Colombo, Peace and Conflict

Abrogation of cease-fire, a triumphant moment of a vicious conspiracy

We all know that a Cease-fire between the two contending parties by itself is no solution to our national conflict. A cease-fire provides only an opening for a tedious journey that we have to undertake to reach a lasting solution. In other words, it is an intermission in the brutal communication carried out by the bullet between two warring parties to seek a breathing space to explore other possibilities of negotiating an end to the conflict in a human and a civilized manner. Given the fact that it was, by its very nature to be temporary and therefore be urgently used to the maximum benefit of both parties in strengthening mutual understanding and building confidence, governments of Mahinda Rajapakse as well as that of Ranil Wickramasinghe previously, chose to squander it for their own political interests. LTTE, on the other hand, wasn’t less culpable in contributing to the escalation of violence. Yet the State as the legitimate instrument of governance and quite different to a guerilla movement, has no excuse in haphazardly shirking its responsibilities and obligations towards its own people. No country with a cease-fire agreement has ever walked briskly to a permanent solution concluding its conflict. Very often, as in South Africa, they collapse in between negotiations, but commitment for peace provides opportunities for resurrection. Thus it is important to pursue new openings for negotiations not counting temporary setbacks.

On the other hand, abrogation of or nullifying the cease-fire is no mere abolition of the validity or binding of a bi-partisan document. It allows for a free for all thus preparing the ground for free killing and for all the savagery that follows.

With the Rajapaksa government deciding to abrogate the CFA, from 16th of this month the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) would have to wind up and leave not only from the North, but from Sri Lanka as well. No media institute or journalist would have access to areas the Defense Authorities would decide as “war zones”. Most Aid Agencies have already pulled out their staff and the rest would have to leave too. The Northern people would thereafter have no links to the rest of the country other than through state organized channels. On the other side with the rest of the world denied from having access to ground realities, indiscriminate aerial bombings, devastation of civilian settlements, schools, churches, kovils etc and an increasing number of refugees will be the order of the day. No independent media exposures on the war would be available. The war would be a one-sided affair with communiqués dished out by the media unit of the government armed forces to suit their own agenda.

It is this stark reality that we wish to expose to the world while some speak about the irrelevance of having a cease-fire that was breached more than it was honored by both parties. It is true the CFA has abysmally failed to restrain the Mahinda Rajapakse government in waging an undeclared full scale offensive that to date has taken the lives of 6,000 people within a short period of two years. What is nevertheless important about the CFA is that it kept the whole world informed of the increasing brutality of the war situation. It allowed the SLMM to record the human misery those people in the conflict areas were undergoing. With their departure from the 16th such exposures, even if the authorities call them biased, would not be available to infer what is taking place in conflict areas that in all probability would turn into killing fields.

The only political party that stood openly for the abolishing of the CFA was the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). But they were not a force in society that could push the government to abolish the CFA. Their day came with the budget debate when the government was left standing on a razor’s edge. The JVP became the arbiter of making or breaking the government with their 37 votes in parliament. They used this opportunity in a fork move as in chess, to save the government and avoid an election on one side while on the other side to have the CFA abrogated.

In addition to this political compulsion brought by the JVP, it is possible the Rajapaksa regime with its Defense Secretary who speaks only war was convinced and pressured by the military as well for larger leverage in executing the war. A free hand and no interference from outside as spelled by the Army Commander Sarath Fonseka who wants the “unpatriotic” media tamed. By acquiescing to one political demand, both requirements could be met, coupled with the remote possibility of scoring some plus points in the battle field being eventually used to go for a snap election.

It is important to note that for the last two years the JVP was an outsider to the victories scored by the government on the war front. But as the sole champion of the anti cease-fire campaign, the JVP now needs to have a claim to at least a part of the war gains, if they are to face an election.

This leaves no other option but to go on a military onslaught for them in government and for those propping up the government. A savage onslaught with no checks and balances in place that would lead to a human tragedy that Sri Lanka has never ever experienced during its 30- year long civil war. This would be enough reason for the government to suppress all divergent views and to keep a firm tab on media in the South. A political equation that would lead to an unholy alliance between the government and the JVP in the near future, at the expense of the whole country held hostage to a futile war that would allow a parasitic clique of politicians to remain in power for some time to come.