Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said on Friday (16 March 2007), that when the international community assesses political proposals that emanates from Sri Lanka in the coming weeks, they should bear in mind that it is not only the demands of the LTTE that have to be met, but those of the totality of the Tamil population, among which there is a tremendous yearning for peace, just as much as the rest of the Sri Lankan polity.

The Minister made these observations when he addressed a gathering of policy makers, academics, and Sri Lanka watchers at a lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on "Moving Sri Lanka's Peace Process Forward; Sri Lanka Government Policy and the role of the International Community”. The meeting was moderated by Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, Director – South Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who served as US Ambassador in Sri Lanka from1993-1995.

Minister Bogollagama noted that the present ‘moment’ constitutes a rare confluence of favourable elements for the success of a political settlement – President Rajapaksa is close to evolving a southern consensus, the main opposition party the UNP has assured its support for a meanigful political settlement, the recent military operations in the East has shattered the aura of invincibility of the LTTE, and the LTTE never before has been more internationally isolated as it stands today.

He said ”as the Sri Lankan polity moves towards bringing to a conclusion the process of evolving a political settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka, a special responsibility is cast upon the international community to play its role. In the first instance they must try again to persuade the LTTE to give up terrorism and enter the democratic mainstream. However, if it becomes clear that the LTTE is unable or unwilling to make this transition, the onus falls on the international community, including numerous non-governmental organizations that have championed their political cause, to agree that the Tigers cannot be de-clawed. Instead they must work with those Tamil democratic parties to further the interests of the Tamil community, both within and outside Sri Lanka.”

He reminded his audience that “a fact that has been ignored is that 54% of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka lives in areas outside the Northern and the Eastern provinces among Sinhalese and Muslim communities. It is also forgotten that besides the LTTE, who have refused to change its ways, there are both longstanding Tamil democrats such as V. Anandasangari as well as former militants, who have embraced the democratic fold since 1987, such as Douglas Devananda and D. Sidharthan. No longer should these alternate Tamil voices, who have entered the democratic mainstream two decades ago and are willing to reach an honorable and durable settlement, be sidelined within Sri Lanka or by the international community.”

“It is unfortunate that up to now the misguided faith of both some Sri Lankan political leaders as well as sections of the international community of the transformational capacity of the LTTE, has cost Sri Lanka dearly not only in loss of assets and lives of civilians, but also at least two generations of Tamil politicians and academics. It is a long list possibly starting with Alfred Duraiappah, which includes to name a few - A. Amirthalingam, V. Yogeswaran, Sam Thambimuttu, A. Thangathurai, Sarojini Yogeswaran, Neelan Thiruchelvam, Lakshman Kadirgamar, and Keetheswaran Loganathan. Many or at least some of these persons, whom I am sure you know and some you might even count among your friends, were honourable Tamil leaders, who were genuinely conscious of the problems faced by the Tamils, and whose only fault was their refusal to abandon the democratic path and yield to dictates of the LTTE.” he said.

The Minister added that “similarly, outside Sri Lanka too there is a growing resistance developing within the Tamil Diaspora, that questions the futility of the destructive path down which the LTTE has led the Tamil people for over three decades in a struggle for an elusive Eelam. In many western capitals today, which host sizeable Tamil populations, there is a growing resistance developing, which has manifested itself not only in refusing to pay LTTE taxes and ransoms, but also who have also taken to the streets to demonstrate against the LTTE and demand an alternate means of redressing Tamil grievances.”

He urged that, “a special effort be made by the international community to persuade the Tamil Diaspora to support efforts being made by the Sri Lankan government to find a lasting solution to the conflict rather than contributing to fuel the futile separatist war.”
Noting that “this is an opportunity Sri Lankans hope that the international community would not miss, debating semantics and ignoring the reality”, he added that “the mistake made by some members of the international community in taking too long to recognise that the Tigers were no ‘freedom fighters’ but a group of ruthless terrorists, must not be repeated.”

Responding to questions from the audience, the Minister reiterated that the international community also has a lot more to do to eliminate the LTTE’s strength as a terrorist organization by interdicting its arms smuggling and money laundering activities, as well as closing all avenues for fund raising by LTTE front organizations. When asked if a military solution to the problem was possible, the Minister said that the government has spent 13 months trying to achieve broad based political consensus so that a negotiated political solution would be possible. Therefore, the issue of a military solution does not arise, he said.

Full text of Speech is attached

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

16 March 2007

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