Military action need for Sinhala support – G. L. Peiris

[TamilNet, Friday, 22 June 2007, 23:17 GMT]
Sri Lanka has to militarily defeat the Liberation Tigers to encourage the majority Sinhalese to accept a peace deal with the Tamils, Colombo's trade minister, Prof. G. L. Peiris said Friday in an interview with Reuters. Prof. Peiris, a former chief negotiator for the SriLankan government who was famously associated with a landmark agreement with the LTTE in 2002 to explore federalism as a solution to the island’s ethnic conflict, said international criticism about his government’s human rights record was undermining peace.

"There really has to be a military response to terrorism, but there's no contradiction between that stance and our clear acknowledgment of the fact that a political process is necessary," Peiris told Reuters in an interview in Washington.

He told Reuters the recent reversion to war taught the government that it needed to be tough militarily to win majority Sinhalese political support for political compromises with the Tamil community.

"There must be no lurking fear in their minds that they're vulnerable to attack by the (Tamil Tigers), and that feeling of security must be established in the minds of the people before any of this can really work on the ground," he said.

Speaking ahead of meetings with US State Department and trade officials, Peiris stopped short of criticizing the decision to trim some aid over human rights concerns. But he said they made the job of seeking peace more difficult.

"A political solution is going to be made much, much more difficult than it needs to be if there is economic adversity and deprivation," he said.

"If the country's squeezed and if the resources are cut off, you are unwittingly creating conditions that are exactly what the extremists would like," Peiris added.

Echoing a lament heard from US officials battling Islamic extremists Prof. Peiris said the Tamil Tigers are "not constrained by any norms or principles, but a government has to act in conformity with the rule of law."

Five years ago Prof. Peiris and the LTTE’s chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, struck a landmark agreement to explore federalism as a solution to the island’s long running ethnic conflict.

The December 2002 agreement, struck in Oslo at the third round of Norwegian facilitated talks between the government and the LTTE, came to dubbed the ‘Oslo Declaration.’

But in January this year Prof Peiris defected from the opposition United National Party (UNP) back to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which he had previously left for the UNP in 2001.

Following his return to the SLFP and his joining the hardline Sinhala-nationalist government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, Prof. Peiris publicly distanced himself from the Oslo Declaration, dismissing the notions of ‘federalism’, ‘unitary’ and ‘united’ as "mere words."

"Today the intellectuals and experts worldwide agree that terms such as federalism, unitary and united have no clear definition and are indistinct at best," Prof. Peiris said at the time.

"If you take the Indian model for instance, it is neither federal nor unitary in nature but a mixture of both," he explained.

What was required was a "practical solution" to the ethnic conflict, he added.


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