Agreements that Betrayed Sri Lanka: Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA)


– by Shenali Waduge –

Ranil Wickremasinghe won parliamentary elections in December 2001 and within 2 months signed the ceasefire agreement placing a terrorist organization on par with a democratic government and virtually allowing the LTTE a carte blanche – an agreement like the Indo-Lanka Accord withheld from the People of Sri Lanka and even Ranil Wickremasinghe’s own cabinet. President Kumaratunga remained President from 1994 and it was on 1st November 2003 that the LTTE submitted proposals for an interim self-governing authority (ISGA) that would more or less legally seal what the ceasefire had provisionally established. The race between UNF and President Kumaratunga was who would get hold of the USD5billion kitty that the West was dangling in order to get Sri Lanka’s own leaders to betray their nation. Credit must be given when credit is deserved and it was the JVP and Patriotic forces that brought to light the fate of the nation had Sri Lanka’s leaders agreed to sign the LTTE proposed ISGA.

On 4th November while PM Wickremasinghe was overseas, President Kumaratunga suspended Parliament taking under her the Ministries of Defense, Interior and Information and ordered troops to key installations and declared a state of emergency the next day. President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament on 7 February 2004 and called for elections on 2 April 2004 which the SLFP-JVP alliance won. UNF were now out of the picture.

Lakshman Kadiragamar became Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister which Mangala Samaraweera took over after his demise at the hands of the LTTE. It was Mr. Kadiragamar who made public his reservations about the LTTE’s ISGA proposals rejecting it on the grounds that it would pave the way for a separate state (speech at Brookings Institute Washington) – the response from President Kumaratunga was that she would not involve him directly in talks with the LTTE.

Jayantha Dhanapala became the head of the peace secretariat from 1 Jun 2004 till November 2005 and also functioned as President Kumaratunga’s Senior Advisor

The Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposed by LTTE for the “NorthEast” of Sri Lanka was made public on 1 November 2003.

ISGA focused on 7 areas outside of the “NorthEast”

1.    Sri Lankan Government to appoint representatives to the ISGA

2.    Monies from Sri Lankan Governments Consolidated Funds to be allocated to “NorthEast”. (amount of money not determined)

3.    Funds given by multi and bi-lateral institutions for reconstruction and development of “NorthEast” to be utilized under ISGA supervision (giving to non-state actor with ISGA determining how money is spent)

4.    ISGA to seek assistance of international human rights bodies and ISGA governed by international treaties signed by Sri Lankan Government.

5.    Internationally reputed firm appointed to audit all Funds provided by international bodies.

6.    Disputes between LTTE and SLG to be arbitrated by a committee headed by a member appointed by the ICC (similar to procedure agreed in Article v(2) or Annex 2 to the Dayton Accords which ended war in Bosnia)

7.    ISGA to have power to borrow internally and externally, provide guarantees and indemnities, receive aid directly and engage in or regulate internal and external trade.

Title of document: “ Proposal by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on behalf of the Tamil people for an agreement to establish an interim self-governing authority for the NorthEast of the island of Sri Lanka”

  • LTTE thanked the Norwegian Government, the Norwegian people and the International Community.
  • Drew upon fact that the Tamil people mandated their “elected” representatives to establish an independent sovereign, secular State for the Tamil people subsequent to the Vaddukoddai resolution of 1976. (Who “mandated” the LTTE)
  • LTTE claims Tamil armed struggle is self-defense (Was it in self defense that the LTTE killed Lakshman Kadiragamar, Alfred Duraiiappah and over 250 Tamil leaders and respected Tamils whilst targeting and killing thousands of innocent civilians?)
  • LTTE claims rights to self-determination only after 4 decades of non-violent (Did no one care to bring up over 400 suicide attacks/bombs by LTTE throughout this period) and constitutional struggle proved futile and due to absence of means to resolve conflict (How “non-violent” and “constitutional” was LTTE “struggle” and did they not take part in 5 peace talks and countless ceasefires which they walked away from)
  • LTTE claims it first took peaceful methods by declaring a ceasefire in December 2000 and December 2001(resulted thereafter in over 10,000 CFA violations)
  • LTTE claims it exercises effective control and jurisdiction over the majority of the NorthEast area.
  • LTTE acknowledges the recognition by the GOSL of the need for an ISGA as given in its 2000 election manifesto.(this is very interesting and the architects of this agreement may like to disclose this manifesto)
  • LTTE proposed ISGA gives Muslims the right to participate in formulating their role in ISGA.

Covered 23 headings

1.    ISGA was to cove 8 districts of NorthEast – Amparai, Batticoloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee and Vavuniya (NortheEast)

2.    Composition of ISGA

  • ISGA must have an absolute majority of LTTE appointees over Muslim and Sinhala communities.
  • Members appointed by LTTE
  • · Members appointed by GOSL(no mention of a Sinhala appointee in a country with 74% majority)
  • Members appointed by Muslim community
  • Chairperson by majority vote would mean an LTTE member at all times serving as Chairperson.
  • · Chairperson appoints the Chief Administrator for NorthEast – which again means a LTTE member

3. Electionsheld only after 5 years. ISGA to appoint an Elections Commission/Commissioner

4.    Human Rightsapplication of international HR laws. Appointing independent Human Rights Commission appointed by ISGA

5.    Secularismno religion to be given foremost place in NE (terrorists do not have religion)

6.    Prohibition against discriminationpertaining to religion, race, caste, national or regional origin, age or gender in NE

7.    Prevention of bribery and corruptionprohibited

8.    Protection of all communities – no law, regulation, rule, order or decision confers privilege on any community concerning culture or religion (liberal thinking mindset)

9. Jurisdiction of ISGAplenary powers for governance of NE – inclusive rehabilitation, reconstruction, development, improvement and upgrading of existing services, imposition of taxes, revenue, levies, duties, law and order over land) – translated means everything that a sovereign government undertakes.

10.  Separation of powers – separate institutes for justice in NE,

11. Finance – ISGA to prepare annual budget, Financial Commission appointed by ISGA (invariably LTTE as it holds the majority); GOSL is bound by “good faith” to implement the recommendations. Funds to include NE General Fund, NE Reconstruction Fund (NERF), Special Fund

a.    NE General Fund – GOSL takes loans and gives to ISGA

b.    NE Reconstruction Fund – directly supervised by ISGA

c.    Special Fund – loans and grants which cannot be channeled through NERF will be received by the Special Fund which ISGA will control

12. Powers to borrow, receive aid and trade – ISGA shall have powers to borrow internally and externally, provide guarantees and indemnities, receive aid directly and engage in or regulate internal and external trade. (Is this not what a sovereign nation does as well? Did the GOSL officials actually consent to agreeing to such clauses)

13. Accounting and auditing of funds – ISGA to appoint auditor general.

14. District Committees – to carry out administration of ISGA districts. Chairpersons for the 6 districts to be appointed by ISGA and other members appointed by ISGA (which means LTTE will make all appointments)

15. Administration – ISGA has discretion to create expert advisory committees pertaining to economic affairs, financial affairs, judicial affairs, resettlement and rehabilitation affairs, development of infrastructure and essential services etc.

16. Administration of land – ISGA has powers to alienate and determine appropriate use of all land in NE that is not privately owned (ie. All State land belonging to Sovereign Sri Lanka) ISGA to appoint a Special Commission on Administration of land to inquire into rights of dispossessed people.

17. Resettlement of Occupied Lands – lands occupied by armed forces of GOSL has to be immediate vacated and restored to the previous owners (ie. GOSL army will end up having to officially vacate the NE – this virtually means handing over power over NE to the LTTE) GOSL has to also compensate the owners for the past dispossession of their land.

18. Marine and offshore resources – ISGA shall have control over the marine and offshore resources of adjacent seas and power to regulate access

19. Natural Resources – ISGA shall control natural resources of the NE region. Existing agreements relating to natural resources will continue. GOSL shall ensure all monies due under such agreements are paid to the ISGA.

20. Water use – upper riparian users of river system to ensure fair, equitable and reasonable use of water and GOSL must follow the principle (the downfall of the LTTE began with its foolish decision to cut the flow of water to people in the Mavilaru)

21. Agreements and contracts – all future agreements under the jurisdiction of the ISGA shall be made by ISGA while existing agreements signed by GOSL will have to be renewed with the concurrence of the ISGA (with LTTE controlling ISGA this means the Sinhala and Muslim representatives were to function as silent spectators to the tragi-comedy)

22. Settlement of disputes – Norwegian government to act as mediator through a tribunal consisting 3 members – 2 appointed by each party.

23. Operational period – The agreement is to continue through NE for 5 year period and approach of “good faith” is to be followed.

The JVP and the National Patriotic Movement vehemently objected to accepting the ISGA and even threatened to withdraw support to the UPFA Government. The GOSL had to in turn response with an alternate offer which they called – Interim Self Governing Council (ISGC).

However, LTTE insisted on the ISGA through the TNA who told Donald Camp – Deputy US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs that LTTE wanted a written undertaking that the GOSL would give priority to the ISGA (another proof of TNA-LTTE link).

The LTTE was giving a “take it or leave it” offer – on what grounds did the UPFA policy makers even consider agreeing to talk on a proposal that would virtually hand control to the LTTE?

The carrot obviously was the USD5billion international development aid package which was purposely being tied to progress in peace – in other words what the international community was doing was to dangle money to get the GOSL to sign a deal that would write off its sovereignty by the nation’s own leaders. Therefore, all the men and women who agreed or watched the agreement through various stages are no different to those that watched and took part in the 2002 ceasefire agreement. Surely there were lessons that were to be learnt.

When a proposal is being given that would give LTTE right to impose rule of law, collect taxes, run the administration, deal with external players and strike deals with them, conduct trade with them in exchange that the LTTE agreed to drop its demand for an independent Tamil Eelaam.

Was the GOSL seriously dumb enough to accept LTTE’s dropping of a word (Tamil Eelaam) by giving everything that LTTE demanded which would invariably constitute what an autonomous nation could legitimately carry out internally and externally?

Did the GOSL officials not realize that the ISGA was legally taking control of the entire area and fooling the country’s top decision makers by simply stating they had dropped the quest for Tamil Eelaam?

Even a school going child would have realized the dangers.

Did the officials handling the negotiations with the LTTE not realize the damage of agreeing to LTTE holding the absolute majority in the ISGA? Why was Mr. Lakshman Kadiragamar’s advice not taken?

Did these officials not wonder at the damage to a country giving LTTE a carte blanche – with plenary powers for governance of the north-east including imposition of taxes, levies? How could these Government officials agree to allow the LTTE to control all of the expenses for running the ISGA? Would officials of sane mind agree to allow LTTE the power to borrow internally and externally, provide guarantees and indemnities, receive aid directly and engage in or regulate internal and external trade?

Any right thinking Government should not give any of these officials any role for going along with this scheming manoevre!

How could none of the alarm bells that we ordinary people can read into in reading the clauses of the ISGA agreement not enter the minds of the public officials privy to the documents when they are well aware of how angelic the LTTE in reality functions – surely these officials were not asleep for 3 decades to be clueless about LTTE crimes? Yes, there is forgive and forget but we are talking about every month a bomb or assassination that lasted 30 years all courtesy LTTE!

Did these officials seriously consider agreeing to remove the armed forces of the GOSL and accept that the GOSL would compensate the owners for the past dispossession of their land?

The ISGA was welcomed at different levels:


  • · US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said “the first time I have seen such a comprehensive delineation of the aspirations of the LTTE…it is significant”.
  • The European Union’s Head of Mission in Colombo welcomed the proposals as an “important step forward in the peace process”


  • · The GOSL reacted by stating that the proposal “differs in fundamental respects from the proposals submitted by the GOSL. The GOSL is convinced that the way forward lies through direct discussion of the issues arising from both sets of proposals”. (whatever that means – gobbledygook statements end up confusing everyone)
  • · R. Sampanthan, leader of the TNA, said “The ISGA proposal bears historical importance in the political history of Tamils in the island. The ISGA provides a base to find a permanent political solution to the Tamil national question”.
  • ·The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the main opposition party in the Sri Lankan Parliament, expressed grave concern over ISGA proposals saying “”it will never be a party to robbing the people of Sri Lanka of their sovereignty.
  • · JVP said the proposals deserve no discussions with any one and should be thrown into waste paper basket. The JVP pointed out that the proposal contained all powers required for a separate state in the island.

Then we have the peace doves,

  • · Jehan Perera comments “With its proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority, the LTTE has given concrete form to its expectations in a manner that is essentially compatible with peaceful coexistence in a united Sri Lanka.” (2003)
  • · Prof.Oberst of Nebraska Wesleyan University says that rejection of LTTE’s Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposal by a number of political parties reflects “a sad pattern of Sri Lankan conflict.” (ICES)

What must not be forgotten is that if not for the JVP and objections of the national patriotic forces President Kumaratunga would have ignored Lakshman Kadiragamar’s warnings and together with her entourage of advisors proceeded to agree and seal another detrimental agreement no different to the 2002 ceasefire.

People need to always remember the agreements that betrayed the nation and the people who betrayed the nation as well.