has been ridiculed by Austin Fernando, in his book My Belly Is White, where he explains that it was due to ideological differences and particularly the boorish attitude of Tamilselvam towards Karuna.

    The other damaging outcome of the CFA was the advent of the Co- Chairs and thereafter the Milibands and other bands of international players who continue to interfere in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka. The CFA opened the flood gates for foreign intervention.

    These comments are not a reflection on Austin Fernando who carried out his duties under trying conditions as a loyal public servant the details of which are explained graphically in his book.

  • Austin Fernando

    Responding Mr. Wijayapala.
    I do not wish to respond to his subsidiary comments on my book, its price, Sanjana’s comments on me, why I did not respond to Dayan’s long comment in equal length etc. But though indirectly relevant to my article, I may respond to two issues.. My non response to some points he has raised is no guarantee that I concur with his comments.
    One is on “UNP’s Munich” quoted from Dayan. Being personal friends we enjoy such references. But since Mr. Wijayapala seeks clarification I may say that Dayan’s comparison i.e. “UNP’s Munich.” has salient truth in it. As I interpret, it is because CFA has become the “eternal beggar’s wound in anti-UNF politics”. All ills of the government are camouflaged by the “CFA wound” and eternally cause UNP to pay the “Munich consequences”!

    Second is his query on my awareness of an incident and a person, i.e. T. Subathiran’s. Yes, I knew of him. He was Thambirajah Subathiran, the leader of the EPRLF who was killed by a sniper attack when he was exercising on his roof top on Saturday the 14th June 2003 morning. I was saddened because he was to my knowledge a person who believed in changing the terror politics in Vanni.

    To Fran DS:

    Thank you very much for understanding the tough ride we had.

    To Vichara:

    I agree with some of your comments made. There are some comments that need greater discussion.

    My article was to show political hypocrisy from the southern political establishment as I have stated in the last paragraph of my responses to the earlier comments. The LTTE and Tamil political hypocrisy should be written by a political commentator who is accustomed to their actions and inactions. I have tried to state some of them which you seem to have observed in my book.

    An extensive dialogue on peace making is a lost cause in Sri Lanka which has got tainted with politics, Sinhala and Tamil chauvinism, which is a sad situation. This is observed by some comments we have seen too.

    I must say I appreciated the understanding you had on the subject though I had disagreements on several interpretations.

  • Vichara

    Dear Mr. Fernando,
    You have said that “There are some comments that need greater discussion.”
    It is with civilized discussion that we can get a better understanding of complex situations. I will be happy for your comments on the areas which need greater discussions.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Sinsin,

    Anton Balasingham and Prabakaran’s own heroes day speeches where they condemn RW as duplicitous bear testimony to this as do Prabakaran’s actions in ensuring that Mahinda was elected.

    It was not Ranil’s cleverness that explains this, but rather Prabakaran’s and Balasingham’s utter miscalculation and sheer stupidity and bigotry that pushed them to choose Mahinda over Ranil. They held the Tamil nationalist truism that the Sinhalese were not the equal of the Tamils, particularly on the battlefield, and as a result Prabakaran and the rest of the high command are no longer among the living.

  • wijayapala

    Fran DS, you’re letting your political beliefs interfere with objective analysis.

    Chandrika Bandaranaike dissolved the govt, robbed the people of the mandate they gave to Ranil and didnt give the peace process a chance.

    Actually she held another election after dissolving Ranil’s govt, where the people voted for a new mandate of flushing the UNF down the toilet. To say that she “robbed the people of the mandate they gave to Ranil” is pure UNP partisanship.

    According to documented evidence , the Bandaranaike agreement with the LTTE was very similar to that with RW govt.

    Read Dayan’s response above- the context was far different.

    The day his brother is no longer the president, Gotabhaya cannot walk on the road. People out to get him will not be the remanat LTTErs. They will be the sinhalese that he has oppressed, maimed, and the disturbed souls of those journalists and others whom he made to disappear.

    Who exactly are the Sinhalese that Gotabhaya oppressed who are itching to come after him? If there are so many of them, why do the Rajapakses win elections?

  • wijayapala

    But since Mr. Wijayapala seeks clarification I may say that Dayan’s comparison i.e. “UNP’s Munich.” has salient truth in it. As I interpret, it is because CFA has become the “eternal beggar’s wound in anti-UNF politics”.

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding Mr. Fernando. In the first sentence he agrees with the characterization of the CFA as Sri Lanka’s Munich, which would be a rather profound historical admission and indictment of the UNF. I would be silenced.

    However, the gravity of this admission appears to be blunted in the second sentence, where Mr. Fernando implies that the UNF is being judged unfairly by the electorate due to the CFA (and here is where I may have misread Mr. Fernando). Wouldn’t that be similar to arguing that the American electorate unfairly judged the Republican Party because of the Iraq war and the ruined economy?

    I was saddened because he was to my knowledge a person who believed in changing the terror politics in Vanni.

    It is more saddening to note that Subathiran probably would be alive today had the CFA not been signed. The LTTE’s “political workers” would not have infiltrated Jaffna, and Subathiran would have been able to protect himself. If Mr. Fernando has a conscience, I wonder how this reality is affecting it.

    Ironic that Mr. Fernando mourns the death of someone who opposed terror politics, while the CFA had legitimized the very same terror politics and the LTTE’s control.

  • Sinsin

    Dear Wijeyapala

    “It was not Ranil’s cleverness that explains this, but rather Prabakaran’s and Balasingham’s utter miscalculation and sheer stupidity and bigotry that pushed them to choose Mahinda over Ranil. They held the Tamil nationalist truism that the Sinhalese were not the equal of the Tamils, particularly on the battlefield, and as a result Prabakaran and the rest of the high command are no longer among the living.”

    Are you saying is that they could not achieve what they wanted through the CFA, therefore they hoped to get it through war?

  • chinthana

    Dear Mr Fernando
    My father was a civil servant, in every sense of the word. You are an insult to those good men, who always looked after the interests of the country, before anything else. However, you may try to whitewash the CFA, it is a traitorous agreement, and very nearly was the end of our country.

  • wijayapala


    Are you saying is that they could not achieve what they wanted through the CFA, therefore they hoped to get it through war?

    Correction: They (meaning Prabakaran; I think Balasingham personally supported the CFA but in the end was nothing but Thalaivar’s footstool like all self-designated “powers behind the throne”) thought that they could not achieve what they wanted through the CFA.

    If Ranil really engineered Karuna’s defection, one would have imagined that he would have subsequently exploited it. Instead Ranil did everything he could to distance himself from Karuna, even firing the Muslim UNP parliamentarian who supposedly helped Karuna escape. (in all fairness, Chandrika too followed Ranil’s lead. It fell onto Mahinda to take advantage of this)

    Divide and rule was never Ranil’s strategy. His strategy was rather “do everything the West says and they will take care of everything.” The official term for this strategy was “international safety net.” Balasingham in London later ridiculed this strategy by arguing that instead of snaring the Tiger, Ranil had tangled himself up in this net.

    (If I am mistaken in anything above, I invite Mr. Fernando to correct me, as he was much closer to Ranil than I was)

    Mahinda’s strategy was the direct opposite of Ranil’s. Not only did he not please the West but he downright antagonized it. To my knowledge, no post-independence leader of Sri Lanka (including even Mrs. B) had ever embarked on such a radical course; Mahinda broke the “golden rule” of Sri Lankan foreign policy. It was a tremendous gamble, and if things were otherwise we would be sitting here scratching our heads how he could have brought utter ruin to the island.

    Things however were not otherwise. Mahinda for better or for worse was correct, and as a result he is now “king” of Sri Lanka. The opposition has no future until Mahinda’s time passes.

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    Mr. Austin Fernando,
    Thank you for the long response to a point I raised. I have the greatest respect for you as I do for Bradman Weerakoon. You both remind me of Sam Wijesinha whom I had the pleasure of meeting and receiving his autographed book, “All Experience – Essays and Reflections.” A book that all interested in peace among our communities should read. If only you three can head a peace negotiation team, all our communities will have peace soon.

  • Austin Fernando

    To Vichara
    Dear Vichara,
    Thank you for the comment.
    When I said one needs “greater discussion” it meant discussions with other evidence produced at such discussion, which cannot be done easily in writing like in comments made in GV. It may lead to hair splitting than finding the truth. I shall try to make some arrangements for such with you and hope GV would facilitate.
    Austin Fernando
    To Chintana
    Dear Mr. Chintana
    Thank you very much for the short comment.
    In a book I wrote (My Belly is White), in the Preface I said:
    I quote
    “To all my critics I say what the French philosopher Henri Voltaire said, “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” You have the right of disagreeing and criticizing. Please bear in mind, I have my right in saying. Let us respect each other’s right mutually.”
    End quote.
    To your comment I have only to say I respect your right of criticism. While you felt I was an insult to greats like your father some others felt otherwise, as you would see from the comments made by them. Still I respect all criticisms because the critics have exercised their right, as Voltaire said in the past.

    May peace be with you and your father.
    Austin Fernando
    To Mr. Ethirveerasingam
    Dear Mr. Ethirveerasingam
    Thank you for the kind words. Let us pray for permanent peace that satisfies all in Sri Lanka.
    By the way are you the same Mr. Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam who was the famous high jumper who won the event at the Asian Games? If you are one and the same person, you may be pleased to hear that I have briefly mentioned in my book (page 66) about your letter of appreciation sent to Mr. Bradman Weerakoon (then PM’s Secretary) after the UNF government relaxed transfer of medicines to the North weeks before signing the CFA.
    Austin Fernando

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    Mr Austin Fernando,
    Yes I am he. Thanks. I hope I can meet you when I return in July (after two years) to help the people in distress. Groundviews can give my email to you.

  • Sinsin


    Ranil opened their eyes to an alternative lifestyle. You have to remember that you were dealing with a generation who had grown up in a war and knew nothing other than a war. Taking that lot to the fleshpots of Bangkok (initial peace conference was there) was the surest way of opening their eyes. I believe that Balasingham has said apart from him and GL Peiris everyone else was in the brothels all night.

    There was no need to go to war after one defection, all that was needed was to wait for other splits to occur and there was enough rumbling inside.

    The Tamils may appear as a monolithic lot but they were always a house divided; by caste, by religion (Hindu’s v the christians) and geography (Northerners by region; Kayts, VVT, Jaffna, etc etc etc and Easterners still more different). Upto 1983 the LTTE had only a minority of support even in the N/E.

    Given alternative opportunities and the chance to make money was all that was needed to remove broader support for the LTTE (on the ground and within the diaspora) and hollow out the movement from within.

    Now, as you correctly state is Mahinda’s hour, he or the family will be in power for a long long time and you will have enough opportunity to revisit your opinion of him in another decade or two.

  • wijayapala


    The Tamils may appear as a monolithic lot but they were always a house divided; by caste, by religion (Hindu’s v the christians) and geography (Northerners by region; Kayts, VVT, Jaffna, etc etc etc and Easterners still more different).

    I agree with everything you’re saying. The only part I disagree is that Ranil could have exploited the LTTE’s weaknesses. That task fell on Mahinda.