PM urges LTTE to continue partnership
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a mild and conciliatory reply to the strident letter of LTTEs Anton Balasingham announcing the suspension of peace negotiations has hoped that the LTTE would review its present stance and continue the partnership which the LTTE itself has considered as having already achieved considerable success.
Referring to the charge of aggressive military occupation of Northern cities and civilian settlement and the High Security Zones (HSZ) the Prime Minister has stated that the report prepared by General Nambiar on the review of the High Security Zones, as mentioned in the talks of 6-9 January would be made available when talks resume.
Explaining further, the Prime Minister has stated that ever since the ceasefire, the policy of the government had been to restore normalcy in order that the civilian population would be enabled to carry on their customary livelihood. The visible signs of this are, the increased production in fisheries and the bumper paddy harvest that has been experienced in the recent Maha season in Wanni.
On the release of HSZ in Jaffna, Mr. Wickremesinghe has stated that Mr. Austin Fernando, Secretary Defence by his letter dated April 27, 2003 has informed Tamilchelvan of the intention of the army to release the two hotels in Jaffna Town and the surrounding houses. Re-fabricated buildings to house the troops have already been ordered, he has added.
In the face of very positive developments albeit not at a pace which would have been desired, it was extremely unfortunate that the LTTE leadership had decided to suspend its participation in negotiations for the time being, the Prime Minister has noted.
Replying to Balasinghams charge of governments role in the LTTE not being invited to the donor conference held in Washington as a "grave breach" Mr. Wickremesinghe has cited two reasons. One was the fact that such a seminar would enable the gathering of major donors who would be present in Washington as participants in the important Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF. The other reason was that it was important to obtain the commitment of the donors to this process before their attention was absorbed by the needs of Iraq as a consequence of the situation following that conflict.
Replying to the charge of non-implementation of terms and conditions of the truce document, the Prime Minister has said that both sides have obligations to fulfil the terms of the ceasefire agreement. "I agree with you that there is yet much to be done to implement fully the provisions of the ceasefire agreement. Our view is that both parties should commit themselves to doing so", Mr. Wickremesinghe has stressed.
The following is the full text of the Prime Ministers reply to Balasingham.
"I write further to my letter of 22nd April 2003 in response to yours of 21st April, in which you had expressed your organisations concern in relation to some critical issues on the ongoing peace process.
I must at the outset express my complete agreement with you that during the 14 months in which the Ceasefire Agreement has been consolidated as a result of the sincerity and determination shown by both sides, there has been substantial progress towards peace and development throughout the country. For instance:
`95 The Ceasefire has held for a period of 14 months; the daily toll of dead and maimed combatants and civilians has been brought to a halt.
`95 SLMM procedures have been strengthened and its activities and coverage expanded; critical situations which would earlier have led to conflict have been defused and resolved.
`95 Places of worship and schools occupied by the Military have been handed over.
`95 The Government and LTTE have established SIHRN an institution for decision making in which both have equal participation.
`95 Through a joint approach by the Government and the LTTE to the Donors, a funding mechanism NERF has been established.
`95 Some of the issues pertaining to the Muslims have been addressed.
`95 Detailed study of Federal and Government structures has been undertaken by both sides.
`95 The Joint Gender Committee has been set up.
`95 Positive working relationships have been established between the parties at operational level.
`95 The international donors, both multilateral and bilateral, have already disbursed substantial funding (in excess of US$ 30 million) for humanitarian and rehabilitation work in the North-East.
"Although it has not been possible to reach agreement on all matters our joint resolve to cooperate has provided the space and confidence for the international community to participate in rehabilitation and development. The 14 month period of peace has therefore been one of steady progress and hope to our people.
"Let me take up one by one, the various reasons which appear to have led your organisation to take what you have termed as a "painful decision."
1. Exclusion of the LTTE from the Preparatory Seminar in Washington:
"As you would know, the Japanese Government suggested preparatory seminars in Washington, Brussels and Oslo prior to the Tokyo Conference. The Government of Norway later felt that it would forego this opportunity since the Oslo meeting last November had virtually served this purpose. Subsequently for various logistical reasons mainly connected with the Iraq crisis, the decision to hold a meeting in Europe was changed and it was proposed to have a preparatory meeting in Colombo in May. These arrangements were discussed at the meeting at Hakone.
"There were two other significant reasons for going ahead with the Washington seminar in April. The first, was the fact that such a seminar would enable the gathering of major Donors who would be present in Washington as participants in the important Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF. The other reason was that it was important to obtain commitment of the Donors to this process before their attention was absorbed by the needs of Iraq as a consequence of the situation following that conflict.
"The Washington preparatory seminar was not a pledging conference. The multilateral organisations present at the seminar announced their indicative figures under their Country programme at the meeting.
"The LTTEs inability to attend the seminar was due to the fact that the organisation still remains a banned organisation under United States Law. I regret the LTTE could not participate and you will appreciate that the Government cannot be blamed for this situation.
"From the inception the Government was committed to working with the LTTE in rebuilding the North-East. In fact the Tokyo Conference offered by the Japanese Government as a pledging conference for the Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka took this fact into consideration. The Conference is to be opened by the Prime Minister of Japan.
2. The non-implementation of the terms and conditions enunciated in the truce document:
"Both sides have obligations to fulfil the terms of the Ceasefire Agreement. While there has been increasing compliance, I agree with you that there is yet much to be done to implement fully, the provisions of the Ceasefire Agreement. Our view is that both parties should commit themselves to doing so.
"The presence of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has undoubtedly helped in ensuring, to the extent possible, the observance of the Ceasefire in all its aspects. The final objective of course is normalisation of the ground situation. However in view of the fact that the conflict has been long drawn out, normalisation is bound to be a difficult process. Both sides I know, have been impatient at the pace at which normalisation has taken place and it would be necessary to renew our joint commitment to make progress.
3. The suffering and hardship experienced by hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Tamils:
"The highest priority has been given by the Government, your organisation and the international community to alleviate the conditions of the internally displaced, as quickly as possible. We ourselves have pledged at the last election to (a) take steps to make life easier for the people of the North and East, and (b) solve the problems of people who have been displaced and rendered helpless by war. In fact there has been progress. The Government has taken substantial loans from the World Bank and ADB for re-settlement of internally displaced persons and the numbers have been reduced significantly.
"There is also the further question of de-mining of the lands in which internally displaced persons would be settling and an effective programme is underway with several international donors committed to humanitarian mine action. Indeed the work of your own TRO and its humanitarian de-mining unit working in the Vanni in this endeavour, is highly appreciated.
"Of course there is much more to be done to make life better for the people. There have been delays in implementation due to the breakdown in Government administration as a result of the twenty year conflict. In the last few weeks we have been discussing the measures to strengthen the effectiveness of implementation and to establish an effective coordination mechanism for administration in the Northern districts - the districts worst affected by the war. The Government will keep the LTTE briefed on these proposals prior to implementation.
"We will also convey to you our views on making SIRHN more effective and look forward to reaching agreement on the modifications that are needed. As Mr Bernard Goonetillekes letter of 28th April 2003 would have informed Mr Tamilchelvan, we have formulated procedures to commence the 15 approved projects while the formal arrangements for NERF are being finalised. The Norwegian Facilitator will be apprising you of the manner in which we are overcoming this problem.
4. The aggressive Military occupation of Northern cities and civilian settlement:
"Ever since the Ceasefire, the policy of the Government has been to restore normalcy in order that the civilian population would be enable to carry on their customary livelihood. The visible signs of this are, the increased production in fisheries and the bumper paddy harvest that has been experienced in the recent Maha season in the Vanni.
"Though there are yet steps to be taken to reduce the constraints now necessitated by security considerations, the difference in peoples lives over the past year is I believe quite evident. The Government is committed, as I mentioned earlier, to resolve the issues of the persons displaced by war. Mr Austin Fernando, Secretary Defence by his letter dated 27th April 2003 informed Mr Tamilchelvan of the intention of the Army to release the two hotels in Jaffna town and the surrounding houses. Pre-fabricated buildings to house the troops have already been ordered. The Report prepared by General Nambiar on the Review of the High Security Zones, as mentioned in the Talks of 6th - 9th January will also be available when the talks resume.
5. The marginalisation of the people of North-East in the macro economic policies and strategies of the Government:
"A careful reading of the "Regaining Sri Lanka" document which contains the vision and strategy for acceleration of development will indicate the degree to which conflict-related development has been emphasised.
"Regaining Sri Lanka is the National Economic Policy Framework of the Government. Its objective is to achieve and sustain a high rate of growth for a decade or so which will enable
(a) the creation of employment opportunities and
(b) generation of sufficient economic resources for long-term development of the North-East.
"The specific strategies and plans for promoting economic development in the North East will be worked out in consultation with the LTTE. There is no intention to exclude the LTTE from the process.
"One of the achievements for the Government and the LTTE was the ability to cooperate in commissioning the Multi Agency Needs Assessment to identify the reconstruction and rehabilitation requirements of the North-East. Once the two parties agree on this Report, it will become the official planning framework for the rebuilding of the North-East. Reference to the planning framework will be included in the Regaining Sri Lanka document. This planning framework will also be submitted to the Tokyo Donor Meeting in addition to the Regaining Sri Lanka document.
"In the face of these very positive developments, albeit not at the pace which we might have desired, it is extremely unfortunate that the LTTE leadership has decided to suspend its participation in the negotiations for the time being.
"I am however, encouraged by the reiteration of your commitment to seek a negotiated political solution to the question, and in furtherance of this, hope that you would, at this decisive time, review your present stance, and continue a partnership which has as you have conceded, already achieved considerable success.
"I believe finally this would be in complete accord with the firm desire of all our people that the peace process continues without interruption."
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