President urges unity against terrorism

[TamilNet, Friday, 10 November 2000, 01:17 GMT]
(News Feature) Sri Lanka’s President Chandrika Kumaratunge told Parliament Thursday that she was prepared to talk to the Liberation Tigers about a solution to the island’s conflict within the limits of a united Sri Lanka, but said the war “against terrorism” would continue. Addressing Sri Lanka’s newly formed Parliament, she said that “military action against terrorists”, along with her proposed constitutional reforms and the forming of “national unity” was part of her government’s strategy to solve the island’s ethnic conflict. “It is our expectation to finish this war very soon,” she said.

“Although I have presented these [three]… in sequential order they should not be implemented one after the other but concurrently, together and in co-ordination with each other,” President Kumaratunge told MPs.

Despite having to “spend a huge amount of our national wealth” on the war, “we will not permit anyone to divide this country,” she said, adding that the Sri Lankan armed forces were fighting to “to free a section of our population that has come under the control of rabid fascism.”

Speaking about the meeting last week between the Liberation Tigers and a Norwegian delegation, she said Oslo was “now acting as facilitator” in bringing about negotiations. She was skeptical about the Norwegian delegation’s assertion that the LTTE leader, Vellupillai Pirapaharan, was “very serious” about political negotiations.

“We should give the most serious consideration as to whether [the Tigers] are trying to fool us too in the same way as they have fooled different governments through a period of fifteen years,” she said, adding her policy of "replying to terrorism through military action” would continue until the government was made aware of and had decided on what the LTTE had in mind as pre-conditions for talks.

The LTTE in a statement last week called for the de-escalation of the armed conflict and restoration of normalcy in the Tamil homeland as "essential pre-requisites" to resume political negotiations with the Sri Lanka government.

“By de-escalation Mr. Pirapaharan meant the cessation of armed hostilities, the removal of military aggression and occupation, the withdrawal of the economic embargo and the creation of conditions of normalcy in the Tamil homeland,” the statement said further.

However, President Kumaratunge said that the basis of a solution to the conflict must be clear before any peace talks or de-escalation was considered.

“What the LTTE should discuss with us should be clear and definite political issues,” she said. “If…by discussions, [the LTTE] only mean the lifting of embargoes and the supply of food and similar things which are advantageous to them, then there will be no purpose served.”

“This is because we have already taken such steps,” she added.

President Kumaratunge reiterated that any settlement to the conflict must be within a united Sri Lanka. “Looking at it from the point of view of the Tamils themselves the establishment of a separate state in the North and East will not bring about liberation for the Tamil people,” she said. “All our people will obtain liberation only when they begin to live in a united Sri Lanka.”

President Kumaratunge said her devolution proposals were “best democratic alternative that has been presented, of sharing power within a single united country.”

The devolution proposals came under vehement criticism form the Sinhala far-right and Sri Lanka’s influential Buddhist clergy and triggered widespread protests in August when the package was debated in Parliament. As a result, the government aborted plans to put the package to a parliamentary vote.

However, President Kumaratunge told Parliament Thursday that she would present the proposals to the Buddhist leadership for their consideration. The Maha Sangha is implacably opposed to power sharing with the Tamils.

Calling for unity amongst the MPs of the government and opposition, President Kumaratunge said “Let us set a side all differences and unite to solve the grave problems that the country faces today.”

“I call upon all Hon. Members in this House, whatever party they may belong, to abandon narrow politics, petty differences, jealousies and all other rivalries and join in the urgent and necessary task of achieving peace in our land,” she said.

“Let us all be united in ridding our land of terrorism and the culture of death,” she said.


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