At sharp variance with international mediators, Sri Lanka denied agreeing to hold unconditional talks with Tamil rebels but said it was committed to peace and negotiated settlement provided there is “a comprehensive and verifiable cessation of hostilities.” However, the Government scaled down hard positions insisting that they will agree to unconditional talks provided the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) renounced “terrorism and violence.” Norwegian mediators and international donors revealed that the warring side had agreed to hold unconditional peace talks with possibilities of negotiations in Oslo in early October raising hopes for, at least a temporary ceasefire.
The Sri Lankan Government (SLG) accuses the LTTE of using negotiating time to arm itself and reorganize and wanted the mediators to blockade arms on the rebels. It also wants “specific modalities” on “dates and venue” to be “discussed and agreed” with the Norwegian Government. Analysts say the confusing voices are reflective of disagreements between the hard-line and moderate factions within the coalition Government. The SLG accused international facilitators and donors of “procedural irregularities” because it made commitments on dates and venue without prior consultations.
The LTTE accuses the SLG of the same thing—using negotiations as a ruse to arm itself. Many observers say that over a USD 1 billion has disappeared from Lankan budgets to rearm itself with better aircraft, fast-attack boats, artillery, radars, and assault rifles. There are also reports that the SLG has recruited Israeli and Pakistani mercenaries who could fly their attack aircraft to bomb rebel positions. Further, Pakistani military counter-terrorism experts have been training the SL Army (SLA) to fight the rebels who have evolved from an insurgent force into a conventional force.
The SLA has achieved major victories capturing area around the Triru-kona-malai (Trincomalee), evicted rebels from front-line positions in Jaffna peninsula, and assumed control of positions for tactical advantage. However, military observers say that as a budding conventional force and a breakup of the LTTE with leaders with conventional fighting skills leaving the organization, the rebels will return to its guerrilla tactics. When that happens, the initial victories of the SLA will evaporate as the LTTE is an extremely motivated, disciplined, and effective organization capable of creating, organizing, and implementing a script to deliver the most damage.
The SLA has gloated over its recent successes and a hawkish Defense Ministry statement says that “The LTTE’s willingness to talk now shows that it has been out-gunned on the ground and overpowered by the aerial offensive of the government forces.” it said in a statement.
Journal of Indo-Sri Lanka Relations