Colombo (AsiaNews) – Jayantha Dhanapala, senior peace advisor to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, resigned from his post yesterday for “personal reasons.” His decision comes just a few days after the government announced its intention to pull out from the ceasefire agreement signed almost five years ago with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Officially the government’s decision will become operative next 16 January but the ceasefire had been dead ever since current President Rajapakse was elected two years ago. Since then violence has flared up and violations by both sides have caused more than 5,000 victims.
As a result of mediation by Norway a ceasefire agreement had been agreed in February 2002 by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe who now heads the United National Front, Sri Lanka’s main opposition party in parliament.
Dhanapala is a diplomat and former candidate for the post of UN Secretary General. He was appointed as senior peace adviser to the President in December 2005, heading the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process which worked in co-operation with the Norwegian-led peace efforts and the LTTE.
Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 to set up their own state in north-eastern Sri Lanka. Their conflict with the central government has so far cost the lives of more than 70,000 people.
Only in the last three days military sources reported the death of 73 people in clashes in the northern area of Mannar. The Tamil Tigers military intelligence chief, Colonel Charles, is said to be among the dead.
Colombo “does not want any witnesses”
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is also being shut down. Set up six years ago to monitor the ceasefire it included observers from northern Europe, currently from Iceland and Norway.
According to Gajendrakumar Ponnombalam, a Sri Lankan MP representing the Tamil National Alliance from the Jaffna district, the central government pulled out of the agreement to remove the SLMM which was the only organisation capable of reporting abuses by both sides.
The lawmaker told TamilNet that “the presence of SLMM has been a major factor in containing[human] rights abuses in the North-East,” and that the government wants “to rid the North-East of any witnesses of the carnage that it intends” to inflict on “Tamil people in the name of safeguarding the sovereignty of the State.” He adds that the authorities want “to have a free hand [. . .] to create the ground conditions where only its versions of events come out.”
In fact all other voices, including those of religious leaders, NGOs and civil society groups, have already been silenced as a result of intimidation and violence.