Feature Article

EU ban will impact the Peace Process - Thamilchelvan

[TamilNet, Monday, 29 May 2006, 05:21 GMT]
Pointing out that the Liberation Tigers never pulled out from the Geneva-II talks and that it was the obstacles that the Government of Sri Lanka introduced after willfully changing the procedures for the inter-theater transfer of LTTE's military commanders that derailed Geneva-II, S.P. Thamilchelvan, Head of LTTE's Political Wing, said in an interview with TamilNet on Saturday that EU's ban will impact the functioning of the monitors from EU countries, and the "decommissioning or abdication of arms is non-negotiable."

Mr. S. P. Thamilchelvan
Political Head of the LTTE S. P. Thamilchelvan
TamilNet: Where does Geneva-II stand?
Thamilchelvan: Post Geneva-I posturing of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) exposed a serious problem with the implementation of the CFA by the GoSL. The Liberation Tigers have never said that they would not participate in Geneva Talks II. The Sri Lankan government blocked us from meeting our commanders, side-stepping our serious concerns in the inter-theatre transport of our key commanders. We were planning to attend Geneva Talks till the last moment, hoping that the travel arrangement would be resolved with the active engagement of the SLMM. But it did not materialize. Other serious concerns on the ground, related to paramilitary and security force violence, have now pre-empted any possibilities of talks to be held in the near future.

TamilNet: Denmark, Sweden and Finland, Nordic countries that are also members of the European Union, are part of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). Do you think they are providing their silent support to the EU’s expected ban?
Thamilchelvan: Members of the SLMM have performed extraordinarily valuable service in the peace efforts and in maintaining adherence of the parties to the Cease Fire Agreement. EU's ban will conflict with the objective functioning of monitors from EU countries, and will damage the trust and good will Tamil people had in the EU countries.

TamilNet: The European Union has demanded that the Liberation Tigers must be prepared to lay down their arms. What is your response?
Thamilchelvan: Armed resistance was forced on us by the Sri Lankan government. For more than 58 years, Tamil people fought for their fundamental rights and freedom using democratic forms of political resistance. Successive Sinhala governments used force and violence to suppress the resistance. Tamil people armed themselves to assert their fundamental and political rights, and to protect their life and property. Demanding the Tigers to lay down arms is tantamount to requesting them to compromise Tamils' future.

Tamil people have achieved remarkable success in their path to freedom: they have fought, provided financial support to acquire skills and materials to build a conventional army, forced the enemy to withdraw from nearly 70 percent of our land, and built administration and law-and-order machinery, close to forming their own state. The international community, therefore, has to come forward to accommodate this prevailing reality with an amicable settlement. Unilaterally assisting and strengthening one party will not lead to any practical solution to the grave issues confronting Sri Lanka.

TamilNet: How much do you think is true of the accusation that the LTTE does not tolerate dissenting opinions in the northeast? What type of freedom of opinion do you accept? Will there be a scenario in which you will allow political parties of paramilitaries to function in the northeast?
Thamilchelvan: Tamil people in the northeast and the Liberation Tigers as the people's national liberation movement have been fighting for the right to self-determination and a honorable peace with justice for the last several decades. The success we have now was obtained in little steps at a time, with enormous sacrifices and hardship. With institutions built to effectively administer a nascent state, the current struggle is more focused toward winning our political rights. In this climate and within the constraints of illiberal democratic rule we are fighting against, the expectation for allowing political activities for paramilitaries is impractical. Besides, who are the paramilitaries? With the support of the Sri Lankan government, the paramilitaries have been working against the aspirations of Tamil people.

TamilNet: While the Sri Lankan government is only prepared to consider devolution within a unitary constitution, the Tamil position has been that they are not prepared to accept a solution within the current Sri Lankan constitution. What is your response to those who say that the hardline positions make a major war inevitable?
Thamilchelvan: The Constitution of Sri Lanka is made for the Sinhala Buddhists. Neither the Tamil people nor the Tamil nation have accepted the Constitution. The Sri Lankan government has used the Constitution to oppress the Tamil people, to reject the aspirations of Tamils, and to violate the fundamental political, human and economic rights of the Tamil people by enacting laws that discriminated against Tamils in their language, religious, educational and economic opportunities.

Colombo, however, continues to use the Constitution to stymie the progress of the peace process. The Post-Tsunami Operational and Management Structure (P-TOMS), an agreement worked out with the assistance of the international community and lending institutions to facilitate the equitable distribution of tsunami aid, was derailed with the support of the Supreme Court.

As historical precedent illustrates and the international community is well aware, the current unitary constitution is not suitable for a multi-lingual and multi-cultural society, and more particularly does not allow the free exercise of Tamil sovereignty. Tamils are, therefore, forced to seek extra-constitutional measures to negotiate from a position of un-compromised sovereignty that will lead towards a political configuration that satisfies Tamils' aspirations.

Our struggle along this path will continue in the future.


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