Arrest rising chauvinism, extremism, TNA tells Colombo
[TamilNet, Friday, 11 March 2005, 12:15 GMT]
Accusing Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister of "inciting the forces of chauvinism and extremism" in Sri Lanka by rushing to describe World Bank official Mr Peter Harrold's statements on Liberation Tigers, without checking their veracity, as "provocative," Mr Sampanthan, parliamentary group leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in his statement in Sri Lanka's parliament on the current political situation, urged the Sri Lanka Government to speak with one voice regarding taking the peace process forward, parliamentary sources in Colombo said.
Excerpts from Mr Sampanthan's statement follow:
It is eleven months since the present United Peoples Freedom Alliance
(UPFA) government assumed office. Numerous verbal pronouncements have been
made by different personalities in government, relating to the peace
process, some of which have been positive, and some others negative.
We recently celebrated the conclusion of three years since the signing of
the ceasefire agreement without major military confrontation as was regular
in the past. The LTTE transmitted to the UNP government through the
Norwegian facilitator proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority
(ISGA) on 31st October 2003 which in the context of the earlier
developments in the peace process had become a necessity, to further
strengthen the peace process, and to bring about a state of normalcy in the
lives of the several hundreds of thousands of displaced people largely
Tamil people in the war devastated Northeast. The LTTE also requested that
dates be fixed for the commencement of talks.
No tangible progress has been achieved in the past eleven months during the
tenure of the present government in regard to the commencement of a
dialogue, from the point at which the stalemate occurred. If everything
else about the peace process can continue as from the point at which the
stalemate occurred, there is no reason whatsoever, why the dialogue should
not be continued from the point at which it was ready to be commenced when
the stalemate occurred.
The government does not speak with one voice in regard to the continuance
of the peace process.
Even efforts to set up a post tsunami mechanism for the Northeast,
involving the LTTE, have not yielded results, despite almost two months of
negotiations. This fact regrettably accentuates the hopelessness of the
The JVP's opposition is public and is well known. It opposes federalism, it
opposes regional autonomy, it opposes the ISGA, and for that matter it
opposes any interim authority. It also opposes a post tsunami joint
mechanism. It wants the hand of the government at the centre strengthened.
It very clearly expects to be in complete control of government soon and
that cannot be a matter of unconcern to the peoples of this country,
certainly not the minority peoples.
The purpose of my question today, however, Mr. Speaker is to refer to
certain events in the recent past which in my submission have a most
harmful impact on the peace process and consequently raise grave doubts in
regard to the credibility of the government's role in the peace process. If
the government considers that any person acting on its part has overplayed
his hand, the government should clarify its position.
The government issued the following statement on the killing of Mr.
Koushalyan, the LTTE political leader for the Batticaloa & Amparai
Districts. I quote from the Daily News of 9/2/2005 under the caption
"Government Condemns Killings".
"The government yesterday condemned the killing of six persons, including
the LTTE political head for Batticaloa and Amparai Koushalyan and former MP
Ariyanayakam Chandra Nehru".
A government media release states, and I quote: -
"While these are a violation of the ceasefire agreement, their timing is
also clearly calculated to disrupt the post tsunami atmosphere of
increasing cooperation between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on
humanitarian issues. The government calls on all concerned to prevent
further violations of the ceasefire gravely risking a return to conflict
and instead, to support the peace process and move ahead."
The Daily News of 12/2/2005 in regard to the same matter, and I quote:
"Responding to questions by the media at a weekly cabinet briefing cabinet
spokesman and Minister Mangala Samaraweera said, "We do not know who is
behind the killings but who ever did it wants to sabotage the ceasefire
agreement between the LTTE and the government. This is a clear violation of
That was the clear and unambiguous position of the government of Sri Lanka.
The Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Koffi Annan too made a
statement with regard to the Koushalyan killing, and I quote from the
Island of 10/2/2005 under the caption "Annan condemns Koushalyan killings".
"Koffi Annan the Secretary General of the United Nations condemns the
killings of E. Koushalyan a senior political leader of the LTTE eastern
province division and several colleagues travelling with him, when their
vehicle came under attack yesterday evening. He extends his sincere
condolences and deepest sympathies to the families of all the victims of
these callous killings. The Secretary General urges all parties to exercise
calm and restraint so as to avoid actions that could disrupt the ceasefire
agreement of February 2002 in the long-term interest of peace in Sri Lanka."
There is complete consonance and no dissonance whatsoever between the
statements of the government of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General of the
United Nations. The objective was the sustenance of the ceasefire and the
continuance of the peace process.
Shockingly, however, the government's concern in regard to Mr. Koffi
Annan's statement was conveyed to the UN Assistant Secretary General for
political Affairs by Sri Lanka's UN envoy. I quote from the Sunday Times of
20/2/2005 and this is what was stated by Mr. Gunatilake Sri Lanka's UN
envoy to Mr. Turk, the UN official.
"The timing and contents of the statement were inappropriate and not
helpful to the ongoing peace process."
This is amazing as the government's own statement of 9/2/2005 clearly
states the "timing of the killing was clearly calculated to disrupt the
post tsunami atmosphere of increasing cooperation between the government of
Sri Lanka and the LTTE on humanitarian issues."
It is well known Sir, that this concern was expressed several days later,
after the JVP and the National Patriotic Front met the Foreign Minister. It
is relevant to ask whether the Foreign Minister was going out of his way
acting in a manner contrary to the clearly expressed views of the
government to carry out the dictates of the JVP and the National Patriotic
Front. I raise this question Sir, because in the context of the
government's own position several days earlier in regard to the timing of
the killings and its adverse impact on the peace process, the expression of
concern by the Foreign Ministry appears to be deliberately mischievous and
clearly intended to rock the peace process, to bring about the disruption
of the ceasefire by the LTTE in order to gain political advantage.
The second matter I wish to refer to pertains to India. That India is the
country closest to everyone in Sri Lanka in every sense of the word is
beyond question. Not withstanding certain very unfortunate and painful
aberrations, the Tamil people both of the Plantation Sector and the
Northeast have a strong natural alliance with and affection for India. That
these inseparable bonds between the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and India
will continue forever is also beyond question.
In recent times I repeat in recent times, it has become customary for the
heads of newly elected governments in Sri Lanka to make their first foreign
visit to New Delhi. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe did so. President
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge also did so, and on the conclusion of
their visits comprehensive joint statements have been issued, which
reflects the policies of the governments. Such a joint statement was issued
on the conclusion of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge visit as
late as November 7th 2004.
The Foreign Minister visited India in late February. This was shortly after
he had accompanied the President to Pakistan. During this visit to India in
an interview to the media, and I quote from a comprehensive report
appearing in the Island of 1/3/2005 the Foreign Minister has said: -
"We will like to see India taking more than a academic interest, to begin
to indicate what kind of solution, India would like to see in Sri Lanka.
Nobody or no outside power can say anything. India is the only power who
could say it and only India has the legitimate right to say so."
Continuing the Foreign Minister said and I quote: -
"Time is right for the Indian government to speak its mind regarding the
type of solution for Sri Lanka. Foreign Minister said that 'if India
suggested federalism type of solution all parties in Sri Lanka would agree
The Foreign Minister did not state this view to the Prime Minister or the
Foreign Minister of India, both of whom he met. But he stated this view to
the media. Such a view is not contained in the comprehensive joint
statement released on the conclusion of the Presidential visit on November
This is why it becomes necessary to question the motives of the Foreign
As everyone knows when the negotiations were to commence between the Sri
Lankan government and the LTTE with the Norwegian facilitation the LTTE
suggested that negotiations be conducted in India, and that an Indian
observer be present at such negotiations.
In this context, it is also necessary, to examine certain contemporary
events. The Foreign Minister is the President of the Bandaranaike Centre
for International Studies (BCIS). A delegation from the BCIS led by former
army chief Gen. Gerry de Silva and several others visited in February the
institute of strategic studies (ISS) of Islamabad Pakistan and held
extensive discussions. There can be no doubt that the visit and the
contents of the discussions had the fullest approval of the Foreign
Minister. If, I may quote from the report of discussions held in Islamabad
as contained in the Daily Mirror of 25/2/2005: -
"Former army chief Gerry de Silva who is leading a Sri Lankan delegation to
Pakistan yesterday called on the government of Sri Lanka and Pakistan to
sign a defence agreement to cement the decades old military relations
between the two countries. The former army commander said that if not for
the military assistance by Pakistan and China, to the Sri Lankan government
the LTTE would have caved out Eelam long ago. Yet another former army
commander and present High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Pakistan strongly
supported the views of Gen. Gerry de Silva. Responding the ISS Director
General, Dr. Shireen Mazari endorsing the proposals made by the two
Generals said that the two countries should go ahead with the proposals
despite whatever reservations others might have."
To whom is the reference "others"? Who else but India and the Tamil people.
The Foreign Minister's voice in New Delhi and the voice of his mouthpiece
in Pakistan are quite contradictory.
Why this confusion? Why cannot there be a single uncontradicted view
wherever it is expressed. The answer lies in a perceptive analysis of what
happened in Pakistan. I refer to the article under the heading "Pakistan
and closer ties with Lanka" by Champika Liyanarachchci appearing in the
Daily Mirror of 2/3/2005. I quote a relevant paragraph in that analysis: -
"On the part of the Sri Lankan team, the likes of Godage and Jayatilake
were seen attempting to convince the audience of the need for Sri Lanka to
strike a calculated balance in relations between India and Pakistan given
India's potential in containing the Tigers."
The motive in attempts to befriend India, to give India an all-important
role is clearly brought out "it is India's potential in containing the
Tigers". This is what has been said by the Foreign Minister's mouthpiece in
This is what we are most concerned about. The government has not even
commenced a dialogue. A solution acceptable to the Tamil people yet remains
a distant dream. It is quite evident that the Foreign Minister wants India
to play an all-important role only because of his perception relating to
"India's potential in containing the Tigers".
Such manipulations are highly objectionable. We have not the slightest
doubt that India will not become prey to such manipulations. But, we are
greatly concerned about the immensely harmful impact that can be caused to
the credibility of the peace process by such manipulations. Such
manipulations need to be roundly condemned.
The final matter, which I raise, pertains to a statement attributed to Mr.
Peter Harold the Country Director of the World Bank in Sri Lanka. Mr. Peter
Harold corrected the initial media report and clearly stated in the Daily
Mirror of 8/3/2005: -
"I never used the phrase 'a kind of unofficial state'. A careful review of
the recording of the interview shows that what I said was that 'given that
there is such a thing as the LTTE controlled area that's an official
statement, an officially recognized part of the country is the LTTE
Those of us who live in the Northeast know that a larger portion of the
territory in the Northeast is under the control of the LTTE. What we find
most disturbing is that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has rushed without
even checking on the veracity of the statement attributed to Mr. Peter
Harold, which would have been the most prudent thing for the Minister to
do, to describe the statement as provocative. The statement of the Minister
has had the effect of inciting the forces of chauvinism and extremism in
the country. Such developments have a harmful impact on the peace process.
The JVP and the National Patriotic Front have for long been critical of
members of the International Community who have endeavoured to support and
strengthen the peace process. The JVP and the National Patriotic Front work
together in opposing the furtherance of the peace process.
The Tamil people are gravely concerned that certain personalities within
the government in order to appease the JVP are engaged in activities that
could result in a complete breakdown in confidence in the peace process. A
breakdown in the peace process would affect the Tamil people and the
dislocated Muslim people the most. It is they who have thus far not reaped
the benefits of the ceasefire agreement. These personalities within
government, the JVP and the National Patriotic Front are least concerned
with the sufferings of the hundreds and thousands of Tamil people in the
Northeast. We want to impress upon the government that this situation
cannot continue and must be ended.