22 April 2003

Dear Friends,

With the first anniversary of the permanent Ceasefire Agreement, I wanted to write to you to tell you a little about the Peace Process and what I see for the future of Sri Lanka.

It is now over a year since the fighting stopped in our twenty-year war. That should be a cause for celebration as many lives have been saved in the process. I think it important to stress that as yet we do not have peace; nevertheless we have a ceasefire which is giving the parties time to talk and try to resolve their differences.

I won't go into the reasons behind the conflict, but I would say that it is the aim of this Government to create a free, fair and equal society where everyone, whatever their religion or ethnicity, can live in peace and prosperity. I should also stress that it is our clear position within the negotiations that we wish to create one nation from what is at present; a divided country. The LTTE understand that and so do most people. However, some people are suggesting otherwise, I hope that if you hear any suggestions to the contrary that you correct them immediately. Nevertheless, we have many challenges along the way. I do not anticipate that peace will come quickly. We have much work to do, to rebuild trust between the two sides in the conflict. That is what we have spent much of our time doing over the past year. Whilst I acknowledge that the Ceasefire Agreement was not a perfect document, it has given us the opportunity to stop the killings and to talk. Had we aimed for a perfect document it could have taken months, even years. Whereas what we have is a working document that starts the process of building understanding on both sides, whilst obliging both sides to do certain trust-building measures.

There have been infringements of the ceasefire agreement and that is a cause for concern. What we need to do and are doing, is to tackle each of those infringements in the peace negotiations and to find ways of resolving those problems. Questions such as child conscription and extortion have to be dealt with; and in the recent talks, the LTTE gave an undertaking to deal with these matters with the help of UNICEF.

We have spent much time talking about rebuilding our country after the war. In the North and the East we have a shattered economy. We have to resettle nearly one million people, rebuild their homes, remove the mines, and provide schools and hospitals for the people once more. Nor do we intend to neglect the South where poverty is a very serious issue. In the South, we also have to build the infrastructure and create business opportunities. The economy is closely tied into the peace process. For without peace we cannot rebuild our economy; and without a strong economy, peace will take longer to achieve. That is why we have embarked on a programme called "Regaining Sri Lanka" which will put in place the mechanisms to create a strong and prosperous country for the future.

I am sure that you, along with many other people, are impatient and want to see improvements happen quickly. However, if we are to build a lasting peace and a prosperous nation we have to plan carefully. The last year has been one of taking a fallow field and preparing it for the crop. Today we are in the process of sowing the seeds, and in the next year or so I am hopeful that you start to see some of the benefits.

There is much that I would like to tell you about, but this short letter does not allow that luxury. I am sure that you also have many questions. If you would like to know more about the peace process then please contact the Peace Secretariat (see below for contact details) and they will try to answer your questions. Meanwhile, please be assured that your government is working hard on your behalf to create a peaceful and prosperous country once more.

Yours sincerely,

Ranil Wickremesinghe
Prime Minister

P.S. Please show this letter to all your friends and family.


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