Arrest rising chauvinism, extremism, TNA tells Colombo

[TamilNet, Friday, 11 March 2005, 12:15 GMT]
Accusing Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister of "inciting the forces of chauvinism and extremism" in Sri Lanka by rushing to describe World Bank official Mr Peter Harrold's statements on Liberation Tigers, without checking their veracity, as "provocative," Mr Sampanthan, parliamentary group leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in his statement in Sri Lanka's parliament on the current political situation, urged the Sri Lanka Government to speak with one voice regarding taking the peace process forward, parliamentary sources in Colombo said.

Excerpts from Mr Sampanthan's statement follow:

It is eleven months since the present United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government assumed office. Numerous verbal pronouncements have been made by different personalities in government, relating to the peace process, some of which have been positive, and some others negative.

We recently celebrated the conclusion of three years since the signing of the ceasefire agreement without major military confrontation as was regular in the past. The LTTE transmitted to the UNP government through the Norwegian facilitator proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) on 31st October 2003 which in the context of the earlier developments in the peace process had become a necessity, to further strengthen the peace process, and to bring about a state of normalcy in the lives of the several hundreds of thousands of displaced people largely Tamil people in the war devastated Northeast. The LTTE also requested that dates be fixed for the commencement of talks.

No tangible progress has been achieved in the past eleven months during the tenure of the present government in regard to the commencement of a dialogue, from the point at which the stalemate occurred. If everything else about the peace process can continue as from the point at which the stalemate occurred, there is no reason whatsoever, why the dialogue should not be continued from the point at which it was ready to be commenced when the stalemate occurred.

The government does not speak with one voice in regard to the continuance of the peace process.

Even efforts to set up a post tsunami mechanism for the Northeast, involving the LTTE, have not yielded results, despite almost two months of negotiations. This fact regrettably accentuates the hopelessness of the current situation.

The JVP's opposition is public and is well known. It opposes federalism, it opposes regional autonomy, it opposes the ISGA, and for that matter it opposes any interim authority. It also opposes a post tsunami joint mechanism. It wants the hand of the government at the centre strengthened. It very clearly expects to be in complete control of government soon and that cannot be a matter of unconcern to the peoples of this country, certainly not the minority peoples.

The purpose of my question today, however, Mr. Speaker is to refer to certain events in the recent past which in my submission have a most harmful impact on the peace process and consequently raise grave doubts in regard to the credibility of the government's role in the peace process. If the government considers that any person acting on its part has overplayed his hand, the government should clarify its position.

The government issued the following statement on the killing of Mr. Koushalyan, the LTTE political leader for the Batticaloa & Amparai Districts. I quote from the Daily News of 9/2/2005 under the caption "Government Condemns Killings". "The government yesterday condemned the killing of six persons, including the LTTE political head for Batticaloa and Amparai Koushalyan and former MP Ariyanayakam Chandra Nehru".

A government media release states, and I quote: - "While these are a violation of the ceasefire agreement, their timing is also clearly calculated to disrupt the post tsunami atmosphere of increasing cooperation between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on humanitarian issues. The government calls on all concerned to prevent further violations of the ceasefire gravely risking a return to conflict and instead, to support the peace process and move ahead."

The Daily News of 12/2/2005 in regard to the same matter, and I quote: "Responding to questions by the media at a weekly cabinet briefing cabinet spokesman and Minister Mangala Samaraweera said, "We do not know who is behind the killings but who ever did it wants to sabotage the ceasefire agreement between the LTTE and the government. This is a clear violation of the CFA." That was the clear and unambiguous position of the government of Sri Lanka.

The Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Koffi Annan too made a statement with regard to the Koushalyan killing, and I quote from the Island of 10/2/2005 under the caption "Annan condemns Koushalyan killings". "Koffi Annan the Secretary General of the United Nations condemns the killings of E. Koushalyan a senior political leader of the LTTE eastern province division and several colleagues travelling with him, when their vehicle came under attack yesterday evening. He extends his sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the families of all the victims of these callous killings. The Secretary General urges all parties to exercise calm and restraint so as to avoid actions that could disrupt the ceasefire agreement of February 2002 in the long-term interest of peace in Sri Lanka."

There is complete consonance and no dissonance whatsoever between the statements of the government of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General of the United Nations. The objective was the sustenance of the ceasefire and the continuance of the peace process.

Shockingly, however, the government's concern in regard to Mr. Koffi Annan's statement was conveyed to the UN Assistant Secretary General for political Affairs by Sri Lanka's UN envoy. I quote from the Sunday Times of 20/2/2005 and this is what was stated by Mr. Gunatilake Sri Lanka's UN envoy to Mr. Turk, the UN official. "The timing and contents of the statement were inappropriate and not helpful to the ongoing peace process."

This is amazing as the government's own statement of 9/2/2005 clearly states the "timing of the killing was clearly calculated to disrupt the post tsunami atmosphere of increasing cooperation between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on humanitarian issues."

It is well known Sir, that this concern was expressed several days later, after the JVP and the National Patriotic Front met the Foreign Minister. It is relevant to ask whether the Foreign Minister was going out of his way acting in a manner contrary to the clearly expressed views of the government to carry out the dictates of the JVP and the National Patriotic Front. I raise this question Sir, because in the context of the government's own position several days earlier in regard to the timing of the killings and its adverse impact on the peace process, the expression of concern by the Foreign Ministry appears to be deliberately mischievous and clearly intended to rock the peace process, to bring about the disruption of the ceasefire by the LTTE in order to gain political advantage.

The second matter I wish to refer to pertains to India. That India is the country closest to everyone in Sri Lanka in every sense of the word is beyond question. Not withstanding certain very unfortunate and painful aberrations, the Tamil people both of the Plantation Sector and the Northeast have a strong natural alliance with and affection for India. That these inseparable bonds between the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and India will continue forever is also beyond question.

In recent times I repeat in recent times, it has become customary for the heads of newly elected governments in Sri Lanka to make their first foreign visit to New Delhi. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe did so. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge also did so, and on the conclusion of their visits comprehensive joint statements have been issued, which reflects the policies of the governments. Such a joint statement was issued on the conclusion of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge visit as late as November 7th 2004.

The Foreign Minister visited India in late February. This was shortly after he had accompanied the President to Pakistan. During this visit to India in an interview to the media, and I quote from a comprehensive report appearing in the Island of 1/3/2005 the Foreign Minister has said: - "We will like to see India taking more than a academic interest, to begin to indicate what kind of solution, India would like to see in Sri Lanka. Nobody or no outside power can say anything. India is the only power who could say it and only India has the legitimate right to say so." Continuing the Foreign Minister said and I quote: - "Time is right for the Indian government to speak its mind regarding the type of solution for Sri Lanka. Foreign Minister said that 'if India suggested federalism type of solution all parties in Sri Lanka would agree on it."

The Foreign Minister did not state this view to the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister of India, both of whom he met. But he stated this view to the media. Such a view is not contained in the comprehensive joint statement released on the conclusion of the Presidential visit on November 7th 2004.

This is why it becomes necessary to question the motives of the Foreign Minister.

As everyone knows when the negotiations were to commence between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE with the Norwegian facilitation the LTTE suggested that negotiations be conducted in India, and that an Indian observer be present at such negotiations.

In this context, it is also necessary, to examine certain contemporary events. The Foreign Minister is the President of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS). A delegation from the BCIS led by former army chief Gen. Gerry de Silva and several others visited in February the institute of strategic studies (ISS) of Islamabad Pakistan and held extensive discussions. There can be no doubt that the visit and the contents of the discussions had the fullest approval of the Foreign Minister. If, I may quote from the report of discussions held in Islamabad as contained in the Daily Mirror of 25/2/2005: - "Former army chief Gerry de Silva who is leading a Sri Lankan delegation to Pakistan yesterday called on the government of Sri Lanka and Pakistan to sign a defence agreement to cement the decades old military relations between the two countries. The former army commander said that if not for the military assistance by Pakistan and China, to the Sri Lankan government the LTTE would have caved out Eelam long ago. Yet another former army commander and present High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Pakistan strongly supported the views of Gen. Gerry de Silva. Responding the ISS Director General, Dr. Shireen Mazari endorsing the proposals made by the two Generals said that the two countries should go ahead with the proposals despite whatever reservations others might have."

To whom is the reference "others"? Who else but India and the Tamil people. The Foreign Minister's voice in New Delhi and the voice of his mouthpiece in Pakistan are quite contradictory.

Why this confusion? Why cannot there be a single uncontradicted view wherever it is expressed. The answer lies in a perceptive analysis of what happened in Pakistan. I refer to the article under the heading "Pakistan and closer ties with Lanka" by Champika Liyanarachchci appearing in the Daily Mirror of 2/3/2005. I quote a relevant paragraph in that analysis: - "On the part of the Sri Lankan team, the likes of Godage and Jayatilake were seen attempting to convince the audience of the need for Sri Lanka to strike a calculated balance in relations between India and Pakistan given India's potential in containing the Tigers."

The motive in attempts to befriend India, to give India an all-important role is clearly brought out "it is India's potential in containing the Tigers". This is what has been said by the Foreign Minister's mouthpiece in Pakistan.

This is what we are most concerned about. The government has not even commenced a dialogue. A solution acceptable to the Tamil people yet remains a distant dream. It is quite evident that the Foreign Minister wants India to play an all-important role only because of his perception relating to "India's potential in containing the Tigers".

Such manipulations are highly objectionable. We have not the slightest doubt that India will not become prey to such manipulations. But, we are greatly concerned about the immensely harmful impact that can be caused to the credibility of the peace process by such manipulations. Such manipulations need to be roundly condemned.

The final matter, which I raise, pertains to a statement attributed to Mr. Peter Harold the Country Director of the World Bank in Sri Lanka. Mr. Peter Harold corrected the initial media report and clearly stated in the Daily Mirror of 8/3/2005: - "I never used the phrase 'a kind of unofficial state'. A careful review of the recording of the interview shows that what I said was that 'given that there is such a thing as the LTTE controlled area that's an official statement, an officially recognized part of the country is the LTTE controlled area'. Those of us who live in the Northeast know that a larger portion of the territory in the Northeast is under the control of the LTTE. What we find most disturbing is that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has rushed without even checking on the veracity of the statement attributed to Mr. Peter Harold, which would have been the most prudent thing for the Minister to do, to describe the statement as provocative. The statement of the Minister has had the effect of inciting the forces of chauvinism and extremism in the country. Such developments have a harmful impact on the peace process.

The JVP and the National Patriotic Front have for long been critical of members of the International Community who have endeavoured to support and strengthen the peace process. The JVP and the National Patriotic Front work together in opposing the furtherance of the peace process.

The Tamil people are gravely concerned that certain personalities within the government in order to appease the JVP are engaged in activities that could result in a complete breakdown in confidence in the peace process. A breakdown in the peace process would affect the Tamil people and the dislocated Muslim people the most. It is they who have thus far not reaped the benefits of the ceasefire agreement. These personalities within government, the JVP and the National Patriotic Front are least concerned with the sufferings of the hundreds and thousands of Tamil people in the Northeast. We want to impress upon the government that this situation cannot continue and must be ended.


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