| Chandrika Kumaratunga
Colombo, Nov. 14: The Norwegian mediators that Kumaratunga invited to break the impasse with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are at the moment not the President’s favourite people.
She says they have overstepped their brief and have been biased in monitoring the ceasefire and the peace process as a whole.
Her new Janatha Vimukthi Perumal (JVP) allies want her to fire the Norwegian “foreigners” out of the country. However, Kumaratunga is refusing to do so even though she is not happy with their work. Publicly, however, the President has not revealed her misgivings. But the majority of her party leaders have no such qualms.
The President’s office says that some of the ceasefire monitors are not fair. Kumaratunga removed the chief truce monitor Major General Tryggve Tellefsen on the suspicion that he had warned the LTTE about a Sri Lankan naval interceptor which was about to check whether one of their vessels was carrying arms. Before the interceptor could start the search, the LTTE ship disappeared. Kumaratunga wrote to the Norwegian government accusing the general of jeorpardising Sri Lanka’s national security.
According to her confidante, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Kumaratunga was kept out of the picture even at that time.
Wickremesinghe sought a meeting with the President on February 21, 2002, and told her about the ceasefire which the LTTE chief had already signed. He was going to Vavuniya the following day to formalise it.
With Prabhakaran’s signature already on the dotted line, it was impossible to ask the Prime Minister not to sign. The President wanted to know why this was being done in such a hurry and why she was kept out of the picture.
However, a compromise was reached and Wickremesinghe was told to go ahead with his plans while she would reserve judgment and comment on it the next day.
“There were problems from the very beginning with the government trying to keep the President out,” Kadirgamar said. “However we went along knowing how vital peace was to the interests of the country.”
According to the former foreign minister, while it was right to ask Norway to act as mediator, the government’s mistake was to make them both “facilitators and monitors.”
The security situation was tense with the LTTE getting away with whatever they wanted, right under the noses of the monitors.
According to Kadirgamar, the Tamil Tigers were bringing in shiploads of arms, strengthing their camps, opening new ones and surrounding the sensitive Trincomalle naval base.
He said the Tamil Tigers killed as many as 152 people since April 2002 and the Norwegian monitors have largely ignored the LTTE’s continuing violation of the agreement.
“The final aim of the LTTE is to keep just a token presence of the Sri Lankan security forces in the north and eastern provinces. They have already begun asking for the removal of the army from the high security zones in Jaffna,” a presidential aide said.
Thirty five per cent of the land in Jaffna fall under the high security zone occupied by the army.
The LTTE has raised the demand that they be moved out to accomodate refugees returning home after decades of war. Kumaratunga is afraid that Wickremesinghe will pander to the Tamil Tiger demand as he has done to several others.