Was the CFA Worth Saving?

The Mahinda Rajapakse administration finally decided to do what many people seem to have wanted it to ever since it took power. It has formally pulled out of the Ceasefire Agreement, a truce which for over a year has remained only on paper while the GoSL and the LTTE went for each other with teeth bared.

So what does this really mean? 2007 saw the Security Forces overrunning the Eastern Province, making probing attacks on the Jaffna Peninsula, bombing the LTTE top brass, and begin the first tentative thrusts into the Wanni. We also saw a rash of terrorist pinprick attacks in the south in the form of IEDs and suicide bombers. Sounds like a war, doesn’t it? And it is. So what does the CFA pull-out mean on the ground?

For a start it’ll see the withdrawal of the Scandinavian SLMM observers, who were largely seen as impotent by both sides, and more of a hindrance to the real business of killing. This withdrawal will certainly hit the headlines in Europe for a start and signal the GoSL’s decision to close off that particular avenue of mediation and negotiation.

It’s also an indication of the GoSL’s desire to ban the LTTE, and we’ll probably see this happen in the next weeks. The GoSL could not ban the Tigers as long as they were part of a signed agreement.Result? It’s just a formal declaration of policy on the part of the GoSL — namely, that they feel a military solution has to be phase one of any settlement of the ethnic conflict. It will also polarise support in the south, and make anyone interested in a negotiated settlement clearly a UNPer or LTTE supporter — the UNP and the LTTE signed the CFA, MR & Co tore it up. Are you for it or against it? Simple. So is the decision correct? Was the CFA worth saving — did it serve any real purpose after six years of supposed truce?

Let me answer the questions in reverse. No, I don’t think the CFA served any real purpose anymore. It was never meant to be a lasting truce; just a stepping stone on the pathway to an eventual solution. Since that pathway dissolved under the continued LTTE pressure, the first stepping stone was as useful as a dick on the pope. However, I think it was the wrong decision. To pull out of the CFA is to declare war in the eyes of the international community, and regardless of aggression, it’s always the one who breaks the truce (albeit in name) who is blamed. And as I said before, this will clearly be perceived as a move by the GoSL away from the peace process. Whether this will result in a reduction of monetary aid from the west remains to be seen. It definitely will not affect our traditional military supplies from Eastern Europe, Israel, Pakistan, and China. There’s no reason why the GoSL couldn’t have maintained the status quo.

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