"Don't miss this opportunity for peace" - Sampanthan
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 17 December 2003, 12:35 GMT]
"We call upon the Sri Lankan State to put its house in order and the bring the current constitutional impasse to an end and commence negotiations on the interim self-governing authority on the basis of proposals submitted by the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam," the parliamentary group leader of the
Tamil National Alliance Mr.Rajavarothayam Sampanthan said participating in the committee stage debate on the Votes of Defense Ministry in Parliament Wednesday afternoon.
He concluded his speech saying," the country will rue for a long time the failure to grasp the present opportunity for a just and honourable peace. I would, therefore, urge all sections of the House not to miss the opportunity.
The full text of the speech follows:
"Sir, the Votes of the Ministry of Defense are being debated with no
Minister of the present government taking responsibility for the subject of
defense. The arrangement that prevailed when the present government assumed
office is no longer valid in regard to the subject of defense.
"I do not wish to go into the mechanics of how this change came about nor
do I wish to comment on the constitutional provisions relating thereto, for
the simple reason that this Constitution has been unequivocally condemned
by those who want to use it the most in today's context. The Peoples'
Alliance, the JVP, the Left parties and the even we the Tamil national
Alliance, have unequivocally condemned this Constitution and particularly
the Executive Presidency. The only party, which has not condemned the
Constitution publicly, is the United National Party, which today is at the
receiving end of the Constitution. One might well say, Sir, that the UNP is
hoist with its own petard. What I find most distressing however, Sir, is
that these steps, which are being presently resorted to in the name of the
current Constitution, are having an immensely harmful impact in the peace
process. The changes that occurred in the subject of defense came from just
three days after the LTTE delivered in writing its proposals in regard to
the setting up of an interim self-governing authority. The significance of
the timing of this step cannot be regarded as being inconsequential.
"These changes, Sir, in the subject of defense have resulted in the
international facilitator suspending its facilitator role. Though the LTTE
very much desired that dates for be fixed for the commencement of
negotiations, it has not been possible to do so in view of the current
constitutional and political impasse. We have reached, Sir, a state of
paralysis in the peace process and it is not certain for how long this
stagnant state will continue. The end result is that the efforts to evolve
a solution to the Tamil question have been blocked. This is not new Sir, in
the political history of independent Sri Lanka. This is a repetition of
past history. The non-resolution of the Tamil question has not been due to
any default on the part of the Tamil side. The Tamil question has been the
scapegoat, the victim of interminable and chronic political rivalry and
acrimony within the Sinhala political establishment.
"In recent years, Sir, the finger of guilt was pointed at the LTTE. Such
an accusation is not valid certainly not any longer. The finger of guilt
today as in the past 50 years clearly points in the direction of Sinhala
political establishment. This has been so, Sir, for the past fifty years.
This is the truth, which the international community, in particular must at
least now realize and accept. A continuance of the current situation must
inexorably cause serious damage to the peace process. We call upon the Sri
Lankan State to put its house in order and bring this impasse to an end and
commence negotiations on the interim administration or the interim
self-governing authority on the basis of proposals submitted by both of the
Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.
"It is also my duty, Sir, to point out that the continuous victims of this
impasse are none other than the long-suffering Tamil people. It is
acknowledged that almost a million Tamil people were dislocated as a result
of war. This war was inflicted on the Tamil people consequent to the
failure on the part of the Sri Lankan State to evolve a honourable solution
in time. Tens of thousands of Tamil people want to be resettled in their
homes. They want to commence their occupation, which provides them with
their livelihood. They want to lead normal lives. Almost two years after
the ceasefire agreement normalcy has returned everywhere else in the
country except to the North and east and except very substantially as far
as the Tamil people are concerned.
"The dividends of peace are yet to accrue to the Tamil people. They yet
undergo much deprivation and suffering. I regret to have to state that in
many parts of the North-east, the armed forces are not prepared to extend
to the Tamil civilians required co-operation to enable them to resettle,
commence their occupation and lead normal lives. While the Tamil political
leadership and Tamil civil society want such action towards normalization
as would eliminate the prospects of recommencement of war, and the LTTE
fully supports this position, the armed forces are only concerned with
gaining maximum military advantage, frequently to an utterly unreasonable
degree, to fight a war if a war does start. This, in my submission, Sir, is
a totally irrational position. I need hardly state that such a negative and
obstructive attitude on the part of the armed forces is not conducive to
the advent of permanent peace in this country. It is only a lack of time
that prevents me from referring to details of such negative and obstructive
attitude on the part of the armed forces.
"Many sections of the armed forces seem to suffer from a false sense of
prestige. The prestige of the armed forces, in my submission, Sir, needs to
be established on the battlefield. Seeking to establish such prestige, in a
ceasefire situation, amongst the Tamil civilians in a territory, which
rightly must available to the Tamil civilians in order to facilitate
normalization, can hardly be a worthy substitute of such prestige on the
"I must compliment, Sir, the former and the present secretaries of the
Ministry of defense who are very appreciative of civilian rights. I must
say, Sir, that, unfortunately their best-intended efforts are of little
avail. May I conclude, Sir, by merely stating this? The country will rue
for a long time the failure to grasp the present opportunity for a just and
honourable peace. I would, therefore, urge all sections of this House not
to miss this opportunity."