Permit Tamil people to exercise their franchise - Australian MP

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 March 2004, 12:14 GMT]
"Unfortunately, due to a conflict between the President, who holds executive power, and the Prime Minister, the President dismissed parliament in February of this year and Sri Lanka will face general elections on 2 April 2004. It is vital that these elections are free and fair. It is particularly important that the Tamil people of the north-east, who have been deprived of their franchise during the last two decades, are permitted to cast their votes at the forthcoming elections," said John Murphy, Australian MP in a speech in the Australian Parliament Tuesday.

The full text of the speech published in Hansard follows:

Mr John Murphy MP
Federal Member for Lowe (NSW)
Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition,
Parliament of Australia.

ADJOURNMENT: Foreign Affairs: Sri Lanka
HANSARD: 23 March 2004 (Page 26036)

John Murphy
Since February 2002, Sri Lanka has been free of the violence that resulted in the deaths of over 60,000 people over the previous two decades. These deaths include Sri Lankan soldiers, Tamil soldiers and several thousand civilians living in the north-east of the island, the Tamil homeland. Also as a direct consequence of the violence, thousands of Tamils have fled the island and over 800,000 have been made refugees in their own land.

The violence was brought to an end due to the untiring efforts of the Norwegian government, which facilitated a cease-fire agreement between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTEE. I wish to congratulate the Norwegian government for facilitating the cease-fire agreement and the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE for honouring their commitment to the memorandum of understanding signed in February 2002. The signatories to this historic cease-fire agreement were the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the Tamil leader, Mr Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Unfortunately, due to a conflict between the President, who holds executive power, and the Prime Minister, the President dismissed parliament in February of this year and Sri Lanka will face general elections on 2 April 2004. It is vital that these elections are free and fair. It is particularly important that the Tamil people of the north-east, who have been deprived of their franchise during the last two decades, are permitted to cast their votes at the forthcoming elections.

A large number of Tamils reside in my electorate of Lowe. These Tamils are concerned that the peace process continue and the Tamil people in Sri Lanka be permitted to exercise their democratic rights. The Tamil community in Sydney on 14 March this year passed a resolution calling upon the Australian government to assist this process by persuading the Sri Lankan authorities to: ... ensure that all Tamil people residing in the north east of Sri Lanka are permitted to exercise their franchise at the general elections to be held on 2 April 2004.

In this context, I draw particular attention to the voting rights of the several hundred thousand Tamils living in the LTTE controlled areas. It is vital that the necessary logistics are in place to permit these people to cast their votes.

I firmly believe that Australia should help take the peace process forward in Sri Lanka after the elections by

  1. rendering all support to the Norwegian government to continue its role as a facilitator in the negotiations between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE;
  2. supporting the establishment of an interim self-government authority (ISGA) in accordance with the proposal submitted by the LTTE on 1 December 2003—this document was drafted with the assistance of legal experts within the Tamil diaspora who met with the LTTE in Paris and Dublin; interestingly one of the draftees was a former attorney general of Sri Lanka and is now an Australian citizen;
  3. encouraging the newly elected Sri Lankan government to act promptly in establishing the ISGA by recognising that this would help meet the urgent needs of the people of the north-east in respect of resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development while the process for reaching a final settlement remains ongoing; and
  4. assisting in the reconstruction, resettlement and redevelopment tasks of the war ravaged north-east of Sri Lanka by providing direct humanitarian assistance to the people of the north-east of Sri Lanka.


In concluding, it is my hope that the negotiations in Sri Lanka will result in the Tamil people in the north-east of the island being able to freely exercise their right to self-determination while cooperating with the Sinhala people in areas of common interest. The negotiations must reflect the win-win approach that can bring about peaceful coexistence that is vital for peace and prosperity for the entire island.

 

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