I.A. Welcomes cease-fire, urges regional self-government
International Alert appreciates that the Sri Lankan Government has responded to the LTTE's cease-fire of 1st January by declaring a 7 day tentative cease-fire from 4th January.
Echoing demands from inside as well as outside Sri Lanka, International Alert calls upon the Sri Lankan Government and all political parties in the country to take this opportunity to make a serious and clear offer of regional self-government for the Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka. This could well be done along the lines of federal or similar arrangement prevailing in many countries around the world without impairing their unity, says I.A. representative Eduardo Marino, recently in Colombo.
The international community - long concerned with the grave situation in Sri Lanka - should welcome in principle the unilateral cease-fire by the Tamil guerrilla LTTE as from 1st January 1991. The international community should look forward to a considered and prompt constructive response by the Government of Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka as elsewhere in the world, experience shows that a cease-fire, in order to be more than a tactical gesture and actually be conducive to meaningful peace talks, must be accompanied by practical guarantees and be impartially monitored.
In the circumstances found in the North and East regions of Sri Lanka, where the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil guerrillas have been fighting with big losses on both sides and causing tremendous loss of life and high levels of material destruction among the population, there can be no better guarantee to start with than a solemn agreement by all sides to fully respect the main rules of the international law of armed conflict.
Such an agreement would immediately test the intentions of all combatants and start building confidence within both the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil guerrilla as well as among the population at large.
In practice this would include a commitment to:
- release all hostages and not to take any more hostages;
- stop all torture and executions of captives and prisoners;
- stop using civilians in mine-clearing operations;
- stop recruiting for combat boys and girls under 15;
- stop bombing and shelling populated areas;
- stop all reprisals on civilians including food blockades;
- stop all acts of terrorisation of civilians as a means of obtaining their support, and all looting as a way of compensation of combatants.
- allow humanitarian access to all prisoners of war.
These measures accompanying the cease-fire would immediately transform for the better the conflict scenario.
Any credible cease-fire demands impartial monitoring.
The United Nations (UN) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have already been performing excellent work in Sri Lanka for some time. The former has been present in the form of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the North and East provinces. The latter has been represented by a delegation of the ICRC rendering a variety of humanitarian services throughout the country. Neither the UN nor the ICRC are bodies foreign to Sri Lanka but agencies of the international system of which Sri Lanka is a member with both rights and duties.
This is why the Government of Sri Lanka could consider seeking the services of both the UN and the ICRC to jointly monitor impartially the cease-fire and the compliance with the humanitarian guarantees. This could conceivably be done by way of widening the operational mandate of both the UN and the ICRC in Sri Lanka now, also in the spirit of the many precedents of co-operation between the UN and the ICRC in our parts of the world.
International Alert is well aware of the favourable disposition of many governments to back up in various ways a very serious, sincere and enlightened peace-effort in Sri Lanka at this point - and to cooperate in reconstruction and development thereafter. International Alert is mainly aware of the cry of the people in war regions for peace with human rights and self-determination with democracy.
A properly monitored cease-fire between combatants together with the humanitarian guarantees to safeguard non-combatants may be the first effective step. [Top]
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