Stop the offensive: TULF

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 15 July 1997, 23:59 GMT]
A Tamil political party allied to the Sri Lankan government has called for an end to the Sri Lankan military offensive in the Tamil homelands and for negotiations with the LTTE. Sri Lankan Church leaders also appealed for talks with the Tigers last week. The Sri Lankan government has not responded.

The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) has called on the Sri Lankan government to call off its offensive in the Vanni, due to the suffering being inflicted on the Tamil populace. The Sri Lankan offensive has been stalled in the face of fierce resistance from the Tamil Tigers, and the Sinhalese military has settled for shelling and starving the Tamil areas until it can resume the military offensive.

The TULF party leader, Mr. M. Sivasithamparam was quoted in Sri Lankan papers appealing for negotiations with the LTTE.

``We appeal to the government to put a halt to the ongoing war and to give a boost to the political process. The LTTE should also be included in the political process as their role is important in finding a settlement to the ethnic crises,'' the state owned Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.

Another weekly, the Sunday Times reported that a Catholic organisation called the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Sri Lanka has also called on the government to talk to the LTTE. It is rare for the Catholic community on the island to express an opinion on the conflict. The Sinhalese Buddhist majority dominates the country's government and military.

The Catholic leadership has not protested even when the Sinhalese military bombed and shelled several churches in the Tamil homelands in the past few years, killing hundreds of civilians who took shelter inside the church buildings.

The government has been flaunting its devolution proposals as the key to resolving the conflict that has gripped the island for several decades. Ironically, the LTTE have never been invited to study the 'peace proposals' and have therefore rejected it as a ploy by the Sinhalese government to conceal its military strategy for occupying the Tamil homelands.

The original devolution plans were unveiled days before a major anti-Tamil offensive in 1995. The already weak devolution proposals have since been watered down further to appease Sinhalese supremacist sentiment in the south. A government select committee has been 'studying' the proposals for over a year now. The London Times observed in February 1996 that "[the proposals] would have been mauled to the point of becoming meaningless before it stands a chance of parliamentary passage."

Much of the so called 'peace' package has been unveiled, but not the details of the crucial issue of power sharing. Many observers suspect that this is because the limited power that is devolved to the Tamils will be minimal and will almost immediately alienate the Tamil community and the Tamil political parties such as the TULF. Furthermore, this would enable the LTTE to unite even the pro-government Tamil political parties behind its campaign.

The parts of the package published so far are already causing disquiet amongst the Tamils. In particular, the contents of Chapter II, where Buddhism is given a 'fore-most place', institutionalises the trappings of Sinhala Buddhist supremacy on the island.

The 'peace' proposals also outlaw anyone who advocates a separate state, which ensures that unlike in 1977, the Tamils cannot legally demonstrate their desire for self determination again.

The Sri Lankan government has put off unveiling the power-sharing proposals till November, buying itself sufficient time to wage an all out military onslaught to crush the Tamil campaign for self determination. Repeated calls for negotiations have been ignored and the war has been prosecuted with unparalleled brutality.

Numerous offers to mediate in negotiations have been made by governments, international NGOs and prominent personalities. All have been dismissed by the Sri Lankan government as "unnecessary" in an "internal" conflict. Also, the LTTE has publicly expressed its unwillingness to negotiate without third party mediation.

The government has been attempting to promote the Tamil armed militia that is working with Lankan armed forces as an alternative political leadership to the Tigers. However, most observers of the conflict recognise that without the LTTE, there cannot be lasting peace on the island. As the London Times observed, "[the other Tamil parties] have not only been marginalised by their association with a failed policy [the package], they are now all but irrelevant. Only the Tamil Tigers can speak for the Tamil community."

The LTTE intensified its campaign for independence following the island wide pogrom against Tamils in July 1983. Over 50,000 Tamil civilians have been killed in the government's attempts to crush the Tamil struggle. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil people of the island voted overwhelmingly for parties supporting independence from Sri Lanka.


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