East Timor President urges ceasefire, offers mediation

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 10 February 2009, 04:00 GMT]
"There will be no long term peace in Sri Lanka if this war is prosecuted by either side to the bitter end," said the President of Timor Leste (East Timor) Jose Ramos-Horta, on Monday, offering his preparedness "to assist in any way that might contribute to a peaceful settlement." Recollecting the experience of East Timor, the Nobel Laureate expressed his fear of immense destruction a civil war can generate and said: " The people already traumatised should not be forced to remain or move against their will." He urged the LTTE to seek a political settlement through dialouge.

Political observers find his statement a balanced and sober version of the Co-chairs' stand.

Full text of the press release of Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta, distributed by East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), follows:

Nobel Laureate appeals for Immediate end to hostilities in Sri Lanka

The long bloody civil war in Sri Lanka seems to be climaxing in a surge of violence.

Like many in this region, I have been following these developments with growing alarm. A military outcome is possible and commentators talk of the civil war coming to an end. Those who speak glibly of an end to conflict, however, show little understanding of history, human nature or what constitutes real peace. There will be no long term peace in Sri Lanka if this war is prosecuted by either side to the bitter end without regard to human dignity or humanitarian responsibilities and if the principals remain blind to the need for dialogue to achieve a sustainable bi-lateral long-term settlement for the good of all Sri Lankans.

I fear for Sri Lanka at this juncture. From personal experience I know that civil war generates frightening emotions of hatred and revenge that are immensely destructive. This was Timor-Leste's experience in 1975. Families and communities were torn apart, social and political relations were damaged for generations, trust was shattered. Timor-Leste still suffers the effects of that conflict even though it happened over 30 years ago and lasted only a few weeks.

I call on the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to cease fire immediately and for both parties to allow full and free access to the conflict area by humanitarian agencies and independent media. Both parties should also fully respect the Geneva Conventions and refrain from targeting civilians or utilising them for military purposes. The people already traumatised should not be forced to remain or move against their will. These measures will save precious Sri Lankan lives. The Sri Lankan government should show mercy and not press its military advantage. Such a gesture might also salvage some respect and trust to serve as the basic for the political settlement that must occur whatever the final military balance of power.

I call on the LTTE to seek a political settlement of Tamil grievances through dialogue. Dialogue is not treachery and can work. Many years ago my colleagues chastised me for proposing dialogue with our enemy. They were wrong. Timor's history is evidence that, creatively and skilfully utilised, dialogue is a potent instrument for change and justice.

If invited, I am prepared to assist in any way that might contribute to a peaceful settlement of this sad conflict in the interests of all Sri Lankans.

Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate, President of Timor Leste

Dili, 9 February 2009

 

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