US Congressman advocates autonomy for Tamils

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 September 2006, 11:35 GMT]
New Jersey Congressman, Frank Pallone, speaking to the House Wednesday night, supported Norway, Co-chairs' call for unconditional talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and Liberation Tigers, advocated autonomy for Tamils, and endorsed U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher's statement "though we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues raised by the Tamil community and they have a legitimate desire to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies, and to govern themselves in their homeland.''

Full text of the speech follows:

Frank Pallone
Mr. Speaker, we are on the verge of a full-scale war in Sri Lanka. The 2002 cease-fire agreement and the peace process in Sri Lanka between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, LTTE, is essentially nonexistent. The violence is escalating and thousands of Sri Lankan civilians are suffering.

These past few months have resulted in nearly 2,000 deaths with more than 200,000 displaced persons. The fighting has also blocked access to essential supplies for many parts of the northeastern province, cutting off more than 60,000 Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils from water.

This sinister cycle of war, cease-fire and then more war is not effective. Each side blames the other side and the situation is only getting worse.

Hostilities must end and violence must not be the means for resolving ethnic conflict. All efforts must be focused on restoring and sustaining peace, and both parties must swallow their pride for the sake of their Nation.

Norway and the co-chairs of the Tokyo Donors' Conference, which includes the United States, have called for a return to unconditional negotiations in October. This return to the negotiating table is critical, and I am fully supportive of this effort. Both parties must guarantee the safety of its citizens, aid workers and peace monitors. Meanwhile, the LTTE must denounce terrorism as a means to its political aspirations.

Mr. Speaker, I strongly believe the majority of people in Sri Lanka would be in favor of a democratic solution to the conflict. The political challenges cannot be resolved through war, and that is clear.

In June, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher stated ``though we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues raised by the Tamil community and they have a legitimate desire to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies, and to govern themselves in their homeland.''

I echo this sentiment and support a solution that retains Sri Lanka's unity. Yet, it should grant a level of autonomy to ethnic minorities like the Tamils. We have seen very similar successful situations throughout the world. Places like Quebec in Canada, Wales and Scotland in Great Britain are all part of their Federal Nations but have significant autonomy.

Mr. Speaker, the situation in Sri Lanka is certainly not getting any better. As we have seen over the past few months, international monitors are leaving the country, scared for their well-being. The United Nations has threatened to revoke its international aid. If this pattern of violence continues without pursuit of a political solution, the international community may completely rescind its support.

Mr. Speaker, I strongly urge both sides to recommit to the process of sustaining peace in Sri Lanka. The devastating effect this is having on the civilian population of the country is not just. It is up to both parties to find a way to ensure the safety and security of all the people of Sri Lanka

 

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