The ceasefire agreement: Is it dead or alive?
By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent
The future of the ceasefire agreement between the Government and the LTTE loomed large during Thursday’s debate when parliament was summoned by the President to approve the promulgation of emergency regulations soon after the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

While MPs from Government, the JVP and the JHU directly blamed the LTTE for the minister’s killing, the TNA denied it was the work of the Tigers. The UNP MPs meanwhile stuck rigidly to the party’s official statement issued soon after the minister was killed – though the security forces say the LTTE did it let us wait till the investigations are over and the perpetrators brought to justice before blaming anyone.

No amount of prodding by the SLFP and JVP MPs made the UNP speakers to name the LTTE as those responsible for killing. The UNP kept going back to the official statement issued by the party. Many UNP MPs argued that when the likes of President Premadasa and Gamini Disssanayke were killed the SLFP stuck to a similar stance and they quoted enough speeches from the Hansard to recall how the SLFP too avoided blaming the LTTE and adopted a let’s wait-and-see attitude.

Even though the Emergency was approved by an overwhelming majority -- 124 for and 21 against the motion -- the reluctance of all parties to speak up in one voice against terrorism was evident during the day-long debate.
Deputy Defence Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayke who introduced the motion on behalf of the Government said the growing level of violence in the country cannot be tolerated any longer and was against all the norms of a “civilised” society.

“When a murder takes place we have to be bold enough to say it is a murder and it is wrong. Everyone in this country should have the right to live in freedom and it is this very right that is being eroded”, Mr. Wickremanayake said.

He added that emergency regulations were required to detain suspects for a longer period till questioning was completed, especially those arrested in connection with Mr. Kadirgarmar’s killing. Mr. Wickremanayake said between February 2003 and June 2005, the LTTE had violated the ceasefire 3,006 times as against 132 by government forces. The LTTE violations included more than 1,600 cases of child conscriptions and abductions of adults.
The Minister also voiced a veiled threat to the LTTE saying, “Come to the negotiating table if you have problems and discuss them in an honest and open manner otherwise the government will have to look at other options.”
UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya while condemning the killing of Mr. Kadirgamar said his party had provided security to Mr. Kadirgarmar for two years while they were in Government and ensured that his life was protected but the present government had failed in this duty.
He said there was the need for proper security provided to VIPs sans political interference.

JVP Parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa blamed the ceasefire agreement under which the LTTE was hiding its fascist nature and continuing to eliminate anyone voicing an opinion that was different to theirs.

“If there is a true ceasefire why does Douglas Devananda have to live in a fortress like a prisoner, why is any Tamil person who speaks differently from the LTTE getting killed, and why intelligence officers are being gunned down”, he asked.

Mr. Weerawansa alleged that the right-to-life under the ceasefire agreement had been given only to those who were signatories to the agreement and it was only helping the LTTE to carry out a one-sided war.
Mr.Weerawansa said the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation has been de listed as a charitable organisation in the UK and urged the government to follow suit.

“The late minister’s last piece of legislation to be passed in the House was the Bill to prevent terrorism-financing. The Government must use this to ban the TRO”, he said.

Mr.Weerawansa also launched a scathing attack on certain sections of the media who he claimed had “assassinated his character before he was assassinated by the sniper. These are not sniper guns but sniper pens that were aimed at him”, he said. SLFP General Secretary and Mahaweli Minister Maithripala Sirisena said there was no doubt the LTTE was behind the minister’s killing.

“The ceasefire agreement says there will be no political assassinations and this is a blatant violation of the agreement. It is not only Mr. Kadirgarmar who has been killed but many others in the past few weeks and we can no longer keep quite when these horrendous murders are taking place”, he said.

It fell on the Jaffna district TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah to speak on behalf of his party in the absence of its parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan and with emotions running high in the House it was not the easiest thing to do.

“We do not approve of any kind of killings. It is not only this but no human being should be killed for what ever philosophy he believes in”, Mr. Senathirajah said. He said the LTTE had denied involvement in the killing and the Government had no evidence to prove the LTTE had done it.

“You are trying to defame it in the international arena”, he alleged. Mr. Senathirajah said the government was making a big mistake by introducing the emergency as it would only be used to harass innocent Tamil people.
The JHU wanted the government to take steps to immediately proscribe the LTTE. JHU MP Ellawala Medananda Thera said the Prevention of terrorism Act which has been put into cold storage since the ceasefire agreement was signed, should also be re activated and Norway and other groups working in support of the LTTE be sent out of the country.

“If the LTTE is the sole representative of the Tamils why are they killing their own people? It is time the armed forces came forward to protect the country”, he said.

Tourism Minister Anura Bandranaike said the TNA had today become “a pathetic apologist” for the LTTE, a terrorist organisation condemned the world over as a brutal and repressive organisation.

“The TNA tried to whitewash the LTTE here today. I do not have 100 per cent evidence to say the LTTE did it but from the way it was conducted I firmly believe it was the work of the LTTE”, he said.

Mr. Bandaranaike said strangely the UNP and the TNA perspective on the matter was similar and said he was yet to hear the UNP leadership using one word to condemn the LTTE.

He said despite the killing, the Government was committed to peace and said the death of Mr. Kadirgarmar should be a beacon of light for those who cannot see and a voice for those who cannot speak.

SLMC leader Ruff Hakeem who spoke of his sadness at the depth into which the country had fallen where people celebrate a man’s death by lighting crackers said it was this type of perverted culture that had to be changed.
TNA MP Nadarajah Raviraj dismissed allegations that the TNA was trying to whitewash the LTTE saying all what his party was trying to do was bring about a peaceful settlement to the country’s problem.

“Today the JVP is trying to preach to us. But has it handed over any of the weapons they had in 1988/89”, he asked. Leader of the House Nimal Siripala De Silva who wound up the debate on behalf of the government said the emergency was not being introduced only because of Mr. Kadirgarmar's killing but because of the escalating violence in the country and said it would not be used to curb civil liberties – a fear expressed by many Opposition speakers.

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