With every passing week, "the Oslo Declaration" and the alleged commitment to a federal form of government, are being elevated to Holy Writ and being used as a handle to plunge into negotiations on the ISGA.
Take this extract from the keynote statement at the inaugural ceremony of the National Advisory Committee for Peace and Reconciliation (NACPR) on October 4, 2004:
"..we require a commitment from the LTTE that the Interim Administration as well as the final solution would be based on the Oslo Declaration signed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE which declared that the Federal solution should be sought within the framework of a united Sri Lanka."
Myth and Reality
But, surprise, surprise, there has been no Oslo Declaration, and no known commitment by the GOSL to adopt a federal form of government. No such commitment can be made by anyone federation without first following the stipulated constitutional procedure.
The "Oslo Declaration" is a fabrication of spin doctors. What actually happened was that at the conclusion of the round of peace talks between the GOSL and the LTTE, the Norwegian government issued a statement which included the following extract:
"Responding to a proposal by the leadership of the LTTE, the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking peoples, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The parties acknowledged that the solution has to be acceptable to all parties.
Exploration Spun Into Declaration and Agreement
Note that the operative word was "explore". The parties agreed to explore a federal solution. The outcome of the exploration, if any, is unknown to this day.
But that was enough for the spin doctors to work on. Imperceptibly, this LTTE proposal was elevated into an "Oslo Declaration." The fabrication was sealed at the donors’ meeting in Tokyo in June 2003, when the donors put together their notorious $ 4.5 billion dollar bribe which was conditional on rapid progress to Eelam. The meeting communique, titled The Tokyo Declaration On Reconstruction and Redevelopment of Sri Lanka, included two references to the need to proceed on the principles of the non existent "Oslo Declaration." With the GOSL’s ever-smiling representatives acquiescing in the placing of these time-bombs, the LTTE proposal was transformed into the Oslo Declaration. Later doosers then conjured up a fictitious agreement to a federal structure.
Parallel with Iraq
This deception has similarities with the skulduggery of Bush and Blair, who launched their attack on Iraq by deceiving their countries into believing that Saddam Hussein had attacked New York’s Twin Towers, and possessed weapons of mass destruction which could be deployed within 45 minutes.
Incidentally, the Norwegian draft above (probably authored by Balasingham), lifts the phrase "areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking peoples", an euphemism for "Tamil homelands", from the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987. The Indian text specifically referred to these areas as "the Northern and Eastern Provinces." And "Internal" self-determination, of course, was a nonsense concocted by Balasingham at the LTTE’s international press conference in the Wanni in April 2002, and eagerly grasped by the naive GOSL "Internal" would slide into "total" in quick time.
The Tale of Thimpu
The Oslo Declaration canard is only the latest in a host of errors and missed opportunities. Take the Thimpu Demands, for instance. Fairly early in the struggle to separate, the LTTE realised that subterfuge would be more likely to succeed than a brazen call to secede. The Tamil parties therefore came up with the Thimpu demands in 1985, these being —
`95 Recognition of the Tamils as a nation
`95 Recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils.
`95 The right of the Tamil nation to self-determination.
`95 Recognition of the citizenship rights and fundamental rights of all Tamils who look upon the island as their country.
Eelam Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
These demands obviously added up to a separate Tamil state, and were rightly rejected by the GOSL, which then possessed negotiators of stature. Years later, the LTTE announced, as if offering an alternative, that they were prepared to accept a settlement on the basis of the Thimpu principles. Either from ignorance or collusion, the peacemakers hailed this subterfuge as a major breakthrough for Sri Lanka, and proof that the LTTE had given up its claim for Eelam, when it was actually a demand for Eelam in another guise.
Getting it Backwards
Further follies followed, evidently due to ignorance of the meanings of devolution, federation and confederation. When the extreme devolution proposals of the professor were running into trouble, the LTTE announced that they would settle for federation. Although this went further than devolution, it was rapturously received by the peaceniks as though it was a concession. While federal proposals were being, discussed, the LTTE announced that it would settle for confederation, which goes much further than federalism, and that too was hailed as a concession! Escalating LTTE demands were misinterpreted by naive GOSLs and peacemakers as concessions! To put it in terms which naive business tycoons can grasp, this was akin to a trade union negotiating for a 25% wage increase announcing that it would settle for 50%, and being complemented by the employers for their fairness!
Missing the Bus
Of the many missed opportunities to mobilise world opinion against the LTTE, two stand out. When the President narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of an LTTE suicide bomber in 1999, she berated the LTTE, but then, in a stunning non sequitur, appealed to Tamils to persuade the LTTE to come to the negotiating table! Had she taken her speech to its logical conclusion and called on the nation to join her in destroying the LTTE once and for all, the nation would have followed her to a man.
The same genius was displayed by the UNP in 2001 after the 9/11 attack on New York’s Twin Towers. President Bush made his denunciation of terror, and vowed to root out terrorists and those who harboured them. It was the perfect moment to raise an international alarm against the LTTE. But the Prime Minister, in a non sequitur as stunning as the President’s in 1999, cited the world’s revulsion against terrorists but, instead of isolating the LTTE, invited them to talk peace! Instead of the LTTE being targeted, it was sanitised.
And Now The ISGA
The tradition of blunders goes on. The NCAPR is stepping out firmly on the wrong foot by citing a fictitious Oslo Declaration, and demanding from the LTTE exactly what the LTTE wanted the GOSL to do!
JHU Get it Right
It is the much-maligned JHU who have grasped the parameters under which negotiations should take place. According to "The Island" of October 5, 2004 the JHU spelt out the following conditions on which it would support the NACPR:
1. The LTTE should accept the territorial integrity and the legal framework of Sri Lanka.
2. The LTTE should hand over all weapons in their possession and give a pledge that they would join the democratic mainstream.
3. The LTTE must give up killings and abductions.
4. The LTTE should give up recruiting children as soldiers immediately.
5. The LTTE should stop atrocities against persons in the North and east who oppose them.
6. The Northern and Eastern Provinces should be separated
Spot on. Unless these parameters are established, talks would be a total waste of time.
Waiting for Godot
One thing is certain. If Sri Lanka escapes from the mess which its leaders have created, it will not be because of the traditional political parties. But will Godot turn up before Eelam is ceded or declared?