|HON. PRIME MINISTERS STATEMENT
TO PARLIAMENT ON 6TH MAY 2003
On the 21st of last month (21st April 2003), Dr Anton Balasingham,
Political Advisor and Chief Negotiator to the LTTE, addressed
me a letter in which he informed me that the LTTE leadership has
decided to suspend its participation in the negotiations for the
time being, giving reasons for doing so.
I replied Dr. Balasingham, on the 29th of April 2003 responding
to the concerns he had raised. I am tabling for the information
of Parliament both Dr. Balasinghams letter and my reply.
I would like to point out to the House that as indicated in Dr.
Balasinghams letter, the LTTE was suspending their participation
in the negotiations for the time being. It was not giving notice
of an end to negotiations, nor were they making a statement that
they were going back to war. In fact, Dr. Balasingham in other
statements he has made on the matter has been categorical that
this was not an indication of resumption of war and that their
commitment to seek a negotiated political solution remained. I
can state too, that in the opinion of our friends the Donor nations,
with whom we are in contact they see no prospect of a resumption
Members of the House will be aware that interruptions of this
nature in peace processes have occurred before in our country
and that this is the second interruption we have experienced.
In the peace processes of other countries too suspension of negotiations
from time to time is not uncommon. You will recall Honourable
Speaker that in my statement to Parliament on the coming into
force of the Ceasefire Agreement on 22nd February 2002, I said
that the road to peace was going to have more pitfalls and setbacks
Let me recall the background in which the Ceasefire Agreement
between the Government and the LTTE was initiated. At that time,
the two parties had not formally met and the ground work was prepared
by the Norwegian Government. We have had several months of talks
and some considerable progress has been made. The peoples
yearning for peace has been fulfilled and there is now an absence
of war. In fact a new environment has evolved. We might even say
that we have progressed faster than we envisaged at the time we
set out on this journey taking up issues not contemplated in February
2002. For example, the LTTE were agreeable to our suggestion relating
to the preparation of a comprehensive document in respect of human
rights applicable to all stages of the negotiating process and
including suitable provision regarding monitoring and enforcement.
There was, moreover, explicit agreement relating to a political
resolution of the ethnic conflict by means of sharing of power
based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The very
progress that has been made has been a catalyst for the emergence
of fresh issues. We are now at a stage when it is evident that
substantial progress has been made in respect of the provisions
of the Ceasefire Agreement, and we move forward into a further
phase of the evolving process. Our aim at this time is to keep
the process going and continue to be on the alert. The important
thing is that there is no question of going back to war.
Permit me to identify what the real issues are at this time. Firstly,
there is the question of sharing of resources. The whole economy
which was run down by two decades of war has to be kick-started.
The Regaining Sri Lanka is our strategic framework for the long
term economic development of Sri Lanka. One of the objectives
for high growth mentioned in this document is to generate resources
for the long term development of the North-East. The fear of the
LTTE is that all the resources we get will go to the South. At
the same time, the people in the South fear that all the moneys
will go to the North. Neither of this will happen. We decided
to assess our requirements both in terms of the needs of the North-East
and what we required in the medium term for the Regaining Sri
Lanka strategy. Therefore, we did not hold the usual Donor Conference
last year. Instead the Royal Norwegian Government convened the
Oslo Conference last September, where the Donor nations decided
to pledge aid for emergency assistance. It was at Oslo that it
was decided to call the Tokyo Conference to pledge aid for the
development of the whole country including the North-East.
The LTTE has a role in the rebuilding of the North-East. The
Oslo meeting delineated this role and the part the international
community will play in it.
In Tokyo, we will have, the Needs Assessment Report on the North-East,
and the four adjacent Districts done in consultation with all
stakeholders, the Regaining Sri Lanka and a bridging document
before the Donors. We expect to receive the funding which would
make both these objectives realisable.
In the meantime, in our interaction with the Donor community,
we have taken up our immediate and medium term needs. I am pleased
to record, we are well on the way to raising the development assistance
we require for this purpose. I am optimistic that the international
community both through bilateral and multilateral means will make
available an amount of around one Billion Dollars a year for the
next three years, which is our estimated requirement to attain
the national development goals. I would also inform the House,
that with regard to immediate support for the North-East, three
Multilateral agencies, the UN system, the World Bank and the Asian
Development Bank, have determined the amounts required for the
North-East and the adjacent four Districts in consultation with
both parties. Of course, it must be realised that as is usual,
all of this is not going to come in one tranche and will be available
at different points depending on our capacity and performance.
The second general issue I would like to refer is, how to make
life easier for the people living in the North-East. The major
issue of the North-East is that of the Internally Displaced. At
the time of the Ceasefire Agreement, the number of families displaced
was approximately 200,000. Today, that number has been greatly
reduced. As of April this year, 75,000 families have voluntarily
re-settled. To help them integrate in the community, we have increased
the Unified Assistance Scheme from Rs. 15,000/- to Rs. 25,000/-
per family. Already, about 10,000 families have received the increased
UAS support. In addition to making land available which would
involve clearing of 2 million landmines, there are some major
issues in respect of resettlement. One of these is, that of title
to land where legal challenges in Courts by claimants can delay
the process and the Government will have to pay large amounts
as compensation. We are obtaining the advise of the Attorney General
on this question.
Another of the major problems we are facing is that of building
capacity in the administrative machinery in the North-East, which
has been run down over the years. It was an administration only
able to barely supply the day-to-day requirements of the population,
like providing rations for people in welfare camps; it was not
geared to development. There had been no recruitment of officers
for years. In fact the Mullaitivu District Secretary has no office
or residence. What we inherited was an administration without
the capacity for development work. This was the basic reason for
the inability to move forward rapidly in implementation. The institution
of SIHRN, (the Sub committee for Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation
Needs) was therefore a crucial one for commencing immediate development
work. We are currently working out new mechanisms to co-ordinate
the work of the Central Government Agencies and the North-East
Provincial Council. This would call for the strengthening of SIHRN.
Normalisation of civilian life is another issue which has received
priority. This necessarily involves the High Security Zones and
the manner in which the military and security concerns have to
be balanced with humanitarian civilian needs. As the security
situation improves, the military presence will be less needed.
When normalcy returns the large presence of troops in Jaffna will
not be necessary and the stationing of troops will be as it is
in the rest of the country. National security concerns will of
course be taken into consideration at every stage. In moving forward
in this area, the question of timing is critical when humanitarian
and security issues are balanced. Just as the views of the civil
society are being made available, so will we need the advice we
get from the armed forces. There have been some issues which continue
to remain unresolved. For example, in Jaffna city, moving out
of the Five One Divisional Headquarters and the Five One Two Brigade
Command Headquarters from Subash and Gnanam Hotels and some houses
in the vicinity to the Jaffna Fort. That matter as the House knows,
is still awaiting resolution. Since there seems to be some misconception
in the public mind about this matter I would like to take this
opportunity to clarify the position and to state categorically
to the House that the proposed relocation does not amount to any
change whatsoever with regard to the High Security Zone, in Palali,
but is limited to arrangements within the city of Jaffna.
As regards the High Security Zones and de-escalation we have
obtained relevant expertise from India. General Nambiar, one time
Commander of the UN Forces in Bosnia, and present Director of
the United Services Institute of India, is the Advisor to the
Government in regard to the process of de-escalation. He will
come to Sri Lanka today bringing his report. He will meet the
President, the Minister of Defence, the Commander of the Army
A recent issue which has arisen in regard to disengagement of
forces is in the seas The SLMM is addressing the issues, and the
two parties have been asked to respond. In this context we have
obtained the services of Vice Admiral P J Jacob, former Vice Chief
of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy to advise the Government on
issues relating to the sea. I think the House will be happy to
know that he will also be arriving in the country today. These
issues will take some time to discuss and move forward to agreement
And finally, we have to obtain compliance with the Ceasefire
Agreement. We need to consider the whole issue of human rights,
and the fulfilment of Human Rights norms in its various manifestations.
In this connection one major issue that has arisen is the recent
assassinations of intelligence operatives and political activists.
I would also like to inform this House that the Police and the
Armed Forces have been instructed to take all necessary steps
to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes.
The Government accepts the need to address the concerns of the
Muslim community in the North-East. Firstly, we have to arrange
for the Muslim delegation to meet soon with the LTTE to work out
the modalities for a Muslim Delegation to take part in the plenary
discussion. It is an imperative requirement at this stage of the
deliberations that a delegation articulating the aspirations of
the Muslim community should have the opportunity of participating
at discussions relevant to the Muslims at the plenary sessions.
There are also the future political arrangements for the North-East
to be dealt with - in fact the core issues. As we move on from
the Ceasefire Agreement, the Government is open to having wide
ranging discussions on the many issues that are represented here
especially regarding the extent of devolution of power
and the units of devolution. We will in consultation with all
parties proceed to develop a Road Map towards this objective.
This will set out with clarity the sequence in which the substantive
issues will be addressed in the unfolding process, so that the
objective sought to be accomplished and the means by which this
goal will be reached, becomes apparent.
I would like to conclude by keeping the House informed of the
current steps we are taking to bring about a situation where negotiations
could be resumed. As I have said before, the safety-net of the
international community which we have brought about is being of
great help to us at this time. We have had a firm expression of
views by our friendly countries, including the United States,
UK, Japan, France and India.
Our facilitator and friends have been very active during this
period speaking with interested parties. As we recognise the issues
that have emerged between the parties, we have been strengthened
in our resolve to approach this issue in a practical manner. The
international community whose goodwill is abundantly at our disposal
is engaged in a professional exercise of shuttle diplomacy which
has already begun to show promising results. For example, Mr Erik
Solheim of the Norwegian Delegation has been meeting Dr Balasingham.
There has been contact between Mr Vidar Helgessen and the LTTE
leadership. In regard to India which is always a relevant factor,
Minister Milinda Moragoda has paid a visit to Delhi and been in
contact with the Foreign Minister, Yashwant Sinha and Brijesh
Mishra, Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister. So have the Members
of the Norwegian Delegation and Japanese Delegation. Last Sunday,
I had meetings with the Norwegian and the Japanese Delegations.
I could tell you that Mr Helgessen met Dr Anton Balasingham yesterday
and Erik Solheim will be meeting Dr Balasingham on Thursday. I
will be meeting the Norwegians again on their return from the
Vanni. The Foreign Minister of Norway, Jan Peterson will be visiting
us soon and Christina Rocca from the United States will be here
next week. Overall, the Norwegians are dealing with the peace
process, while the Japanese are focussing on the Tokyo Conference.
All of this opportunity will be made use of for further discussions.
We have also made known the current situation to all of the interested
partners such as to all members of the international community
and they too would be using their good offices to see that the
process is re-commenced as early as possible. On behalf of the
Government, I can assure you Mr Speaker, I will be keeping the
Party leaders informed of the developments as they occur.