“Defense and ceasefire must flow from single authority”-TNA

[TamilNet, Monday, 24 November 2003, 18:00 GMT]
“It is the considered view of the Tamil people and of the fifteen Members of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that the responsibility on the part of the government to sustain the ceasefire, and to continue with the peace process, must flow from one single authority," said the TNA parliamentary group leader, Mr.R.Sampanthan, speaking in the budget debate in parliament Monday.

"It is our considered view that responsibility on the part of the Government for Defense and the ceasefire is a joint responsibility, which must be vested with a single authority and the two are inseparable. Damage to ceasefire will inexorably damage the peace process,” said Mr.R.Sampanthan.

“We strongly urge that this lack of clarity and uncertainty be ended at the earliest," Mr. Sampanthan said. "The peace process runs the risk of being gravely impaired, if this lack of clarity and uncertainty continues, and we earnestly urge the President and Prime Minister to resolve this impasse without delay.”

Continued Mr. Sampanthan: “I participate in this debate as an MP representing the northeast region. Just as much as Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic country, the northeast region, too, is a multi-ethnic region. It is a region inhabited by the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala peoples. There is however an important distinction between the northeast region and the rest of Sri Lanka. The northeast region is a preponderantly Tamil linguistic region and the rest of the country is preponderantly Sinhala speaking.

“The North East, particularly the areas inhabited by the Tamil people, has been long neglected. Whether it be in the area of physical infrastructure or socio-economic development; whether it be roads, electrification, water supply, housing, health services, education or higher education, industry, fisheries, irrigation or any other aspect of development, the North-East has never been treated on part with the rest of the country. The Tamil people and the Tamil areas have not received a just share of government resources. No government in this country whether it be of the UNP or SLFP can truthfully claim that the Tamil people have been treated as equals.

“ This reality further reinforced the demand for autonomy and self-rule. Democratic and non-violent agitation was followed by an armed struggle. The effects of successive governments to suppress this armed struggle with the armed might of the state, has resulted in the destruction and devastation of the North East. A neglected North East is today substantially in ruins. The conflict has had an adverse impact on all people inhabiting the North East. The Tamil people and the Tamil areas are the worst affected. Several hundreds of Tamil villages have been totally destroyed, and nearly a million Tamil people have been rendered refugees. Most of them are refugees within the country and some are outside.

“ These tragic development however have resulted in one positive realization, which is that the Tamil question cannot be resolved, if the North East, the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking people, were recognized as being entitled to substantial autonomy and self-rule within the framework of a united country.

“We have had a ceasefire in force for a little under two years. The Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have transmitted to each other, their proposals for a Provisional Administrative arrangement or an Interim Self-Governing Authority, for the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka. The LTTE, which submitted its proposals on 31st October, have requested that dates be fixed for the early commencement of talks on the respective proposals.

“The Tamil people yearn for the permanency of the ceasefire and for the evolution through dialogue of a just and durable solution to the Tamil question, based upon the principle of internal self-determination. The Tamil people also yearn for the return of normalcy in their lives. They crave for an early end to the agony of continuing to live as refugees. They want to return to their homes in properties owned by them. They want to commence their occupation--farming, fishing. They want to have efficient and caring educational and health services. They do not want to be deprived any longer of their entitlement to socio-economic and cultural development. This is their birthright, and is perfectly legitimate aspirations, of a people who have suffered much deprivation for long. They do not want to be treated as second-class citizens any longer.

“The view is expressed that the Government’s proposals are a minimalist position, and that the LTTE’s proposals are a maximalist position. The reality, however, is that both positions are on the negotiating table, and that the LTTE is prepared to commence negotiations.

“It is in this background that the Norwegian government, the facilitator, has suspended its role, in the context of certain changes in the structure of Governance at the centre and the consequent uncertainty and lack of clarity.

“ hese changes in the view of the Tamil people, in the short term delay, and in the long term are likely to frustrate the opportunity to bring about through negotiations a just and durable solution to the Tamil question. Prolonged delay must inevitably result in the breakdown of confidence.

“It is the considered view of the Tamil people and of the fifteen Members of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that responsibility on the part of the government to sustain the ceasefire, and to continue with the peace process, must flow one single authority. It is our considered view that responsibility on the part of the Government for Defense and the ceasefire is a joint responsibility, which must be vested with a single authority and the two are inseparable. Damage to ceasefire must inexorably damage the peace process.

”We strongly urge that this lack of clarity and uncertainty be ended at the earliest. The peace process runs the risk of being gravely impaired, if this lack of clarity and uncertainty continues, and we earnestly urge the President and Prime Minister to resolve this impasse without delay.

“ In view of the alarm raised particularly by certain sections of the SLFP and some others in regard to the LTTE proposals, which indeed may be regarded as the Tamil position, it would be useful to recall, the initial proposals made by the SLFP itself on 3rd August, 1995,as a basis for the resolution of the Tamil question.

“ In regard to FINANCE the regional power included powers of taxation in certain specified areas; several areas were in fact specified.

“ Financial powers included domestic and international borrowing (international borrowing above a specified limit would require the concurrence of the centre).

“ It included Regional Debt. Financial powers also included the regulation and promotion of foreign direct investment, development assistance in the region and regional financial and credit institutions.

“ In regard to Regional Police and Law and Order, This was to be a regional power, and there to be a Regional Police Service headed by a Regional I.G.P. appointed by the Chief Minister in consultation with the Governor of the region. The Regional IGP was to be responsible to and function under the control of the Chief Minister. The Regional Police Service was to investigate all offences against persons and property. The recruitment, transfers within the Region, dismissal and disciplinary control of members of the Regional Police Service was to be the responsibility of the Regional Police Commission.

“ LAND AND LAND SETTLEMENT. Land was to be devolved subject, and state land within a region was to be vested in the Regional Councils. State land and its alienation or disposal was to be a Regional Power. State land within a region required for the purposes of the centre in respect of a reserved subject may be utilized by the Centre in consultation with the relevant Regional Council in accordance with such procedures as may be established by Law.

“ Priority in future land settlement schemes was to be given to persons first in the district and then of the region.

“JUDICIARY:

“ There was to be a High Court in every region. The High Court would exercise criminal, appellate and writ jurisdiction within the region. The Regional Judicial Service Commission, which will be appointed by the Constitutional Council with the Chief Minister of the region, consists of the Chief Judge of the High Court and two other High Court Judges next in seniority.

“ The Regional Judicial Service Commission will be responsible for the appointment of Regional High Court Judges and the minor judiciary within the region. The Regional Judicial Service Commission would consult with the National Judicial Service Commission with regard to the transfer of Judges.

“ Among other subjects included in the Regional List were: - Planning at regional level. Education and Educational Services excluding national Schools and National Universities. Education and Higher Education would be devolved subjects included in the Regional list.

“ Local government; Housing and construction; Roads and Water Ways; Agriculture and Agrarian Services; Rural Development; Health and Indigenous Medicine; Co-operatives; Irrigation within the Region; Animal Husbandry; Regional Public Service Commission which was to be responsible for the recruitment, disciplinary control and dismissal of all persons employed by or by seconded to the Regional Councils.

“Broadcasting and Media including television; Promotion of tourism; Relief Rehabilitation and Reconstruction; Transport.

“Minor ports and harbours: Industries and Industrial development; Forestry and Protection of the Environment within a region.

“ Energy; urban planning; Social Security; Fisheries and Sports.

“ Regional Councils would exercise exclusive legislative and executive competence within devolved sphere.

“ This wide range of powers, surely gives the Regions plenary powers of Governance in the Region.

“ The point I wish to make is that common ground certainly can be found, and that every one of use has a duty to endeavor to do so.

“ It is correct that the proposals of the SLFOP in 1995 related to a final solution, given the great degree of distrust that has built up over a several decades, an interim arrangement with wide powers, properly implemented, would be the surest way to build confidence in the durability of a final solution. There is an imperative need for us to be objective when we deal with highly complex and difficult situations.

‘An Interim Administration established in 1994/1995 would have substantially encompassed the above powers.

“ It would be futile to now examine why the SLFP and the LTTE were not able to come to such an agreement in 1995/1995. It is important that the opportunity that has now come about should not be missed. It must be acknowledged however, that it was the President who as the leader of the SLFP was primaririly responsible for the proposals enunciated in 1995.

“Very unfortunately with the intensification of hostilities, the chasm widened and distrust grew. In a conflict such as the one that we have had in Sri Lanka, it is perhaps, primarily the duty of the state to be more conciliatory. It cannot be denied that it was the state, which was primarily responsible for the discontentment and disaffection of the Tamil people, which has been the root cause of the conflict.

“The slogans of the SLFP of “ War for peace” and that “ The War is against the LTTE and not against the Tamil People”, did not resonance with the Tamil people.

“It was primarily the Tamil civilian population, men, women, and mostly children who were the victims of the war. It was they who were being dislocated and displaced by the thousands; being killed, injured, and being subjected to much deprivation and suffering.

“It was particularly unfortunate that the SLFP government did not respond favourably to the unilateral ceasefire declared by the LTTE on 24th December, 2000. The Government’s position was I quote “ The Government considers a ceasefire as a consequent steps that would arise when negotiations proceed to the mutual satisfaction of both sides”. The statement went on to state and I quote” Until then military offensive will continue. The LTTE extended its unilateral ceasefire from month to month for four months until 24th April 2001 when it was terminated. On that very night, in the early hours of 25th April 2001, the government commenced a massive military offensive, by the name”Agni Kheela” with disastrous consequences.

“ After the acceptance of Norwegian facilitation and when the Norwegian special envoy Mr. Eric Solheim went to the Wanni as facilitator on 16th may, 2001,to meet the LTTE, the vehicles in the which Mr.Thamilchelvan, head of the political wing of the LTTE and others traveled to meet the facilitator Mr. Eric Solheim were attacked by a claymore mine explosion, and one LTTE cadre was killed and others injured. Similar other incidents happened about the same time. The fact that no such incidents have taken place after the ceasefire agreement, could lead to us to a legitimate inference to who was responsible for the attack on Mr.Thamilchelvan and other LTTE cadres.

“ I am not for a moment questioning the right of the Sri Lankan armed forces to launch attacks against LTTE cadres in a situation of war. That would be perfectly legitimate exercise. An attack on persons going to meet the international facilitator whose visit to the Wanni has the fullest sanction of the Sri Lankan state would however certainly be different. It would clearly be a continuance of military operations, even against persons proceeding to engage in negotiations with the facilitator. This would also demonstrate the total incompatibility of engaging in peace negotiations while continuing the war.

“ It is also well known that Norwegian facilitation ran into rough weather; in the view of many observers, not unavoidably, and that by the time Parliament was dissolved, Norwegian facilitation had come to a virtual stand still.

In this background, confidence needs to be rebuilt between the SLFP and the LTTE not merely by words, but also by deeds. The role of the SLFP in the resolution of the national question is of the utmost importance.

“If on a dispassionate analysis one comes to the conclusion, that a negotiated solution with the LTTE is a possibility that must be recognized, the SLFP, I submit with the utmost respect, needs to play a responsible role and extend its fullest co-operation.

“Yet another impediment which has been referred to in regard to an interim administrative arrangement is the existing constitution. A bipartisan consensus between the UNP and the SLFP would certainly remove this impediment.

“Various thoughts have been spelt out in regard to how the impediment of the present constitution can be overcome. It may be worth remembering that the SLFP when in power contemplated mechanisms, which though not strictly in keeping with the constitution were not regarded as being illegal in order to bring about the desired constitution reforms.

“The Tamil people did not participate in the making of the 1972 and 1978 constitutions. These constitutions were enacted with total disregard to the wishes and aspirations of the Tamil people. The Tamil people had for long been demanding a Federal arrangement, which the two main Sinhala parties today accept. Finding a way out of the constitutional impasse has there become a necessity in the interest of the whole country. If a way out cannot be found in regard to an interim arrangement, a way out in regard to a finals solution seem remote.

“Before I conclude I consider it my duty to refer to the Muslim factor in the resolution of the North-East conflict. The LTTE proposals, state that representatives of the Muslim community have the right to participate in formulation of their role in the Internal Self Governing Authority, and that the composition of the ISGA shall consist of members appointed by the Muslim community in the North-East. The proposal also states that the Sinhala community in the North-East shall have representation in the ISGA.

“Any solution interim or final in the North-East must have the willing assent of the Muslim people in the North-East. All of us need to work together to ensure this, and we shall extend out fullest support to achieve this,” concluded Mr.Sampanthan.

 

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