Time for peace talks, says British HC

Commending the progress both parties had made under the Ceasefire Agreement, British High Commissioner Linda Duffield said it was now time to start peace talks.

Speaking in Jaffna on 19 June at the re-opening of the Jaffna Clock Tower, the British High Commissioner said "Sri Lanka stands today at crossroads. This is a historic opportunity to build a lasting peace and to restore the ties of friendship and co-operation between communities torn apart by war. The guns have been silent for 6 months now. People are beginning to rebuild their lives and to rebuild an economy shattered by war. For the sake of future generations, a return to conflict must be unthinkable."

Miss Duffield said it was now time to move beyond the Ceasefire Agreement and start direct talks. "Differences could more easily be resolved at the negotiating table," she added, calling on all parties to commit to a firm date for starting talks and to enter those talks "with good faith, flexibility and a determination to remain at the negotiating table until there is a settlement".

Speaking to the people of Jaffna, the British High Commissioner said: "Peace building is not just a task for politicians but for all the people of Sri Lanka. It is time to stand up and be counted and to ensure that the voice of all communities, for peace, is heard loud and strong across the island’.

The British High Commissioner Linda Duffield was in Jaffna for the formal reopening of the Jaffna Clock Tower, in fulfilment of a pledge made four years ago by the Prince of Wales, His Royal Highness Prince Charles.

The Jaffna Clock Tower commemorates the visit in 1875 of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to Ceylon and was built as a memento to the Prince of Wales and to Sir James Longden, who was the Governor of Ceylon between 1872 and 1884. In the late 1980s the tower was badly damaged during fighting in the city.

When His Royal Highness Prince Charles visited Sri Lanka in 1998, as part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence, he heard about the Jaffna Clock Tower dedicated to his ancestor, and pledged to help with its restoration.

The British Government has donated over 1 million rupees towards the renovation and the purchase of a new clock for the Tower.

The British High Commissioner said that the restored clock tower was a symbol of the full support given by Britain to the peace process in Sri Lanka.