2nd Lead (Adds Ambassador's full statement)
Realignment of Sinhala Nationalist forces spells trouble for SL Peace- Gajendrakumar
[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 November 2005, 00:05 GMT]
"Radicalisation of Sri Lanka polity resulting in the realignment of Sinhala Nationalist forces as witnessed by the new coalitions formed for Sri Lanka's presidential elections, raises the spectre of nationlist politics of the 50s and is leading towards imminent collapse of the peace process," said Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian, addressing a forum on Sri Lanka's Peace prospects, held in Washington D.C Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The forum on "The Sri Lanka Peace Process: Dead end or is there hope?" organized by CSIS in collaboration with East-West Center (EWC), an education and research organization, was addressed by Hon. Bernard A B Goonatilleke, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the US, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, and Dayan Jayatilleke, Adjunct Professor at The Johns Hopkins University.
The forum was moderated by Muthiah Alagappa, Director of EWC, and Teresita C. Schaffer, former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Director South Asia Program at CSIS.
"Decades of war, followed by peace overtures and expressions of readiness to restructure Sri Lankan state by Sinhala leaders, disoriented Sinhala nationalist forces and dulled their enthusiasm during interim years. The cessation of hostilities during the last three years, however, has again reinvigorated the Sinhala Nationalists who have been further emboldened by International community's one-sided actions to restrain and reprimand the Liberation Tigers," said Gajendrakumar.
"Tamil people are aware that Colombo, while talking peace, was always trying to undermine Tamil struggle through its active support to the paramilitaries. Tamils are yet to be convinced of the bona fides of the Sri Lanka government of its readiness to share power. This central issue will determine the prospects for peace," Gajendrakumar said.
Ambassador Goonatillake attributed the deadlock in the peace process to four factors: (a) Norwegians pressured Colombo to sign the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in a haste, resisting changes to the text of CFA, and not allowing time to address concerns of Sri Lanka security forces, (b) LTTE continually shifting 'goal posts' to expand its control over territory and dislodge the Security forces from NorthEast, (c) limitations in Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in containing the CFA breaches, mainly by the LTTE, and (d) policy of appeasement adopted by the international community that has emboldened the LTTE.
New thinking has to be adopted by both parties to co-exist peacefully, he said.
Norwegian Ambassador to the United States and former Norwegian Foreign Minister, Mr. Knut Vollebaek, responded that Norway served only as a facilitator and did not engage in pressuring any side. "When I talked to Ms Kumaratunge when Norway was first invited it was evident that Colombo needed a facilitator. That is why Norway accepted the invitation," he said. He urged both parties to go forward from what has already been achieved. "There is no need to reinvent the same process again," he said.
Dayan Jayatilleke said LTTE was the cause for the collapse of the past four peace efforts. He said LTTE will not be satisfied by federalism as evidenced by its assassination of several eminent Tamil federalists including Neelan Thiruchelvam and Appapillai Amirthalingam. He said International community [US and India] should first send a strong message to the Liberation Tigers to shun violence, and if this fails, they should be prepared to augment the Sri Lanka military to subdue the LTTE.
Former US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Teresita Schaffer
Ambassador Schaffer disagreed with Mr Jayatilleke's statement that in 1989 JVP lost 60,000 cadres "defending the 13th amendment to the constitution."
Ambassador Schaffer reaffirming her statement she made earlier in Colombo on the need for US to engage the LTTE, said: "If US is going to play a role [in promoting peace] it needs to have legal flexibility to communicate with different parties in dispute. At present terrorism law precludes any kind of contact other than low level and housekeeping tasks. I would like a US policy decision that allows US representatives to decide if he/she can do something useful by engaging or communicating with LTTE or not and make decision based on that. Most diplomats prefer flexibility to make that decision."