Parliament debates permanent truce
[TamilNet, Monday, 04 March 2002, 12:23 GMT]
The two-day debate on the permanent cease-fire agreement signed by the United National Front government (UNF) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on February 22 began Monday morning in Parliament. "The agreement signed last month by me and the LTTE leader Mr.V.Pirapaharan was a cease-fire agreement and not the final step in arriving at a political solution to the ethnic crisis. However, the agreement is a vehicle for moving forward and addressing the needs of the LTTE and the problems put forward by the Tamil people,", said the Prime Minister Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe in a special speech made during the debate.
The landmark agreement brokered by Norway has been enthusiastically welcomed by the international community, but is bitterly opposed by the main opposition parties, the Peopleís Alliance of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Marxist-Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP). The two parties along with other right wing Sinhala groups demanded the debate in Parliament last week.
Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe further said: "It is the government's responsibility to maintain law and order throughout the country. There is obviously an area, which this could not be carried. Armed LTTE cadres control these areas where the military could not gain control of. Even though this had been known, people had not spoken about it deluding themselves. 2001 census had been the first time the then government had accepted the fact that there were areas not under its control."
"The Muslims also have suffered due to the conflict. The MoU has made special reference to Muslim people. The government has dedicated itself to ensure the Muslims that they could securely reside in their villages in the Northeast province," said the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister continued, "Norway plays a role of a mediator in the peace process. 1995 cease-fire agreement had left room for this. It was not the first time that a foreign country had assisted Sri Lanka as a mediator to find a political solution to the conflict." Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe cited India's mediation in 1987 resulted in the India-Sri Lanka peace accord signed by the then President Jayawardene and then Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi.
"However India had been sent back home. Those responsible for sending back India are now opposing the Norwegian role. I appeal to them not to make the same mistake made earlier," said Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe.
The Prime Minister added that large majority of the people were supporting the cease-fire agreement. However many had expressed their doubts over the LTTE. But the armed forces would routinely be alert, he said.
He invited the people to join the peace effort to unite the country, which has been divided into many pieces for a number of years. "The people should come forward to assist the government to complete the peace process started to heal the nation's wounds," Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe appealed.