The LTTE is embarking on a major initiative throughout the Western world to politicize the international community on the Sri Lanka situation. This has become imperative after the loss of Jaffna, the heartland of the LTTE to the domination of the Sri Lankan security forces.
The first step in that direction is a series of international conferences. The first major "International Conference on the role of the international community in resolving the national conflict in Sri Lanka" will be held on Saturday March 23, 1996 from 9.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education auditorium, at 252, Bloor Street West, Toronto.
It is a high powered conference, which will be open to the public. The inaugural address will be delivered by the Honourable David Kilgour MP, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Canada.
This conference is organized to support the quest for peace in the Island of Sri Lanka to discuss the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people and the role of the LTTE and to formulate recommendations for an effective international response.
The aim of the conference is to explore the basis for a peaceful resolution to the national conflict in the island of Sri Lanka, and how Canada and other members of the international community can influence this process and contribute toward a lasting peace with justice.
In a statement to the press, Federation Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT), the best known front organisation of the LTTE in Canada states, "The Government of Sri Lanka led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her People's Alliance (PA) came to power in 1994 and generated a great deal of hope for a peaceful resolution to the national conflict. The parliament and presidential campaign emphasized bringing about a negotiated settlement to the national conflict."
The statement adds, "The peace talk that lasted for about six months broke down, and the subsequent military operation by the Sri Lankan security forces resulted in the "capture" of Jaffna, the cultural and spiritual capital city of the Tamil people. The offensive led by the security forces has killed and maimed a large number of innocent civilians and displaced half a million Tamils from the Jaffna peninsula."
The conference is expected to bring a number of distinguished speakers, including pro-LTTE academics. Among them are Prof. Robert. C. Oberst, Department of Political Science, Nebraska Wesleyan University, USA, Dr. Dagmar Hellman Rajanayagam, German-Malaysian Institute, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Prof. A.J. Wilson, Department of Political Science, University of New Brunswick, Canada, Prof, Bruce Matthews, Dept. of Comparative Religion, ACADIA University, Nova Scotia, Canada, and Prof. Peter Schalk, Department of History and Religion, Uppsala University, Sweden.
It is believed that the idea for such a conference came from a conference to "discuss and define criteria and methods for peaceful resolution of the Sri Lanka conflict" held in Norway under the sponsorship of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 26 February 1996.
The Norway conference was addressed by Jan Egelan, Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister. The LTTE was represented by V. Rudrakumaran, the Political Adviser to LTTE's international secretariat. The Sri Lankan Government did not participate.
Others included Jehan Perera, a well known Sinhala journalist and a regular columnist in the Sinhala-owned 'Island' newspaper, Sarath Amunugama, a member of the Sri Lankan opposition party (the UNP), Mr. Somasuntharam Sandrasegaram of Colombo University, Ema Solberg, a Member of the Norwegian parliament and Bryn Welfre of the NGO Forum on Sri Lanka.
Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Egelan began his address with the remarks, "We have seen that international assistance can preserve peace, save lives and protect human rights and democracy - if it reaches vulnerable communities in time. Too often we have been passive observers while unique opportunities are lost because we, as individual nations or UN members, did not mobilise resources in time." Jan Egelan added, "All democratic countries have an obligation to strengthen their ability to respond when democratic and peace-oriented initiatives call for urgent support. Our common ability to provide flexible, speedy and effective assistance to those at humanity's first line of defence will also determine our ability to protect and promote our own collective security. Our experience is that we have a vast untapped reservoir of relevant resources and expertise in our governmental and non governmental organisations. It is our belief that the importance of peace and conflict resolution lies in the fact that peace is a matter of human right."
LTTE's representative, Visvanathan Rudrakumaran began by appraising the conference of the futility of Sri Lanka's strategy of "peace through war" by pointing out: The mounting loss of innocent lives, resulting from the Navaly church bombing, the Nagarkovil school bombing, "Operation Sunshine", the Colombo Bank bombing and the Kumara massacre among many other tragedies, has demonstrated that the strategy of "peace through war" only untenable but immoral."
Rudrakumaran then went on to cite the statement made by United Nations Secretary-General on the first of February 1996, that the bombing incident in Colombo highlights, "The need to find an early negotiated political solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka and told the conference that Rudrakumaran added, "Any lasting resolution of the conflict has to be based on the real situation in the Island of Sri Lanka. The response of the Tamil people after the politics of exclusion by all Sinhala governments since independence, is a realisation that their lives and their interests can only be protected by collectively asserting the aspirations in the form of nationhood. In the last democratic elections held in 1977, the Tamils voted for an independent state for Tamils. Since then they have not only asserted their right to nationhood, but have paid for it, and are still paying for it in blood, toil, tears and sweat. Rudrakumaran then pointed out how truth itself had become a victim as a result of the censorship imposed by the Sri Lankan Government. He referred in particular to the delusion shared by many today that President Chandrika's "devolution package" is "a panacea for the national conflict in Sri Lanka" whereas the "package itself is the product of a well-orchestrate media campaign by the Sri Lankan government.
Rudrakumaran reflected the position of the LTTE when he said the devolution package indeed provides for meaningful power sharing between Tamils and Sinhalese on the Island of Sri Lanka, and whether it is adequate to guarantee the physical security of the Tamil population. Rudrakumaran then provided a succinct analysis of what was meant by "devolution" - the core principle of the "Chandrika Kumaratunga proposals" by pointing out," Devolution implies hierarchy, a pyramid of government where power flows downward from the top, non-centralisation requires that there can be no single centre, but a rather a dispersal of power among a number of centres that must co-opther activities and policies with one another in order to make the entire polity work". "In any hierarchy, the top is expected to have more authority and power than the middle or the bottom, which contradicts the basic principles of federalism."
Rudrakumaran then made reference to other situations in which appropriate political structures have been developed to eliminate the "tyranny of the majority" by citing Belgium's 1970 Constitution, the Netherland's treatment of Antilles, the special relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada, and arrangements contained in the US brokered agreement in respect of Bosnia-Hezegovina.
Rudrakumaran also said that "Ms. Kumaratunga's proposal's life span will be solely dependent upon Sinhalese benevolence. The lessons of history and the most basic prudence do not allow the Tamils to put themselves in such a vulnerable position, especially after the sacrifice of so many lives. History will not forgive us if we do. Thus, if the "devolution proposals" truly become a step towards terminating the conflict they must go beyond the present provisions in terms not only of more power to the north eastern region, but also of concurrent majority rule and less at the centre."
However in making these observations, Rudrakumaran also pointed out that there was little enthusiasm amongst the Sinhala ruling establishment to consider a genuine federal proposal. He cited the observations by current Sri Lankan representative to the United Nations, H.L. de Silva that the "federal system is much too expensive a luxury for a small state, and that a unitary system makes for the avoidance of unnecessary expenditure and consequent waste, prevents the duplication of establishment cost that is necessarily involved when creating regional governments with recruitment machinery and that a two tiered government structure may be too great a burden for such a state."
The decision by the Government of Sri Lanka not to send a delegation was a serious error. Although LTTE may have had a large role in initiating the conference, it is the responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka to present their version. Otherwise, many would believe the interpretation of the LTTE.
It is likely that until the LTTE builds up its strength in the Wanni jungles, the LTTE's international arm will continue to play a major role in generating international public support for mediation.
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