SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
As the fighting against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) approached an end, there were widespread fears that Sinhala obduracy would lose in the peace what it had gained at such tremendous costs in the war. Indeed, this was the rationale of much of the desperate last ditch support by a number of players – including several prominent international governmental and non-governmental actors – who believed that, with the LTTE gone, Colombo would lose all incentive to offer a ‘fair deal’ to the minority Tamils of Sri Lanka. At the other pole was the argument that the LTTE had, itself, become the principal obstacle to reconciliation and a rational solution in Sri Lanka, and that, with the LTTE gone, rapid progress would become possible in the post-war scenario.
The truth lies in the uncomfortable middle. The LTTE had certainly become the principal obstacle to resolution; but its demise will not yield any automatic or easy solution. There is some evidence of a desire for reconciliation across the political spectrum; but racist obstinacy has not lost all its adherents. There is, moreover, the constituency of a cynical realpolitik which will look at the short term to wrest all promise of power, alternately, from Sinhala triumphalism and from Tamil despair.
It is already clear that the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, which had long been projected as the framework for a political solution, has itself come under intense scrutiny. Almost all political parties, with the exception of the main Opposition, the United National Party (UNP), involved in the national reconciliation process, have now expressed their reservations to its various clauses.
The 13th Amendment, based on the July 29, 1987, Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, and enacted on November 14, 1987, defines the following objectives and powers:
Although both the Indo-Sri Lanka peace accord and the 13th Amendment strongly emphasise devolution, a closer scrutiny of the provisions of the 13th Amendment quickly demonstrates that the exact division of powers between the Centre and the Provinces is not specified; and that the powers of the Provincial Councils can be controlled, reduced or abolished by the Central Government, acting unilaterally. There is, thus, no subject over which a Provincial Council can claim to exercise exclusive competence or jurisdiction. Apart from the existing lacunae in its provisions, moreover, the sheer loss of years in its implementation, and intervening developments, have deeply damaged the spirit of the Amendment.
The Government is, of course, implementing the language component of the 13th Amendment, giving due recognition to Sinhala, Tamil and English throughout the Island, a matter that had been ignored for long, and that had been a source of deep grievance among the Tamil population.
There are, furthermore, possibilities of constructive interpretation that can secure a favourable outcome under the right political leadership. Varadaraja Perumal, the former Chief Minister of the North East Province(1988-1990) and one of the key leaders of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front, in an interview published on May 23, 2009, stated,
Quite noticeably, the Supreme Court had declared unlawful the 1987 merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces to form a single Tamil-dominated North Eastern Province under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord. The Court held that the Emergency Regulation made in September 1988, merging the Northern and Eastern Provinces, was not in compliance with law, on the grounds that the LTTE had not relinquished their weapons – the pre-condition for a referendum originally scheduled for December 31, 1988, but postponed until January 1990. The referendum (which has not been held so far) was to decide whether the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces should be permanent. The de-merger dealt a body blow to the peace process. Rajavarothajam Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) – long regarded as the overground front of the LTTE – had thus declared, "The judgement knocks the bottom out of the peace process as a merged north-eastern province must be the basis for any peace negotiations."
According to a May 22, 2009, report, the TNA told a high level Indian official delegation in Colombo that India should press the Sri Lankan Government to go beyond the degree of provincial autonomy envisaged by the 13th Amendment. Four Members of Parliament (MPs) from the TNA, led by R. Sampanthan, told National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon that the 13th Amendment was ‘outdated’, given the fact that the Tamils had made enormous sacrifices in their quest for a federal constitution since the Amendment was enacted two decades ago. The TNA MPs demanded ‘meaningful autonomy’ for the Tamils, and also urged that ‘Tamil Districts’ taken over by the Security Forces be de-militarised and the High Security Zones, which denied Tamils rights over their lands, be dismantled. They also demanded an assurance that the TNA MPs, who were the elected representatives of the people of the North and East, would be involved in all decision-making relating to the area. The MPs also articulated apprehensions regarding the Government’s intentions. Suresh Premachandran, MP for Jaffna, later said that the Tamils had been fighting for a federal Constitution, if not total independence, for 60 years, but the 13th Amendment did not make Sri Lanka a federation with adequate powers devolved to the provinces.
The TNA has 22 members in a Parliament of 225, with a significant presence concentrated in the Northern Province. It is of particular significance that one of the cruellest aspects of the LTTE campaign was the near-total elimination through violence, of the democratically elected leadership of the Tamil people. The TNA could now fill that vacuum in the north, as did the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) in the east, as there are reports that the TNA is moving away from the LTTE’s agenda.
TNA apprehensions are shared by others with a less dubious past. Sri Lanka’s constitutional advisor, Jayampathy Wickramaratne, who resigned in March 2008, stating that the Government did not seem to be interested in devolving power to the Tamil minority, declared:
Wickramaratne added, further, that if the Government merely wanted full implementation of the 13th Amendment, it did not need the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), since, "The 13th Amendment is already part of the law of the land and needs only a political will to implement it."
The main Buddhist party, Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) or National Heritage Party, has its own grievances against the 13th Amendment. JHU leader and Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Champika Ranawaka argued, in an interview in August 2008:
However, when asked specifically that whether JHU opposed the 13th Amendment, he clarified: "No, that is not the position. It has been recorded that the APRC has decided to implement the 13th Amendment in full, in toto. But our position is that no such decision is made at the APRC. The only thing that has been agreed is to the endeavour to implement of 13th Amendment and we have to search for a final solution based on political consensus." Again, Colombo will have to take the JHU into confidence for a broader consensus, as failure in this regard may lead to a Sinhalese backlash and more ethnic trouble.
Further, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or People's Liberation Front, the once-militant principal Marxist party said, on June 4, 2009, that it would be compelled to "wage war against the Government" if it continues to "betray the nation" by ignoring the opportunity that has been presented after victory over the LTTE. JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe told a rally organized by the party in Nugegoda, "The Government has succumbed to India and is prepared to devolve power on the basis of what is over and above what is in the 13th Amendment. However, we warn the Government, we will not allow even thirteen minus." He was referring to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s reported assurance to Indian officials that his Government was ready to even go beyond the 13th Amendment as part of a political solution to end the northern conflict which had raged for the past 25 years. Earlier, in an interview published on January 21, 2008, the President had said, "I think the 13th Amendment, which Rajiv Gandhi gave, was the best. And according to me the 13th Amendment plus one will be the best… Plus one is what they have to decide on." Similarly, Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda, at the UN Anti-Racism Conference in Geneva in April 2009, declared, "We refer to this as ‘13th Amendment Plus’, that is, deeper provincial autonomy than currently in the Constitution… This will include a Second Chamber based on Provinces."
On May 27, 2009, the JVP also put forward to the Government a set of 14 proposals to develop the nation "within three months", beginning June 1, 2009. The most significant of these proposals included:
Despite the many dissenting voices, however, a statement issued by the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) on January 28, 2009, asserted that the 13th Amendment could now be implemented more consistently than was thought desirable or possible in the past. Signed by SCOPP Secretary-General Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, the statement added further:
Earlier, on January 23, 2008 President Rajapakse received recommendations for a ‘political solution’ to the ethnic conflict from Tissa Vitharana, Science and Technology Minister, who headed a panel which studied a possible settlement in Colombo. It stressed,
The final report of the APRC is expected to be released to all political parties ‘soon’. The APRC spokesman said that some non-participating political parties were also waiting to study the APRC proposals. The UNP, JVP and the TNA had refrained from participating in the APRC sessions.
Meanwhile, the Government’s attempt to implement the Amendment got a boost when the UNP stated, on June 2, 2009, that the implementation of the 13th Amendment in full would be ‘a good beginning’ for the resolution of the national question. Outlining the Government’s agenda, Minister of Media (Non Cabinet Minister) Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana, observed, on the same day, that the Government planned to implement the 13th Amendment "speedily" in the North, following the Local Council elections in Jaffna and Vavuniya in August, for which the process has begun. However, the Government would have to disarm all parties before the upcoming elections to ensure that the elections are free and fair, and to win the trust of the people.
Conflicting voices within the Government are, however, undermining its credibility. Addressing a weekly Cabinet meeting, Minister of Mass Media and Information (Cabinet Minister) Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said on May 28, 2009, that the Government had not taken any decision on the implementation of the 13th Amendment with regard to devolution of powers regarding the police and land. He added that the Government had already set up Provincial Councils introduced under the 13th Amendment – the Eastern Provincial Council had already been established, and steps were being taken to set up the Northern Provincial Council. No decision regarding other clauses of the 13th Amendment had yet been taken, he stressed.
There is also evidence that President Rajapakse is trying to buy time, rather than to secure an early resolution. In a July 6, 2009 interview, he put the blame for delay on the TNA, saying that, they had yet to participate in discussion regarding a political solution. He insisted, moreover, that major decisions would need to be taken only after he had renewed his mandate through re-election, since he wanted the solution to come "from the people". Significantly, however, Rajapakse has sent out a strong message against divisive politics. "Whether it is Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, I am telling you all. No racism. Don’t try to create problems for me." Rajapakse has also expressed himself passionately against the ghettoisation of Sri Lankan society through a purportedly ‘federal’ solution that would, in fact, divide the country into ethnic enclaves:
Evidently, wide areas of disagreement persist. The country is, moreover, still under the state of emergency. The Government asserted in Parliament on May 26, 2009, that the Emergency will not be relaxed in the immediate future, as it was "too premature". , despite the end of the LTTE. Speaking in the Parliament, leader of the House, Minister Nimal Siripala Silva, said the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and State of Emergency will be continued as it is too premature to lift the emergency regulations yet. There are still apprehensions that surviving LTTE cadre, hiding at different places, may carry out attacks against soft targets. Unless a fear-free environment is established, the ‘political solution’ will always remain in jeopardy. There is still a great deal of hostility towards Colombo, and latent support for Tamil militancy, in pockets of the international community as well, and until the LTTE networks abroad are entirely dismantled – something Colombo cannot do – there will remain a residual risk of the revival of separatist terrorism.
There are, however, some very good signs in Sri Lanka. For one, the country has recorded among the lowest levels of unemployment in its post-independence history – the unemployment ratio, which stood at 8.3 per cent in 2008, has come down to 5.2 per cent. Sri Lanka now expects foreign direct investment to more than quadruple to $4 billion by 2012. The country has managed to sustain a reasonably healthy rate of growth for most of the period of a raging insurgency, and most enduring social and economic indicators are fairly healthy – with the exception of some economic disarray in the final phases of the war. The burden of rehabilitating nearly 300000 internally displaced Tamils, who were forced to flee their homes in the terminal stages of the war, will be significant. Nevertheless, if the reconciliation process is given even half a chance of success, Sri Lanka could actually realize perhaps the most startling and rapid post-war recoveries for any country that has witnessed a comparable scale of conflict.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
July 6-12, 2009
Chairman of Kamtapur Liberation Organisation arrested in Dhaka: According to Times of India, the Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO) chief, Jibon Singha alias Timir Das, was arrested during a raid at a hotel in Jamalpur near capital Dhaka on July 9, 2009. "We have got in touch with the Bangladesh Government. After initial examination, there is a strong possibility that the person arrested is none other than KLO chief Jibon Singha," said a senior Police officer in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal in India. According to sources, the Bangladesh Police were looking for suspects in the Chittagong arms smuggling case. The Indian external affairs ministry had passed on details about Jibon to Bangladesh Police after the KLO training camp in Bhutan was destroyed in a joint operation by the Indian Army and Royal Bhutan Army in 2003. Times of India, July 10, 2009.
Maoists kill 30 Policemen in Chhattisgarh: 30 Policemen, including a Superintendent of Police, were killed on July 12, 2009 in three attacks by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in Rajnandgaon District. The Rajnandgaon Superintendent of Police, Vinod Kumar Choubey, was killed when he was leading the forces for Madanwada, where the insurgents had killed two Policemen in the morning, after being ambushed between Khoregaon and Karkoti, according to the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Pawan Dev. Rajnandgaon is about 90 km from capital Raipur. In the intense gun battle that followed the ambush, Choubey and 23 Policemen were killed. In a separate attack, Maoists set off landmines and ambushed another team of Policemen, which left Sitagaon for Madanwada. Four Policemen were killed in this attack, the DIG said. The Hindu, July 13, 2009.
Militancy continues to be high in North East, says Ministry of Home Affairs: Militancy and related incidents of violence continues to be high in the north eastern States of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland during 2008-09, a Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) statement said on July 8. According to the statement, militancy-related incidents had increased in Manipur from 262 in 2008 to 311 in 2009, while in Assam, it rose from 207 in 2008 to 221 in 2009. The Centre has deployed central Security Forces to aid the authorities in carrying out counter-insurgency operations, the statement added. The Shillong Times, July 9, 2009.
Maoists carried out 1,128 raids and killed 455 people till June 30, 2009: The country has witnessed a total of 1,128 incidents of Maoist (left-wing extremist) violence till June 30, 2009 which left 455 civilians and Security Force personnel dead. In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), the Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Maken, said there has been an increased level of Maoist violence in various States of the country. "There has been increased level of naxal violence especially in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra and West Bengal," Maken said. He said a total of 107 Maoists were killed and 861 arrested during the same period. Replying to a question if the Centre has urged States to deploy their own Security Forces to control violence in various parts of the country, including Lalgarh in West Bengal, Maken said concerned States take appropriate action to deal with left-wing extremism. He also said the Centre supplements their efforts in several way and listed the deployment of Central Paramilitary Forces, Combat Battalion for Resolute Action, setting of Counter insurgency and Anti Terrorism schools, modernisation and upgradation of State Police and intelligence sharing among others. Maken also listed reimbursement of security-related expenditure, filling up of critical infrastructure gaps under the scheme of Special Infrastructure in Left wing extremism affected States, assistance in community policing and civil actions besides other steps as assistance being provided to States. Indian Express, July 8, 2009.
164 militants and nine soldiers among 177 persons killed in FATA during the week: 12 militants were killed in shelling by fighter planes on suspected hideouts of the Taliban in Sarwakai sub-division of South Waziristan Agency on July 12, 2009. Sources said the fighter planes targeted the compounds and hideouts of the militants in Parwand and Novely Khan Serai areas. Unconfirmed reports said 12 militants were killed in the operation. A military statement said one soldier also died in an exchange of fire with the militants in South Waziristan.
Three militants were killed and several others injured during a military operation in the Bajaur Agency on July 11. The Security Forces (SFs) attacked the Chinar, Kohi Manogai, Karkanai and Zirat areas in Charmang Valley with artillery, killing the three Taliban militants.
Ten militants and six SF personnel were killed in various areas of Bajaur Agency on July 10. Sources said the SFs targeted hideouts of the militants with heavy artillery and gunship helicopters in the Charmang, Chinar and Manogai areas, killing 10 militants. The sources added that two soldiers were killed and five others sustained injuries in the clashes. Meanwhile, four Levies troopers were killed when unidentified militants attacked a check-post in Khar, the Bajaur Agency headquarters.
Two suspected US missile strikes hit South Waziristan on July 10, killing at least eight Taliban militants. The first strike targeted one of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud’s communication centres, killing at least three people, intelligence officials said. Separately, quoting a private TV channel report, the Online news agency claimed at least five militants were killed in a drone attack in the Tiyarza area.
39 militants were killed when military planes bombed Taliban hideouts in the Orakzai Agency on July 9. According to unconfirmed reports, about 14 camps of the militants were destroyed in the Starsam, Drogai and Behram Garh areas of Chappri Feroze Khel in the lower and Ghiljo in upper Orakzai agency. Independent sources confirmed that 39 militants had been killed and eight injured in the strikes. Further, a woman and her child were killed when a house owned by local tribesman Ghuncha Gul came under strikes by the planes. Separately, 12 militants were killed when Pakistan Air Force fighter planes targeted their suspected hideouts in South Waziristan Agency on July 9. The jets pounded suspected Taliban hideouts in four villages in Ladha and Kani Guram areas, according to four unnamed intelligence officials. Further, SFs on July 9 claimed to have killed three militants and injured five others in the ongoing operations in various areas of Bajaur Agency.
48 militants were killed and several others injured in two separate attacks by US drones in the South Waziristan Agency on July 8. However, some reports quoting officials of law-enforcement agencies and political administration put the death toll in the two attacks at 58. According to sources, besides the tribal militants, the dead also included four Arabs and seven Uzbeks. "Almost 90 per cent of the militants traveling in the convoy were killed in the drone attack," said an unnamed security official. In addition, two militants were killed in fresh military action in different areas of Charmang Valley of Bajaur Agency on July 8.
A suspected US drone fired two missiles at a militant training centre in the Laddha subdivision of South Waziristan Agency on July 7, killing 16 militants and injuring 10 others. Five foreigners were among the dead, security officials said. The camp allegedly run by militants loyal to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Baitullah Mehsud was in Chenakai area of the Shabikhels, a sub clan of Mehsud tribe. There was no report if any high-value target had been hit in the attack carried out at about 10am. Sources said that a local commander of Baitullah was among the dead. In addition, Pakistan Air Force jets shelled suspected positions of militants in the Berwand area of South Waziristan. One soldier was killed when a military convoy hit an improvised explosive device in Gomal Zam area. Separately, militants fired rockets at a fort in Frontier Jandola. One civilian was reportedly killed when troops returned fire. Further, a soldier was killed when a military convoy was attacked with a bomb near the Khajori check-post in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) on July 7. In addition, helicopter gunships targeted militants’ hideouts in the Datakhel area of NWA, killing four militants.
Seven militants were killed and several others injured when jets shelled militant hideouts in North Waziristan on July 6. Officials and local people said the jets had attacked militants’ positions in Wuchabibi and Madahkel areas of Dattakhel sub-division, at about 3:30pm. Officials in North Waziristan Agency told AFP that seven militants had been killed and 12 injured when fighter jets targeted terrorists’ hideouts in the area. Further, SFs on July 6 intensified attacks on the Taliban in Bajaur Agency, killing four militants and injuring six others in the region’s Charmang sub-division. The SFs also reportedly destroyed numerous Taliban hideouts in Charmang, defused several remote-controlled bombs, arrested 15 suspects and recovered missiles from their possession. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, July 7-13, 2009.
27 militants and 13 civilians among 46 persons killed in NWFP during the week: Security Forces (SFs) claimed on July 12 to have killed five foreign militants in the Maidan revenue division of Lower Dir District. Official sources said the SFs fired mortar shells on a vehicle carrying militants, killing five of them. Separately, the militants on July 12 killed three workers of the ruling Awami National Party (ANP) in the Pir Baba area of Buner District. Sources said the militants attacked Malik Pur village in Pir Baba and killed three ANP activists, identified as Shamsher Ali Khan, Gohar Ali Khan and Usman Ali Khan.
Three security officials were killed and six others injured in a remote-controlled bombing in the Pirwala Khel area of Kohat District on July 11.
SFs killed three militants and destroyed seven tunnels and eight hideouts during a search and clearance operation in parts of the Swat District, the ISPR said on July 10. The tunnels and the hideouts of the militants, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), were destroyed in Badar and Sar Colony areas of the valley.
Two soldiers were killed and five others injured when an improvised explosive device struck a security convoy in the Bannu. A private TV channel reported on July 9 that the Taliban targeted the security convoy using a remote-controlled bomb in Janikhel area of Bannu. In another incident, a Peshawar Electric Supply Company employee was killed and three injured when Taliban militants blew up an electricity pylon using a remote-controlled device in Merra Suraizai Payan village on the outskirts of provincial capital Peshawar on July 9.
A suicide bomber died on the outskirts of Peshawar, capital of the NWFP, on July 8 when explosives hidden in a mango cart went off before he could reach the intended target – possibly the NWFP Assembly speaker. "The bomber is the only person who died," senior Police officer Ghulam Muhammad told reporters after the incident in Malkhandher on Nasir Bagh Road.
SFs said on July 7 that they had killed four Taliban militants and arrested 34 of them from various areas of Swat and Bannu Districts. The ISPR said Taliban commander Muhammad Rasool was among the dead in Shukdara.
SFs on July 6 killed 14 Taliban militants in the Tiligram area of Swat District. According to the ISPR, "Security forces killed 14 terrorists during an exchange of fire in Tiligram. A huge quantity of ammunition and explosives, four improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one 14.5 gun barrel and 26 detonators were also recovered." Separately, five persons, including a prayer leader and two brothers, were killed in separate incidents of sectarian violence in Dera Ismail Khan on July 6. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, July 7-13, 2009.
President Asif Ali Zardari admits to Pakistan creating militant groups: Pakistan has, for the first time, acknowledged at the highest level that militant groups were created and nurtured by it for "tactical" objectives. Speaking to retired civil servants, who met him in the night of July 7, 2009 to discuss national issues, President Asif Ali Zardari said militants and extremists had been "deliberately created and nurtured" as a policy for "short-term tactical objectives." According to him, "Militants and extremists emerged on the national scene and challenged the state not because the civil bureaucracy was weakened and demoralized but because they were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve short-term tactical objectives. Let's be truthful and make a candid admission of the reality," Times of India reported. "The terrorists of today were heroes of yesteryear until 9/11 occurred and they began to haunt us as well," Zardari said emphasising that Pakistan cannot be left alone at this stage of the war on terror. The Hindu, July 9, 2009.