6 December, 2022


The Continuing Need For International Presence 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The issue of international participation in Sri Lanka’s transition process continues to remain a matter of speculation with different pronouncements being made by different members of the government. However, support for an international role in ascertaining the truth of what happened in the last phase of the war has received a boost due to the maiden speech in parliament made by former army commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. His credentials as a champion of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and unity as a state cannot be denied even by his political opponents. It was he who turned round the military debacles of an earlier period and achieved military success by leading from the front. Speaking in Parliament the former army commander said that Sri Lanka should permit foreign observers to participate in any inquiry on whether war crimes had been committed in the last phase of the country’s war.

During the period of the last government, the former army commander was victimised by its leaders who saw him as a potential threat to their monopoly of power. After the election of President Maithripala Sirisena the former army commander was compensated for the political victimisation he suffered and was also promoted from the rank of General of the army to that of Field Marshal. After the general election that saw the formation of a government of national unity, he was also appointed to parliament on the national list and thereafter made a cabinet minister. He disclosed that government decision makers during the final period of the war had asked him to get out from operational duties and assigned the political authorities to handle the military operations. In his maiden speech in Parliament that “If there are any who violated the laws then inquiries should be held and punitive actions taken against them.”

Ranil Maithri Chandrila Fonseka 1Since the end of the war in May 2009 there has been intense pressure on the government to investigate whether war crimes took place in the closing stages of the war due to indiscriminate and mass killing of civilians and also whether there was targeted killing of LTTE leaders and their families who surrendered to the Sri Lankan military. There has been strong opposition to the issue of international participation agreed to in the Geneva Resolution that was co-sponsored by the government. In his speech, Field Marshal Fonseka said that under his leadership the military “had waged the war in accordance with international law.” But he also said that “Inquiries should be made open to international observers who can observe whether there were any violations of international law.” It is significant that Field Marshal Fonseka spoke of international observers at the inquiry, and not foreign judges or prosecutors which is more controversial.

Book Reports

Field Marshal Fonseka also said in the course of his speech in parliament that he would reveal the truth about the final stages of the war, and in particular the “White Flag” issue, in which LTTE leaders surrendered to the Sri Lankan military after having been in touch with leaders of foreign countries that had been supporting Sri Lanka’s peace process. He said that he was in the process of writing a book in which there would be more facts emerging as to how the government conducted the war in the last stages, often with the knowledge and partnership of sections of the international community. Sometimes historians and those actors who write about their personal experiences are the custodians of a country’s history and their views give a more complete picture of the situation as it existed with all its real life complexities.

In this context it is interesting that a book that gives the international perspective of the last stages of the war which formed the centrepiece of the former Army Commander’s maiden speech in parliament has recently been published with the Sri Lankan book launch taking place earlier this month. It is an account of Norway’s peace engagement in Sri Lanka titled “To end a civil war” and is authored by Mark Salter, a former BBC journalist and later a research scholar working in an international peace building organisation, International IDEA, based in Sweden. This book of 550 pages provides a meticulously documented account of how Norway came to be involved in Sri Lanka’s last and most promising peace process. It also addresses the issues that arose at the last stages of the war, including the White Flag case. It has a large number of interviews with those who played a front line role during those days.

Japan’s peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi, who made more than twenty visits to Sri Lanka both during and after the war to support the reconciliation and negotiation process, comments on Mark Salter’s book saying “The sobering lesson we should all learn from these intractable experiences is that the final outcome of these efforts depends ultimately on political circumstances that are beyond the control of peace makers.” But Norway’s peace facilitation in Sri Lanka has had a lasting impact that outlived the collapse of the Ceasefire Agreement in 2006. The Norwegian-facilitated peace effort was supported by influential members of the international community, with the United States, Japan and European Union becoming co-chairs. This legacy of constructive international involvement brought to the fore during the period of the Ceasefire Agreement continued to the end of the war and persists to this day.

Lasting Impact

Norwegian facilitation, initially at the invitation of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, began in the period prior to the year 2000 and attained its high point in 2002 with the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement by the government and LTTE. This gave the country the best opportunity to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, the high point of which was the Oslo Declaration in late 2002 in which the government and LTTE agreed to explore a federal solution to address the root causes of the conflict. Even today the contours of a just political solution will need to lie in the domain of the federal arrangements of power sharing in which the numerical preponderance of one community does not become a permanent tyranny of the majority as seen from the perspective of those who are doomed to be a permanent minority in an ethnically plural society.

The issue of international participation in Sri Lanka’s transition process today is one of the outcomes of Norway’s peace engagement in Sri Lanka. It is what continues to give hope to the Tamil minority that there can be a just political solution to their problems. A special opportunity to negotiate a just solution during the government-LTTE pace process was reached with the Oslo Declaration on a power sharing arrangement on the basis of federalism. Public opinion surveys at that time confirmed that a majority of the population, weary of protracted war, were prepared to accept a federal solution if it would end the war. The military power of the LTTE gave the Tamil polity a more equal bargaining strength with that of the Sri Lankan state, which led to the Oslo Declaration. However, the military defeat of the LTTE has brought into play the asymmetry in political power that a numerical majority has over a numerical minority within a democratic system. It led to a withdrawal from the federal vision and to rearguard action to even maintain what the 13th Amendment to the Constitution has to offer in terms of devolution of power. One of the lessons learnt from the Norwegian experience is the need to have a political framework in place, which is what the government is seeking to do through its constitutional reform process.

At a consultation on the peace process conducted last week with civil society representatives from all parts of the country, the participants were sub-divided into smaller groups for in-depth discussion on issues. The Tamil speaking group consisting mainly of persons from the North and East, expressed private doubts whether the current transition process would be successful. This is to be expected. They have seen previous efforts at reform and reconciliation come to nought. As a permanent numerical minority they need to have other factors that reduce the asymmetry in their bargaining strength. The issue of international participation should not become or be seen as foreign interference that erodes national sovereignty. On the contrary, it is to strengthen the confidence of the Tamil polity in the transition process. If Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s statement on international observers is built upon constructively, it will contribute to greater confidence within the Tamil polity regarding the promise of national reconciliation.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The national problem the Tamils face is that Viggie believes that the Hindian proposed Arcelor Mittal houses are too posh for the Dalits. He even questioned the wisdom of providing them with gas canisters. Oh blimy they should be living in wattle and daub huts when Vellala Viggie does his rounds in his white vettie. NGO Jehan is too excited about SF’s cheap theatrics in the parliament. For NGO Jehan’s information Sarath Fonseka got 28,000 votes at the last election. Just because he has been brought into the parliament via the back door doesn’t build him any credibility. NGO Jehan should make another visit to paddy farmers and feel the pulse before writing his next piece for his masters.

    • 1

      Two months before the NPC Chief Minister spoke on the unsuitability of the construction for any human being(actually unsuitable for any living thing) many sensible Sinhalese and Tamils find this insuitable and wrote to the Prime Minister. The full letter is given in acomment:

      Pl note:
      A true patriot is a balanced person.

  • 5

    His credentials as a Champion of Sovereignty and unity of the State can not be denied even by his political opponents.

    True.. True.. Jehan..mate.

    But it was before he got that LKR 85 Million from the UNP Christian Faction.

    • 2

      You would expect foreign funded NGOs to ask for foreign participants in the nations internal matters. Wouldn’t some goofy from UK or US like to sit there and give orders to local judges and security personnel! Thanks, but no thanks to you Mr Perera. You are free to carry the dust pan and broom and, follow your foreign masters on bended knees.

      • 3

        As an alternative, can we suggest to this [Edited out] to leave the country and go among the foreigners he seems to love so much?

        [Edited out]

        For Pope’s sake, leave our bloody country to us and go and live in the pperfect democrcacies you like so much.


  • 6

    Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalists are going backwards and cannot understand the humanity, law and order, justice etc. Lord Buddha thought his teachings will turn them into cultured civilised humans through love and peace. Unfortunately Buddha couldn’t succeed it. Jehan, I don’t think you can do it.

  • 3

    What is the point in having International observers instead of International participants in the inquiry of human rights violations and to find out whether war crimes were committed. Most of the evidences of crimes have been obliterated by the armed forces and it is almost 7 years since the war ended, the inquiry will prove nothing and that is why Mr.Fonseka is suggesting for International observers in the inquiry in order to pacify everyone. We have seen many footages of mass murders committed by the armed forces. The truth has to come out as to what happened during the war. The truth has to come not from the offenders but from an impartial investigators.
    The Tamils will not accept anything less than the state of Federalism in the new constitution, failing which a referendum for the people of North and East to determine their position in Sri Lanka is imperative. Sri Lanka is their motherland and they have a right to choose their place in Sri Lanka and not imposed on them.

    Mr.Mark Salter in his book “To end a civil war” blames both parties of the conflict for the failure of the peace process. However, the main blame goes on the Sri Lankan Government for creating the LTTE wherein the most affected party is the Tamils. The power seeking politicians of the South should not fail again as in the past in formulating a Federal constitution so that there will be peace and development in Sri Lanka.

    • 4

      It is nonsence to suggest that the Sri Lankan government created the racist, genocidal LTTE terrorists. LTTE terrorists came into being from the evolution of Tamil hatred of Sinhalese intiated by the likes of Ramanathans, Chelva, Sunda. Sri Lanka has paid a heavy price to rid the terrorists and will not gift federalism to please the very same agents of terror. A state within a state is not acceptable to the majority. The unitary character of the motherland will prevail!

      • 5

        There is no doubt that it is Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalists who created the racism and terrorism in this land.The request for equal rights does not mean racism. Sinhala only and Buddhism only policies of the Sinhala governments are racism. Majority is not about race in democracy. Unitary system already paralysed which lead to dictatorship.

      • 0

        In which case the Tamils will demand for separation.

        • 0

          Tamils did demand separatism with guns, bombs, suicide bombers …. but have forgotten that they got a damn good hiding. The unitary state stays and,take it or leave!

  • 0

    I read the following comments under another CT article: “Currently the American administration seems to have given them (current Ranil-Maitree government)only one piece of advice: marginalize the Chinese and obey the Indians. PM (Ranil) and his cabinet idiots follow this advice like a herd of sheep but act like jokers in Parliament when questioned about ECTA and the proposed Indo-Lanka bridge. Their speeches are terribly worded with neither convincing beginnings nor nation-friendly conclusions. They cannot make straight decisions because of their Yahapalana half-brothers who tease them constantly. In short, they just speak like kids who plan to play hide and seek and finally get caught. Majority Sri Lankans with many academics and Buddhist monks have already suspected their plan and the noisy voices of the so-called Joint Opposition are working overtime to reveal every aspect of this ‘conspiracy’ against their own country. It is true that many Sri Lankans believe they were able to safeguard Buddhism and 26-century old friendly culture from foreign invaders in the past because they existed as a separate island from the Indian subcontinent. Buddha was an Indian but India and average Indians could not save (his) valuable teachings from the cast-cracy Brahmins and invading Muslims. Sri Lankans (did an excellent job in this regard and) teach and learn this Indian history and feel sorry about the average 1 billion Indians. The current Indian envoy has already acted like the proverbial tortoise that tried to scold mischievous school (village) boys who made fun of its flight when it was being carried from an abandoned lake to a resourceful one by two friendly cranes with the help of a stick. The two cranes gave clear advice to the tortoise not to open its mouth en-route before their spectacular flight but the idiot got mad at boys, open its mouth to scold them. You know what happened afterwards. Indian envoy’s arrogance has already backfired! If Indian administration acts like this Sri Lanka will be in the lap of the Chinese like a napping newborn sooner than later.”
    My concern is if this is a real ‘conspiracy’ as some say,it could backfire in no time!
    During JRJ’s time a similar situation prevailed; JRJ blindly followed the American policy and got into trouble with Indira Gandhi. Ranil is his nephew and he follows the same policy but this time India is in a different position in the same geopolitical field but playing the same game. Will Sri Lanka be sandwiched between the Indians and the Americans once again like in 1987 and eventually thrown into the lap of the Chinese?

  • 2

    Mr. Jehan Perera,
    the war is over, long over. What has happened has happened. This talk about International Presence is too complicated.
    What is needed now is to heal the wounds gently and in a soothing manner with a good subtle smelling soothing balm.
    If the tamil people and politicians want peace, genuine peace then they need to sincerely work hard for it. All the people of SL need to work for peace. At the rate SL is going along at present a peace is existing only in words and not deed. The tamil politicians want everything done at the twist of a finger just to suit their whims and fancies. War is a terrible thing, a terrifying experience for all mankind and from war comes a certain amount of good. That good has to be used by persons with brains to make the best use of it.
    In SL there are no good people with brains to make use of the good that came out with the end of the war. What has been done with that good is the personal rags to riches rise of the politicians from all sides and communities. How need not be mentioned here. Any fool knows how. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As long as SL politicians continue to rob, cheat, loot, plunder, murder, etc etc………….. a genuine peace is far beyond reach.
    You all know it !!!!!!!! dont you !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There is a saying that God can take any evil and extract good from it only if he deems that its worthy in doing so, but if God sees that its a unworthy cause then he refrains from doing so.
    In the case of SL its a unworthy cause untill all of SL comes together and makes a joint confession that the population consisting of all and sundry will stand against corruption, neopotism, murders, looting, cheating, etc etc etc. This is a task of great magnittude and not easy and therefore the chances are very slim.

    Finally a bit of advice to you. To heal the body you need to heal the soul because if the soul is festering with evil then the body will not heal and even if the body heals it wont be normal as before.

    Dont know how you might intepret this but if you are intelligent you can.

    SL’s soul is festering with evil therefore the body cannot be healed.


  • 0

    All the peace making party balloons and flashing running lights will be there only until Secretary Kerry leaves the office. In the meantime Ponnar has been brought into the show because believing that America wanted once him to be the president. The Yahapalanaya Government’s speculation is keeping him with them will cool the current American administration until Lankawe can restart all the negotiation with the New administration all over again. Further, they have got a Sinhala Intellectuals’ war hero to equal the Old King and the Bother Prince. So the Ponnar’s prate or jabber has no place in the actual political arena. He is not there to prosecute the Old Royals on war crime with the involvement of Foreign and Commonwealth lawyers and judges.

    But there is a new interesting development is taking place. Old King, even though he evaded the media in Hambantota temple visit, but now he has been forced to answer the Ponnar’s prating. In that process he has mentioned that there is chance that the media would soon bring back Thalaivar. He pretended like blaming the media but actually he was really slipping from the old stand of Talavar was killed before the war ended. Indian government was cheated many times for death certificate for Thalaivar. At end Bother Prince went India and settled it without a certificate. After meeting with Brother Prince, Chidambaram said that Lanka was not in a position to issue a certificate but has given the guarantee of Thalaivar’s death. Even though Chidambaram issued this statement to public and the media, the Indian courts refused to accept it and cancel the cases pending on Thalaivar. Furthr, the Tamil Nadu Military Medical expert Dr. Chandrasekhar said he was the one trained the Lankawe army on DNA tests and it was utter lie that Lankawe claim they finished the DNA test within 12 hours and cremated the body. (We have not seen that in Vidya’s case.) So far nobody has been given a sample from the body. The Old King said, other than Ponnar, many army personnel had confirmed him the death. He did not mention about the Karuna’s witness which was the most flashing drama on the Arupa Vahini on those days. Further, he has not mentioned the DNA test either, which they had submitted as conclusive evidence to all, including for the guarantee to India. (I am not sure if the news piece I came across on this had the full text of the speech). Now he has said that he may not be surprised if the media has revived him and brought back.

    The tricky, Old King has so far keep flatly denying that he has paid money to LTTE. That is a shameless arrogant thing of him because every Tom, Dick and Harry does know the truth on that matter. Further even after the IC has requested and Yahapalanaya had Co-Signed, he still keep standing on his zero casualties and refusing to accept the accusations. Though forced to swallow it back, OISL had pinpointed the 47 criminals involved in the war crime. This comedian is still keep saying that somebody is trying to frame a case on him. So, when that kind of arrogant liar so easily lent on the Leader Prabhakaran’s death and said that he would not be surprised if the media sooner or later bring back leader Pirapaharan, that is where the talks taking an interesting new turn. This the more important talk than that of Ponnar’s gibberish.

  • 0

    The true agent of International corporation.

    Why do not appointment as Justice of World by Ministry of Justice ,is most (un)-Suitable man an Island .

    Peace maker and breaker of Jaheem Pereira.

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