Use new understanding to recommence peace talks - NPC

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 21 September 2004, 11:19 GMT]
Referring to the assurance of support given by the main opposition party UNP, to the Sri Lanka Government if it commences peace talks on the basis of LTTE's ISGA proposals, the National Peace Council in a Press Release issued on Monday, urged the Sri Lanka government to "build upon this implicit understanding with the opposition to take the peace process forward by engaging in peace talks with the LTTE".

Full text of the Press Release by the National Peace Council:

The major incidents of violence and loss of life taking place elsewhere in the world, in Russia, Iraq and Israel/ Palestine, are a reminder of Sri Lanka's own past. Despite its flaws the Sri Lankan peace process and the Ceasefire Agreement have brought a respite from large scale, horrific and repeated acts of violence. The individual killings that continue to take place mainly in the east and in Colombo are a warning of what might happen once again on a larger scale. The primary aim of both political and civil society in Sri Lanka should be to protect and nurture the Ceasefire Agreement and get the stalled peace process restarted as soon as possible. This important message was reiterated last week by visiting Norwegian peace facilitator Erik Solheim who also referred to the frustration on all sides that the peace process remained deadlocked.

A positive development last week was the statement made by LTTE political wing leader S.P. Tamilchelvan to a group of 40 journalists from the south on a visit organised by the National Peace Council together with the Southern Province Media Association. (See story below). The LTTE political leader told the journalists that its proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority, that had evoked much controversy in the south, was not a rigid set of proposals. He said that while they should be the basis for the next round of peace talks these ISGA proposals were flexible and negotiable. This statement should serve to reassure those in the government and south that the LTTE is prepared for negotiations, and awaits a positive governmental response.

The National Peace Council urges the government and LTTE to make a fresh effort to recommence peace talks. We welcome President Chandrika Kumaratunga's statement that she will consult all parties about the future course of the peace process. We also welcome the assurance of support given by the main opposition party, the UNP, to the government if it commences peace talks that have the LTTE's ISGA proposals as their basis. With its recently obtained parliamentary majority, the government can build upon this implicit understanding with the opposition to take the peace process forward by engaging in peace talks with the LTTE.

Media Directors

News Story


by Remy Herbert (NPC Peace Desk Coordinator)

The media in the South has been held as instrumental in aggravating communalism and fuelling suspicion of the LTTE, Tamil militancy and the Tamil people. But the meeting on September 13, 2004 between 40 Southern Province and Colombo journalists and the LTTE's political wing leader, S.P. Tamilchelvan, was amicable and productive rather than confrontational and destructive. This is reflective, perhaps, of the journey of understanding that those who met each other have begun to undertake.

The journey began in the Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts for most of the journalists who were provincial correspondents of the national media. From their distant places in the south, the provincial journalists, gether with several editorial journalists from Colombo, made preparations to travel to the Wanni and to Jaffna--places where most of them had not visited for several decades, and many had never been. One of their number failed to turn up on the day of departure, the story being that his wife and children had feared he would never return to them if he undertook this journey. Such is the picture of the North in much of the South.

As the group travelled to the north, a sense of shock and disbelief emerged. The extent of the destruction caused by the 20 year conflict and human suffering that is still all too apparent in the refugee camps, in the vast areas of land contaminated by land mines, in the orphanages and the cemetery at Kopai, where row after row of tombstones stand, is testimony to the massive human loss caused by the war.

The National Peace Council took these journalists to the North to facilitate this awakening. What the journalists saw in the Wanni was a strong infrastructure and people working hard to rebuild their lives. They were moved by the warmth of the people, despite their suffering--there was no bitterness or anger towards the Sinhalese, only a strong hope for the future which is now tinged with uncertainty because of the political instability which threatens to topple the peace process. At the meeting with Mr Tamilchelvan the journalists asked the burning question--Is the ISGA proposal negotiable? Tamilchelvan stated that the contentious ISGA is a draft proposal--a starting point for negotiations and not a final document. He said it was his hope that the journalists would convey this to the South, along with the strong hope of the Tamil people in the north-east to live freely and with dignity. These are the fundamental rights that have been denied to them for decades.

A number of journalists expressed their goodwill at the meeting--and in the meetings that followed, in both Kilinochchi and Jaffna. They expressed their amity with the Tamil people and their hope for a more tolerant and mutually respectful society. Hopefully they and the journalists in the north-east, will hold to these values and use their influence to promote tolerance and give the peace process the jumpstart it now needs.


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