Halt the drift and resume peace process, NPC tells GoSL, LTTE

[TamilNet, Thursday, 09 December 2004, 14:19 GMT]
''The danger in the present situation is the possibility of escalation that suddenly goes out of control of both sides and plunges the country into inadvertent war...We also call upon the two parties to make a concerted effort to ensure that the safeguards in the Ceasefire Agreement are functional,'' said the National Peace Council, in a press release issued in Colombo Thursday.

Full Text of the press release follows:

In recent weeks there were increased clashes and tensions involving government forces, the LTTE and the general population. For the first time since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in February 2002 the highway connecting Jaffna to the rest of the country was closed to traffic due to the inability of the international monitors to take up their positions at the checkpoints. There were confrontations between rival Tamil and Sinhalese nationalist groups over the hoisting of different flags. In addition there has been negative speech making that has also contributed to the rise in ethnic tensions.

The danger in the present situation is the possibility of escalation that suddenly goes out of control of both sides and plunges the country into inadvertent war. There is always the possibility that events in a particular location could take a turn for the worse, and lead to large scale violence. Some of the statements being made by spokespersons of the LTTE and the government, particularly its JVP component, have not been helpful. They have been saying that the LTTE is prepared for war, that it has already achieved its separate state and that the south too could erupt with a people's uprising. There appears to be a belief that the threat of war and violence may move the one side to deal more favourably with the other side. However, this is likely to be a mistaken assumption. Instead a mental climate is being created in which the people on both sides are being conditioned to a resumption of war.

The National Peace Council calls upon the government and LTTE to halt the drift in the peace process and to resume peace talks which they publicly profess they are committed to doing. A special responsibility is placed upon President Chandrika Kumaratunga who dissolved the previous government on the grounds that it was not dealing satisfactorily with the peace process.

We note that the Norwegian facilitator Erik Solheim is to visit Sri Lanka next week and we urge both sides to make use of his presence to further the peace process. It is clear that the LTTE's proposals for an ISGA will have to be the major component of such talks, as they are the most concrete proposal that has been made since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement. It is also clear that negotiating on the ISGA does not mean accepting them in full, as indeed the LTTE leadership has publicly said.

We also call upon the two parties to make a concerted effort to ensure that the safeguards in the Ceasefire Agreement are functional. There are areas of vulnerability and potential confrontation especially in the multi ethnic east. The chief amongst the safeguards would be to strengthen the role of the international monitors and to hold regular meetings between the Sri Lankan military and LTTE leaders at the local level. It is a cause for concern that most of these meetings are being postponed. The strengthening of mechanisms of dialogue and monitoring would do much to prevent a drift towards an inadvertent war, the worst costs of which will be borne by the most powerless sections of our population. It is therefore essential that the mechanisms for preventing a resumption of war in the Ceasefire Agreement should be strengthened as a first priority.


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