Address at Georgetown University by Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Palitha Kohona

Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Palitha Kohona, who was in New York for the UN General Assembly, arrived in Washington DC on October 1, 2007, for discussions with several policymakers and international non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Kohona took the message of Sri Lanka’s attempt at conflict resolution further, through his address “The Challenge of Terrorism and the Peace Process in Sri Lanka” at the Mortara Center for International Studies at the Georgetown University in Washington D.C. His address was co-sponsored by the Master of Arts Program in Conflict Resolution at the Georgetown University.

Dr. Kohona outlined “Sri Lanka’s demonstrated commitment to democracy and pluralism in order to place in context Sri Lanka’s challenge of terrorism,” attributable to “a ruthless terrorist group” that “pioneered suicide bombings of civilian targets long before 9/11.” He said, “The LTTE claims to be the sole representative of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community but ironically it has killed more Tamils than those of any other ethnic group in Sri Lanka, most notably the moderate members of the community who were committed to the democratic process.” In his view, “Relative political stability, including controlling illegitimate violence, must be established along with meaningfully addressing social questions.” He spoke about the “re-awakening of the east program” and reiterated that “the government remains firmly committed to a political solution to address the grievances of all communities…” He added, “But this commitment does not imply appeasement of terror. Many advocate a ceasefire. Let us be reminded of the reality. First of all with regard to a ceasefire, the question of confidence and bona-fides are of paramount importance.” He was firm in his view, “A cessation of hostilities must be accomplished by a genuine commitment to achieving peace.” Again, “For a cessation of hostilities to be meaningful or substantial, it is essential that there be some agreement with regard to the substantive political issues or at least agreement between the sides with regard to a framework within which the substantive issues can be addressed within a reasonable time. Otherwise the ceasefire becomes a mirage, a myth that exists simply in a vacuum.” Tracing the reasons why all earlier peace talks failed, Dr. Kohona wrapped up his address, “Let me conclude by emphasising that the Government remains committed to the hilt to redressing the grievances of all communities through the political process. We will continue to encourage the LTTE to renounce violence and enter the democratic process. But their failure to respond will not deter the Government either. The Government will pursue in its efforts knowing well that a majority of the people of our country favour peace and are willing to be partners with the Government in searching for a political solution that is broadly acceptable to all the stakeholders. The Government invites the international community to support this approach and to understand that you cannot have a quick fix solution. A political settlement in a democracy has to be carefully and patiently negotiated with all the stakeholders. The Government is fully committed to respecting human rights and the rule of law and has established mechanisms for this purpose. It is our hope that we can continue to draw on the support of the international community as our country faces up to the challenge of terrorism and continues to pursue the path of peace.”

Click here for the Speech

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

02 October 2007

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