After Kadirgamar's Assassination: Options for LTTE, Sri Lanka and India

23 Aug, 2005    ·   1828

Ashik Bonofer enunciates the likely political fallout of Kadirgamar's assassination in the emerald isle and the need for a proactive role by India henceforth

The assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on 12 August 2005 was the first high profile political killing after the assassination of President Premadasa, and after the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in Sri Lanka in 2001. This assassination now threatens the ceasefire that is more than three years old.

Kadirgamar was a target of the LTTE as he campaigned against the LTTE throughout the world ever since he became the foreign minister in 1994. He was instrumental in getting the LTTE banned in countries like UK and USA. The LTTE is clear in its attempts that who ever goes against the LTTE is to be eliminated. Naturally, the LTTE is the main suspect, as has been in the past, though its political head S.P. Tamilchelvan has denied the charge that was first made by the President Kumaratunga. The pro-LTTE website, TamilNet reported that Tamilchelvan had condemned the government for hastily blaming the LTTE. He said, "We also know that there are sections within the Sri Lankan armed forces operating with a hidden agenda to sabotage the CFA."

In the past, the LTTE tended to brand a prospective assassination as a treachery. In this case, the LTTE seem to have taken great precaution by not issuing any strong statements against Kadirgamar in the days and weeks before the assassination. The 13 August report on TamilNet also claimed that 'many close relatives of Kadirgamar had estranged him for his pro-government stand'. This statement should be reviewed with caution as this seeks to pictures Kadirgamar as anti-Tamil, who has thus been disowned by the family.

While everybody in the political circles are waiting for the election commissioner's decision on the date for presidential election, this assassination could further delay the election if the Sri Lankan President does not lift the emergency. At a special session on 18 August, the Parliament approved a one-month extension of the emergency. Further extension after the lapse would make it hard for the opposition parties to force timely elections for the presidency. Considering that the ruling SLFP-PA combine is still a minority, it however remains to be seen if any of the opposition parties will go with the government for any further extension of the emergency. The role of the judiciary in such matters is also not clear.

With the situation getting worse, the peace process - which has been already stalled for more than a year - will not get any better. After a long prolongation, the P-TOMS (Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure) agreement was signed on 24 June between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE for sharing the foreign aid promised for rehabilitation of the tsunami victims. It is unclear whether the government and the LTTE would work together on rehabilitation, especially after the Supreme Court's injunction on the operation of certain clause of the P-TOMS.

Norway would have a tough time in keeping the peace process alive. Various statements from the Sri Lankan government have hinted at a review of the same; a few days back, in a meeting with the Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen, President Kumaratunga called for a review of some elements of the ceasefire, which was rejected by the LTTE. Without some changes in the CFA that is acceptable to both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, the peace process would not proceed far. Norway's role in this would be known only after the ground situation improves and the emergency is lifted.

On his recent visit to India, former Prime Minister and current opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, expressed doubts about the peace process and the way it is heading under the Sri Lankan government. He has also reiterated the request for India's involvement in the same. India's involvement now will also ensure the conduct of the presidential elections, which the opposition party is pressing for. Seeing the present status of the peace process it is time for India to move in, since Norway is slowly loosing its credibility.