Saturday, August 26, 2006

Was it the EU's fault?

Brigadier General Ulf Henricsson, the Swedish head of the outgoing Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) thinks so. It is, according to him, the decision to put the Tamil Tigers on the list of terrorists in May that undermined the cease-fire that had been negotiated in 2002 and had held since then more or less.

It is not quite clear why the decision was finally taken this May after decades of fighting and several years of a more or less effective cease-fire. But then, neither is it entirely clear that the Swedish general is doing anything else but venting his frustration because his own memo had been ignored.

As a consequence of the May 29 decision, for which Britain had campaigned for some time, the Tamil Tigers have announced that there would be no more EU members of the Monitoring Mission, so the Nordic Group after September 1 will consist of Icelanders and Norwegians. Clearly the Tamil Tigers have a very good idea who is and who is not in the EU.

The cease-fire had been brokered by Norway. They do have quite a track record in brokering cease-fires, accords and agreements. None of them last for very long but it is the thought that counts.

The renewed violence of the last two months has resulted in around 650 dead and many refugees.

General Henricsson’s argument is quite interesting. The Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers had signed the agreement as equal partners (though, as he did not say, neither kept to it one hundred per cent or anywhere near that). Announcing that one side is a group of terrorists, as the United States, Canada and India have also done, gave the Sri Lankan government a carte blanche to open up hostilities against the Tamil Tigers though it is the latter who have been responsible for most of the recent violence.

At least, I think that is how the argument runs. He may well be right. Then again, it is possible that the cease-fire was not going to hold much longer even in name and the presence or not of the Nordic peace-keepers is not all that significant.

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