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An Appeal

The Alliance for Peace and Integration

The Alliance for Peace and Integration (API) welcomes and supports the recent moves of the United National Front (UNF) Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) toward peace negotiations.  It is also heartwarming to see that the Peoples Alliance has come forward to extend their support to the peace initiatives.  This is unprecedented in the post-independence history of Sri Lanka, where sectarian politics had been the major obstacle to resolving the ethnic crisis. 

We of API have been widely involved in promoting devolution of power, awareness raising campaigns and the empowering of marginal and affected ‘minority’ communities for several years in the recent past.  We recognize the need for a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict where all communities in this country can realize their collective and individual aspirations within the structure of a pluralist democracy.  We hold that the ethnic conflict can be resolved only by redressing the grievance s of collectives that have been adversely affected by the processes of state-building in the post-independence period. As such, we hold that a lasting solution will involve granting autonomy to the Tamils, devolution of power to the North and the East, power-sharing at the center, the effective implementation of Tamil language as an official language and redress to stateless persons of the plantation Tamil community. Also, demilitarization of the conflict is imperative in any move toward normalcy, for the Tamils, Muslims and the Sinhala people of the North and East.

For a long time, the ethnic conflict was seen as the national question of the Tamils, or the Tamil question.  We can no longer do so. We have come to a stage where we have to talk about the Muslims as integral to the solution to the conflict.  Both the Muslim and Tamil questions have to be treated as issues concerning collectivities and individuals. We extend this to the Sinhala people of the north and east who form a "minority" in those areas.

Identity related issues form the backbone of the crisis.  Resolving these issues is crucial.  At the same time, identity should not be taken to be homogenous and overarching to the extent that it can ever justifiably violate the needs and rights of individuals and collectivities subsumed under the larger identity.  Given this difficult situation it becomes a must in this transitional phase to balance the needs of collectivities and individuals within a democratic structure.

In this respect we advocate a solution that adopts a two pronged approach: collective aspirations and issues; democratic measures. Democracy is a question that has been given short political shrift in finding solutions to the conflict.  Today as we engage in Peace Talks this is our foremost concern. Although the LTTE came forward and declared a ceasefire for its part, it has been reported that the LTTE is systematically violating the human rights of Tamils and Muslims of the north and east. We are deeply concerned by reports of forced conscription of Tamil children and youth, intimidation, arrests and murder of Tamils by the LTTE.  Political opponents to the LTTE have also been targeted and some of these persons have gone missing.  Given that a ceasefire accepted by the government is in place today, such wide spread violation of human rights is shocking. These issues should be brought into the negotiation process and need to be addressed immediately. These violations not only undermine the peace talks but also, more importantly, touch upon the central issue of the security of the affected ‘minorities’ in the country.  Any negotiations for peace should attend to the central concern of identity and security of the people.  In this case, where the security of the minority communities is being threatened in a major way, all concerned parties involved in the peace process become accountable to the people for these acts.

We wholeheartedly support the peace initiative and the efforts of all parties concerned, particularly those of the Government and the LTTE, toward arriving at a  settlement.   While we do so, we appeal to all three parties, the Sri Lankan Government, the LTTE and the Norwegian Facilitators to attend to these issues that affect Tamils and Muslims in the North and East. We also appeal to all other parties and groups engaged in whatever form in the Peace Talks to raise this as one of the issues of great importance in any negotiations. This is central to the issue of peace, democracy and a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict.

Dr Jayantha Seneviratne on behalf of the The Director Board, Alliance for Peace and Integration

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