SLFP questions UNF approach to peace
[TamilNet, Friday, 13 December 2002, 14:29 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) the main constituent of the Sri Lanka opposition the People's Alliance (PA), demanded in a press release that the ruling United National Front (UNF) government should explain to Sri Lankan people different concepts and terms included in the Oslo statement which embodied the agreement between Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The full text of the press release follows:
According to the statement of the Norwegian Government issued on 5th December 2002, “the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking peoples, based on a federal structure within a united SriLanka."
In his Martyr’s day speech of 27th November, 2002 which ended with the words “The Thirst of the Tigers is the Homeland of Tamil Eelam”, Mr. Prabakaran referred to a number of concepts such as the ‘basic political right that the people are allowed to determine their own political status and their social and economic way of life according to their aspirations”.
He went on to say, “We stand firm in the attachment to the right to self determination. The Tamil homeland, the Tamil nation, the rights of the Tamils to self-determination these are the fundamentals of our objectives. We have been insisting on these issues from Thimpu to Thailand. These are the basic factors on which the ethnic dispute of the Tamil people should be approached and solved.
He also said.” Our people form a national ethnic group with a separate homeland of their own. As they possess their own identical ethnic feelings among themselves, they have a national identity of their own. As a separate community of people, our people have the right to self-determination. Self-determination has two aspects-an inner aspects and an outer aspect. The inner aspect prescribes the right to regional autonomy of the people’. Later he said, “The Tamil people aspire to live in the traditional homeland where they have been living without interference from outsiders.”
Mr. Prabakaran also said, “They wish to rule themselves in their own homeland with autonomy. This is the political aspiration of our people. The real dimension of the meaning of self-determination is contained in this aspiration. Based on the concept of internal self-determination if a solution with a guarantee of complete self-rule so that we would rule ourselves is put forward we could consider it favourably.
Then Mr.Pirapaharan added: “ But if the right to internal self-determination is denied to our people and regional autonomy is not guaranteed, we have no alternative but to secede and form our own rule.” Therein lies the threat. Mr.Pirapaharan also said:” The Sinhala people should not be an obstacle to the Tamil people in achieving their aspirations of living in their own land under their own rule.”
A number of questions arise from the sentiments expressed in Mr. Pirapaharan’s speech and the Oslo statement. These questions have to be asked, and the people are entitled to receive answers from the UNF government and the LTTE.
What does “political status” mean? What, indeed, does “ self-determination” mean? What is “complete self-rule?” We have to ask: who are these “outsiders” that Mr.Pirapaharan referred to? - are they the Sinhala and Muslim people who have lived in the North and East from time immemorial; are they the residents of the other parts of Sri Lanka who are being told not to interfere in the Tamil homeland? Is the homeland to be an exclusive preserve for some, not open to all the people of Sri Lanka?
We would like to remind the Prime Minister of his recent public statement when he said that there is no concept as a homeland in Sri Lanka; that all 25000 square miles of territory that comprise Sri Lanka are the homeland of all who live in the country. However Mr. Pirapaharan’s speech is replete with emphatic references to the “homeland”.
The speech ends with the slogan: “ The thirst of the Tigers is the Homeland of Tamil Eelam.” In his London Arena speech of 30th November 2002 Mr. Balasingham also made ample references to the homeland: But in he Oslo statement we find the words self-determination “ in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking peoples.” These words are taken from the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987. Is there a difference between “ areas of historical habitation” and the “ homeland”? It is well known that the government of India will not accommodate the concept of a homeland. How, and why, did this change in language occur between Mr. Pirapaharan’s speech of 27th November 2002, and the Oslo statement of 5th December 2002? Where do we stand on this question? Is the LTTE asking for a homeland or not? The people are entitled to know.
Then again if the objectives of the LTTE have not changed from Thimpu to Thailand-and it is well known that these objectives were a separate “Tamil Eelam”-what has changed Oslo? The same words are used, the objectives are the same-then what has changed; is it the means of gaining those objectives? As Mr. Balasingham said in his speech at the London Arena in early December last year the Tigers will retake the peninsula either by war or by negotiation-and retake for what purpose-to share it with the other people of Sri Lanka or to keep it for themselves exclusively?
There are so many words and concepts being talked about these days. The people are confused. It seems that the UNF government and the LTTE are about to embark on an exploration. Does the UNF government know where it is going? Does it know the destination> And when we reach the destination what will we find-and so-called federal state with a standing Army, a standing Navy, a permanent administration, an independent judicial system, a tax structure a banking system- what would this mean other than a separate state by a friendlier name?
The UNF Government must now explain to the people what all these terms and concepts mean. What kind of “federalism” is being talked about? The Oslo statement also refers to, but does not explain “power sharing between the center and the region, as well as within the center’, geographical region’ hat is this region, the North and East Combined into one unit? What about the rights of the Muslims and Sinhala people who live in that region? “Human rights”. Will the LTTE accept the Fundamental Rights jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka? Or will they have their own Supreme Court and Chief Justice? Will they dismantle their presently installed judicial system?
There are many, many necessary questions to be raised and answered concerning the direction of the peace process. Only a few weeks ago in this House the chief negotiator for the UNF Government dismissed a possibility of Opposition participation in decision-making regarding the peace process. We were informed that a solution would be brought to the House and a 2/3rds majority sought only then will the Opposition have a chance of participating in the final solution.
Thus the Peoples Alliance is pleased to note from the Oslo statement that wisdom has finally dawned on the two negotiating parties. In the concluding paragraph it is said:” The Government will, in order to arrive at the broadest possible consensus, establish an appropriate mechanism for consultation with all segments of opinion as part of the ongoing peace process.” This is what President Kumaratunge and the Peoples Alliance have been saying and doing for eight years. The Oslo statement also says “the solution has to be acceptable to all communities.” This too is what President Kumaratunge and the Peoples’ Alliance have been saying all along
In conclusion, the Peoples’ Alliance will certainly support all genuine endeavors to find a solution to the ethnic question that satisfies the aspirations of all the communities of Sri Lanka. But it will not accept a proposed solution that does not take fully into account fundamental matters concerning the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. It calls upon the government to insist that talks regarding the decommissioning of arms by the LTTE commence and proceed in parallel with other negotiations and not be delayed until after a final agreement is signed. The examples of Northern Ireland and
El. Salvador should be heeded.
We commend for the consideration of the Parliament and people of Sri Lanka the concept of devolution of power to the regions presented by President Kumaratunge to the people of Sri Lanka in the draft Constitutional proposals of October 1997 and August 2000. These proposals set out clear solutions, acceptable to all communities, for the resolution of the core issues of the ethnic question. These drafts were formulated after thorough discussions and agreement with all parliamentary representatives of the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala peoples. Only the UNP withheld approval. The confusion that seems to reign at present regarding the possible political and constitutional alternatives to Eelam may be cleared if these proposals are closely studies.
It is the duty of the Opposition- a duty owed to the people-to asks questions and demand answers. After these answers are known and analyzed we will advise the people as the correct course of action to be taken to safeguard the destiny of our country”, said the SLFP press release