"Don't miss this opportunity for peace" - Sampanthan

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 17 December 2003, 12:35 GMT]
"We call upon the Sri Lankan State to put its house in order and the bring the current constitutional impasse to an end and commence negotiations on the interim self-governing authority on the basis of proposals submitted by the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam," the parliamentary group leader of the Tamil National Alliance Mr.Rajavarothayam Sampanthan said participating in the committee stage debate on the Votes of Defense Ministry in Parliament Wednesday afternoon.

He concluded his speech saying," the country will rue for a long time the failure to grasp the present opportunity for a just and honourable peace. I would, therefore, urge all sections of the House not to miss the opportunity.

The full text of the speech follows:

"Sir, the Votes of the Ministry of Defense are being debated with no Minister of the present government taking responsibility for the subject of defense. The arrangement that prevailed when the present government assumed office is no longer valid in regard to the subject of defense.

"I do not wish to go into the mechanics of how this change came about nor do I wish to comment on the constitutional provisions relating thereto, for the simple reason that this Constitution has been unequivocally condemned by those who want to use it the most in today's context. The Peoples' Alliance, the JVP, the Left parties and the even we the Tamil national Alliance, have unequivocally condemned this Constitution and particularly the Executive Presidency. The only party, which has not condemned the Constitution publicly, is the United National Party, which today is at the receiving end of the Constitution. One might well say, Sir, that the UNP is hoist with its own petard. What I find most distressing however, Sir, is that these steps, which are being presently resorted to in the name of the current Constitution, are having an immensely harmful impact in the peace process. The changes that occurred in the subject of defense came from just three days after the LTTE delivered in writing its proposals in regard to the setting up of an interim self-governing authority. The significance of the timing of this step cannot be regarded as being inconsequential.

"These changes, Sir, in the subject of defense have resulted in the international facilitator suspending its facilitator role. Though the LTTE very much desired that dates for be fixed for the commencement of negotiations, it has not been possible to do so in view of the current constitutional and political impasse. We have reached, Sir, a state of paralysis in the peace process and it is not certain for how long this stagnant state will continue. The end result is that the efforts to evolve a solution to the Tamil question have been blocked. This is not new Sir, in the political history of independent Sri Lanka. This is a repetition of past history. The non-resolution of the Tamil question has not been due to any default on the part of the Tamil side. The Tamil question has been the scapegoat, the victim of interminable and chronic political rivalry and acrimony within the Sinhala political establishment.

"In recent years, Sir, the finger of guilt was pointed at the LTTE. Such an accusation is not valid certainly not any longer. The finger of guilt today as in the past 50 years clearly points in the direction of Sinhala political establishment. This has been so, Sir, for the past fifty years. This is the truth, which the international community, in particular must at least now realize and accept. A continuance of the current situation must inexorably cause serious damage to the peace process. We call upon the Sri Lankan State to put its house in order and bring this impasse to an end and commence negotiations on the interim administration or the interim self-governing authority on the basis of proposals submitted by both of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

"It is also my duty, Sir, to point out that the continuous victims of this impasse are none other than the long-suffering Tamil people. It is acknowledged that almost a million Tamil people were dislocated as a result of war. This war was inflicted on the Tamil people consequent to the failure on the part of the Sri Lankan State to evolve a honourable solution in time. Tens of thousands of Tamil people want to be resettled in their homes. They want to commence their occupation, which provides them with their livelihood. They want to lead normal lives. Almost two years after the ceasefire agreement normalcy has returned everywhere else in the country except to the North and east and except very substantially as far as the Tamil people are concerned.

"The dividends of peace are yet to accrue to the Tamil people. They yet undergo much deprivation and suffering. I regret to have to state that in many parts of the North-east, the armed forces are not prepared to extend to the Tamil civilians required co-operation to enable them to resettle, commence their occupation and lead normal lives. While the Tamil political leadership and Tamil civil society want such action towards normalization as would eliminate the prospects of recommencement of war, and the LTTE fully supports this position, the armed forces are only concerned with gaining maximum military advantage, frequently to an utterly unreasonable degree, to fight a war if a war does start. This, in my submission, Sir, is a totally irrational position. I need hardly state that such a negative and obstructive attitude on the part of the armed forces is not conducive to the advent of permanent peace in this country. It is only a lack of time that prevents me from referring to details of such negative and obstructive attitude on the part of the armed forces.

"Many sections of the armed forces seem to suffer from a false sense of prestige. The prestige of the armed forces, in my submission, Sir, needs to be established on the battlefield. Seeking to establish such prestige, in a ceasefire situation, amongst the Tamil civilians in a territory, which rightly must available to the Tamil civilians in order to facilitate normalization, can hardly be a worthy substitute of such prestige on the battlefield.

"I must compliment, Sir, the former and the present secretaries of the Ministry of defense who are very appreciative of civilian rights. I must say, Sir, that, unfortunately their best-intended efforts are of little avail. May I conclude, Sir, by merely stating this? The country will rue for a long time the failure to grasp the present opportunity for a just and honourable peace. I would, therefore, urge all sections of this House not to miss this opportunity."


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