No solution possible without LTTE – South Africa

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 03:52 GMT]
Expressing deep concern over the escalating violence in Sri Lanka, South Africa this weekend called for renewed negotiations to end the protracted conflict and emphasized “no solution to this conflict can be found without the involvement of the two principal parties to the conflict – the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.” Speaking in London, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie assured that his country would render every assistance towards making peace but, in an implicit criticism of approaches by some other countries, said: “we will never ever impose our involvement in any part of the globe.”

Roy Padayachie
South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a two-day seminar in London organized by Global Peace Support (UK), a Tamil expatriate organization, Mr. Padayachie said: “South Africa is deeply concerned about the escalating conflict in Sri Lanka and in particular the difficulties … over the resolution of the Tamil question.”

“The South African government is concerned that negotiations between the two principle parties in the conflict – the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka – have come to a close.”

“We believe – and it is the very firm and principled view of the South African community, supported by their government – that every effort must be made to encourage the parties to return to the negotiating table.”

“The South African community – and this has been communicated – is very clear that no solution to this conflict can be found without the involvement of these two principle parties to the conflict – the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.”

The LTTE, he also noted, “is regarded by the Tamil people as their authentic representatives.”

“We believe that the international community must escalate its own efforts in supporting a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Sri Lanka,” he said.

However, he said, “It is not for the international community to prescribe what solutions are necessary to resolve this problem. We believe very firmly this is a matter for the Sri Lankan peoples on their own.”

“That is the view of the South African people, and it is certainly our [South African government] view,” he said.

Asked about his views on the proscriptions of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, Mr. Padayachie noted “you know, when we fought the liberation war against Apartheid, the African National Congress was described as a terrorist organisation.”

“We never accepted that. We fought that and we struggled against it,” he said.

“And one of the critical, strategic issues we mobilized around, was to create the right conditions for free political activity. So that the people could participate openly, without fear of any repressive law, in the dialogue, in the debates, that were necessary to forge a free and democratic South Africa.”

“We argued strongly that one of the conditions for creating the appropriate conditions necessary for a negotiated settlement in South Africa was the need to unban our organizations that were banned at the time and to release political prisoners.”

“Those were all obstacles in the way of our struggle, we had to deal with them squarely; we had to mobilise our community and the international community to remove these obstacles.”

“That’s the lesson that comes from our experience and I think it has relevance to your struggle,” he told Tamil reporters.

Mr. Padayachie was in London to represent South Africa’s government at a seminar on Sri Lanka’s conflict held at the University of East London on March 22 and 23.

In his address to the seminar on Sunday, Mr. Padayachie reiterated his government’s call for renewed negotiations between the LTTE and GoSL and noted the importance of the assistance of a third party.

“At some stage to come back to the negotiating table you may require the facilitation of parties who are sympathetic and parties who are respected by both the protagonists,” he said.

“As for South Africa, we cannot be involved in any conflict any any part of the world if we are not invited by both the parties. When we go into Zimbabwe, when we go into Cote D’ivor, when we go into Burundi, it is at the invitation of the parties to the conflict.”

“We will never ever impose our involvement in any part of the globe,” he said.

Drawing on the experience of the ANC with the Apartheid regime, the Deputy Minister said that even before negotiations proper, there had to be “talks about talks.”

“We [ANC] initiated the process of talks about talks. And there were preconditions that we set. We said don’t expect us to talk to the Apartheid government and lay down our arms if you do not un ban [us and other] organisations, if you do not release the political prisoners, if you don’t set conditions for free political activity,” he said.

“And if you demonstrate your willingness to do all these things then we are prepared to say we’ll suspend the armed struggle and go into negotiations,” the ANC had told the Apartheid regime, Mr. Padayachie said.

Noting there was a question in any negotiations as to who constitutes the credible and legitimate representatives, the Deputy Minister told the seminar: “I received a very interesting pamphlet from colleagues who were part of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights.”

“It’s really quite a brilliant pamphlet. I want to recommend to everybody. It’s called ‘The Tamil Peoples rights to Self Determination.’”

“In case any one of you is very unsure of what the South African peoples understanding is of this question about who is the authentic leader [of the Tamils], I want to read something which I thought resonated a lot with the way South Africans think about the Sri Lanka’s crisis,” he said.

The Deputy Minister noted that the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement conferred an official de jure recognition, from the Sri Lankan government, of the LTTE as one of the two parties to the armed conflict.

In another recognition of the LTTE as representing the Tamils, the Sri Lankan government also deproscribed the LTTE ahead of negotiating a solution, he pointed out. Colombo also held several rounds of negotiations in international capitols with the LTTE towards forging a final political solution to the conflict.

He also noted that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won a resounding mandate in the 2004 elections and “their manifesto stated that the TNA accepts the LTTE’s leadership as the national leadership of the Tamils.”

Quoting from the pamphlet Mr. Padayachie pointed out: “with the current political climate framed by the War against Terrorism, maybe it is timely for the International Community to reassess and to review its assessment of the LTTE as a terrorist group as it would seem clear that it is resorting to the right to self defence whilst struggling for the right for Self Determination.”

“The International Community needs to take a balanced account of this conflict, it also needs to give diplomatic support to the LTTE to negotiate with the Sri Lankan government. If the International Community wants peace in this part of the world it must encourage this particular process.”

“So it is clear to all of us what this booklet says captures the hearts and minds of the way peace loving and democratic people throughout the world feel and think about the Sri Lankan situation,” Mr. Padayachie said.

“And ladies and gentlemen, today it is absolutely clear that the two most pressing challenges that we all have before us is to ensure that hard work whether you’re are located in government, civil society, NGOs or in any community must be directed at supporting a return to the Ceasefire and to the negotiating table between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, and at the same time to escalate in the International Community our efforts to support and solidarity for peace in Sri Lanka on a permanent basis.”

Meanwhile, sources at the University of East London said this week the institution had come under intense pressure from the Sri Lankan High Commission in London to withdraw its provision of the venue for the weekend seminar.

The University had initially withdrawn the venue, citing Sri Lanka’s strident objections in writing, but its top management had subsequently met with Tamil expatriates who challenged the decision and having discussed the nature of the event and those attending, the University had decided the contract with Global Peace Support should be honoured, the sources said.


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