US calls to renounce violence, says ready to play its part

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 November 2002, 21:06 GMT]
Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, US, the highest ranking American official to visit Sri Lanka since the start of the conflict, said that his country will continue to support programs that promote peace and good governance in his address at the Oslo donor conference, 25 November. He called on the LTTE to renounce violence and secession. The presence of Secretary Armitage during Anton Balasingham's address later in the day sent a strong message of recognition of LTTE's growing legitimacy, analysts said.

Holmenkollen 4Secretary Armitage said, "United States stands ready to play its part in the peace process. In the last 2 years US has provided more than 16 million dollars in basic development, economic and human assistance to Sri Lanka. US will continue to support demining in the jaffna peninsula and emergency aid to refugees, counseling to children, vocational training to their parents and medical assistance for disabled. We expect to offer support for other programs including projects to promote peace and good governance."

While giving credit to President Chandrika Kumaratunga for her peace plan of 1995 which he said was an important precursor to the current progress, he added that everyone owed "much of that progress to the Government of Ranil Wickremesinge," and that "the peace also requires the full and frank participation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)."

"US is greatly encouraged that the LTTE has made commitment to the political solution and has agreed to settle this conflict through peaceful means," said Mr. Armitage and urged the LTTE to renounce violence, terrorism and secession. He asserted that fundamental human rights of all srilankans is important, not just the right to life, but to free speech, to participate in governance and to associate freely and to enjoy full protection of the rule of law.

Support meeting 1During the question and answer session when Balasingham was asked of his reaction to Richard Armitage's call to renounce violence and terrorism, Balasingham replied, "Of course we do not agree with Mr. Armitage's concepts of terrorism and violence. As far as we are concerned the ceasefire document amply demonstrates the intention of both the parties, not only the LTTE but both parties to cease all forms of violence. I have indicated in my brief statement the roots of the armed conflict. If these root causes are eliminated then there is no need for violence.

"We are now operating entirely with different perceptions and categories. Therefore the American version of characterizing this form of armed struggle as a manifestation of pure violence and terrorism is totally unacceptable and in my speech I have given adequate exposition as to how the armed conflict originated. It was an armed resistance against state repression and now after 20 years both parties have realized the futility of war and we have to sit down and negotiate and resolve the problems by peaceful means. I hope that we will be able to resolve it and this will put a permanent end to all forms of violence."

When asked by NTB news agency if Balasingham had any exchange of opinion with Richard Armitage during his stay in Norway, Balasingham said that he did not but said that Richard Armitage's very presence at the conference was important to the LTTE.

"The American participation in this support meetings is an extraordinarily important matter for us because it reinforces that the LTTE is a crucial partner in resolving the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Americans have made statements in the past that there should be a peaceful resolution of the conflict. And US's participation here is significant and we are very pleased that he came. He was also there when I had made a statement openly. And I think in the course of time the countries that have proscribed the LTTE will review their stand on the basis of the progress of the negotiations. And they will be further convinced that the war has already come to an end and there is no need for violence in the future. They will also be convinced that both parties are seriously and sincerely committed to peace and therefore we hope there will be a radical change in the American attitude," Balasingham concluded.

Support meeting 3

Full text of Richard Armitage's address follows:

"Good morning. Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

Only a few months ago, I had an opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka – and while I was there, I went to visit the Jaffna Peninsula. We first flew over the area in a helicopter, and saw below us a blasted landscape – pockmarked like some sad moonscape with thousands of bomb craters, the testament in territory to twenty years of devastating war. But we also witnessed the costs up close. We saw a city destroyed; and a front line, with soldiers on either side standing close enough to see each other's faces. We spoke with young Tamils – and the mixture of hope and wariness in their words was an unmistakable reminder that in Jaffna; and across Sri Lanka – a whole generation has now grown up knowing little other than war.

It was clear to me that the solution had to start there – in the shattered people and the bombed-out villages, in the universal longing for a better life. Because it will take a firm decision from the parties to this fight to be partners – and to act in the interests of peace – but it will also take an unshakeable commitment from all the people of Sri Lanka – Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils alike – if an agreement made around the negotiating table is to take hold on the ground.

Of course, it will take the strong support of the community of nations, as well – and it is my honor to be here today to represent my nation; and to make a pledge to all of you that the United States stands ready to play its part.

There is another nation among us that has long played an extraordinary part. And while the role of stoic peacemaker is certainly nothing new to Norway – I wish to commend the Government of Norway, on behalf of President Bush for being such an effective force for peace all over the world – and in particular for bringing us together today in this great endeavor. Norway has shown Sri Lanka the path to peace – but now it is up to Sri Lanka to walk down that path. The potential rewards are overwhelming. When all of the people of Sri Lanka are liberated once and for all from the fighting, from the terror, and from the fear, the world will see the bright promise of that beautiful place finally realized.

But reaching this vision of prosperity and stability will require a strong and sustained commitment from the Government of Sri Lanka. And we should all give credit to President Kumaratunga – she knew this was the only answer for her country long ago. And her peace plan of 1995 was an important precursor to the progress we see now. Of course today, we owe much of that progress to the Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – who continues to take bold steps in the direction of peace. In July, President Bush had the opportunity to personally congratulate the Prime Minister in Washington – to commend him for his courage and his leadership.

But it is clear that if Sri Lanka is to continue moving forward, the Government must move together as one. No individual or single political party can carry this burden alone. This must be a concerted effort by the President, the Prime Minister and their parties.

Of course, peace also requires the full and frank participation of the LTTE. And let me leave no doubt: my nation stands firm in the resolve that the tactics of terror can never achieve legitimate aspirations. So the United States is greatly encouraged that the LTTE has made a commitment to the political solution; it has agreed to settle this conflict through peaceful means. We urge the LTTE to go one step further and add to this commitment a public renunciation of terrorism and of violence – to make it clear to the people of Sri Lanka and indeed to the international community – that the LTTE has abandoned its armed struggle for a separate state; and instead accepts the sovereignty of a Sri Lankan government that respects and protects the rights of all its people. In turn, the LTTE should affirm the fundamental human rights of all Sri Lankans – not just the right to life – but to free speech – to participate in governance – to associate freely – and to enjoy the full protection of the rule of law.

Sri Lanka is far away from the daily lives of my countrymen – but I can assure you that the agony of this nation has not passed unnoticed in America. In the last two years, the United States provided more than $16 million in basic development, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka; and my presence here today at this conference is a clear signal that my country stands ready to increase that aid – to be an active participant in the reconstruction of Sri Lanka.

And while the needs are most critical in the North and East, there is no question that the entire country has paid the price of this war; and that we must help bind all of Sri Lanka's wounds. So while the United States will continue to support de-mining in the Jaffna Peninsula – and in the last year alone, we helped clear mines and unexploded ordnance from more than 120,000 square meters of land – we will also continue to provide humanitarian assistance to all those in need across the country, including emergency aid to refugees and internally displaced persons; counseling to children and vocational training to their parents; and medical assistance to the disabled. In the working sessions today, we expect to offer support for other programs, as well, including projects to promote peace, good governance, and the rule of law, as well as aid for the victims of past human rights abuses. And today is only a beginning. We look forward to developing further the programs and the proposals we will discuss today at the follow-on meeting that Japan has so graciously offered to host.

I believe that we all know that even with the support of these nations of goodwill gathered here today, the peaceful resolution to decades of conflict will be neither easy nor quick. But both sides have shown that they have the patience to approach these negotiations in a series of steps, each taken in turn; and the wisdom to know that political agreements must be coupled with practical measures. And so the United States is pleased to join with these nations represented here today to support the parties to these negotiations – and indeed the people of Sri Lanka – as they walk down the path to lasting peace and long-term prosperity.

Thank you."


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