|LETTER FROM THE PRIME MINISTER
OF SRI LANKA
22 April 2003
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
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
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.
P.S. Please show this letter to all your friends and family.