World supports self-determination says UK

[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 November 2000, 03:11 GMT]
(News Feature) Britain’s Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain, Wednesday expressed his government’s support for Norway’s efforts to bring about negotiations to end Sri Lanka’s protracted conflict and urged compromise on both sides. "I am convinced that both the [Sri Lankan] government’s insistence upon the territorial sovereignty of the whole island and the LTTE’s objective of autonomy can be secured," he said. "But for that to happen the shooting must stop and the talking must start."

Sri Lanka’s elected leaders "need to sit with people who may well be responsible for assassinations, but who do have a legitimate political programme which needs to be engaged, not shunned," Hain, on his first visit to Sri Lanka, said in his address to the British Council in Colombo.

Conversely, the Liberation Tigers needed to acknowledge "a Tamil Kingdom" will not receive recognition,[but] the principle of self-determination "would be supported by the international community," he said.

"This is a war neither side can win militarily," he felt. "There is no future for a Sri Lanka paralysed by dogma, intransigence and cruelty."

"The UK is keen to help in the search for a peaceful settlement to this complex problem if we are asked to," he said, adding that however he had "no magic wand" and that the solution must come from the combatants.

He said conflicts around the world have similarities "but each has its own unique history, demanding its own unique solution," but added that much could be learnt from others’ experiences.

Much of Hain’s speech focused on Britain’s experience in Northern Ireland. The conflict there was resolved through devolution following "centuries of bitter violence, terrorism, discrimination and injustice," he said. "We have not yet secured genuinely lasting peace embraced by all, but we are making significant progress."

He said Britian’s rule of Ireland, which began in 1801 with the marriage of Great Britain and the island, "was often violent and oppressive," and led to "overwhelming pressure for an independent Irish state" after WWI, leading to the creation of the present Republic in the south, but left in British control six counties in the north where "Nationalists (Catholics) were excluded from power by the Unionist (Protestant) majority which ruled with intolerance, injustice and blatant discrimination."

The present "Good Friday Agreement" of 1998 represented the best chance of peace in a generation, he said.

He said underlying the Agreement is "the acceptance by all that the people of Northern Ireland are free to choose whether to remain part of the Unied Kingdom, as the majority clearly want at present, or to become part of Ireland."

"Also an acceptance that all parts of the community are free to pursue their differing aspirations, as long as they do so by exclusively peaceful and democratic means," he said.

The Good Friday Agreement goes further than simply issue of identity, Hain said. It is "about fairness, justice and opportunity for all."

Britain’s strength comes "not from uniformity, but diversity; not from a flattened process of programmed assimilation, but democratic renewal through mutual tolerance and respect," he said.

He rejected the suggestion that devolution will lead to a breakup of the state. "[Britain’s] devolution arrangements respect the history, culture and tradition of different parts of the UK."

Through its devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Britain was implementing its vision of a "multi-national" state, he said.

 

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