CFA is in jeopardy- Gajendrakumar

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 13 July 2004, 03:30 GMT]
"...Ceasefire agreement [CFA] itself is in grave jeopardy, and without the ceasefire, there cannot be a peace process at all," said Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian from Jaffna district, when TamilNet caught up with him in Washington D.C. and asked him for his views on the steadily deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka. Gajendrakumar is currently on a U.S. tour meeting with U.S. officials and addressing Tamil expatriates in different States.

Full text of the interview follows:

Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam
TamilNet: What can you tell us about your visit so far?
Gajendrakumar: I am quite happy with our meetings with U.S. officials and with Tamil expatriates. This time I felt that key U.S. decision makers had a clear grasp of the real issues affecting the peace process. They were also forthcoming in expressing their views.

TamilNet: What is the likelihood of the peace process recommencing in the near future?
Gajendrakumar: Our immediate concern at the moment is to try and save the ceasefire agreement. The Sri Lankan Government and the Military are systematically trying to destabilize the east. The Karuna factor is being used by the Government to target prominent LTTEers as well as Tamil intellectuals. So in reality, the Government is in the process of waging a proxy war against the Tamil Nation. Therefore, under these circumstances our number one priority is to save the ceasefire agreement as the ceasefire agreement itself is in grave jeopardy, and without the ceasefire, there cannot be a peace process at all.

TamilNet: But the LTTE have stated that they are willing to start negotiations on the basis of the ISGA proposals. The Norwegians are attempting to get the two parties to agree on an agenda for future talks. So don’t you think that if the Government agrees to start negotiations solely on the basis of the ISGA proposals that dates can be fixed and talks can commence?
Gajendrakumar: Not under the present circumstances. The Government has to first establish its credibility with the Tamil people. The Tamil people are fully aware of the Government’s involvement in destabilization campaign in the east. Tamils are being regularly targeted. There is a terror campaign being unleashed on our people under the guise of Karuna. So, how can you expect any self respecting Tamil to expect the LTTE to sit and negotiate with a duplicitous Government under the present circumstances. It is the view of the TNA, that even if the government agrees to start negotiations solely on the basis of the ISGA proposals, no dates for future negotiations should be fixed until the eastern situation is brought under control. On the contrary, I would even go as far as to say that if the present situation is allowed to continue, I believe that it will only be a matter of time until the ceasefire agreement itself becomes irrelevant.

TamilNet: Do you mean to say that if the present situation continues for much longer the LTTE might be forced to withdraw from the ceasefire agreement itself? And if so, how do you think the international community will react to such a move?
Gajendrakumar: Yes, this is exactly what the TNA is saying. Today, the Karuna factor is being used by the Sinhala leaders to destabilize the east to such an extent as to lay the foundation to start questioning the very validity of the Northeast merger. It is quite clear to us that the groundwork is being done by the Sinhala parties to achieve this goal. Recent events clearly prove this. As far as the Tamil Nation is concerned, our people have repeatedly endorsed the position that the Northeast must be merged as one unit as this comprises the areas of historic habitation of the Tamil people. Our people have repeatedly endorsed this position overwhelmingly and democratically at various elections. Therefore this position of ours is not negotiable. Any move by Sinhala parties to undermine this position of ours can only be treated by the Tamil people as a declaration of war on the Tamil Nation. Unfortunately, we are fast reaching that stage.

As for the international community, all the key players have been fully aware of this position of ours. This is not something that is new. Even the Indo-Lanka Accord recognizes it. So if the international community truly wishes to help save the peace process and the ceasefire agreement, then they must ask the Government to get its act together and to come clean. The TNA believes that this is the time for the international community to take a strong stand condemning the government. Soft messages buried in diplomatic jargon will not do under the present circumstances. The peace process is in grave danger and drastic measures are needed to save it.

If this is not done, and the ceasefire brakes, we certainly cannot be blamed for it. The LTTE ever since the ceasefire agreement was signed three years ago has repeatedly committed itself to upholding the agreement. Despite several incidents that tested the patience of the Tamil people occurring, the LTTE clearly endorsed its commitment to the ceasefire agreement. Even when there has been a total lack of progress in the establishing normalcy in the Tamil areas, and the Tamil people continuing to suffer with no marked improvement in our day to day lives, the LTTE or the Tamil people never questioned the validity of the ceasefire agreement. Even when the President withdrew three key ministries that were essential for future progress of the peace process that eventually led to Norway suspending its facilitator role, the LTTE never even hinted of withdrawing from the ceasefire agreement.

But today the situation is very different. Today the Sinhala parties are trying to undermine the very foundation of our national aspirations by destabilizing the east. This is totally unacceptable. Even today, what we ask of the international community is to do what is necessary to save the ceasefire agreement. And if they are unwilling or unable help under the present circumstances to save the process, they certainly cannot blame us for the failure.

TamilNet: Assuming that the government stops harboring Karuna, and ceases to destabilize the east, what would it take for talks to recommence?
Gajendrakumar: Well, very clearly, the talks ought to resume on the basis of the ISGA proposals put forward by the LTTE for an interim government for the Northeast. This position the LTTE has made very clear. The TNA too, when we met the President last month made it amply clear to her that talks can only resume on institutionalizing the ISGA, and that core issues can only be taken up for discussion once the ISGA has been implemented and our peoples immediate humanitarian needs are being addressed in order to bring an improvement to their lives.

Related Articles:
09.07.04   ISGA critical to peace, Tamil MPs tell US Think Tank
05.07.04   Gajendrakumar on U.S. visit


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