Repressive conditions preclude peace talks - Balasingham

[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 March 2000, 15:16 GMT]
The removal of "the complex set of repressive conditions" imposed by successive Sri Lankan governments on the Tamils was necessary to create a "conducive climate for peace and mutual trust" ahead of negotiations to settle the island's conflict, the Liberation Tigers' theoretician and political advisor, Anton Balasingham told the Tamil Guardian newspaper this week.

In his first interview since leaving the Vanni last year, Mr. Balasingham told the London based newspaper that these repressive conditions are manifested "in the form of bans, embargoes, restrictions and prohibitions causing monumental existential problems seriously undermining the socio-economic and cultural life of our people."

"What the LTTE wants is the removal of these repressive conditions which the UNP and PA has imposed on our people as a collective punishment," he said.

Liberation Tigers' theoretician and political advisor, Anton Balasingham Photo:Tamil Guardian
"Our people want urgent and immediate solution to these pressing problems. They are not interested in packages, accords, constitutional reforms which seeks structural changes in polity but does not reflect the harsh realities of their day to day existence," he said.

Mr. Balasingham told the Tamil Guardian that the military dimensions of the conflict could be de-escalated through disengagement by both LTTE forces and the Sri Lankan military, a cessation of hostilities and the confining of combatants to barracks under international monitoring.

"We suggest a practical program of disengagement, of cessation of hostilities or cease-fire under international monitoring and re-allocation of troops to barracks to end military occupation," he said.

"[Sri Lanka] President Kumaratunga has only picked up the problem of troop withdrawal but has failed to fathom the scope and depth of the process of de-escalation we propose," Mr. Balasingham said.

"We are not against the presence of [Sri Lankan] troops but opposed to the occupation of troops in civilian habitations, in schools, in colleges of education, in holy temples, in cultural centres and in every street corner turning the Tamil towns into open prisons and causing tension and turmoil in Tamil civilian life," he said.

"If the Sri Lanka troops are confined to the barracks, we will also keep our forces in the camps. An effective cease-fire with the help of an international monitoring committee will certainly contain any possible violations of cease-fire," Mr. Balasingham said.

"If the government agrees in principle to our proposals and begins the de-escalation process by removing the repressive conditions that would be a sufficient basis for peace talks," he said.

Explaining why de-escalation should precede talks, he said: "The LTTE doesn't want to engage in a dialogue of peace under conditions of continuous war. It is absurd to continue the war and continue to kill each other and talk peace. That is why we want the conditions of war removed before the commencement of peace talks."

Efforts to subdue the Tigers militarily and force them to negotiate would fail, Mr. Balasingham told the paper.

"We know that the government holds the view that military repression and economic oppression are necessary conditions to subdue the Tamils and force the Tigers to come to the negotiating table. I think this policy is fundamentally wrong and will not lead to a peace process," he said.

Mr. Balasingham was sceptical of the Sri Lankan government's readiness to sincerely engage in peace talks.

"We suspect that the present peace drama and the willingness to bring the LTTE to peace talks are exercises in political duplicity to gain time and space to rebuild and modernise the [Sri Lankan] armed forces," he said.

Mr. Balasingham is presently recuperating at a European capital following a kidney transplant operation carried out by Norwegian specialists in Oslo, the Tamil Guardian reported.


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