ISGA proposals discussed at Colombo seminar

[TamilNet, Saturday, 08 November 2003, 00:02 GMT]
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in Colombo held a one-day seminar on the “Interim Self Governing Authority “ (ISGA) proposals submitted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as its response to the government of Sri Lanka’s interim administrative structure proposals for the NorthEast, Friday afternoon at the Colombo Jai Hilton Hotel, sources said

“There is propaganda by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party that the present LTTE proposal on land will undo what the Father of the Nation, the first Prime Minister Mr.D.S.Senanayake, did in 1947. There is no truth in that. It is cheap politics,” said Mr. Rohan Edirisinghe, head of the Legal and Constitutional Unit of the CPA.

Mr.Edirisinghe said that as far as the ISGA proposals are concerned, “some of them are constitutional, some are intra-constitutional, some are extra-constitutional and some are contra-constitutional. So there is a need to work out accordingly. That is the dilemma that we are facing.”

He continued: “The 4th paragraph of the ISGA talks about human rights. It is a positive feature.Another positive feature is about paragraph 5 that talks about secularism. Para 5 spelt out protection to all communities.

“There is an unnecessary alarm over Para 16 of the ISGA that deals with the administration of land. Here is a community that lost its land in the North and East for more than ten years and there had been trespassers in these lands and because of the long passage of time, the trespassers can claim prescriptive right. Therefore the LTTE is justified in placing the land proposal.”

The Tamil National Alliance parliamentary group leader, Mr.R.Sampanthan, speaking at the seminar, said:

“There is no question that the Muslim aspirations must be addressed in any resolution of the ethnic issue. Tamils and Muslims have lived harmoniously for centuries and generations. There is a linguistic bond between the two communities although they profess different religions. It is unfortunate that there has been some misunderstanding and mistrust in recent times. I feel it could have been averted had the democratic and civil organizations among Tamils and Muslims worked together.

“At every meeting that the TNA had with the LTTE, the Muslim issue was one question we never failed to discuss. We will never allow Muslims and Sinhalese in the north and east to suffer the humiliation and treatment we have suffered at the hands of majority community.

“It is not appropriate to say that the LTTE has not addressed its mind to the aspiration of the Muslims in their proposals. I like to invite attention to paragraph 1 of the Interim Self-Governing Authority, which states representatives of Muslims have the right to participate in the formation of their role in the ISGA. Therefore, I would like to say that Muslims could seek any safeguard and powers through this process. Paragraph 2 of the ISGA further says the composition of the ISGA shall be members appointed by the Muslim community in the North and East also. Therefore there is ample scope for Muslim aspirations to be addressed in these proposals.

“The LTTE has in its preamble of the ISGA stated the suffering undergone by the Tamil community, the tribulations they have faced and the broken promises and the unilateral abrogation of treatises by successive governments of Sri Lanka and that non-violent and peaceful constitutional struggle proved to be futile. This has been stated by the LTTE in a context in which they wanted to address the community and the world at large.

“ If the LTTE has sat at the table for talks and presented a set of proposals, it is because they have earned their right to sit by virtue of their long struggle and sacrifice over a long period of time. The successive governments have volunteered to resolve through talks not because they are interested in communal amity and not due to any conviction but because they have realized that the war cannot be won.

“The ISGA is an integral part of the final solution to the conflict. If there are constitutional problems, adequate amendments must be moved to accommodate the aspirations of the Tamil community. But we cannot be expected to repose faith in the majority community that the proposals will be implemented."

“It is unfortunate that the People’s Alliance tries to show out that there are disturbing features in the LTTE’s ISGA proposals. Some of them have already been spelt out in the proposals made by the President on 3rd August 1995. So why do they try to show that the present proposals are alarming?” asked Mr.Sampanthan.

“This is the best opportunity to resolve the ethnic conflict. There should be an inclusive principle in sorting out issues, which means there must be an inclusion of the major national parties, United National Party and Sri Lanka Freedom Party or People’s Alliance in the peace process," said Prof.Vithane.

"What the LTTE have asked for and the maximum they have sought are not impediments to negotiation," he said. " Inclusive principle means that there should be participation of both the President and Prime Minister in the peace process. Then only we can succeed. Otherwise we will be going deeper and deeper into the mire and there will be disaster. The CPA should make use of its good offices to persuade both parties to work together.”

Dr Pakiasothi Saravanamuthu, the Executive Director of the CPA, said: “The ISGA proposals can be considered as a political testament of the LTTE. They have asked for the maximum. They have given even to confederation. This is the first time the LTTE has come out with their frame of mind in black and white.”

The President of the National Unity Alliance and parliamentarian, Ms Ferial Ashraff, said: “ We the Muslims regret that the LTTE proposals do not recognize the aspirations of the Muslim community. Muslims of the North and East are agreeable to the merger of the two provinces. Muslims do not stand in the way of the aspirations of Tamils. But Muslims want that their rights recognized and the Muslim dimension must be recognized.”

Professor Nicholas Haysom of South Africa also spoke.

A panel discussion was held with the participation of Mr. Kumar Rupasinghe and Mr.Javid Yusuf.


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