Kadirgamar's conduct in peace initiative suspect -Sampanthan

[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 January 2002, 17:17 GMT]
"When your own conduct in the matter of negotiations with the LTTE with the aid of Norwegian involvement is subject to grave suspicion, I would consider it quite imprudent that you cast aspersions on the other party (the LTTE) and think that you can get away with it", the Tamil National Alliance's parliamentary group leader Mr. R. Sampanthan told former Foreign Minister Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, while addressing the Parliament Thursday during the special debate on the Prime Minister's policy statement Thursday. The TNA leader said President Chandrika Kumaratunga "missed the wood for the trees" when she resorted to the military option against the Tamils.

"I wish to very categorically refute the point Mr. Kadirgamar endeavoured to make out on the Floor of this House yesterday that the LTTE played a dubious role during the course of negotiations with Norwegian involvement during the term of the last government. I think it is my duty on behalf of the Tamil people to state on the floor of this house that the role of the Government itself at that point of time, raised many questions to which the Government could not have given satisfactory answers", Mr. Sampanthan said.

The following are excerpts from his speech:

"Ever since she (the President) resorted to the military option-under the advice of perhaps her civilian and or military generals, I am sorry to say that she missed the wood for the trees. We expect her again to rise to the occasion, and in the interests of the country and all its peoples to lead the SLFP and the Peoples' Alliance along the correct path"

"The war can be brought to an end only through a negotiated solution to the Tamil national question and that too only through negotiations with the LTTE. A military solution has been ruled out by sensible domestic analysts and thinkers including senior army generals in the country, and leading members of the international community, who have very strongly urged a political solution through negotiations with the LTTE. The Prime Minister has been candid enough to accept the correctness of these positions.

The Prime Minister has also been candid enough to acknowledge with a long experience of this national conflict, strongly believe, that the opportunity that has now become available, to resolve the Tamil national question, is indeed our last chance. I do not have the slightest doubt in my mind that if this last chance is not availed of and made the best use of, the consequences for this country and for all of us would indeed be disastrous and tragic. The LTTE has to be engaged and that process has already begun.

"The party which I represent, the Tamil National Alliance, placed our views on how the Tamil national question should be resolved before the Tamil voters in the North East during the last general election. The policies that we enunciated have won the overwhelming support of the Tamil people.

The policies we placed before the Tamil people were:

"1. That negotiations should take place between the Government and the LTTE with international third party involvement. 2. That negotiations should take place only with the LTTE and that no other Tamil party or organization should be engaged in parallel talks. 3. In order to enable the LTTE to partake in such talks freely and fully the ban imposed on the LTTE in Sri Lanka should be lifted.

"These policies which we enunciated before the Tamil people were also based upon our bitter experiences in the field of negotiations over a long period of time running into several decades.

"It is incontrovertible that the Tamil voters in the North-East have overwhelmingly supported these policies. On the basis of the mandate given to the Tamil National Alliance by the Tamil people we ask the verdict of the Tamil people be respected and the ban imposed on the LTTE is Sri Lanka be lifted. I convey this to this House, to the country as a whole and to the international community the unambiguous verdict of the Tamil people at the last general election. This is in fact the verdict of the vast majority of the people in this country, who have definitely been supportive of negotiations between the government and the LTTE.

"The Government's thinking on this issue as indicated by the speech of the Prime Minister is constructive. We have to strongly urge the Government not to be debilitated from such constructive thinking by considerations extraneous to the objective reality, that this catastrophic war needs to brought to an end, and that negotiations with the LTTE are imperative, if that objective is to be realistically achieved.

"Mr. Kadirgamar said Wednesday in parliament that the LTTE had not raised the issue of de-proscription with the Norwegians during the earlier Norwegian involvement, during the term of the last government, until about the latter part of April 2001 when it had been specifically raised for the first time and that this was done only after the United Kingdom had banned the LTTE.

"India and USA had banned the LTTE under their own laws prior to the Sri Lankan ban. Similarly the United Kingdom acted under its own laws and not because of the ban imposed in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Government, particularly Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar as foreign minister sought to play a somewhat unnecessarily high profile role purportedly to ensure the banning of the LTTE by the UK government. The phraseology used at that time by the Sri Lankan government, it was said that non-banning of the LTTE by the UK government would be regarded by Sri Lanka as an " unfriendly act".

It was such unfriendly and directly hostile propaganda against the LTTE at that point of time with whom the Sri Lankan Government seemingly desired to negotiate with Norwegian involvement, which in our view thwarted the whole negotiation process. Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar in his speech did not refer to the fact the LTTE had proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire on 24th December 2000, which the LTTE despite provocation extended upto 24th April 2001 without any favourable response from the Government.

The only response being one of insulting the LTTE for calling the ceasefire, with whom the Sri Lankan government nevertheless claimed to very keen to negotiate. And then within a few hours of the LTTE unilateral ceasefire which lasted for four months, not being extended, the Sri Lankan government commenced a massive military offensive named "Agni Keela" with the clear objective of capturing Pallai from whence they imagined that Elephant Pass could be captured. It was not long before this massive military onslaught was driven back to its original positions.

These are the hard facts and let us be honest enough to face them. Not responding to the LTTE unilateral ceasefire for a four months and starting a massive "Agni Keela" military operation within a few hours of the non-existence of the ceasefire, on the night of 24th April itself called into grave question the sincerity of the Peoples' Alliance's commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the Tamil national question through the initiative of the Norwegian government.

"Thereafter the whole world knows about the aspersions that were cast on the neutrality of the Norwegian interlocutor and consequently the whole Norwegian involvement was stymied and stultified. I consider it absolutely vital that these matters be placed on record.

"When your own conduct in the matter of negotiations with the LTTE with the aid of Norwegian involvement is subject to grave suspicion, I would consider it quite imprudent that you cast aspersions on the other party and think that you can get away with it".


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