Recruitment for Sri Lanka winter 2004/05

From: Nick Mele
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2005
Subject: Second Sri Lanka Quarterly Report

Dear Colleagues:

Below is the text of the second Sri Lanka Quarterly Report, covering the period September 2004 - March 2005. Apologies for the delay which was caused by the impact of the tsunami on Nonviolent Peaceforce's project.

(Volume 1, nos. 2 & 3)

A. General Introduction of Sri Lanka Development (Political and Project)

The reporting period has been extended to include the preliminary after effects of the tsunami which hit Sri Lanka and many other parts of the South and South East Asian Region on 26th December 2004. The physical and traumatic upheaval that resulted has been reported in detail elsewhere. The tsunami has also had its effect on the national conflict, though the full implications have yet to play themselves out so. However some facts that may be relevant to a future resolution or escalation of the conflict have already become apparent. Muslims, the smallest of the three communities at the centre of the Sri Lanka conflict, suffered the greatest loss of life. The North and East, the epicentre of the national conflict and the claimed homeland of the largest minority, the Tamils, bore the main brunt of the onslaught. The South and West Coasts, dominated by the majority Sinhalese, were much less severely affected.

Prior to the tsunami there had been little progress towards resuming the peace talks at the national level despite the strenuous efforts of both Sri Lankan and international intermediaries. Hopes that the tsunami might unite both the LTTE and the Government to put aside their differences and tackle the national emergency together have yet to materialise. However at the time of writing a joint Government and LTTE mechanism, brokered by the Norwegian Government mediators, to administer the necessary relief and rehabilitation is still being actively discussed. If some agreement can be reached, there are hopes that such a mechanism may serve as a model for a means of cooperation for a future administration of the country.

Against this background, political power moves in the South have lost the Government its majority in Parliament once more and the junior coalition partner, the JVP, has resigned its few ministerial portfolios in the Government which it still supports, though with increasing criticism. The LTTE is still also weakened by harassment, mainly confined to the Batticaloa District, where most of NP's Field Team Members (FTMs) are based, by the remnants of the forces of 'Colonel' Karuna, who broke from the main LTTE group a year ago. For example, the post-tsunami period saw the assassination, presumably by Karuna forces, of Kaushalyan, the LTTE Eastern Political Wing Chief, a few miles from NP's Valaichchenai office. He was the most senior member of the LTTE to have been killed since the signing of the ceasefire agreement three years ago. Allegations that the Government is fighting a proxy war against the LTTE through the Karuna cadres only serve to deepen the distrust between the parties entrusted with making a peace.

This period has seen NP becoming established in the field so that it is better able to demonstrate its impact. Evidence of such impact has been most obvious in the East, still the most unstable area of the country. The Valaichchenai team has been increased to six while other offices' staffs have been reduced to cope with the continued tensions in the Batticaloa District. All four field sites are on the coast and therefore in tsunami affected areas. One of the offices was evacuated on the day of the tsunami, but fortunately none of them were damaged.

Our FTMs in Matara were less fortunate in that Kathy Orovigho (Nigeria) was caught by the wave and injured and Frank Anim-Appiah (Ghana) subsequently suffered a heart attack. Both are now back on their way to Sri Lanka.

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B. Mandate and Deployment of the Teams


Reduce violence to increase the safety of civilians in Sri Lanka so they can contribute to a lasting peace with justice. (As formulated by the IGC in Mexico 2004.)


Reduce the level of, and potential for, violence
Increase the safety of civilians during the peace process
Improve possibilities for civilian participation
Increase the likelihood of peace with justice through civilian participation
Increase the confidence and creativity of civilians as a result of improving their safety
Deter resumption of violent conflict

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C. Activities of the four teams


By the end of this reporting period Karen Ayasse (Germany), Atif Hameed (Pakistan), Charles Otieno (Kenya), Angela Pinchero (Canada), and Rita Webb (USA) were based here on the East Coast of the island, where more than 90% of the population is Tamil.

Sreeram Chaulia (India), one of the founding members of the Valaichchenai team, left in February to pursue higher studies. The field site is in Valaichchennai, an hour North of Batticaloa town. This area has, since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding that brought about the current ceasefire, suffered, after Mutur, the most casualties arising from violence and tension arising from Muslim - Tamil clashes. The surrounding area, which includes Karuna's birthplace, has been severely affected by the continuing tit-for-tat killings between the LTTE and Karuna group and has also been a principal centre for recruitment by the LTTE. Much of the team's work in this period has been seeking ways of preventing innocent civilian non-combatants from being caught up in the LTTE in-fighting as well as providing protection and support for families and activists working on issues of child recruitment. The team has also been working with Muslim and Tamil community groups in ethnically segregated areas to provide protection and general peacebuilding support. The team has also been called in to prevent violence in other intra Muslim and intra Tamil disputes. Since the tsunami, the team has provided transport and protection to Sri Lankan relief workers, highlighted missed humanitarian needs to other agencies and worked with community activists to develop ways of ensuring civilian participation in the area's relief and reconstruction.

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Susan Granada (Philippines) is based in NP's field site in the Jaffna peninsula, at the northernmost tip of the island. Government forces took most of the peninsula from the LTTE in 1996. The peninsula has a population which is almost 100% Tamil, many of whom have been displaced by virtue of the Government converting about a third of the land under their control into military areas, known as High Security Zones (HSZs). Tensions in the area arise from civilian resentment at the military presence, LTTE taxes on businesses and imports into the area and from allegations of forced recruitment by the LTTE. Before the tsunami, Susan, assisted mainly by Midori Oshima (Japan), has been working with civil society groups and individuals to strengthen their capacity to reduce these tensions on the peninsula.

Since the tsunami, the team has been active in developing NP's new monitoring role, visiting many of the affected areas under both Government and LTTE control. This work has led NP to consider moving its office further to the east of the peninsula so as to be closer to the areas most affected by the tsunami and to the HSZs which are a continuing source of tension.

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As mentioned above, Frank Anim-Appiah (Ghana) and Kathy Orowvigho (Nigeria) are based usually in this area. After the tsunami, the office was closed for a little less than a month and was then re-opened by Rita Cruz (Portugal) and Rita Webb (USA) who worked in support of Sri Lankan civil society in supporting ways for human rights activists to protect tsunami victims and explore ways for their voices to be heard in the relief and reconstruction efforts. Their work has now been taken over by Midori Oshima (Japan.) The district is on the southern coast of the island and has a majority Sinhalese population, though there are significant pockets of Muslims, often in business, and Indian Tamils, who work mainly on tea and rubber estates in the area. The main tensions here arise from disputes between the Government and Opposition parties, which are mainly Sinhala, though there are also occasional eruptions of violence from ethnic disputes as well. The team here have established a wide range of contacts in the area and, at the moment, are focussing principally on establishing Youth Peace Clubs in the Matara and neighbouring Galle Districts.

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Thomas Brinson (USA) is based in this Eastern coastal District whose ethnic mix is divided almost equally between Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils. The field site is in Mutur Town on the southern edge of Trincomalee Bay. Soraia Makhamra (Brazil/Palestine), who is normally also based here but is now on home and medical leave, was able to represent NP, with others, at the World Social Forum in Brazil recently. Rita Cruz (Portugal) was the third member of the team for much of this period but has now returned to home. The Mutur area has experienced the highest number of deaths through violence since the start of the ceasefire in December 2001. The tensions have arisen from disputes between Muslim and Tamil communities in the area. The team provide protection to communities under threat and work with community leaders seeking to reduce tension. Before the tsunami the team devoted most of its time to child protection issues stemming from the threat of recruitment by military groups and to seeking to build links between the Muslim and Tamil communities that dominate this area. They have also been exploring ways to reduce tension between different factions within the Muslim community.

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New FTMs:

In March Peters Nywanda (Kenya) and Karen Green and Andy Mason (both from the United Kingdom) joined us, bringing to the team considerable Sri Lanka experience. All three have been working recently in Sri Lanka with Voluntary Service Overseas, the British volunteer agency. They and Kathy Orovigho (Nigeria) will be joining the next intake of 18 new FTMs who have started their core training in Sri Lanka in April.

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Post-Tsunami Activities

Within a short time after the tsunami hit the country, it was realized that NP would have to adapt its mandate to meet the new situation. After considered deliberations the Programme Committee recommended the following adaptation to the mandate: Due to the urgency of the situation, the mandate additions were adapted by the Executive Committee, as follows:

In keeping with Nonviolent Peaceforce's general mandate to prevent and reduce violence and support individuals and groups to preserve and ensure their fundamental human rights and actively participate in the management of their affairs and peaceful resolution of conflict, in the period following the national disaster of 26 th December 2004, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) intends to carry out the following additional activities:

A―To provide non-violent protection to affected communities and groups, including Sri Lankan relief and reconstruction workers, to enable them to live and carry out their work in freedom from actual or threatened armed, political or physical interference or violence

B―To monitor in areas where NP is active and provide information by the issuing of regular written and verbal reports to concerned parties:

1)To identify relief and reconstruction activities that promote inclusivity and community participation as well as to identify activities where harm is being caused by partisan and excluding practices

2)To assist agencies new to areas where NP operates to pursue such principles of community inclusivity and participation

3)To identify improvements or deterioration in the underlying national and local conflicts that the current peace process is intended to address

C―To encourage and support community involvement in relief and reconstruction activities not only to promote the fundamental human rights to food and shelter but also to promote communal harmony and a Sri Lanka at peace.

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Shortly after the tsunami struck teams in the North East became active in working with Sri Lankans to rebuild shattered communities in the vicinity of field sites. Initially much of the work involved providing accompaniment and transport to individuals and groups trying to bring relief to beleaguered communities as soon as possible. However as it soon became apparent that in many areas there was an over-supply of relief with very little co-ordination of activities by the Government, Sri Lankan and international groups and individuals, the role for an organisation committed to promoting human rights and peace with justice became more apparent.

Historically relief, reconstruction and development has been subject to considerable political control within Sri Lanka. FTMs in Matara were soon being asked to accompany a local activist who wanted to visit camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), while he made enquiries as to IDPs' needs. We were informed that he felt more comfortable with NP accompaniment in the face of the military presence that exists in most IDP camps in Government areas. In the East an ad hoc civilian group wishing to bring aid to victims in the Vacharai area found access blocked at Government check points, while with NP's presence, access became possible.

After consultation with Sri Lankan NGOs and others both nationally and at the local level, it became apparent that it would be useful to add monitoring and reporting to NP's mandate activities. Teams from Jaffna to Matara have been making extensive visits to affected communities both at the request of Sri Lankan individuals and groups and on their own initiative. As a result of this, FTMs on several occasions been able to discover areas where either relief was not being equitably distributed or reaching the intended victims. Building on NP's reputation for visiting areas less frequented by international agencies, FTMs have been able to put their local knowledge to good use in these areas. At the time of writing the type of monitoring and reporting best suited to the communities' needs is in the process of being worked out. It is likely that NP will work closely with the Human Rights Commission's recently started monitoring project.

In addition, NP has been approached by the UN Humanitarian Information Centre to explore ways in which human rights reporting can be included in the weekly reports produced by the centre on the humanitarian situation.

In the Batticaloa District FTMs have been working with local activists to raise the inclusivity of Sri Lankan NGOs and the affected communities in decision making on relief and reconstruction. As yet impact in this area is difficult to discern since the general trend is still very much for the Government, the LTTE and the international agencies to act with very little consultation with affected communities. However, already FTMs have successfully intervened to promote the voice of forgotten communities in the relief and reconstruction effort. For example in an area where Muslims were significantly affected an FTM noticed that no Muslims were included in the original composition of the local relief and reconstruction coordinating committees. Following an intervention by NP, Muslims were appointed to these committees.

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Overall assessment:

The teams are working consistently towards the implementation of the objectives set.

Given the complex nature of the situation, there is little concrete proof for impact yet, but the indicators that there are (mainly feed-back from the people the teams work with) show that NP is going in the right direction.

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Partner relations:

NP's partner Paffrel has, partly as a result of discussions with NP staff, recently instituted an extensive monitoring project in all the districts affected by the tsunami. FTMs have been present at some of the regional trainings and expect to work in support of the programme on the ground as well as co-ordinating activities through the coalition under the guidance of the Human Rights Commission. A project to develop local peacekeeping capacity with another NGO, Sarvodaya, is under development and it is hoped that a pilot project with Sarvodaya will be started in the course of this year. At the moment, the teams work with a multitude of different small informal groups as well as with peace-minded individuals in the communities.

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It is planned to raise the number of FTM to ca. 25 persons by September this year. Having received over two hundred applications, a group of 22 has been invited to Sri Lanka for Assessment and Core Training in April. They will follow this with a Sri Lanka-specific in-country orientation in July.

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Flexibility of the mandate:

The activities of the teams focus around the objectives given. In order to achieve them, however, a broader approach to achieving human security has suggested itself and is implemented by the teams, an approach which includes certain peacebuilding activities like hosting a forum of youth from different communities etc. as well as the peacekeeping activities which form the core of the NP vision.

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Sources of effectiveness:

Our effectiveness comes from the fact that we are foreigners who have striven to maintain our non-partisanship while building up strong community links. In the post-tsunami situation, it is clear that much is returning to 'normal' in the East, i.e. the potential for violence between and within communities continues and harassment of individuals and groups continues. Predictions indicate that disputes, particularly over land, but also over relief and reconstruction generally, resulting from the tsunami are likely to add to the explosive mix in various other parts of the country as well. Hence NP's role as an alternative resource for civilian peacekeeping is likely to become more prominent in the months to come.

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Emergency Response Network

The Emergency Response Network (ERN) is urgently looking for new members to replace those who are no longer active. So far it has not been necessary to use the ERN, but still it is important to have it as a possible instrument of using public awareness and protest. Readers who are interested to join or who in the course of their activities would like others to join: Please write to Program Director Christine Schweitzer at ERN@nonviolentpeaceforce.org.

Glossary of Abbrivations and Names
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (SLFP, president since since 1994)
EPDP = Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (Tamil party opposing the LTTE)
Erik Solheim: Norwegian Special Envoy
FTM = Field Team Members
GOSL = "Government of Sri Lanka".
ICRC = International Committee of the Red Cross
ISGA = Interim Self Governing Authority (of the Tamil Tigers)
JHU = National Heritage Party (party of Buddhist monks)
JVP = Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (Maoist party, in coalition with SLFP)
People's Liberation Front LTTE = Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (led militarily by Velupillai Prabakaran)
Mahinda Rajapakse, Prime Minister
NACPR = National Advisory Council on Peace and Reconciliation
SLFP = Sri Lanka Freedom Party (has formed new government as UPLF with JVP after elections 2004. Prime Minister is )
SLMC = Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (Muslim Party)
SLMM = Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. (Set up under the cease-fire agreement to monitor breaches of the agreement. Staffed mainly by Scandinavian military personnel in civilian clothes. Ca 50 personnel)
TNA = Tamil National Alliance (LTTE presenting party in parliament)
Uncleared Areas = GOSL term for areas under LTTE control
UNICEF = United Nation Children's Fund
United People's Liberation Front (UPLF) governing party coalitiion
UNP = United National Party (concluded cease fire agreement with LTTE in 2001/2002, had majority until elections in 2004- Prime Minister was Ranil Wickremesinghe

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