Sri Lanka determined to continue war - Balasingham

[TamilNet, Saturday, 02 December 2000, 22:38 GMT]
(News Feature) The Sri Lankan government's continued silence on Liberation Tigers' offer of unconditional peace talks last week cast doubt on Colombo's commitment to peacefully resolving the conflict, Anton Balasingham, the LTTE's theoretician and political advisor said Saturday. Sri Lanka's President Kumaratunge seemed determined to prosecute the war, he said in his Heroes' Day address in London. Nevertheless, the Liberation Tigers were seriously considering a Norwegian proposal for staggered and gradual de-escalation of the conflict, he said.

Whilst the LTTE's offer of unconditional talks in a climate of normalcy had been welcomed by the international community and many Sri Lankan political parties, including the main opposition United National Party, the ruling People's Alliance of President Chandrika Kumaratunge was pointedly refusing to comment on the matter, he said.

He noted that Sri Lanka's Prime Minister has vowed to continue the war and destroy the Tigers. Meanwhile Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, continued to insist to the international community that Colombo wished to resolve the conflict peacefully, he said. "There are several contradictions in the Sri Lankan government's statements," he told thousands of people at the London Arena.

"We have grave doubts about [President Kumaratunge's] intentions," the LTTE's chief negotiator said. "She is strengthening her armed forces, purchasing new weapons systems," he said. "The army is calling for new recruits."

Balasingham said the very structure of the Sri Lankan government hampered the peaceful resolution of the conflict. "The government comprises Sinhala supremacists, Buddhist nationalists and Tamil traitors," he said. "How can such a government give justice to the Tamil people?" he queried.

The international community has urged the LTTE to try to resolve the protracted ethnic conflict peacefully, he said. Therefore, the LTTE has responded by proposing unconditional talks following the restoration of normalcy, said Balasingham.

"This is a crucial step for us," he said. "We have not insisted on troop withdrawals or ceasefire as we have in the past," he pointed out. "But we insist that the severe hardships and attacks being endured by the Tamil people must cease before any meaningful talks," he said. "We can't talk with bombs falling."

"The Sri Lankan Prime Minister says that we are coming for peace talks because we are weakened," he said. "We are not weak. We are still strong. We will not shirk from fighting; that is our forte."

He pointed out that the Sri Lankan government's economic embargo has caused immense suffering. "The blockage of food, medicine and daily necessities, the ban on fishing, cement, etc has greatly affected the people," he said. "It has been going on for ten years."

"Sri Lanka says the ban is to prevent the growth of the LTTE," he said. "But we have other ways of getting everything a liberation struggle needs."

"The real aim of the embargo is break the people's desire for freedom and to make them stop supporting the LTTE," he added.

President Kumaratunge says she accepts the Tamil people have grievances, but blames foreign colonialists, rather than Sinhala racism for this, he said. "She talks about solving the ethnic problem and then vows to destroy the Tamil liberation struggle. But the Tamil people began their armed struggle after the Ahimsa form of struggle was crushed by racial violence," he added. "She refers to the Tamil freedom struggle as terrorism."

"Some international governments - you know who they are - have labelled us terrorists, even though they know full well we are fighting for our people's freedom," he said. "They have their own objectives."

"A state can do what it wants - bomb villages and kill civilians - that is war," he noted. "But if we strike back, that is deemed terrorism."

"The United States dropped two atomic bombs and killed large numbers of people. The Indian forces killed large numbers of Tamil civilians. That is considered war. If we set off a firecracker in Colombo, that is said to be terrorism," he said.

"Lakshman Kadirgamar has asked Britain to ban the LTTE as terrorists. Yet he tells the international community the government wants to talk," Balasingham said.

If the international community continues to assist Sri Lanka's military efforts by banning the LTTE, then there was no possibility of peace talks to resolve the conflict, he said further. Citing the US as an example, he pointed out that bans against assisting the LTTE in other countries had in fact increased support for the Tigers amongst the Tamils in those locations.

"Sri Lanka must lift its own ban on the LTTE before peace talks are possible," he reminded the audience. "So why is Kadirgamar asking Britain to ban the LTTE?"

Sinhala Buddhist supremacy was responsible for the protracted ethnic war, he said. "The Maha Sanga opposes any concessions towards Tamil aspirations. Don't give anything to the Tamils, they say."

"The international community says a solution can be achieved within a united Sri Lanka. Britain points to Northern Ireland as an example," he said.

"It is only when their ideas are crushed that the West will realise that the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists will not concede anything to the Tamils," he said. "Then the world will recognise the Tamil struggle for independence."


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