by step to a settlement
THAILAND : Sri Lanka Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L.
Peiris (L) talks with Chief Negotiator and leader of the delegation
of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Anton Balasingham
(R) after the opening ceremony of the Sri Lanka peace talks
at Jomtien resort in Sattahip, 16 September 2002. Historic
talks between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels
began near here Monday in a ceremony opened by Norway's special
peace envoy Erik Solheim. AFP
upbeat but wants actions to match words
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem who returned
after the first round of talks in Thailand yesterday declared that
during the bilateral talks he hopes to have with the LTTE leadership
in Wanni, he would be taking up a series of issues concerning the
Muslims and among them the continued tax collection.
Mr. Hakeem in an interview with The Sunday Times said changes made
by the LTTE in the political set up had only helped 'marginally'
to overcome these problems.
Excerpts of the interview.
How do you
see the outcome of the first round of talks in Thailand ?
and conducive climate has been built for various reasons. One important
factor from our perspective is that the Muslims have been endorsed
as an important partner for lasting peace. This goes well for the
future of the peace talks. Having participated in the first round,
I observed that there is an understanding among all involved to
try and accommodate differences of opinion without trying to insist
on entrenched positions. This does not mean that parties have compromised.
What is evident is there is willingness to look for imaginative
creative approaches to resolve the conflict.
Any specific concerns that were raised during the talks ?
that were taken up for discussion related to humanitarian issues-particularly
resettlement and mine action programmes. I have emphasized the need
to consider the special and peculiar problems that the internally
displaced Muslims face . These are different to the problems of
the other Mulsims, particularly those living outside north and east.
That itself very clearly illustrates there is a security fear which
prevents them from resettling. There is a duty cast on the government
and the LTTE to see that the security assurances for Muslims to
return to their original habitats are ensured.
from the LTTE ?
It has promised to look at it. I am sure at the bilateral discussions
scheduled to be held in Wanni this will figure prominently. Regarding
the removal of mines , I have given them a list of areas where Muslims
have lived and which need to be defined in the programme. We need
to actively involve the Muslims as well so that they will have the
confidence to return. On the need for the Task Force, there again
the composition was discussed. There were differences of opinion
about the structure and the mandate. I am sure we can reconcile
be the functions ?
Basically to collect funds for humanitarian mine action and
resettlement of refugees. If substantial funds could be obtained
extensive reconstruction of the war affected areas of the north
east could be undertaken.
the bilateral talks you plan to have in Wanni soon?
is important for us to maintain the bilateral track of negotiations
to minimize problems that might arise at the main negotiation table.
during private discussions with Anton Balasingham and the others
representing the LTTE endeavoured to find out the broad parameters
within which they envisage autonomous arrangements for the Muslims.
From now onwards my party and other Muslim leaders who have agreed
to support our endeavour will be setting up separate expert panels
to work on different subject headings so that we may be able to
formulate alternative positions for further discussions with both,
the LTTE and the government.
your position regarding tax collections and harassment in the north
changes in the political leadership in the LTTE in the north and
east have had a marginal impact. But they remain marginal. That
is a problem. I have been patient enough to endure this for so long
in the hope that when the LTTE really understands the practical
difficulties in running an administration without the Muslims being
actively involved, it would make major changes. If that reality
is not accepted it will have disastrous consequences. I am sure
continued discussions will have results.
the proposed interim administration ?
No serious discussion took place on the institutional and structural
arrangements . The talk about interim administration has become
a virtual anathema to many. Now it appears that the task force is
being looked at as an embryo for a provisional administration. If
that is so, then we must all ensure that its composition reflects
the diversity that is required.
decided to go step by step and we need to build the confidence every
step of the way.
the long term solution you are looking at?
At a national level the LTTE considers itself as a partner
with the government working out an acceptable political formula.
In similar vein the LTTE has to look at the Muslims as partners
to work out the self rule and autonomous arrangements, to use their
They are referring
to the north and east as the homeland for the Tamils and the Muslims.
The LTTE has been saying this since 1988, the remarkable difference
in Thailand was that it was referred to in the opening statement,
for the entire international community to understand their strategy.
We need to be convinced by the complete action on the ground. As
far as the Muslims are concerned such a position must manifest in
real political accomodation.Words alone or abstract concepts of
homeland are meaningless. We don't want to create more problems
at this stage by bringing up those matters. We will take them up
at a later stage.
the SLMC going as a separate delegation for the next round of talks?
That role should be crucial when we enter into the latter stages
of the talks relating to power sharing in the North and East. We
are glad that both the government and the LTTE have understood and
accepted this position.
Do you believe
that all Muslim leaders are behind you?
see general agreement for a collective concerted effort. I expect
Muslims to shed petty differences and become partners with us to
work out practical solutions. . That would be the prudent and responsible
approach to achieve lasting consensus. I have had assurances from
many senior leaders and it is up to us to co-operate and work together
to make it a fruitful exercise.When it comes to details there may
be differences. But I am confident that Muslims as a whole, those
in the north east and living in the south will act as a collective
G.L. clarify concepts
The pro-LTTE website 'Tamil Net' reporting on the
press conference given by the government and the LTTE at the
end of the first round of peace talks in Thailand quoted the
rebel chief negotiator Anton Balasing-ham as saying that they
are seeking "substantial autonomy and self government
in the Tamil homeland and expressed optimism that a solution
to Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict could be worked out by negotiation.
had said the LTTE would only seek an independent state "as
a last resort" if the Tamil demand for "regional
autonomy is rejected and conditions of oppression continue."
to reporters' questions as to whether the LTTE had given up
fighting for a separate state, Mr. Balasingham said: "The
LTTE doesn't operate with the concept of a separate state.
We operate with the concept of a homeland and self-determination.
Homeland doesn't mean a separate state as such. It refers
to a territory where the Tamil-speaking people live,"
he pointed out. When we use the category or concept of self-determination,
we mean that the concept entails substantial autonomy or self-government
in our homeland or in the historical areas where we live.And
[we feel] that solutions can be worked out if both the parties
agree to a particular political system or model.
if our demand for regional autonomy and self-government is
rejected and if conditions of oppression continue, as a last
resort our people have no option other than to fight for political
independence and statehood," he said. "That will
be the last resort under the principle of self determination.
saying that the LTTE is fighting for an independent state
has no relevance because we operate with different categories
and concepts," he added.
by a correspondent if Mr. Balasingham's comments gave him
hope of resolving the ethnic conflict, the Sri Lankan government's
chief negotiator G. L. Peiris said: "Definitely. We know
that [separation] is not their [Tigers'] objective. They have
stated it categorically on this occasion: a separate state
is not what their aspirations are about."
aspirations can be fulfilled within one country if we set
about it in the proper way," he said .
to a question as to whether the disarming of the LTTE was
discussed at the 3-day talks, Mr. Balasingham said: "There
is no question of disarmament at this early stage of the discussion.
You know very well both parties- the government of Sri Lanka
and the LTTE have two standing armies and two navies and this
is the first time a stable cease-fire has been established.
The question of disarming and decommissioning the LTTE will
not arise until we reach a permanent settlement that will
satisfy the aspirations of Tamil people."
views were echoed later by Mr. Peiris who said "At the
beginning of a negotiating process you don't ask about disarmament.
You have to achieve some progress with regard to substantive
issues first and decommissioning of weapons or demilitarisation
would come at a later stage. That is how any realistic, pragmatic
negotiation process would be handled."
training not for war claims Trinco command
Our Trincomalee Cor. Sinniah Gurunathan
An LTTE district commander has declared the group would
maintain its military power to ensure the continuation of
the present peace process, but nobody should assume they were
preparing for war.
Trincomalee district commander Pathuman speaking at the passing
out parade of a batch of LTTE cadres who underwent training
in heavy weaponry said: "No one should think that the
military parade is held in preparation for war. It's a routine
activity. Under the present ceasefire environment we held
this in a public place enabling the people to witness the
event. We must strength our military power to ensure the present
peace environment continues. No one can deceive our leader
are for peace. We participated in peace talks that were held
in Thailand. However we cannot be idle. Under the present
ceasefire agreement we also conduct military training for
our cadres just as the Sri Lanka Army conducts for its recruits,"
over the certificate distribution event, the LTTE's Trincomalee
district political secretary Tilak said people could ask whether
it was necessary to have military training when a peace environment
must strengthen our selves further if the present peace process
is to continue. The government has come to terms in some aspects
with us because of our military strength. Peoples' participation
is needed for strengthening ourselves," Mr.Tilak stressed.
TNA leader R.Sampanthan said," the LTTE has shown to
the government of Sri Lanka and the international community
that the Tamils in the country cannot be suppressed and subjugated
fact has been accepted by all sections of society. In the
past the governments in power entered into pacts and agreements
with the moderate Tamil leaderships and later abrogated them
due to pressure by chauvinistic elements in the south. The
governments were not prepared to accommodate the reasonable
and just demands through negotiations with the Tamil moderate
leadership," he said.
Tamils cannot be deceived this time because of the military
strength of the LTTE. Political solutions based on concrete
foundation and on certain principles could be found only if
the Tamils are militarily strengthened," Mr.Sampanthan
said. Referring to the peace talks in Thailand Mr.Sampanthan
said, " We cannot expect a political solution within
few weeks or months. It will take a long time. Obstacles and
interruptions could take place in the long journey for peace."
aid pours in to rebuild North and East
Financial and technical assistance was extended by several
countries and international donor agencies to rehabilitate and develop
the North and East following the conclusion of the first round of
peace talks in Thailand.
Commission offered a financial contribution to the Peace Secretariat
to facilitate activities aiming at the dissemination of information
concerning developments related to the peace process to key stakeholders
and the people.
Its main objective,
for which the total budget is £ 1.8 million, is to finance
a series of measures to implement key provisions of the Cease Fire
Agreement and to build confidence in the peace process.
Commission financed in May this year an assessment mission to Sri
Lanka under its Rapid Reaction Mechanism (RRM
) to explore
possibilities for RRM-assistance for the peace process.
The EU is to
support the implementation of the Cease Fire Agreement by rehabilitating
schools that had been used for military purposes before being vacated
as agreed in the Cease Fire Agreement. This includes:
school areas of mines, rehabilitation of the buildings and refurbishing
them with basic equipment.
of electricity lines between the checkpoint on the Kandy-Jaffna
road in order to improve the movement of people between the former
conflict zones by allowing the checkpoint to be operational on a
24h per day basis.
the population of human rights in general and minority rights in
the commission has started the process to mobilise £ 4 million
under the rehabilitation budget line.
Government while supporting Sri Lankan Peace Process is to contribute
A$7.5 million towards humanitarian objectives in Sri Lanka. As part
of this assistance, the Australian government has decided to provide
A$400,000 specifically for the rehabilitation of child soldiers
in Sri Lanka.
Minister Jan Peterson pledged aid for the development of the North
and East when he met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesignhe in NewYork.
also come forward to give financial assistance for the development
projects in the North and East, with a total of 48.8 million rupees.
Development Co-operation minister Agnes Van Hoeven pledged fullest
co-operation of her country when she met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
in New York. Services of experts of the Netherlands for de-mining
Government is to provide assistance for drinking water supply to
Vavuniya.- US$ 69,214 (Rs. 6.6 million ) and US$ 31,201 (Rs. 3 million
will be provided towards two projects for "Emergency Drinking
and Sanitation Water Supply to Resettled Refugees in Vavuniya North"
and " Augmentation of Sate Drinking and Sanitation Water Supply
in Vavuniya town. The signing of the contract is to take place on
NORAD is to
give assistance for the rehabilitation of fisheries activities in
Jaffna District. Rs. 3.4 million has been provided for the study