Lifting ban on LTTE:
The peace process resurrected by the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration
is at a crucial turning point after smooth sailing for about a month during
which both the government and the LTTE declared and extended ceasefires.
With a reinvited Norwegian delegation shuttling between London and Colombo
carryaing messages to and from the government and the LTTE, the peace process
was gathering momentum until the Tamil National Alliance, now acting as
an LTTE front, called for the lifting of the ban imposed on the LTTE.
The peace process, especially the deproscription issue, was extensively
dealt in Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's policy statement on Tuesday
in parliament. Former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar opening
the debate on the policy statement on behalf of the opposition PA, said
the PA fully backed the peace process but he urged the UNF government to
act with caution, especially with regard to the deproscription demand.
Though the PA walked out of parliament after Mr. Kadirgamar's statement
without fully debating the Premier's policy statement, the issue of deproscription
has stirred a lively debate outside parliament.
The Sunday Times today carry extracts of the Prime Minister's policy
statement and the PA's response along with views expressed by S. L.
Gunasekera and Kethesh Loganathan.
Honesty is only guarantee for peace: Ranil
I intend to speak on the main conflicts and issues we are facing since
gaining independence, in an honest and decisive manner. Time is now upon
us to speak out honestly and courageously.
The various crises we face today are inter-connected. These have manifested
in different forms. Chief among these conflicts is the North-East War which
started in 1983 and continued for 19 long years. Devastation caused by
the war has wide ramifications affecting a vast area of activity. Over
20,000 personnel of the Three Services and the Police have sacrificed their
lives. According to statistics quoted by the foreign media more than 60,000
lives have been lost due to the war. The number who have been maimed or
disabled is even greater. The expenditure on the war for the year 2001
alone has exceeded Rs. 80 billion. A part of this sum has been met through
the Budget and the balance raised through the State Banks. A total of Rs.
500 Billion has been spent on the war during the past 19 years. Unemployment
increased in leaps and bounds. Revenue declined seriously affecting development
activity. Several towns were destroyed. Ultimately, it came to a situation
where the country's airport and the port had to be temporarily closed down.
A large number of educated and professionally qualified people of all ethnic
groups from the middle income category left the country as a result. In
fact if not for the war we would not have had an unemployment problem.
The objective of the LTTE in setting up a separate state in the North
East by chasing away the Security Forces has not succeeded. Likewise, we
have not been successful in completely eliminating the LTTE through a military
solution. This is the present status of the war.
The concern of India as well as the donor countries have been drawn
towards this problem today more than ever before. They steadfastly advocate
a political solution to the war. In this context the centre of attention
is international opinion. A solution to the North East problem will be
through international opinion. We must focus our attention accordingly.
In this backdrop if international opinion is with us we could protect the
territorial integrity and unity of our nation.
We will gain strength if we act with one aim unitedly. This will help
us win international opinion. If we allow ourselves to be divided on petty
and narrow political aims we would be defeated in the face of international
The status of International Opinion today is against terrorism, war and
resolution of conflicts through political solutions. By inviting the Government
of Norway to act as an intermediary two years ago for the resolution of
the North-East Conflict, we too moved towards finding a political solution.
Several countries have already banned a number of terrorist organisations
by enacting legislation. Many countries have endorsed measures taken by
our country towards evolving a political solution as the most appropriate
step. At the same time they have also informed us to first work towards
the evolution of a political solution to the conflict.
The majority of the people's wish is to work towards a solution through
devolution of power democratically, ensuring the territorial integrity
of the country and preserving the rights of all sections of the people.
We have received a mandate to achieve this at the last elections. International
opinion compels us in this direction. This compulsion is not only limited
to the Government of Sri Lanka but is also equally compelling on the LTTE.
This opinion has intensified since the September 11 attack on New York.
The LTTE is under pressure to give up terrorism and the armed struggle
for a political solution as a result.
We are at a most decisive moment today. This is the last chance we would
have in the resolution of Sri Lanka's North-East problem. We should make
maximum use of this opportunity and march forward. If not, international
opinion would weigh heavily against us.
We can approach peace if the Government and the LTTE make an honest,
genuine and concerted effort along the same path. If the Government makes
an honest effort towards peace, international opinion will be in our favour
despite whatever position the LTTE takes, since a sovereign nation's honest
action will have the backing of the international community which will
protect us. However, if political parties are not honest in their efforts
we will equally stand to lose this favourable opinion. Without international
co-operation we will not achieve anything as a nation.
If we look to achieve narrow political gains by misinterpreting an honest
effort, we will lose the momentum so far gained. We should not trifle with
this final opportunity in achieving peace. We have no right to do so. To
do so would be the greatest betrayal of our people. We should position
ourselves with the rest of the world.
We stated during the elections that we would address and find solutions
to the suffering of our people in the North. We promised to bring normalcy
to the people in the North and East. We are not prepared to let the people
of the North and East be sandwiched in suffering due to the conflict between
the Government and the LTTE. Forget not that the people of the North and
East are also citizens of the country like you and I.
We have identified many areas affecting the people of the North and
East. These problems cannot be solved in 24 hours. Neither can we alleviate
their mental anguish in 24 hours. These have to be addressed, a step at
a time. We estimate that it would take about eight weeks to bring an environment
of normalcy in these areas.
Sending food and other items to the Wanni was only one step in this
direction. This was due to plans by the Government during April last year.
On successful completion of this plan we would focus what the Government's
reforms would be. Similarly, we have to remove step by step, the irritants
placed in the path of the Tamil people. We have by now received many reports
on these issues. We will take action to reform and relax the restrictions
placed on the fishing community of North and East. I consider this a duty
towards our people wherever they may be.
On 24 December, the LTTE announced a cease-fire unilaterally. The Government
too responded similarly. Now, there are two cessation of hostilities operating
in parallel. However, these two acts are not with common consensus. Therefore,
there is a difference between the two. Towards reaching a common consensus
between these two announcements, messages have been initiated with the
LTTE via the Norwegian Government. Within the ambit of this cease-fire
the LTTE has agreed not to launch offensive operations or bombings. Similarly,
the Government has opted not to launch land, sea or air strikes. Agreement
has been reached that armed LTTE cadres would be confined to the areas
where they are now and that the Army would not enter such areas. We must
try to agree to a common framework of action during the period of cessation
of hostility. Our aim is to work out a long-term cessation of hostilities
through such a common agreement which would pave the way for talks.
We will focus on the Muslim community specially in the districts of
Batticaloa and Ampara during the period of cessation and ensure their rights.
Towards this end discussions are taking place via the Norwegian Government
with the LTTE in a definite manner. We will avoid action which would hinder
the fruition of our hopes in making the ceasefire last. This is our aim.
Simultaneously we will ensure that the people of the North will receive
the security that they require through the security forces.
We will carry forward our efforts at finding a political solution started
through the Norwegian Government. It is our intention to exchange views
through Norway to commence peace talks. On this basis our first step would
be to agree on fundamental matters concerning peace talks. We will keep
international opinion with us as a safety net every step of the way. I
am aware of the experiences of Presidents J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe
Premadasa in the conduct of Peace Talks as well as the approach of President
Chandrika Kumaratunga in this regard.
The main issue for the commencement of talks with the LTTE is the international
and local ban on the LTTE. The LTTE has stated that if it were to come
for talks the ban imposed on the organisation locally should be lifted.
On the other hand International Opinion stresses on the need to commence
talks towards achieving a political solution.
One aspect we should seriously consider is whether we should lose international
co-operation at this juncture due to the ban imposed locally. My opinion
is that the alienation of the international co-operation to Sri Lanka would
pave a way for the realisation of the motives of the LTTE. We are not prepared
to let go of this last chance for peace.
Deep thought is necessary on the local ban of the LTTE in view of this
backdrop. I see two fundamental matters which we should consider in this
regard. The first is the guarantee of the honesty of the LTTE as regards
the Peace Talks. The second matter is preventing adverse effects any local
arrangement would have on the international ban on the LTTE. Based on these
two factors under the umbrella of a "security net" amendments governing
the regulations of the local ban should be considered whilst safeguarding
international opinion. This is one alternative.
Honesty is the only guarantee towards peace. It is natural that the
government on the one hand and the LTTE on the other would be suspicious
of each other. It is my view that the security forces should be in a state
of alertness in this backdrop. However, when confidence builds up between
the two sides this situation will change considerably.
After formalising the basic agreement as regards peace talks, the talks
should be held within a definite time frame between the Government and
the LTTE. Any questions that may arise at these talks should be argued
between the Government and the LTTE. What does the LTTE want? What are
the issues to be discussed? We cannot come to a definite conclusion on
these matters without finalising the basic agreement as regards the talks.
We will take action to brief the other political parties when these matters
are clear. However, if we try to discuss and debate these matters before
they surface in trying to achieve narrow political gains, we will not prevent
sending wrong signals to the international community, creating doubts as
regards our honesty. As a result we may stand to lose international co-operation.
We should think whether by such actions we would be helping the LTTE make
We have no right to play around with this last chance; we have to achieve
peace in Sri Lanka. We also have no right to indulge in narrow political
aims making use of the ban.
The people have given us a clear mandate to act decisively in dealing
with three burning issues facing the country. These are the war, poverty
and democracy. We will accept that challenge. 18 Million people toil within
our country and their sweat goes into paying my salary. They expect these
problems to be solved by us to ensure them a better tomorrow. I will realise
their hopes. I have spoken the truth before this House on these issues.
Buddhism has taught us to address these issues without fear.
Lord Buddha sent Ananda Maharathanwahanse to recite the Rathana Suthra
to Vishala Nuwara when it was faced with famine, disease and inhumanity
(the three fears).
Ananda Maharathananwahanse in chanting "Ethena Suvichena Suwaththi Hothu
"May Sathyayen Siyalu Sathwayan Suwapath Wewa" preached the truth. Vishala
Nuwara was rid of all three fears.
I have spoken truthfully today and also explained the seriousness of
the three main issues affecting us. I have also explained the path to solving
them with the inspiration of the Buddha Dhamma. Never before has the country
and our people faced problems of this nature since independence. I have
spoken the truth in the firm belief that solutions could be found to these
Let us all unite. Let us face the challenges and overcome them together.