"LTTE too taking risks with peace" -TNA
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 June 2002, 18:01 GMT]
"There must be no assumption that it is only the government of Sri Lanka which is taking risks; it must be realized that even the LTTE is taking risks when it is engaged in the peace process," said Mr.Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, the leader of the Tamil National Alliance parliamentary group when moving an adjournment motion Tuesday in the Sri Lankan parliament. He appealed to the international Community on behalf of the Tamil National Alliance not to take any step that would prejudice the legitimate struggle of the Tamil people for equality of this country.
Opening the three- hour special debate on the ceasefire agreement, Mr. Sampanthan urged the government "to reiterates its commitment to the full implementation of the agreement in order to enable the peace process to be taken forward."
"The Tamil people call upon the international community, particularly India, the regional power and the United States of America, the only super power, to realize that the armed struggle carried out by the LTTE on behalf of the Tamil people was not without justification and that the LTTE has been prepared to cease this armed struggle in order to find a negotiated solution acceptable to the Tamil people," he said.
The following is the full text of his speech in Parliament Tuesday:
"This adjournment motion is being moved with the fullest sense of responsibility and it is not intended to create any acrimony whatever and that the object of the Motion is to ensure the furtherance of the peace process in this country.
"In fact a couple of days ago, we met the Hon. Prime Minister who gave us more than one hour of his time and we discussed with him at length some of the matters that we have referred to in this Adjournment Motion. We handed over a letter to the Prime Minister, which I seek your indulgence to table in this House, we also have submitted this Motion and while tabling the motion I would speak your indulgence to briefly refer to some of the more important aspects of the motion.
"By the ceasefire agreement signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers on 22nd February 2002 the parties to the agreement recognised the importance of bringing an end to the hostilities and improving the living conditions for all inhabitants affected by the conflict. The parties also agreed to refrain from conduct that could undermine the good intentions or violate the spirit of the Agreement and the parties agreed to implement certain confidence building measures in order to achieve the objectives of the agreement. Amongst the confidence building measures were that places of worship-temples, churches. Mosques and other holy sites- currently held by the forces of either side would be vacated by D day plus 30 including places of worship situated in 'high security zones' which shall be vacated by all armed personnel and maintained in good order by civilians workers even when they are not made accessible to the public.
"At the beginning as from the date on which the Agreement was signed, school buildings occupied by either party were to be vacated and returned to their intended use. This activity was to be completed by D-day and 160 at the latest. Then there was an agreement in regard to further confidence building measures, which stated that "the Parties shall review the security measures and the set up of check points, particularly in densely populated cities and towns, in order to introduce systems, that will prevent harassment of the civilian population."
"This was to be done within D-day + 60 or by 23rd April 2002. Parties have agreed to abstain from hostile acts against civilian population and ease the fishing restrictions commencing on D-day and to be completed by D-day+90 that was 23rd may, 2002. We submit, Sir, that there has been delay in compliance or a non-compliance with some of the above terms of the Agreement 2which were intended to be confidence building measures. Measures to restore normalcy and improve living conditions of all inhabitants of the northeast have not been implemented as envisaged, by the full implementation of this Agreement. We therefore, urge that expeditious steps be taken to ensure that the said confidence building measures are fully implemented in accordance with the terms of the Agreement so as to ensure that the objective of the Agreement of finding a negotiated solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is fulfilled.
"Sir, we are primarily concerned with the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. What is important to remember while we discuss this agreement is that neither party, neither the Government nor the LTTE have sold out to the other. There have been military concessions that one Party has made to the other under this Agreement.
"I stand up here today Sir, on behalf of the Tamil civilian population living in the northeast who have borne the brunt of the war, who have faced aerial bombing, shelling from the land and from the sea that caused death and grievous injury to tens of thousands of Tamil people as a result of their being occupants of the territory in with this cruel and fierce war has been relentlessly fought. There are hundred of thousands who have been internally displaced within this country, living frequently in hellholes euphemistically called refugee camps or welfare centres.
"Hundreds of thousands have fled this country to other parts of the globe. Their houses, villages and towns have been devastated and destroyed. They have not been able to carry out on their occupation or earn a decent living. Their places of worship and cultural institutions have been destroyed and devastated. They have suffered, Sir, extreme deprivation of food, shelter, health care, education and other basic necessities of life.
"Today we have become a population where widows, orphans and people suffering from malnutrition abound. This has been the position not merely for a period of one year or two years but for as long as nearly two decades. In a few weeks from now, we will see the end of 19 years of that horrendous anti-Tamil holocaust of 1983.
"This ceasefire agreement is primarily intended to restore and re-structure the lives of the hapless Tamil people, as an essential prerequisite to negotiations that could lead to a final resolution of the Tamil question. This is the objective of the Ceasefire Agreement. This is the spirit in which this agreement needs to be understood by all personnel who have to vacate schools, places of worship, public properties and private properties, whether they be residential or occupational. The Tamil people do not any longer want to be subjected to the humiliation, the indignities and harassment to which they are subjected to at check points.
"In a situation of cessation of war the Tamil people want to have the same rights to a dignified and decent life free from humiliation and harassment which every one else is enjoying in the country today, in a situation of cessation of war, and which every body else but the Tamil people are enjoying in the fullest measure even in the North-East. It is not merely a question of the nuts and bolts of the Ceasefire Agreement, but the attitudinal approach of the relevant personnel to the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement, and after a hundred days of the agreement being signed, without a single shot having been fired, or a single bomb having been exploded, some of the dead lines fixed by the agreement voluntarily entered into have not been kept. Then in the interests of peace, we have to take stock and that is the primary objective of the adjournment motion today. It is not a question of trading charges at one another. It is a question of ensuring that the letter and the spirit of the agreement are observed, in order to ensure that we move forward in the peace process with the trust, the credibility and the confidence that whatever is agreed upon particularly in the matter of rights of the Tamil people, the Tamil civilians is fully and honourably implemented. The credibility of the process in our submission is vital and all-important.
"We might say that the lack of concern for the plight of the Tamil civilians was a huge draw back in the peace efforts of the previous government. We need to realise that the country has reached this state of civil war because of the consistent failure on the part of successive government to honour agreements entered into with moderate Tamil political leadership. And those who have taken to arms and with whom the present government had entered into a ceasefire agreement are very conscious and aware of such failures in the past on the part of successive governments in this country. I need to say with some measure of regret, that Governments in this country successively have displayed a propensity to fail to honour their commitments and this, is a matter, which is causing grave concern to the people who have signed this agreement.
"On the 09th of May this year, speaking in this House I referred to some instances where the fishing rights of the Tamil people in the Northeast in the seas of Mullaithivu and in Trincomalee had been seriously interfered with by naval personnel. I would refer very briefly to some of these matters.
"On the 29th of April Marimuttu Pechchimuttu, 43 years of age and Suntharalingam Subashini, 16 years of age were shot in their compound and injured by navy personnel
"On the 4th of May 2002 a man by the name of Selvam was unjustifiably assaulted and subjected to harassment. Then on the next day, on the 5th of May, a man by the name of K.Naganathan and seven other persons were subjected to harassment in the seas of Mullaithivu. They were insulted, humiliated and subjected to physical force. Thereafter in the seas again a man called Villavarajah Jeyakanthan was shot at on the 10th of May and he was injured. A bullet entered through the back and the bullet had to be removed after surgery.
"On the 09th of May between 10 a.m. and 12 noon several multi date boats which had gone fishing with a number of fishermen between Mullaithivu and Thalaiyadi were stopped by four naval gun boats who surrounded then and subjected the fishermen to unnecessary harassment.
"My other friends who will speak after me will refer to the position in their own districts. But in the Trincomalee district several schools and public buildings have not been vacated. The Varothaya Nagar school close to Trincomalee town, the Kinniya Poovarasanthivu school, the Pachchanoor Vidiyalyam in Muttur, the Murugan Temple on the sixth mile post at Athimoddai on the Kuchchaveli Road, the Infants School at Mallikatitivu in Muttur, the RDS building at Mallikatitivu, the Pradeshiya Sabah building at LB 3 Lingapuram in Muttur and the medical institution at Thopur-these buildings have not been vacated by the armed force in the Trincomalee district. Several check points that exist in various parts of Trincomalee town have not yet been minimized or relaxed or reduced as contemplated under the ceasefire agreement, with a result that the people continue to undergo a great deal of harassment and inconvenience at these check points and consequently living conditions of the Tamil inhabitants in the northeast has not attained the degree of normalcy that was envisaged by the Agreement. Even after our experiences over the past twenty years to which I referred to earlier, I think we are entitled to ask that the living conditions of the Tamil people in the northeast also be restored to a state of normalcy as has happened in other parts of the country. Then the school, the temple and the cemetery at Eachchantivu village used by the Hindu people have not been vacated. Those are under the control of armed forces.
"Apart from this there are a number of other buildings in areas to which civilians have not yet returned, which are still being used by the armed forces and all these need to be attend to. It is becoming increasingly clear that the armed forces, in keeping with their commitments under the ceasefire agreement have to balance their security concerns more with the need to ensure a normal civilian life for Tamil civilians on the northeast, than with the skepticism that they entertain about the LTTE. The suspicion that either party, the government forces or the LTTE has against each other cannot become a basis for the denial of the rights with the Tamil civilian population in the northeast are legitimately entitled to under the ceasefire agreement. It is my respectful submission on the floor of this House that this government stand committed to ensure that the Tamil civilians in the northeast are legitimately able to exercise those rights that they are entitled to under the ceasefire agreement.
"Judging by the manner in which the ceasefire agreement has thus far held, it remains a moot point as to whether such scepticism is any longer justified. It does seem to us particularly to those who come from the northeast and who are in touch with the Tamil media, that there are certain personnel within the armed forces who have made statements that are seemingly and openly defiant of their commitments under the ceasefire agreement. The statements made by these personnel has led to even speculation as to whether such persons are being emboldened to make these statement by some other source in authority or power. If that was, indeed so, that would be a most unwelcome development with the potential for very dangerous consequences. If that was not indeed so, all peace loving people in this country and there can be no doubt that the vast majority of the people in this country are peace loving, would welcome a repudiation of all such speculation and a clear guidance by all concerned to the armed forces of their commitments under the ceasefire agreement. It is an imperative need to conform to those commitments to ensure that peace is brought about in this country.
"We call for the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit. Once the agreement is implemented the de-proscription of the LTTE and the commencement of talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE should be followed. And this exhortation we make to both sides, to the government and the LTTE, that once the ceasefire agreement has been implemented, de-proscription and talks should commence without delay. We have also urged in our letter to the Prime Minister that the only way in which the devastated northeast can be reconstructed, the only way in which the hundreds of thousands of Tamil- more than million Tamil people who have been displaced and dislocated- can be resettled and rehabilitated in the northeast, is by the setting up of an interim administration in the northeast which can effectively, and expeditiously deal with these matters and also generate the required economic activities to provide for these helpless Tamil people a future in time to come.
"We have therefore urged that when you commence the talks between the government and the LTTE, the need to set up an interim administration in the northeast, to ensure that the people in the northeast particularly the Tamil civilians who have borne the brunt of the war are given every opportunity to rebuild and restructure their lives in accepted and brought about. We have submitted that the only way that this can be achieved in the prevailing situation in the northeast, in our discussions with the Prime Minister, and in the letter we handed over to him. We have also referred to the total inadequacy of the present rehabilitation package which allocates only Rs: 39,000/= for a family, Rs 25,000/= for a house, Rs 7,000/= for a hut and Rs 7,000/= for every thing else. Today you cannot construct even a small house comprising just one room with a veranda, a kitchen and a toilet for less Rs 150,000/=. Therefore we would strongly urge the government to revise this rehabilitation package, which is totally inadequate in our submission. We would submit that when the interim administration comes into being, there should be a revised rehabilitation package, which should enable the people of the northeast to be rehabilitated in the manner in which they deserve to be.
"I also wish to refer to one other matter of some importance which I think has had some impact on the ceasefire agreement and I think we should make clear our position in regard to this matter. Much has been said and written about two agreements in recent times, one with Indian in regard to the oil tank farm and the other with the United States of America- that is the Acquisition and Cross Servicing agreement, which have not yet been signed, but it is believed would be signed shortly.
"It is not without significance that these two agreements are being contemplated after the ceasefire agreement was signed between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Some in this country have derived satisfaction in trying to make out that these two agreements are directed at the weakening of the Tamil armed struggle carrying out by the LTTE. I think it is my duty is to point out that it was the LTTE, which first declared a ceasefire both in the present instance on 24th December 2001 and also during the term of the last government on 24th December 2000. Therefore it would be wrong to assume that the LTTE is blindly or irrevocably committed to continue with an armed struggle. It must also be remembered that an armed struggle on behalf of the Tamil people primarily carried out by the LTTE commenced only after all other democratic peaceful and political attempts by moderate Tamil political leadership to resolve the Tamil question has failed during a period of over three decades.
"The armed struggle was commenced by the LTTE only as the last resort when every other effort had failed. I think I must state on the floor of this House that it cannot be denied that there was justification for the commencement of the armed struggle to resolve the Tamil question.
"Many right thinking people in this country irrespective of ethnicity hold that view. It cannot also be denied that the armed struggle carried out by the LTTE has made a substantial and significant contribution to the current efforts to resolve the Tamil question. This is why the Tamil people overwhelmingly support the position that future negotiations must be only with the LTTE. The international community, including both Indian and the USA, has also emphasized the imperative need for negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. The current peace process is aimed at achieving that objective. The LTTE is very much a part of that process. It may well be said that unilaterally declaring a ceasefire it was the LTTE, which commenced that process. The Tamil people would therefore call upon the international community, particularly India, the regional power and the USA, the only super power, to realize that the armed struggle carried out by the LTTE on behalf of the Tamil people was not without justification and that the LTTE has been prepared to cease this armed struggle in order to find a negotiated solution acceptable to the Tamil people.
"The ceasefire agreement states so quite clearly and intends to achieve precisely that objective. It must be remembered that the failure to evolve an acceptable negotiated solution to the Tamil question, was the cause of the armed struggle and such a solution yet remains to be evolved. This is a stark reality, which the international community needs to bear in mind. It is the view of the Tamil people that international community cannot be and should not be unmindful of the imperative need to evolve a just and acceptable negotiated solution to the Tamil question.
"The international community, we submit, should realize that the evolution of a just and acceptable solution to the Tamil question is the only way to erase the mistakes of the past and ensure that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.
"The international community, we submit with respect, should not take any steps that would prejudice the legitimate struggle of the Tamil people for equality in this country, the legitimacy of which has come to be realized somewhat belatedly only by reason of the resilience of the Tamil people and the realization that the Tamil question cannot be resolved militarily, towards which realization the armed struggle carried out by the LTTE has made a very significant and substantial contribution. That is the stark truth and it needs to be faced and acknowledged.
"Before I conclude, Sir, I want to say this- we cannot move forward if we continue to paranoid. We are moving forward though the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement would enable us to move even more forward.
"It must not be assumed by anyone that only one side is taking risks. Both sides are taking risks. It is my duty to state on this floor of the House that the LTTE, which has very successfully and relentlessly carried out an armed struggle in this country, at a point when it was not facing defeat and when, on the contrary, it was moving forward, was yet prepared to suspend its armed struggle and take risks.
Therefore, there must be no assumption that it is only the government of Sri Lanka, which is taking risks; it must be realized that even the LTTE is taking risks when it is engaged in the peace process. "Therefore, I should submit, that clearing such hurdle as we go along, we all need to get together and achieve this. We need to go forward on the path in the pursuit of peace and I would respectfully submit that there is no other way.
"We would request the Government to reiterate its commitment to the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement in order to enable the peace process to be taken forward."