'De-merger of NE a calamity to Sri Lanka' - TNA

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 August 2003, 09:01 GMT]
"The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) desires to place on record that the de-merger of the northeast province which has existed for the past fifteen years by the President would be a calamity to the whole Sri Lanka, and urges the President to desist from taking this perilous course," TNA said in a press statement issued Thursday in Colombo.

The leaders of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) and Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF Suresh wing) have signed the press statement.

The full text of the press release of the TNA follows: -

Statements made by media spokespersons on behalf of the President of Sri Lanka, and the Peoples' Alliance, to the effect that de-merger of the northeast province is under serious consideration by the President have caused most serious concern to the Tamil people, since any such step would strike fatally at the very roots of the current peace process rendering the whole process, meaningless and redundant.

The Tamil National Alliance emphatically state that a Tamil linguistic region in the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking people-the North east- constitutes the very foundation of any negotiated solution, and that any attempt to subvert this foundation will inevitably lead to the nullification of all prospects of a negotiated peaceful political solution to the Tamil question.

Such statements emanating from spokesperson on behalf of President Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge, who claimed when she actively entered electoral politics in 1994, that the main objective of her entering politics was to resolve the national question pertaining to the Tamil conflict, reinforces in the minds of the Tamil people the grave doubts they have always held in regard to the sincerity of Sinhala political leadership to evolve a just and acceptable political solution to the Tamil question, and convinces the Tamil people the need to stand together in this hour of peril and fearlessly face this threat.

The Tamil National Alliance reiterates that President Chandrika Kumaratunge made a political commitment to the creation of a region in the Northeast as a unit of power sharing. It was on the basis of such a commitment that the vast majority of the Tamil people at the Presidential election in 1994 overwhelmingly supported Chandrika Kumaratunge. Viewed percentage-wise a much larger percentage of the Tamil people than either the Sinhala or Muslim people who voted at the Presidential Election in 1994 supported Chandrika Kumaratunge. It is indisputable that more than 90 % of the Tamils, who voted in the eastern province at the 1994 Presidential Election, supported Chandrika Kumaratunge.

In 1994, Tamil political leaders for the first and only time in the history of Presidential Election campaign in Sri Lanka openly campaigned for Chandrika Kumaratunge. This was in view of Chandrika Kumaratunge's political commitment to devolve power to the North Eastern region, on the basis of federal principles.

In the above circumstances, the statements made by her spokespersons that the de-merger of the North eastern province which has existed for the past fifteen years, is under her serious consideration, would if implemented, be a gross betrayal of the Tamil people, and an act of political perfidy. Such an act will undoubtedly incur the strongest disapproval of not merely the Tamil people in the northeast but of all Tamils, in all parts of the country, and will irretrievably alienate the President and the Peoples' Alliance from the Tamil people.

The reason attributed for such consideration is that some Muslim people have been killed or have disappeared in some areas in the east. After the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in February 2002 both Muslims and Tamils have been killed or have disappeared. Though such killings are insignificant compared to what happened prior to the Memorandum of understanding, all killings are unacceptable and must be stopped.

The LTTE is accused of the killings of Muslims. The Tamil National Alliance has raised the question of these killings and its harmful impact on the peace process with the LTTE. The LTTE has denied these killings. No direct evidence is forthcoming against the LTTE. Those who accuse the LTTE allege that if the LTTE is not responsible the LTTE should identify those responsible. It is common knowledge that detection of crime not merely in the northeast, but in all parts of Sri Lanka has reached a sorry state.

The LTTE is engaged in talks at various levels with the Muslim people. The leadership of the LTTE and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress have met. Religious leaders and farmers organizations of the Muslim people are meeting with local LTTE leaders and day-to-day problems are being successfully addressed. Tamil and Muslim peoples very closely interact with each other, and the relationship between the vast majority of the Tamil and Muslim peoples who have lived together in the east or centuries and who enjoy a strong linguistic bond, are quite peaceful and normal. There can be no doubt that with the passage of time and further progress in the talks remaining issues will be discussed and will have to be resolved.

Except for a solitary Muslim parliamentarian who has been estranged from the party to which he belonged when elected, no other Member of Parliament representing the Muslim people of the northeast, has sought the de-merger of the northeast. The positions of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the National Unity Alliance, is that there is in existence a merged northeast, and that they expect legitimate Muslim aspirations within the merged northeast as expressed by them, to be adequately addressed. This position has been publicly articulated. This indeed was the clear position of the late Mr.M.H.M.Ashraff the leader of the SLMC and the NUA. Democratic Muslim leaders have for over a long period of time discussed these issues with democratic Tamil leaders. This process of discussion has now been extended to the LTTE. There can be no reservation to the Muslim question in the northeast being resolved on a just and equitable basis, so as to ensure the security, the social, economic and cultural well being of the Muslim people in the northeast to the same inequalities and indignities to which the Tamil people have been subjected by the Sri Lankan State.

The well being of both the Tamil and Muslim peoples demands that these issues be discussed and resolved in a just and equitable manner and with a sense of pragmatism. It is only such a resolution that will bring everlasting peace and amity to the Tamil speaking Tamil and Muslim people who have lived together in the northeast for generations and centuries and who will have to continue to live together. This is primarily their own responsibility and not of anyone else.

Elements opposed to the peace process, who are against the Tamil question being resolved in a just and equitable manner, and who have developed a hatred against the LTTE, are endeavoring to magnify every incident in the east, and drive a wedge between the Tamils and Muslims, and thereby fulfill their own agenda of preventing a just and acceptable resolution of the Tamil question, and the LTTE being brought into the political mainstream. It has also been established that the reports pertaining to some purported incidents in the east have been unfounded and are false.

Some efforts have also been made to project the impression that the Sinhalese in the northeast are in a vulnerable position. Such fears are totally unfounded, as when there is a political resolution of the conflict and in a situation of peace, the Sinhalese people in the northeast, as also the Tamil and Muslim peoples in the rest of the country will have to peacefully co-exist with the majority community wherever they live.

Much also has been made of an LTTE camp in Kurankupanchchan in the south of Trincomalee district and the SLMM's ruling that the camp is in government controlled territory. This is in a border area, and the LTTE disputes the SLMM's ruling that the camp is situated within the government controlled territory and claims that it is within territory under their control. The LTTE claims that some of its martyrs have been interred in this area, and that they have shown the SLMM evidence of the prior existence of an LTTE camp in this area. The nearest Police post is 8 km away from Soorangal and the nearest army camp is 14 km away at Wan Ela from this LTTE camp. This LTTE camp does not pose a threat to any Police or armed forces installation and is not situated in an area of any strategic importance. The SLMM and others are in continuous contact with the LTTE and there is expectation that this issue is not beyond resolution. It is unfortunate that much is sought to be made on this issue. While this issue definitely needs to be resolved over a period of time it is certainly not an issue on which the success or failure of the peace process in Sri Lanka must depend.

It would be pertinent to point out that the Sri Lanka government forces are not free from breaches of the ceasefire agreement. Some places of worship, school and public buildings are yet in the occupation of the armed forces. Even outside high security zones, displaced Tamil civilians are experiencing difficulties, in resettling and resuming their occupation. New armed forces camps have been set up in government-controlled territory, causing grave inconvenience to returning displaced Tamil civilians.

These matters surely cannot be unknown to President Chandrika Kumaratunge her advisors, or her spokespersons.

The overall position is that after a protracted conflict lasting around two decades, in the midst of grave suspicion and distrust, efforts are being made to resettle displaced people and restore normalcy in the devastated northeast. This cannot be achieved without the patience understanding and co-operation of all persons in authority. The Tamil National Alliance considers it as singularly unfortunate, that not many persons in high authority have visited the North east and seen for themselves the immense devastation that has been inflicted to the north particularly in the rural areas and the grave difficulties being experienced by returning displaced Tamil civilians.

It would be a grave mistake to endeavor to misuse the most difficult situation prevalent in the northeast in order to further the political agenda, of individual leaders, or their political parties. The northeast conflict has remained unresolved for several decades in view of the inability of Sinhala political leaders and their parties, to detach this burning issue from their partisan political agendas, and address the same with honesty and objectivity.

The Tamil National Alliance desires to place on record that the de-merger of the northeast province which has existed for the past fifteen years by the President would be a calamity to the whole Sri Lanka, and urges the President to desist from taking this perilous course.

Related Articles:
27.08.03   North and East should be de-merged - Ferial Ashraff
20.08.03   SL President threatens to de-merge northeast province
13.08.03   Muslim MPs endorse merger of North and East
04.08.03   Muslim MP says North and East should not be merged
14.07.03   Sinhala nationalists launch de-merger campaign in Trinco


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