Sri Lanka says cease-fire with Tamil Tigers now over

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Jan 3 18:14:38 UTC 2008

Sri Lanka says cease-fire with Tamil Tigers now over

The 2002 cease-fire was ignored in recent months, but Colombo's
decision formally ends the Norwegian monitoring mission and means more
attacks, say experts.
By Arthur Bright

The Sri Lankan government announced its withdrawal from the
five-year-old cease-fire with the Tamil Tigers Wednesday. The
Norwegian-brokered 2002 truce treaty was ignored by both sides, but
analysts say the formal withdrawal would open the door to even greater
violence.  The Guardian reports that the Sri Lankan government opted
to officially abandon the cease-fire on Wednesday, following the
latest spate of violence between Colombo and the independence-seeking
rebels of the Tamil Tigers, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The agreement was signed in February 2002 by Ranil Wickremesinghe, who
was prime minister at the time, and Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil
Tigers' reclusive leader - but it has been in tatters for the past two
years. Anura Yapa, the cabinet spokesman and media minister, said:
"Today it was proposed to the cabinet by the honourable prime minister
that the ceasefire is no longer valid and it's time to withdraw from
the ceasefire agreement. All the ministers agreed to the proposal."

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for an independent homeland for
the Tamil minority in northern and eastern Sri Lanka since the 1980s.
The rebels have been designated a terrorist organization by several
nations, including the US, Britain, and the European Union.

The Associated Press reports that on Thursday, Mr. Yapa left the door
open to future peace talks, provided the Tigers disarm first. But, he
said it was "useless talking to them now," as fighting between the
Tigers and the government raged even during the cease-fire.

The withdrawal is mainly symbolic, signifying the end of an agreement
once hailed as a harbinger for peace. It most likely means the end of
a Norwegian monitoring mission that was one of the few independent
observers to the war in the jungles of Sri Lanka's north. Ending the
accord was a "serious step," the Norwegian international development
minister and key mediator, Erik Solheim, said on the website of
Norway's foreign ministry. "This comes on top of the increasingly
frequent and brutal acts of violence perpetrated by both parties, and
I am deeply concerned that the violence and hostilities will now
escalate even further," Solheim said.

Experts reacted to the government's withdrawal from the cease-fire
saying it heralds a heightened level of bloodshed, reports Reuters.

"This means all-out war," said Iqbal Athas, an analyst with Jane's
Defence Weekly in Colombo. "The government has dropped the peace
option and has opted for a fuller military onslaught on the rebels.
"One thing is certain, there'll be more confrontations. There'll be
more violence now," he added. "The government perceives it to be
end-game ... It will be the most intense period of war Sri Lanka has

Even before the announcement of the cease-fire withdrawal, the
government showed signs of wanting to launch a new offensive against
the Tigers, according to an Agence France-Presse report. Over the last
weekend, state-run newspapers in Sri Lanka had quoted officials
promising a military victory over the rebels in 2008, the AFP said.

"We can bring the war against the LTTE to a turning point once we are
able to destroy the LTTE capabilities to operate in bunkers and
forward defence lines," [Army chief Sarath] Fonseka was quoted as
saying in the [state-run] Daily News.

The paper also quoted both navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda and air
force commander Roshan Gunatilleke as saying they were "confident" of
defeating the Tigers in the new year.

On Saturday, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa – brother of Sri
Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa - drew attention to the number of
truce violations, reports Indian daily The Hindu. "The Ceasefire
Agreement exists only on paper. Obviously we can see that there is no
ceasefire. It has become a joke," he said.

>>From the beginning of the truce in 2002 until April 2007, the Tamil
Tigers violated the cease-fire 3,830 times, while the government
violated it 351 times, according to figures cited by The Hindu.

India may help the Sri Lankan government fight the Tigers. United
Press International reports that India, citing an increased "threat
perception" of the Tigers, announced plans Wednesday for joint
military exercises with Sri Lankan forces in early 2008.

Sri Lanka's military believes it is gaining the upper hand in the
conflict, but the withdrawal decision may also be politically
motivated, reports Agence France-Presse.

Analysts said the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, which has
a slim majority in parliament, may also have pulled out of the truce
to woo the hardline but influential People's Liberation Front, or the
JVP. The JVP saved the government from a humiliating defeat at the
December budget vote and has been demanding the abrogation of the
ceasefire and an end to Norway's role on the troubled island. Press
reports here speculated that the end of the truce could pave the way
for the JVP to rejoin the government it left in 2005.

The government's decision to leave the treaty comes amid a new spate
of violence in the capital city of Colombo, reports CNN. The
government accused the Tigers of planting a bomb that hit an Army bus
Wednesday, killing at least four and wounding 28 others. A day
earlier, a member of a Tamil opposition party was killed by a gunman
outside a Hindu temple.
Full HTML version of this story which may include photos, graphics,
and related links

Home |
About Us/Help |
Feedback |
Subscribe |
Archive |
Print Edition |
Site Map |
Special Projects |
Contact Us |
Privacy Policy |
Rights & Permissions |
Terms of Service |
Advertise With Us |
Today's Article on Christian Science | Copyright (c) 2007 The Christian Science Monitor.
All rights reserved.

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list