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Statement of University Academics for Sustainable Peace (Sri Lanka)

The Conference of University Academics for Sustainable Peace, attended by over 150 academics from twelve different universities in the country, and held on the 28th of July 2002 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute,

Having considered and exchanged views on economic, social and humanitarian issues in respect of war and peace,

Recognizing the need to address political, constitutional, democracy and human rights issues for a permanent and a sustainable peace, and 

Realizing the importance of the ongoing peace process, the ceasefire and the proposed negotiations,

Agree upon the following policy recommendations and resolutions.   

Against War

We express our strong opposition to war. The war has devastated the country and aggravated misunderstandings, mistrust, and suspicions between the different communities. It has destroyed lives as well as the livelihood of men and women, the education of children, family life and the economy of the country. The main sufferers from war have been children and women. Our sympathies are with the displaced people of all communities, the Tamils, the Muslims and the Sinhalese, and those who have lost their kith and kin because of the war. The war has militarized and dehumanized the country. Demilitarization is a priority. We condemn any party to the conflict resorting to war again or rousing any type of communal violence.

Towards Positive Peace

We express our support to this ongoing peace process. It is built on (1) the approval and endorsement of the people at several elections, (2) the various attempts at peace in the past, and (3) the positive contributions made by the international community. However, the current ceasefire is not complete peace. It is a good starting point. Nevertheless, it has to be seized upon without delay to convert the prevailing negative peace towards positive peace through political negotiations. Correcting injustices to the Tamil and other communities is necessary. This entails (1) new constitutional arrangements toward more devolution, while ensuring adequate power sharing at the centre and (2) policy changes that are necessary to accommodate the aspirations of all the Sri Lankan nationalities in the economic, social, political and cultural spheres.

We strongly emphasize the importance of (1) protecting and promoting all human rights of all individuals and communities without any delay, (2) restoring democracy, democratic institutions and democratic electoral processes particularly in the war affected areas as early as possible, (3) introducing security guarantees and (4) strengthening the capacity of social institutions to build and sustain positive peace. There should be a firm commitment on the part of the parties to the conflict to human rights, democracy and pluralism, if we are to transform negative peace to positive peace.

Inclusive Negotiations

We strongly urge the Government and the LTTE (1) to start political negotiations with necessary care and due preparation without delay and (2) to seek a consensus with the opposition. We equally urge all political parties of all communities to forge a common approach to peace and national reconciliation through initiating a parallel process of democratic dialogue and discussion. A common approach necessarily requires the moderation of currently held positions and policies of all parties. Intransigent policies or positions will not bring sustainable or any peace to this country. Negotiations and agreements between the representatives of all concerned parties are required for a lasting and sustainable peace. We further request open, transparent and inclusive political negotiations, with constructive inputs from civil society organizations and the international community.    

What We Can Do

Believing that university academics could play a major role in national reconciliation and peace in this country through education, research, publication and other activities, the conference of University Academics for peace

Urge the government to take steps to ensure that a wide choice of educational materials that encourage pluralism and tolerance is readily available to students

Promote reforms that ensure accountability and ready responses to the needs and priorities of people at all tiers of administration

Resolve to take further steps to encourage the cooperation of universities and academic communities and to secure their involvement in policy making with regard to the socio-economic development of the country and national reconciliation.

28th July 2002

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