Monday, November 08, 2004

More security cover for Douglas

EPDP leader and Minister Douglas Devananda has been provided with tighter security following LTTE threats on EPDP cadres, party sources told the Daily Mirror yesterday.

More armed police and Army personnel have been deployed near the Bambalapitya residence of Mr. Devananda, along with huge barricades. Senior EPDP member S. Thavarasah told the Daily Mirror his party had sought more protection from the security authorities as it was not fully satisfied with the security arrangement provided to its members.

Demonstration by fisherfolk

Hundreds of fisherfolk in Pesalai and Mannar insisted they would not give up their demonstration until the government took measures to stop Indian fishermen poaching in Lankan waters, police said yesterday.

They said the protesting farmers were continuing their campaign for the third day, thus crippling traffic in the area. DIG Mahinda Beddewela said several attempts to persuade the fisherfolk to give up the protests were of no avail.

Brigade Commander’s vehicle attacked By Sunil Jayasiri

Security has been intensified in the Valaichchenai area after unidentified gunmen opened fire and hurled a grenade at the vehicle of the Kalkudah Brigade Commander yesterday morning.

Military Spokesman Daya Ratnayake said the jeep of Col. W.M.S.Gunaratne had been damaged but he had not been in the vehicle. However a bystander had been injured in the attack.

The military jeep had been proceeding towards Valachchenai from Kalkudah around 11 am when it came under attack, he said. The spokesman said four men believed to be LTTE cadres had fled the scene just after the attack. The driver of the jeep escaped unhurt but a shop owner was admitted to the Valachchenai hospital with serious injuries.

The Army has made a formal complaint to the SLMM regarding the incident and the new SLMM chief said their officials were probing the incident. .

Some reports said two EPDP supporters had been present in the area when the attack took place and it was not immediately known whether the EPDPers were the target of the attackers.

Security has been tightened in the area and a major operation is under way to track down the attackers, the military spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the LTTE had reportedly arrested three Tamil civilians who had allegedly committed several illegal activities in the Vavuniya area.

Military sources said the three civilians were arrested on Sunday evening and were now being detained at the Vavuniya LTTE political office in the government-held area.

Peace needs justice and equal rights: SLMM official

"The absence of open conflict is not peace. Peace will start only when the parties have found solutions for their disagreements," SLMM Trincomalee Head Dagfinn Aadnanes said.

Speaking at a musical event organized by the Past Students Association of the Trincomalee St. Mary's Girls College, he said, "Your country has been at war since before you were born, and you have grown up in insecurity, hostility, violence and aggression. But during almost three years now, you have seen a different life, without shooting and violence. People can move more freely and can attend public events, like this one, without fear of violence. For most people, living conditions have improved; their lives have become better, thanks to the three years of ceasefire.

"Peace must be nurtured like a small plant in a garden. Like a plant needs water, sun and nutrition to sprout and thrive, peace needs justice and equal rights, trust and respect, development and prosperity, freedom and democracy, respect for Human Rights.

“The international community can aid and guide but it is only the people and institutions of Sri Lanka that can find the way to lasting peace and freedom. Students are the gardeners who must plant and cultivate the tree of peace. “ - TamilNet

Colombo and suburbs infiltrated, reveals intelligence report

With government informants being regularly gunned down by allegedly unidentified LTTE gangs, the latest intelligence reports have revealed an estimated 1000 LTTE cadres from the North-East have taken up residence in Colombo and its suburbs.

An anti-terrorist intelligence officer who did not wish to be identified told the Daily Mirror that unarmed LTTE cadres have taken up residence in the Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte areas.

According to the source civilians partial to the LTTE had been sent to Colombo along with their families and helped to settle down and start their own businesses. Especially LTTE cadres had been sent to Colombo to work in shops, it said.

Most of these persons have got themselves registered as voters in their respective areas, the source said.

According to an intelligence survey Bambalapitiya, Wellawatta, Dehiwela, Mt. Lavinia, Pettah, Grandpass and Kotahena have been identified as the areas where the migrant cadres have recently settled down, especially after the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in 2002.

Police launch 119 for emergencies by Kurulu Kariyakarawana

The new Police Emergency Service number 119 was launched yesterday at the IGP's Command Room in Mirihana.

The number 119 which could be dialled from any telephone service including mobile phones would be directly connected to the IGP's Command Room. Public Security, Law and Order Ministry Secretary Thilak Ranaviraja and IGP Chandra Fernando were present during the inauguration. Director IGP Command and Police Information Division SP Luxman Kaluarachchi said though the number was launched yesterday they expect it to function properly only by next January.

"We have deployed 10 separate telephone lines. We run trials occasionally. In future we hope to add more lines and set up substations countrywide," the Director said. According to Mr. Kaluarachchi anybody can call in an emergency but he requested them to refrain from giving nuisance calls.

"In future we plan to develop this service and include Ambulance and Fire Brigade services," he said.

T’mannar drug gang arrested by Kurulu Kariyakarawana

Talaimannar police on Sunday arrested a gang of five Sri Lankans who smuggled high quality heroin from India worth over three million rupees.

The suspects reportedly residents of Talaimannar were taken into custody while they were about to unload the contraband smuggled from a boat at Parana Palama, Talaimannar last morning. Police recovered a kilogram of heroin, brown sugar.

The gang had reportedly sailed to Rameshwaram on the previous evening around 4.30 and reached Indian shores around 10.30 p.m. They had returned with the contraband around 1.00 a.m. and reached Talaimannar around 6.00 a.m.

OIC Talaimannar police Inspector N.E. Silva told the Daily Mirror that two more suspects were to be taken into custody in connection with the case. One of them, a drug dealer in Grandpass area.

The gang had been engaged in the illicit business for sometime and had smuggled drugs worth millions in the past few months. "They travel to India in boats in the guise of transporting refugees," the OIC said.

Norway must assure parties of gains by Jehan Perera

The forthcoming visit of the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Peterson and other key Norwegian facilitators, including Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen and Special Envoy Erik Solheim, have helped to revive hopes of a resumption of the long-stalled peace process. The lengthy period of deadlock, now rising to 20 months, of no-talks, has been interspersed with short bouts of optimism that do have a base in rational expectations.

Getting back to the negotiating table is very clearly in the objective interests of both the Government and the LTTE. The question is to figure why they are continuing to delay when they could benefit greatly by resuming their peace talks.

The Government's interest in getting back to the negotiating table would stem primarily from the condition laid down by the international donors at the Tokyo donor conference of June 2003. At that conference, the international donors pledged a very generous sum of US$ 4.5 billion in aid over a four-year period. But they made the disbursement of that large sum of money conditional upon the satisfactory progress of the peace process. The Government's primary interest in recommencing the peace talks would stem from its urgent need to obtain an inflow of substantial external funding to bridge the budget deficit. The Government's political future most critically depends on the revival of the health of the economy, which is being subjected to sharp inflationary pressures at the present time.

On the LTTE's side too there is a real need to get the peace process under way. But for the LTTE, their interest would be less in terms of obtaining economic aid than in directly consolidating their political and military control on the ground. Certainly, obtaining economic aid to bring the peace dividend to the long-suffering people of the north-east would be an important consideration for the LTTE. In fact they have constantly justified their demand for an interim self governing authority for the north-east on the basis of satisfying the developmental and economic needs of the people. But the LTTE leadership has also made it clear, time and again, that obtaining political control is of greater importance to them than obtaining economic resources.

The LTTE's need to utilise any forthcoming peace talks, as a vehicle to strengthen their control on the ground, would have got more urgent in view of the crisis situation that exists in the east. After the revolt by its eastern commander Karuna, who broke away from the LTTE, there is a vacuum of control in the east. Most of the LTTE's political offices in Batticaloa remain closed, as they are vulnerable to attack by the Karuna group. But if the LTTE can obtain political control over the north-east, by means of an interim self governing authority, such as they have proposed, it may become easier for them to completely eradicate the influence now wielded by Karuna, his remaining fighters and his political party in the east.

The priority given by the LTTE to political and military control, as against economic matters, can be seen quite clearly in their proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). Only three of the 23 clauses pertaining to the ISGA are concerned with economic or developmental issues. These three clauses deal with the subjects of rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement. The balance 19 clauses are concerned with issues of political and military control and governance, such as the high security zones, the coastal waters, and law and order issues, elections, human rights and other governance issues.

What the above analysis suggests is that there is a major mismatch between the goals and expectations of the Government and the LTTE. The Government seeks to obtain economic resources as its primary goal while the LTTE seeks control on the ground as its primary goal. It is this mismatch that is creating suspicion and doubt in the minds of the two parties, regarding each other. The LTTE's concern would be that the Government is only seeking to restart the peace talks in order to open the purse strings of the international donors. The LTTE would be suspicious that the Government has no real intention of providing the LTTE with an interim administration of the kind they seek, as an outcome of the peace talks.

On the other hand, the Government's concern would be that the LTTE's intention in restarting the peace talks is simply to obtain the implementation of its far reaching ISGA proposals. These proposals seek the legalisation of LTTE-created institutions, such as its police, judiciary and the proposed auditor general, although they will have no relationship to existing national institutions. The LTTE's evident unwillingness to consider linkage with national institutions, and the implication that they seek total control, makes the situation more difficult from the Government's point of view. The LTTE has recently been seeking to backtrack on the commitment they made at the Oslo round of peace talks in December 2002, where they agreed to explore a federal solution within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. The mismatch between the goals and expectations of the Government and LTTE, with regard to the peace talks, would stand as the biggest obstacle to their resumption. It is unlikely that the visit of the high powered Norwegian delegation to Sri Lanka this week can change this mismatch in the short term. In fact, the Norwegians appear to be cognisant of the challenge they face. Their Foreign Minister has already stated that their visit should not generate too many expectations. He has pointed out that the messages he is receiving from the parties are not very positive ones. The highly publicised excerpts from the forthcoming book by LTTE ideologue Dr Anton Balasingham, distancing the LTTE from the federal consensus at Oslo, would be one example. However, by utilising their unique access to the very highest in the leadership of the two sides and, by clarifying the nature of the mismatch, the Norwegian facilitators can contribute much, to preparing the ground for future peace talks. There are two key areas in particular where the Norwegian facilitators could make a valuable contribution. The first would be to convince the LTTE leadership that the legitimacy of the ISGA proposal hinges upon a willingness to work within the parameters of the Oslo agreement on federalism. Unless the ISGA is amended to include the shared rule component of federalism, it will be impossible for any Sri Lankan government to hand over parts of the country to be ruled by an unelected, separate and unaccountable organisation.

The Norwegian facilitators are in a particularly strong position to impress upon the LTTE the need for a federal solution. At the very outset of their publicly announced entry into the Sri Lankan peace process, they announced the broad political parameters within which they would function. They publicly stated that their facilitation was conditional upon the two parties accepting a common framework of a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil aspirations would be substantially met. By agreeing to Norwegian facilitation and by entering into the Norwegian-facilitated peace process, the LTTE implicitly agreed to the parameters that the Norwegians set for their facilitation.

The second key area for the Norwegians to contribute to would be in respect of the approach adopted towards the peace process. Both parties would need to reorient themselves to approach the peace process in a manner that would ensure that both parties gain, rather than only one party gaining while the other party loses. The episode of the breakaway LTTE eastern commander Karuna, and the complicity of sections of the Government in it, would be an example of one party seeking to gain at the expense of the other. Certainly the LTTE was weakened by to this incident. But the covert support given to Karuna added to the mistrust between the two sides that continues to hold up the peace process to the detriment of virtually everyone.

Most scholars of peace processes, worldwide, advocate conflict resolution strategies in which there are mutual gains for both sides. A model to follow in this regard might be the Camp David Accords of 1976 that have ensured peace between Israel and Egypt for nearly three decades. At these peace talks, the US government was the mediator and recognised that Israel's interest was security while Egypt's interest was in its national sovereignty. The US mediators made this fact, that the interests of the two parties differed, actually work for a solution. They mediated a settlement whereby Israel gave back the Sinai desert that it had captured from Egypt while Egypt demilitarised the Sinai. Both parties gained from the negotiations.

The CFA that has become Sri Lanka's most precious possession today, had the positive feature that it enabled both parties to gain. The peace process was strongest during its initial stages when the Government and the LTTE considered each other to be partners in the peace process. It was only when they began to see that their interests were opposed, at least in some areas, that the relationship began to suffer and with it the peace process also suffered. The facilitators must show the parties that there are negotiating options by which, economic resources, development and responsible autonomy can be found to meet their legitimate needs and expectations.

Constitution-making for a federal solution by Asanga Welikala

The debate about the fundamental reformulation of the Sri Lankan State in order to address its many defects and deficiencies has been a long and sustained affair. The principal critiques of the present form of the Sri Lankan State are twofold, both emanating from the same source - the over-centralisation of political power. Firstly, it is seen that there should be a more even-handed distribution of power as between institutions and the citizen, so as to secure greater democracy. Secondly, and perhaps more compellingly, due to the violent response the anomaly has encouraged, it is understood that political power needs to be decentralised and shared between the various communities, comprising the Island's polity, so as to ensure equity.
It is clear, therefore, that the remedy lies essentially in some form of political association, grounded upon the federal principle. However, the federal idea merely furnishes a useful organising principle around which any number of forms, depending on needs and objectives, may be developed. Therefore, the recognition of the federal principle is merely a first step in the reconciliation of a complicated and, often conflicting, array of perspectives on its nature, scope, and how it would look like, when given institutional expression.

How is this process of harmonising disparate perspectives on the specific form of Sri Lankan federalism - in short, the constitution-making process - to be designed?

The traditional notion of constitution-making, exemplified by the Constitution of the United States, considers a Constitution to be a contractarian instrument, a covenant setting out the principles, structures, procedures of the relationship between institutions of government and the citizen, as well as the relationships between communities of people constituting the polity. It presupposes that the 'contract' is negotiated among the political leadership, and once made, is necessarily accompanied by a general commitment to adhere to its terms. Therefore, the Constitution is a framework within which democratic politics is conducted and, which shapes and channels tensions between competing political forces. In this sense, the Constitution is the primary instrument of conflict management in society.

The negotiation of the Constitution is seen as an act of State-building, which is performed ideally by a common elite, or an elite of the leaderships of constitutive groups. This is because, in the traditional view, only elites have the necessary expertise, relative disinterest, or conversely, the shared national interest in ensuring order through compromise, and the moderation to deliberate on the setting up of foundational institutions of government in perpetuity.

The Constitution as an instrument of legitimacy is a natural and indispensable element of the theoretical development of democracy from a crudely majoritarian idea to a more sophisticated conception of government that seeks to maximise the wellbeing of all members of society and not merely the majority.

It can be readily appreciated, nevertheless, how the traditional mode of constitution-making, through the reliance it places on elites, may be considered inappropriate in modern societies.

In societies such as Sri Lanka, characterised by deep divisions and a history of violence, it is precisely the failure of post-independence elites, in respect of group political accommodation, that are at the root of conflict. The autochthonous constitution-making exercises in 1972 and 1978 both exemplify the critique that elites cannot always be relied upon to deliver on expectations of moderation, deliberation and fairness.

Moreover, in the context of major disagreement and lack of mutual trust, it is difficult to envision an elite-driven constitution-making process for at least two reasons. Firstly, it is entirely questionable whether the space exists for an inter elite negotiation to take place. The seemingly intractable impasse in which the Sri Lankan peace process has been mired for more than a year indicates that the space for interest-based negotiations between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, is non existent.

Secondly, the traditional constitutionalist notion of a Constitution as a final settlement is an unrealistic, short-term goal in negotiating solutions to conflicts such as Sri Lanka's. That is, in the absence of even the lowest threshold of agreement, as to how the questions for negotiation should to be framed, quite apart from what ought to be the normative, underpinnings of an acceptable final settlement, the drafting of a new Constitution is a long-term and incredibly difficult goal. On the other hand, challenges to the legitimacy of both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, demand the inclusion of voices and viewpoints that are representative of the wider communities they seek to represent. The Muslim perspective is the most significant case in point.

Yet, a conventional Constitution's function as a framework for managing diversity and maintaining stability is acutely necessary during the period when conflict is being transformed from violence to politics through negotiation.

It thus becomes clear that this tension between the requirement of stability, and the need to ensure negotiations are optimally inclusive, makes the design of the constitution-making process pivotal to success. The institutions for government set up to support negotiations must fulfil these two objectives - institutions with adequate capacity to ensure smooth administration at the same time as a constitutional conversation about the final settlement is facilitated. In this way, the normative standards applicable in the traditional view only to the final product (new Constitution), becomes applicable to the process by which that final product is created as well.

It is in this context that there is a need to enact an Interim Constitution in Sri Lanka. Such an Interim Constitution must be a comprehensive framework for coherent government, whilst a national engagement with the resolution of the conflict is negotiated. However, an Interim Constitution serves its utility only if accompanied by a serious, sustained and sincere effort at addressing the constitutional anomalies that have rendered Sri Lanka an unviable State. It requires negotiation not only on the chief focus of resolving ethnic conflict, but also on how to have a comprehensive structure for democratic government in the future. In this sense, it would be useful to build into the Interim Constitution a normative element in terms of a set of constitutional principles to guide negotiations. These will have to be themselves intensively negotiated and agreed upon. In this way, the principles would set the tone and, give a sense of direction to the negotiations on the final Constitution.

This type of 'conversational constitutionalism' also serves as a valuable precursor to the value of 'deliberative democracy' that must permeate a future constitutional dispensation, displacing the pernicious values of 'majoritarian democracy' that have characterised our constitutional instruments for too long.

Having said that, how are these constitutional principles developed? What is their content? I suggest that they should be aspirational in nature, setting out in appropriately imaginative terms, a constitutional vision for a future Sri Lanka that is peaceful, just and democratic. I offer the following as a starting point for a constitutional conversation:

The shared destiny of all the peoples of the Island to cohabit peacefully in the pursuit of prosperity and freedom, to appreciate the concerns and aspirations of one another and the duty to consult and constructively engage with one another in the resolution of disputes by exclusively peaceful means.

To give institutional expression to the multiple identities of the peoples of Sri Lanka, to provide for the mediation of relations between such peoples, and to construct, by the participation effort and will of all such peoples, a constitutional state that is truly representative of all the stakeholders of the Sri Lankan polity and society. Accordingly, the new institutions of the State of Sri Lanka shall organise the pursuit of common and shared goals, while fully respecting the diversity of its constituent peoples.

Negotiations towards the formulation of the putative social covenant between the peoples of this country, and the State that such covenant seeks to establish, shall be cognizant of the tragedies of the past that have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering on the peoples of this Island, and mindful of this truly historic opportunity for a new beginning, the negotiations shall seek to establish future dispensation that ensures peace, justice and dignity to all the peoples of Sri Lanka.

The people of Sri Lanka, as a whole, enjoy the collective right to self-determination in a united State. The State will respect and protect the right to internal self determination of any of its constituent peoples as founded on the commonality of language, culture, religion or territory. The State shall be committed to federalism, meaningful regional autonomy and mechanisms for power-sharing on common matters, and to the values of multiculturalism in the protection of such right.

Individual and collective rights of all local minorities residing in any and every part of the Island shall be recognised and protected in accordance with international standards. Axiomatic in this regard is entitlement to the rights of free speech, association and movement, as citizens of Sri Lanka.

The pursuit of the common destiny of the peoples of Sri Lanka, and the individuals who comprise collective identities, shall at all times be informed, guided and bound by the norms of international human rights.

The future constitutional settlement shall be underpinned by the norms and values of plural democracy as the foundation of a society that cherishes peace, freedom, equality before the law and inter group solidarity and respect. Individuals' freedom of speech and association, party political competition, the franchise and other important democratic rights, including cultural rights, constitute the means of realising such a society. It is essential that these rights are given constitutional recognition and full judicial protection.

A new Constitution which reflects the aspirations of all the peoples of Sri Lanka, recognises and protects human rights, and serves as a mechanism to check the excesses of majoritarian decision-making while ensuring that governance is democratic, accountable and responsive, shall be the supreme law of the land. All law and conduct inconsistent with it shall be void.

The constitutional framework of the future State shall foster and provide institutional safeguards for the rights of citizenship of all Sri Lankans who look upon the Island as their home, as well as reflect the principle of power-sharing at the centre. The institutions of the future State will also provide for co-operative inter relations between the centre and the regions, and between regions, for purposes of economic activity and government.