by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was signed on July 29th 1987 between the then Sri Lankan President Late J.R.Jeyawardene and then Indian Prime Minister Late Rajiv Gandhi. It drew a lot of attention locally and globally. It marks the 20th anniversary this year. Number of events has been organized by various institutions to mark the 20 th Anniversary of signing the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. This year also marks the 50th Anniversary of signing the Banda-Chelva pact.
[Colonel R. Hariharan, Shiral Lakthilaka, Bradman Weerakoon and Professor Sumanasiri Liyanage at the head table]
The South Asia Peace Institute (SAPI) organized a Symposium- Indo-Lanka Accord. "20 Years", to mark the 20 th Anniversary of signing the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. The Symposium was held on August 2nd 2007 at the auditorium of Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS).
Attorney-at-Law Shiral Lakthilaka moderated the symposium. It was attended by diplomats, academics, human rights activists and peace activists.
Col R Hariharan, Mr. Bradman Weerakoon and Professor Sumansiri Liyanage were key speakers at the symposium. Political parties and civil society representatives presented their view too.
Presentations of the attendees are as follows:
Mr. Weerakkon is a retired civil servant and he made a presentation on "Relevance of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord in the current context":
"Indo-Lanka Peace Accord is on the verge of collapse now. My first recollection prior to signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord is 1983 July riots in Colombo. I was then the secretary to President Ranasinghe Premadasa. I was appointed as the Commissioner General of Essential Services. There were 20 welfare camps, where Tamils sought refuge. We sent as many as Tamils to North and East by ships ,planes and trains to prevent more loss to lives.
There was a feeling of something should be done at that time. Late President J.R.Jeyawardene in his wisdom or lack of wisdom has decided to get into an agreement. The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord itself is historical. Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was the only authority in North and East after the accord was signed in 1987. Then Sri Lankan Government has invited the Indian Government to bring its forces to Sri Lanka. That was the beginning of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF).
JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) protested in Colombo after signing the accord. Late Rajiv Gandhi was assaulted by a naval soldier, being a Pilot of Indian Air force he managed to escape from being assassinated. Late Ranasinghe Premadasa never accepted the agreement whole heatedly. The IPKF was sent back soon after he assumed office as the President. He made sure that the IPKF was sent back, because JVP was causing some problems in the South of the country. The IPKF left the Island with reluctance and regret. About 1,200 soldiers have lost their lives.
The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)opened its political offices in North and East during Ranil Wickremasinghe's time as the Prime Minister. PTOMS continued during the Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike's regime. The East was won. The foundation for the peace talks has to be laid again" said Bradman Weerakoon.
Colonel R. Hariharan:
Colonel R. Hariharan is an intelligence specialist on South Asia and is a retired Military Intelligence officer. He served as the Head of the Intelligence unit of the IPKF in Sri Lanka from 1987 to 1990. He spoke on "Perspective on the forgotten accord and the unwanted war":
[Colonel R. Hariharan]
"The lives of 64,000 people have been lost; 3 million people have been affected from 1987 to 2007. The country is paying the price to human rights violations. The year 2007 marks its 20 th Anniversary of signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord, 50th Anniversary of signing of Banda-Chelva Pact and 30th Anniversary of founding the LTTE.
I had an Aunt, who was a Sri Lankan. She went to the market, when the riots began in Colombo in 1983. She went to airport without a ticket, and landed at Chennai airport. She called us for help on arrival to par the porter at the airport, because she left in panic.
The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was signed July 29th1987 . I was at the Army Headquarters on some other work. My superior called and told me that, there was likely to be an agreement signed. He himself did not know. He also asked me to prepare a list of Tamil speaking intelligence officers. We did not know the troop would be deployed to North and East of Sri Lanka.
I was sent to Sri Lanka on August 3rd 1987. I was asked to go, and I had only two pairs of uniforms. I was told that, I need to spend three or four days as the Leader of the LTTE Pirabhakaran is going to speak, but my stay in Sri Lanka lasted for three years. I know Tamil and I was sent to Jaffna. I walked all around Jaffna Peninsula on arrival. We were neither sent to fight nor to invade. The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was sprung on us. The Indian Army itself did not know. We were confused; we did not know what to do.
The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was not debated at that time, like we debate the Indo-US Nuclear Accord. The LTTE did not carry out any operation after the Niththikulam operation in October 1988, because they could not. After the IPKF was sent to North and East of Sri Lanka, the train services were restarted, telecommunication links were established and banks were reopened. How can we quantify success? By a head or body count? I do not agree with it.
The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was not allowed to bloom by the politicians of both countries. There should be room for the other voices of views. Everyone must trust the Government. There were failures and killings.
Our Army is not perfect. You have got a modern Army, which has taken control of the Eastern Sri Lanka recently. When you have military operations without political process, it will be hijacked by the military. This is currently happening in Iraq. Don't let military victories or failures to hijack.
Militaries are killing machines. Will you kill your own people? It's like having a shave with a sword. And we should pay attention to indications. When we were in control of the Jaffna Peninsula, LTTE cadre Thileepan started to fast undo death. His was one of the indications. The LTTE is like old Chinese Army. LTTE cadre Mahaththaya, who was later killed in an internal dispute never spoke to me in Tamil. Late Colonel Shankar translated for him whenever I had to discuss some issues with him.
The parties involved in conflict should have the ownership in accords unlike the 1987 Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. It's disappointing because it turned out to be a war. Do not go for military solution".
Professor Sumansiri Liyanage:
Professor Liyanage of University of Peradeniya spoke on "Going Beyond the 13 th Amendment":
"I was in Australia, when the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was signed. I was too optimistic that peace will be achieved and returned to Sri Lanka. I rejoined my party LSSP (Lanka Samasamaja Party). Number of my colleagues was killed.
[Professor Sumansiri Liyanage]
The most single important event in post colonial peace building was signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. Banda-Chelva Pact was signed in 1957. Dudley-Chelva Pact was signed in 1966.
The political leaders of the major parties in Sri Lanka did not want to take the initiative during the period of pre and post 1987. The Leader of Opposition marched to Kandy after the Banda-Chelva Pact was signed in 1957. When the former President Chandrika was in power during 2000, the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremasinghe did not support the 13th Amendment. The political leaders are elected by the people fortunately or unfortunately.
When we speak of the international community it means USA, Canada, European Union, and marginally Japan. What about the other countries? The pressure needs to be put on political parties to resolve the problem.
The civil society was active during the time of peace, but very inactive now, because of the Government. The business community in Sri Lanka should actively be involved peace building. And also India has to play a role, although it has got its priorities. There is a pressure within India to play a role in Sri Lankan issue.
There are three reasons for the failure of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. The first reason is India put a lot of trust in J.R.Jeyawardene 's Government. India tried to defeat or marginalize the LTTE, but did not put pressure on the Government in Colombo. The second reason is the TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front) did not play a role. And the third reason is the 13 th Amendment. The APRC (All Party Representative Committee) is carrying on with its duties. But I do not think that, it will produce any better results".
Kabir Hashim M.P:
United National Party's views were expressed by one its parliamentarians Kabir Hashim.
[Kabir Hashim M.P]
"The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and Ceasefire Agreement have brought partial peace to Sri Lanka. After the 1983 riots in Colombo , space was created for the Tamil militancy. The UNP (United National Party) has begun rehabilitation work in North and East after signing the Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE.
After 1983 July riots 122 factories were closed down, 2,300 businesses were shut down, 22,000 houses were destroyed. Then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremasinghe initiated yet another effort for peace in Sri Lanka. The incidents which are taking for place for nearly two years clearly show that, we are not moving forward. Talented men and women are killed".
Professor Tissa Vitharana M.P:
Minister of Science and Technology and a member of Peoples Alliance, Professor Tissa Vitharana, who is also the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) chairman, expressed his party's views.
"The signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was cardinal to concept. I have observed some changes in Yattiyanthotta and Ruwanwella after the devolution of power through provincial councils. The aspirations of the Tamils can be achieved within a framework of one country.
The Tamils were saying that they depended on the majorities to have what they wanted. Now they say that they want more powers to their hands. Some are fear of separation and the rest is desired to have adequate powers. I am hopeful that, we have reached consensus. We are still to arrive for compromise. The Tamil people can depend on it, but not on the agenda of the LTTE".
[Minister of Science and Technology and a member of Peoples Alliance discusses with Udaya Gammanpila Legal Adviser of Jathika Hela Urumaya]
Udaya Gammanpila Legal Adviser of Jathika Hela Urumaya, expressed views of his party.
"Sri Lanka has surrendered its sovereignty to India by signing the Indo- Lanka Peace accord. Sinhalese are ready to die one after the other, if they are forced on solution and not convinced. We are not convinced by bombs and guns. The LTTE is not ready to compromise.
The LTTE lost less than 6,000 cadres while fighting with the IPKF, one of the active army in the world. Sri Lanka was interested in Tamil Nadu politics. The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka at that time was concerned only about the Tamils. After learning good lessons in 1987, they have become concerned about the Sinhalese and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka. India strongly and openly supported the Tamil militants. Sri Lankans are a bit suspicious of the India, because of the bitter past.
We must develop the east and hand over it to the people. Nearly 2,000 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. War memorial for the IPKF should be established".
The views of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress were expressed by A.M.Faaiz.
"The signing of indo - Lanka Peace Accord was significant at that time. It can be revived. It also provided merger of North and East, although it was imposed on Muslims without prior consultation. The accord paved the way for Muslims to play politics in provincial and National level.
The Muslim community was neglected before signing the accord, never consulted. The Muslims, who were with the UNP were hurt by the signing of the accord. But they were told either to accept it or leave the party".
Professor Shantha Hennayake:
Professor Shantha Hennayake of the Department of Geography at the University of Peradeniya expressed his views as a civil society representative.
[Professor Shantha Hennayake]
"Two different texts were used in the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. "Agreement reached between us" was mentioned in Rajiv Gandhi's letter. But J.R.Jeyawardene's letter had "The understanding reached between us". Was it an agreement or understanding?
Geo- Politics underlies the international relations. India is Regional Super Power. The real reason behind the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was Geo-Politics. The LTTE is not a local problem; it's a regional problem if not a global problem. Disarming of the LTTE remains an unresolved problem".
Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu:
Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu is the Executive Director of Center for Policy Alternatives.
[Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu]
He said, "the Provincial Council is dead. The LTTE does not accept it. Some Tamil parties may stick to it faithfully. There was no political will and commitment to make it work. The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord must and will remain. It might take another ten years to get another accord. The life time of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord in twenty years.
Indian interest had always been economic. We cannot remain one country if the powers are not generously shared".
[Cross section of Audience]
Various views were exchanged by the audience during the question and answer session.
[Sutharshan of University of Jaffna is expressing his views]
The Tamil National Alliance was invited to express its views, but did not participate.
[P.P. Devaraj Advisor to CWA (Ceylon Workers Alliance) in the audience]
[A cartoon which appeared on the Daily Mirror of August 2nd 2007 related to Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was shown on wide screen to the audience]