importance of the all-party conference
This week, President Mahinda Rajapakse has invited all parties for
talks aimed at reaching a consensus on the core issue that has fuelled
half a century of conflict between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.
accepting this challenge, the President and our political leaders
have shown they are ready to take risks to pursue peace. They have
worked closely and believe they have the vision, courage and ability
to build a fair, just and lasting peace.
16 years, our political leaders have tried to resolve the root causes
of this conflict so that all Sri Lankans can enjoy the blessings
of a normal life. Those years have been full of moments of great
promise (the handshake at Hilton Hotel, the Indo-Lanka Agreement
and the Ceasefire Agreement) and of great tragedy (death of Indian
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, President Premadasa and more recently
Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar). Now we must honour those who have
given their lives by finishing the job.
this challenge are the most profound questions about beliefs, political
identity and collective fate. Etched in each side’s mind are
the intense fears and emotions and a deep-rooted commitment to defend
their people’s interests. So why this all-party conference
and why now? The answer is simple. While northern and southern negotiators
have made progress, the most complex and sensitive issues are still
unresolved. Success now depends on decisions only our political
leaders can make. While there clearly is no guarantee of success,
not to try would be to guarantee failure.
is no longer an option. The parties themselves have set a deadline
for resolving the final issues dividing them. Moreover, the conflict
knows no status quo. It can move forward to peace or slide back
into turmoil. It will not stand still. If the parties do not seize
this moment to make progress, there will be more hostility and more
bitterness, perhaps even more violence.
to what end? Eventually after more bloodshed and tears, it will
be back to the negotiating table where they will face the same history,
the same geography, the same hatreds and the same tough choices.
the President and the political leaders, the challenge is to draw
the contours of a long-awaited peace — a peace that can fulfil
the people’s quest for security and recognition, a genuine
reconciliation with the Tamils and true acceptance; a peace that
can determine their destiny on their own land.
Neither side can achieve all its goals. Negotiations must create
an outcome that is realistic, balanced and fair, meeting the fundamental
objectives of both sides and reconciling competing grievances that
strengthens the two parties rather than weakens one of them.
ordinary Sri Lankans have a profound interest in a Sri Lanka whose
people are prosperous, at peace and willing to confront common challenges
as partners. For the same reason, the rest of the world and especially
the rest of the region cannot afford to be bystanders. For all who
are committed to the cause of peace and to the wellbeing of the
Sri Lankan people, now is the time to lend support to the peacemakers.
Just two months after the new President of Sri Lanka took office,
the country is in a total mess. The north-east is witnessing a killing
spree while Colombo is on a searching spree for peace.
the north-east, fishermen dread to go fishing while three-wheel
drivers are scared to go on hires and Muslim farmers, out of fear,
do not go to their paddy fields in Tamil areas.
ceasefire agreement is broken by both parties on several occasions.
In this context, I would like to request the President to strike
an immediate deal with the main opposition UNP and form a joint
peace committee comprising the SLFP, UNP, TULF, JVP, JHU and all
the JVP and the JHU oppose this union, leave them aside, at least
as a temporary measure, to achieve a lasting peace in Sri Lanka.
Negotiations are the only way to peace.
cloud on migrant workers
With World Aids Day falling on December1, we saw on TV many discussions
and interviews where National AIDS Programme (NAP) staff stated
that around half the reported HIV positive women in Sri Lanka were
this, does the NAP imply that these women have been infected abroad?
Most of these women seek jobs as "housemaids" in Middle
East (ME) countries. According to UNAIDS, of the countries in North
Africa and the Middle East, only Sudan, Libya, Algeria and Morocco
have somewhat high HIV prevalence rates. Countries where most of
these women are employed have low HIV prevalence rates like Sri
to employment, these individuals have to submit an HIV negative
report. Unlike in the early years of NAP when HIV testing was carried
out exclusively by government laboratories, now most of these reports
are issued by the private sector. Whether these tests are correctly
done or not is not known.
the NAP implies that these women are infected abroad, then they
should be HIV negative when leaving and HIV positive when they return
or shortly afterwards if they are in the window period. Since no
follow-up testing is carried out, how does NAP arrive at this conclusion?
a survey conducted some years ago, 30 percent of the female sex
workers recruited for the study were found to be Middle East returnees.
Can the NAP precisely state whom they classify as a migrant worker?
If a woman who has returned from the Middle East tests HIV positive
one year later, is this person classified as a migrant worker?
Sri Lanka, employers are quite often reluctant to take Middle East
returnees as domestics because of the statements made by the NAP.
read a letter in The Sunday Times of January 8 where Prema Ranawaka
Das of Moratuwa says ‘.... some elephants are squeezed into
fancy dress to lend glamour to peraheras’. But I have a different
story to relate.
years ago, in a small temple, there was a perahera with two elephants.
When the perahera was about to start, a third elephant came late
to the temple. It was received with pleasure and introduced immediately
to the procession. But the animal refused to fall in line with the
others. The mahout tried hard to move the animal into position by
shouting with all his might and uttering all the kind words he knew
from the elephant vocabulary. Still the animal refused to budge
high priest then went into the temple and brought a thick blanket
and threw it over the animal's back. Lo and behold, without a hum
the elephant joined the procession and the perahera proceeded.
for the Dalai Lama: Where are the Buddhists?
Can we have Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations without the most famous
Buddhist leader -- the Dalai Lama? The United Nations was established
to protect all nations and safeguard their security. The unforgivable
shame of the UN, when it turned away and repulsed the Tibetan plea
for help against the Chinese, pales beside the cowardice and hypocrisy
of "Buddhist countries", including Sri Lanka, which watched
all accounts, this anti-Buddhism, expressed in cowardice and hypocrisy,
is still rampant in our land, in spite of the JHU’s influence
on the government. We hear our "leaders" are worried at
the impending Chinese smack, if they decide to grant a visa for
the Dalai Lama to visit Sri Lanka.
When can we hope for another Dutugemunu or Parakramabahu to render
us our independence? Those days - going by the ruins and inscriptions
- how tall we stood! Is not our now puny and stunted status before
the worshipped "international community" the result of
our own cowardly behaviour? What happened to the Buddhist call for
self-respect, self-reliance and courage?
The only hope for the organisers of the celebrations in honour of
the one who brooked no cowardice or hypocrisy in thought, word or
deed, would be to smuggle in the Dalai Lama - perhaps under a cowl?
Didn’t Princess Hema Malini smuggle the relic under her luxuriant
hear he is eager to worship this relic of his Master, enshrined
in our Maligawa. However, as a true follower of the Buddha, endowed
with integrity and courage, the only way to bring him in would be
with the honours befitting his status. Are there no true Buddhists
to accord the Dalai Lama his dues?
to the Editor' should be brief and to the point.
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