Thank you for the privilege of addressing this Congressional gathering.

It is a pleasure to be back in Washington, DC - a city I first visited as an 18 year old and where later I served six and a half years as a professional diplomat including a term as Ambassador of Sri Lanka.

I am here today at a sad and sombre time for both our countries. I would like to express my deep sympathy and sincere solidarity with the people of the United States and especially with those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, who have experienced death and destruction due to hurricane Katrina. In my own country, the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26th last year took over thirty thousand lives, displaced one million people and caused enormous destruction to infrastructure, property and livelihoods. Sri Lanka is yet recovering from this natural disaster of unprecedented magnitude, but the task of recovery and reconstruction has been made easier by the assistance so generously provided by the international community, including the government and people of the USA. In our own modest way Sri Lanka has made a donation to the victims of Katrina as a gesture symbolizing a spontaneous bonding between peoples in humanitarian crises as well as the close and traditional ties between two democracies.

I am here to speak to you on the “Sri Lanka Peace Process and the Role of the International Community”, at a crucial moment in Sri Lanka’s peace process, less than a month after the premeditated and diabolically planned assassination of Sri Lanka’s former Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, which on the basis of the investigations carried so far, unmistakably points to the culpability of the LTTE. Evidence so far gathered shows that days prior to the assassination LTTE cadres were apprehended carrying out surveillance on the Minister’s private residence, the accomplices of the assassins were carefully cultivated at different layers of the organization, duress had been used to force them to cooperate and that in May 2005 they had travelled to Kilinochchi and met the LTTE hierarchy including one Charles - an intelligence chief of the LTTE responsible for operations in the south of Sri Lanka.

Let me begin with the Government of Sri Lanka’s (GOSL’s) policy in relation to the peace process and its engagement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) before the assassination of Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar. That policy has had elements of continuity through the two decades of conflict spanning changes of government through democratic elections. More recently, a firm commitment to the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 2002 with its Nordic-staffed monitoring mission; the objective of a politically negotiated solution; the retention of the Royal Norwegian Government as the facilitator; adherence to the principles of the Oslo Decision of 2 December 2002, where the GOSL and the LTTE signed an agreement to explore a solution based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka; the Tokyo Declaration; and the infrastructural support of the Peace Secretariat, were the elements of continuity between the previous United National Front Government and the United People’s Freedom Alliance Government elected in April 2004. At the same time engagement with the LTTE was based on the expectation that this militant group would abandon the terrorism and violence of the past and would gradually move into the democratic mainstream in the same way as other groups including minority Tamil rebel groups had done in Sri Lanka and other groups elsewhere in the world, have done. Consequently confidence building measures were unilaterally pursued by the GOSL without demanding any reciprocal gestures. Interaction with foreign governments by the LTTE was encouraged in the hope that this exposure would broaden the thinking of a group wedded to a weapon-based culture.

The Kadirgamar assassination is the worst of a series of ceasefire violations. It is the most high profile assassination since the ceasefire came into force and is no doubt an outrage and a grave setback to the peace process. It is also one of hundreds of killings carried out by the LTTE after the CFA was signed, as part of its unabated policy to eliminate all political dissent. Democratic Tamil leaders such as Mr. A. Amirthalingam former leader of the TULF and Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, TULF M.P., and Human Rights Activist, who were seen by the LTTE as traitors or opponents of their cause were eliminated. While the LTTE is internationally notorious for their signature style of political killings - the suicide bomber - it is not their only modus operandi for carrying out assassinations. Pistol gangs and snipers are also part of their tactical repertoire. Investigations into the assassination of Mr. Kadirgamar so far have clearly established a direct link to the LTTE. The GOSL will act expeditiously to conclude investigations, apprehend those responsible and bring them to justice.

Despite this dastardly act, the GOSL will continue to adhere to and respect the CFA. As a responsible democratic government committed to the rule of law and human rights, the GOSL does not want to plunge the country back into armed conflict. The CFA has saved countless lives and prevented the wanton destruction of property. It has facilitated the movement of people, goods and services from the North and the East to the South and vice versa. Despite reports to the contrary, it has brought about a peace dividend for people particularly in the North and the East. But after the Kadirgamar assassination it cannot be business as usual. We are therefore engaged in a policy review, which we would like to share with the international community and seek cooperation in its implementation.

The areas in which we think policy review is necessary are:

  • The more effective functioning of the CFA

  • Ensuring the practice of democratic freedoms by all Tamils and Muslims in the LTTE dominated areas of the North and the East

  • A serious effort to stop child recruitment by the LTTE

  • The urgent need to address human rights issues involved in ceasefire violations

  • The continuation of development and humanitarian assistance to the people of the North and the East

  • The urgent need for sanctions by the international community for persistent violations of the CFA

In all of these areas, we seek the understanding and active co-operation of the international community in general and the USA in particular.

(a) Reviewing the CFA

There is, first of all, a need to review the functioning of the CFA that is now far more urgent than before. In the aftermath of the assassination, the President of Sri Lanka wrote to the Prime Minister of Norway, requesting “an urgent meeting between the government and the LTTE…. to review the practical functioning of the ceasefire with a view to preventing further killings and other violations". The GOSL has been calling for a review of the implementation of the CFA for quite sometime, a request endorsed by the SLMM but steadfastly resisted by the LTTE until they found it expedient to divert the recent outrage and opprobrium expressed by the international community in the aftermath of the Kadirgamar assassination by agreeing to these talks.

The GOSL expectation is that these talks will be technical level discussions between representatives of the armed forces of the government on the one part and the LTTE on the other on the practical functioning of the CFA with a view to preventing further killings. I have just been informed that the LTTE has rejected a Norwegian proposal that the talks be held at the Bandaranaike International Airport, which the government had accepted.

(b) Democratic freedoms

The GOSL also recognizes that in the long run a mere review of the CFA may not be sufficient to halt violations of the CFA. According to statistics maintained by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, which monitors the CFA, up to August 2005 the LTTE has a record of 3113 violations of the CFA as against 141 by the Government, which represents a ratio of 22 to 1. I would like to highlight for you the qualitative nature of these violations. Political killings are merely a symptom of LTTE’s intolerance of dissent. The basic right to express one’s opinion, to associate, to engage in political activity, to vote freely - are the foundations of a democracy. More than three years after the CFA it does not appear that the LTTE is able to change and accept the imperative for democratization and the fact that it is not the ‘sole representative of the Tamil people’. Similarly, more than three years after the CFA, Tamil people, or the representatives of the Tamil political parties, who express independent opinions or engage in political activity outside the framework laid down by the LTTE are still on a death sentence. In contrast, the CFA in Art. 1.13 allows LTTE cadres to engage in political work in GOSL controlled areas and the GOSL has also recognized LTTE’s right to set up political offices in these areas.

International pressure on the LTTE is needed to allow other parties to conduct political activities in LTTE controlled areas.

(c) Child Combatants

A majority of CFA violations (54%) relate to child recruitment, in blatant disregard of the undertaking the LTTE has given to the United Nations in 1998 and the UNICEF Action Program of mid 2003.

On the question of child recruitment, the Sri Lankan government welcomes the UN Security Council Resolution 1612(2005), which establishes a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the use of child soldiers, and will work closely with UNICEF to give effect to this resolution.

(d) Human Rights

These violations, whether they are political killings or child recruitment, are carried out with impunity even in the face of international condemnation as there are no sanctions against such violations. The SLMM as conceived in the CFA has a ‘naming and shaming’ role. Furthermore, given that a majority of CFA violations fall into the category of violations of a human rights nature, rather than of a military nature, the SLMM is inadequately equipped to deal with such violations, as they are mainly staffed by personnel with a military/police background.

There is also now a consensus emerging among civil society in Sri Lanka that a separate human rights agreement may be necessary to stem the tide of human rights violations by the LTTE. Human rights missions in El Salvador and Guatemala demonstrate the crucial role of promoting and protecting human rights in rebuilding trust and fostering a climate of reconciliation after an armed conflict. In Guatemala the human rights verification mission (MINUGUA) was deployed in 1994, two years in advance of the final peace agreement signed by the Government and the Opposition. The National Peace Accord was signed in South Africa September 1991, long before agreement was reached on a new constitution for SA.

In Sri Lanka, it was understood that the process of negotiations for a solution to the armed conflict will be a long one, before ultimate human rights commitments are agreed upon and included as part of constitutional arrangements. But the need to address human rights issues in the interim was recognized by both parties during the fourth and fifth rounds of the peace talks. Accordingly, the two parties agreed to invite Mr. Ian Martin to act as an international human rights advisor and to draw up a road map on human rights issues relating to the peace process, which could form an agreement between the two parties.

However, with the unilateral suspension of the peace talks in April 2003, it has not been able to make any progress on the road map. Mr. Ian Martin is expected to visit Sri Lanka again this year, and it is our hope that we will be able to recommence the discussion relating to addressing human rights as a matter of priority as the continuation of these violations will seriously jeopardize the future of our peace process.

The GOSL has also commenced a dialogue with the UN on the issue of addressing human rights within the peace process. Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Advisor to the SG was in Sri Lanka just before my departure to the US to discuss a possible UN role in this regard.

This discussion on the CFA and its limitations has, I believe, already highlighted the considerable role played by the international community in the peace process in Sri Lanka and the potential for other actors. The Royal Norwegian Government, which facilitated the CFA in 2001, continues to act as the facilitator and the CFA is monitored by the Nordic staffed SLMM. Other international actors have also supported Sri Lanka’s peace process through economic assistance and a variety of diplomatic tools.

(e) Development and Humanitarian Assistance

The international community has provided enormous support to the peace process in Sri Lanka through economic assistance to rebuild the North and the East affected by the armed conflict. Since the CFA was signed, international donor conferences were held in Oslo and Tokyo, as well as a preparatory meeting in Washington to mobilize political and economic support for the peace process. At the Tokyo Donor Conference held in June 2003, the international community pledged $4.5 billion to support the GOSL's efforts to address the immediate and long-term needs of the conflict-affected North and the East. The US, EU, Norway and Japan, which were named Co-Chairs to the Tokyo Donor Conference, have continued to meet to monitor progress in Sri Lanka’s peace process.

The Government through the Ministry of RRR has been delivering this international humanitarian and development assistance to the affected people of the North and the East, including those in the uncleared areas of Mullaitivu and Killinochchi. I am happy to say that this work has been done with the cooperation of the LTTE, and as I mentioned earlier, people in the North and the East have therefore benefited from the ceasefire, through a peace dividend. Let me now identify some of the very specific programmes being undertaken in the North and the East, since the ceasefire was signed.

  • The RRR Ministry with donor assistance is at present implementing an impressive number of projects, which include resettlement of internally displaced persons and assistance to host communities, rehabilitation of basic physical infrastructure such as roads, irrigation programmes, power, and communication facilities as well as rebuilding of social and communal services such as health, education, sanitation and judicial services. The CFA has also enabled the return of a large number of refugees mainly from India.

  • The demining efforts undertaken by the Government together with NGO’s have facilitated this resettlement of IDP’s as well as reconstruction and rehabilitation work in the North and the East. Consequent to the ceasefire agreement, a comprehensive programme for demining is being coordinated and implemented by the GOSL during the last 2 years. We are particularly appreciative of the role of the U.S. in this programme.

  • Perhaps as a direct result of these efforts, GDP in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces has shown remarkable growth. According to research done by the Economic Affairs Division of my office, the highest GDP growth rates during the post-CFA period are in the Northern Province (12.6% per annum) and in the Eastern Province (10.1% per annum.), in contrast to other provinces in Sri Lanka. The engine of growth in the North and the East during the post-CFA has been the agricultural sector with the industrial and service sectors also making useful contributions; rice production in the North and the East has reached pre-conflict levels and recorded a surplus during the last harvest. The North has the lowest rate of unemployment - 5.8% as against 8.9% for the national average.

  • Furthermore, GOSL is looking at investment promotion strategies specific to the conflict-affected areas and exploring ways of improving the investment climate in general in the North and the East. Attracting private-sector investment in troubled areas is not easy and at present the government is negotiating a Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) facility to promote investment in the North and the East. MIGA is the political risk insurance arm of the World Bank, which promotes foreign direct investment in developing countries by insuring against political risk and by providing technical assistance.

While the international community also showed a keen interest to support the Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS), which was agreed upon by the GOSL and the LTTE for equitable allocation of donor funds, the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been delayed due to a stay order on some provisions of the MOU by the Supreme Court, relating to the Regional Committee and the Regional Fund set up under the MOU. The Government has filed its written objections to the case and will also vigorously argue that the MOU does neither violate provisions of the Constitution nor governmental regulations, when the case is taken up on the 12th of September.

Despite the delay in implementing the MOU on P-TOMS, foreign economic assistance obtained for post tsunami reconstruction work is being disbursed through the Ministry of RRR and other line Ministries in order to bring relief to the tsunami affected people in the North and the East. The role of the UN agencies and the local and international NGOs remain significant in these areas.

I must also emphasize that the GOSL will continue its humanitarian and development work in the North and the East as a matter of priority, irrespective of the progress made in the peace process, as the people of the North and the East cannot be penalized for the faults of the LTTE.

(f) Sanctions and Pressures

With the exception of the USA, UK, Australia and India, which has banned the LTTE as a terrorist outfit, a number of international governments have followed a policy of constructive engagement with both parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka. Constructive engagement with the LTTE has meant direct interaction with the LTTE in Kilinochchi, on issues relevant to the peace process, reconstruction and rehabilitating activities and hosting LTTE delegations in their own countries. Since the CFA, the LTTE has made several tours to Europe. The last tour also included a visit to South Africa. In the past, the GOSL has encouraged these visits, in the belief that it is a useful exercise for the LTTE to learn about democracy, concepts of governance, power sharing, federalism etc., to broaden their horizons and that it will assist in their transformation from a terrorist outfit to a democratic institution.

Foreign governments have also sought to make public, their stance on issues related to the Sri Lanka peace process through policy statements or statements of encouragement/condemnation thereby influencing the actors and stakeholders in the conflict in Sri Lanka. These diplomatic tools have however, made little or no impact on the LTTE to either desist from violations of the CFA or return to the negotiating table, which they left in April 2003.

Direct peace negotiations between the GOSL and the LTTE that are critical in any peace process have been stalled since April 2003. The six (6) rounds of peace talks yielded a number of significant decisions such as the establishment of a Committee for De-escalation and Normalization, a Gender Committee, a Sub Committee for Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs, and the Oslo Decision signed by the two sides in December 2002, in which both parties agreed “to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking peoples, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka”. None of these committees are now functioning and the Oslo decision also remains a dead letter with the LTTE steadfastly refusing to reiterate it publicly.

The stalemate over the reopening of negotiations has revolved around whether the ISGA proposal by the LTTE alone should be the only subject of the agenda as the LTTE has demanded or whether all proposals for an interim authority should be discussed as a prelude to a final settlement within the framework of the Oslo decision, as the Government has proposed. This dispute over the agenda probably conceals other factors. Since March 2004 a dramatic split in the ranks of the LTTE has resulted in a murky internecine war between the Karuna faction, a break away group of the LTTE, and the Kilinochchi based LTTE.

In many ways, the international community has been indulgent of the LTTE, subordinating democracy and human rights to keep the peace process alive, rewarding the LTTE with various incentives, in the hope that dialogue and engagement will slowly democratize the organization. This however is no longer a tenable policy.

The recent Kadirgamar assassination has thrown up hard questions about the role of the international community in Sri Lanka’s peace process. Both the Royal Norwegian Government and the SLMM has had to perform a difficult task under extremely difficult circumstances and the GOSL is extremely grateful to them for the work they are doing to support peace in Sri Lanka. Despite media criticism and widespread speculation, I must emphasize here that the GOSL does not intend to replace Norway as facilitator. The GOSL, however, believes that the international community has an important role to play in supplementing the role of Norway as facilitator by applying pressure on the LTTE.

This may be an opportune moment to undertake a fundamental review or ‘redesign’ of the peace process in Sri Lanka. GOSL’s discussions with representatives of the international community in Colombo reveal that there is broad agreement that we have to take a fresh look at the peace process. The route of appeasement or the ‘carrot and more carrots’ approach, have not worked with the LTTE. Immediately after the Kadirgamar assassination, the GOSL called for concerted international action that is immediate and tangible against the LTTE, to include not only those that have a bearing on the LTTE, but also its numerous front organizations in many countries through which it continues its reign of terror in Sri Lanka.

In the globalized world of today, the trajectory of internal conflicts are often influenced by international developments and pressures. Analysts of internal conflicts have concluded that international involvement in internal conflicts is eventually inevitable as a passive as well as an active factor. The question is how to ensure such pressure is positive rather than negative.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga in a recent address to the nation pointed out that, “Terrorism has become today, the single most dominant global phenomenon. From New York to London, the western world has begun to experience terrorism, which we have for long suffered in Sri Lanka. Terrorism has been condemned globally while its true nature is recognized and rejected. The community of nations represented by the United Nations Organization and its Security Council has now united to oppose terrorism practically and effectively”.

The United States as a close friend of Sri Lanka, and as a member of the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference, has consistently supported a sanctions based approach to the LTTE, and maintained that the US listing of the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization will remain in effect until it renounces terrorism in word and deed.

Indeed it is the international safety net provided by such a sanctions based approach that has allowed the GOSL to continue to negotiate with the LTTE to find a peaceful solution to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. In order for the GOSL to be able to talk to the LTTE without further alienating the peace constituency in Sri Lanka, the international community must take a tough stand against them. This will help move the peace process forward.

I would like to conclude by saying that the impact of the international community has been mixed in Sri Lanka’s peace process. On the one hand it has had a positive impact on the sustainability of the peace process through sustained interest and economic support. It has however, not been particularly effective in stemming the tide of grave ceasefire violations, insisting on a resumption of talks or transforming the LTTE into a democratic institution.

The next meeting of the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference is scheduled for the 19th of September in New York. It is an opportunity for the U.S. to continue to show leadership at that meeting to ensure that acts of terrorism like the Kadirgamar assassination would not go unpunished and that conditions for human rights and democracy to flourish in all parts of Sri Lanka would be created.

As Sri Lanka enters a democratic process of electing a new President, the LTTE must be under no illusion that they can get away by assassinating political leaders and resorting to electoral malpractices in the areas controlled by them as they have done on previous occasions.

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