British MPs tour Jaffna, Vanni
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 16 October 2002, 04:52 GMT]
Progress in peace talks will largely determine if Britain will lift the ban
on the LTTE or not, said Mr.Gareth Thomas, British Member of Parliament,
Tuesday after visiting Jaffna and Vanni areas accompanied by Mr.Robert
Evans, Member of European Parliament.
Mr.Robert Evans and Mr.Gareth Thomas met Mr.S.P.Thamilchelvan
Tuesday afternoon and had discussions for about one and a half
hours, according to the LTTE sources.
The British MPs arrived in Jaffna yesterday and visited Vadamarachchy,
Kaithadi and Chavakachcheri. They met the Principal of Harley College, Mr.
SriPathy in Point Pedro and had discussions with the representatives of the
Students Union of Jaffna University. They also had discussions with Major
General Anton Wijendra at the Palaly army base.
Meeting local press in Vavuniya enroute to Colombo, Mr. Evans said, "I was
in Jaffna two years ago. The town has
made significant process toward normality. But we are very conscious of the
need to move forward. There seems to be a lot of evidence of re-building and
it is heartening to see the people not only are going about with their own
lives but looking forward with optimism towards the future.
"We are very enthusiastic about the peace process and the prospects for the
country settling down and moving forward. No one thinks it is going to be
easy. Negotiations towards reaching a settlement will be difficult and will
take time. But the mere fact that within a matter of months talks are
taking place and more talks are planned is very encouraging to all people of
When asked about the meetings with the officials of the security forces and
with the political head of the LTTE Mr. Evans said, "We discussed with both
sides on issues related to landmines, recruitment policies of child
soldiers, resettlement, and their commitment to the peace process. Although
there are differences between the sides in some aspects, over all we are
satisfied with the positive nature of responses."
Mr.Robert Evans said that they were impressed on the changes which has
taken place in Colombo and Jaffna after the peace process started to move
"I have noticed a markded decrease of the military presence and road blocks
in Colombo. Situation is similar in Jaffna. We didn't feel in any way
insecure or on the edge in Jaffna. We went out in the evening and it was
fine. Equally in the Vanni, there was no show of military strength by the
When asked about the fate of the Tamil asylum seekers in the European
countries he said: "There are number of people, mainly Tamils from North and
East seeking asylum. The UK government and the other European governments
are trying to work out a common European Asylum Policy that will provide an
opportunity and assistance for those wishing to return to Sri Lanka to
resettle. But there will not be any forced repatriation. At present we are
not accepting new asylum seekers from Sri Lanka because the situation is
calm and we don't believe the current position warrants it."
Mr.Gareth Thomas said he joined this visit to see for himself the ground
situation in the country in general and particularly in Vanni, the area
controlled by the LTTE.
"I wanted to see how the peace process is working and I am very much
encouraged by the way things are going on here now. We hope the peace
process will continue and the sense of peace and the sense of goodwill will
"One of the issues they have raised with me is the ban on the LTTE. The
truth is the ban on the LTTE is not likely to be lifted until we see how
the peace process unfolds. The reason I have come to Sri Lanka is because I
have a large number of Tamil contituents, in some areas 10% of residents are
Sri Lankans," he said.
TELO sources in Vavuniya said that the MPs visit was initiated by Mr.Selvam
Adaikalanathan TNA MP for the Vanni electoral district, who is now in India.