Sri Lanka Cease Fire becoming irrelevant – Tamil MP

[TamilNet, Saturday, 27 November 2004, 10:30 GMT]
The Cease Fire Agreement would become increasingly irrelevant if there is not going to be any progress on the peace process, warned Tamil Parliamentarian Mr. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam speaking on the on the second reading of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government’s first (2005) Budget on Saturday. “The Tamil people’s overwhelming desire for peace should not be allowed to be taken for granted. Our repeated recommitment to the ceasefire is being misinterpreted by this government to be a sign of weakness”, the MP said.

“The Sri Lankan state as it exists today, only gives expression to the Sovereign Will of the Sinhala People, and continues to undermine and reject the Sovereign Will of the Tamil People. And as such, the Sovereignty of the Tamil People does not vest in the Sri Lankan state, and accordingly the Tamil People show no loyalty to the Sri Lankan state”, Mr. Ponnambalam emphasised.

The following is the full text of his speech:

“Mr. Speaker,

I thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak on the first Budget proposals of the UPFA government.

Sir, this Budget as far as the Tamil Nation is concerned is irrelevant, and accordingly we reject this Budget. Let me explain.

The mandate obtained by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has been yet another demonstration of the consistent Will of the Tamil Nation to exercise its right to self-determination. The expression of this Will has been loud and unambiguous over the last fifty years, and remains today the bulwark of the legacy of the Tamil National liberation struggle.

Whilst we have repeatedly stated that we are prepared to arrive at a negotiated solution that gives expression to this legacy, and at the same time not divide the country, the systematic undermining of this Will has accentuated and aggravated the Tamil National question into what it is today.

Sovereignty Sir, vests with the Peoples of each state. By extension, it is only when the Sovereign Will of all the Peoples of a particular state finds expression in the structure of the state, can it be said that the state belongs to all its Peoples. The Sri Lankan state as it exists today, only gives expression to the Sovereign Will of the Sinhala People, and continues to undermine and reject the Sovereign Will of the Tamil People. And as such, the Sovereignty of the Tamil People does not vest in the Sri Lankan state, and accordingly the Tamil People show no loyalty to the Sri Lankan state.

Loyalty is a sentiment, not a law. It rests on love, not on restraint.

The government of the Tamil Speaking Homeland by the Sinhala Nation rests on restraint, and not on law; and since it demands no love, it can evoke no loyalty.

Sir, the Hon. Minister for Finance, by presenting this Budget has once again blatantly undermined the very unequivocal Will of the Tamil Nation as expressed at the last General Elections. The Hon. Minister dedicates paragraphs 86 to 91 of the Budget Speech to the “North East Reconstruction and Rehabilitation”. How more arrogant and hegemonistic can the Sinhala Nation get?

Does not this government, that keeps proclaiming to the world its willingness to come to a negotiated settlement with the Tamil Nation understand, that this Budget vis-à-vis the Northeast, negates such proclamations, and only reinforces the lack of Will on the part of the Sinhala Nation to share power with the Tamil Nation?

Does not the Minister, and his government know that the LTTE has formulated the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals for the purposes of addressing resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the Northeast, until a final negotiated settlement is reached and implemented? Does the Minister and this government not know, that the TNA went before the people of the Northeast at the last general elections seeking an explicit mandate for the ISGA, and have received such a mandate overwhelmingly? In this background Sir, is not this Budget seeking to address Northeast reconstruction and rehabilitation, a manifestation of yet another systematic, and well calculated undermining of the collective Will of the Tamil Nation?

It is for these reasons Sir, that every speaker from the Tamil National Alliance stood up in this House and proclaimed, that the Tamil people have been marginalized in this Budget. But the repeated reply that we got from the government was that this Budget does not seek to address the Tamil people separately, but that it is meant for all – that is Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim. Although this position of the government itself is as strong a reason for the TNA to vehemently oppose this Budget on policy reasons, even substantively speaking, this approach needs to be totally contested and rejected. Let me explain.

The Northeast, unlike the south has been an area that has been completely devastated due to war. The situation in the south is fundamentally different, as it is primarily due to under development and poverty caused by economic mismanagement, corruption, and inefficient/wasteful use of financial and other resources. Since qualitatively the situation in the Northeast completely differs from the south, any attempt to equate the Northeast with the south only shows the total lack of understanding of the fundamentals.

Currently, the systems that prevail in the Northeast have severe limitations, and contain critical gaps in the approach adopted for the exercise of reconstruction and rehabilitation as a whole. The most prominent shortcoming is the presence of a multiplicity of structures within the region with little or no coordination between them for the task at hand. You have the Line Ministries. You have the Provincial Council structure. You have the Local Authorities and also the Government Agents and Divisional Secretary structure.

Other glaring shortcomings with the present set up include the lack of geographical focus within the Northeast, and the manner in which the community needs are almost always analyzed and presented on a sectoral basis rather than in a holistic manner. The primary emphasis continues to be on the physical destruction and on the financial requirements, rather than on the outcome of a participatory assessment by communities of their needs and priorities. Further, key aspects of transition and development, including gender, human rights and environmental sustainability continue to be treated as supplementary criteria rather than pervading the whole exercise.

Despite these serious shortcomings that exist, the development actors working on the ground also face many external hurdles. These include: - Legal - Political - Economic - Policy - Financial

It is submitted that without the recognition, analysis and addressing of these factors, no significant improvement in the performance of the development actors can be expected, and will continue to be impaired.

What we need is a realistic immediate and medium term strategy for achieving sustainable development, predicated on a return to normalcy, and regaining the totality of the lives and dignity of the people. Our thinking must go beyond mere relief and reconstruction, and must move towards sustainable development in the immediate and medium terms. And for this to be done, all rehabilitation, reconstruction, resettlement and development work must be undertaken through a thoroughly coordinated effort. We will have to do away with the ad hoc, narrow, fragmented and sectionalized project approach that currently prevails, and look to a political economy as a whole…. A strategy that would take into consideration the wider cultural, socio-political dimensions of the region.

Our basic objectives ought to be, to create an efficient self-reliant sustainable economy owned by the people, who can compete over time, in a liberalized local and global economy.

Therefore, a whole new financial architecture for the Northeast has to be designed in keeping with the concept of self-determination. This new financial architecture must also ensure that the savings mobilized from the Northeast, be reinvested in the region.

Interim Administration as the foundation that can sustain the financial architecture All this talk of a new financial architecture is well and good, but will be of no use, if the Northeast does not have a viable administration to sustain and implement such measures. And this is where the imperative need for an Interim Administration becomes apparent, in addition to the political arguments. In this respect, the LTTE’s proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA), it is submitted, not only encompasses the political aspirations of the Tamil people and is in keeping with the legacy of the Tamil National struggle, but also is a comprehensive set of proposals that includes the financial structures essential to see the dream of a resettled, rehabilitated, reconstructed and developed Northeast become a reality.

Unfortunately, Sir, since the UPFA government came into power, the reality reflects neither devolution nor decentralization – leave alone self-government, but rather, all indications are that of re-centralization.

The reassertion of authority of the centre is not only reflected in the public statements made by members of Government, but through policy documents as well, and this Budget caps it all.

The following seem to reflect the trend:
  • The provision of relief and the delivery of rehabilitation are mainly through administrative structures of the GA/DS, which report directly to Colombo.
  • The organization of reconstruction activities is principally through agencies of the centre
  • The reaffirmation of the exclusive role of the centre with respect to policy making
  • The reflection of central control in the composition of steering committees for major donor funded activities
  • The management of resources, especially human capacities, is through the central line departments
  • The restatement of the central monopoly of relations with external partners, including the donor community and foreign investors.

This situation is unacceptable, as it is downright oppressive. And what has to be taken note of is that there seems very little scope for any change for the better.

I wish to wind-up by saying that in this background, the People of the Northeast must begin to take stock. We must re-trace the path that we have taken, to the point that we have reached currently, and ask what next.

The Tamil people’s overwhelming desire for peace should not be allowed to be taken for granted. Our desire to forge a ceasefire, and to be patient regarding the stalemate in the peace process lasting for over a year, should not be interpreted wrongly. However, unfortunately, I believe this to be the case.

It is my considered view, that our repeated recommitment to the ceasefire, and our repeated assurances that we are committed to finding a negotiated solution, is being misinterpreted by this government to be a sign of weakness. A weakness that can be exploited in such a manner so as to carry-on business as usual. In other words, this government sees the ceasefire as an end in itself. It sees no need and no urgency in recommencing talks. And for as long as the ceasefire is in place, it will remain content.

What all parties concerned should realize, is that the Tamil people sacrificed so much by way of life and property, all in the name of a separate state. The LTTE alone has sacrificed 17,000 lives for a separate state. But despite all these sacrifices and suffering, the LTTE and the Tamil people have come forward to find a negotiated solution to the conflict. Even at this late hour, if the Sinhala leadership is not willing to change its ways, then this process will most definitely fail and all hope will be lost.

Everyone must be made to understand that the Ceasefire Agreement, from the Tamil point of view, is not seen as an end in itself. We consider it a means to an end, which is the resolution of the ethnic conflict. That the CFA was merely relevant to create conditions that would make it conducive for a proper and meaningful engagement to take place to move the peace process forward.

Therefore, we need to convey the clear message that from the Tamil point of view if there is not going to be any progress on the peace process, then this ceasefire would become increasingly irrelevant. The all important question Sir, is whether the Tamil Nation is prepared to go beyond mere words and demonstrate this seriousness through action?


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