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DateLine Sunday, 1 April 2007

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Referendum on CFA?

The Government plans to hold a referendum to determine the fate of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement which was signed by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, the then Prime Minister and the LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, mediated by the Royal Norwegian Government.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seriously considering holding a referendum to decide whether the Government should continue to abide by the controversial CFA, a high ranking official of the Presidential Secretariat said yesterday. He said President Rajapaksa is keen to obtain a fresh mandate from the people on the CFA. He said that the President is interested in looking at the proposed abolition of the CFA in a 'democratic manner', enabling the voters to decide on the fate of the CFA.

Asked when the Government would go for such a referendum on the future of the CFA, Presidential Secretariat sources said it would be held 'soon'. "If the people oppose the CFA and vote in favour of abolishing it, then the Government would go ahead to withdraw from it. But nothing would be done against the majority wish. The President strongly believes that the future of the CFA should be decided by the people of this country," the sources added.

Under the CFA, either party could withdraw from the CFA, after giving two weeks prior notice to the Norwegian peace facilitators, whose conduct and impartiality have been widely questioned. The LTTE terrorists violated the CFA on more than 6,000 occasions.

The Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was signed between the Government and the LTTE on February 2, 2002. But Wickremesinghe and Prabhakaran did not sit at a common table to put their signatures. Instead, the Norwegians took the CFA to the Wanni to get Prabhakaran's signature.

The signing of the CFA resulted in both parties agreeing to refrain from activities that would undermine the good intentions or violate the spirit of the agreement and impede confidence building measures. However, the CFA turned out to be a mere document as the LTTE continues to violate it despite the warnings and rulings against them by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), which was appointed to monitor the smooth implementation of the CFA.

There have been many instances of the LTTE even firing at SLMM monitors and injuring them. Despite thousands of regular violations on their part, the LTTE terrorists have repeatedly said that they would continue to abide by the CFA. The LTTE took cover under the CFA to strengthen their military wing. At the same time, they also used controversial clauses in the CFA to strengthen their military wing by smuggling prohibited materials to their Wanni and Mullaithivu bases.

They have also eliminated several military intelligence, top officials, informants and politicians, including former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

There are provisions to either amend or abolish the CFA. Clause 4.3 states; "The Agreement may be amended and modified by mutual agreement of both Parties. Such amendments shall be notified in writing to the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG). According to Clause 4.4 of the agreement, "the CFA shall remain in force until notice of termination is given by either Party to the RNG. Such notice shall be given fourteen days in advance of the effective date of termination".

Calls to abolish the controversial agreement have increased after the LTTE air attack at the Katunayake Air Force base.

There have been many instances where the Tiger terrorists used the CFA 'cover' to smuggle parts of light aircraft. It is widely believed that the LTTE assembled those parts in Mullaithivu to make two light aircraft which were used in Sunday's attack.

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