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March 14, 2003

Toronto 

The editor
Daily News
Colombo.

Dear Sir,  

You should send this editorial (“Rational Choice for Sri Lanka” –CDN March 14,2003) to the like of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Prof. Peiris, Anura Bandaranayake JVP, MEP and the hawks in the governing party.

Justifying the sinking of the LTTE ship off the Mullaitivu coast Prof. Peiris says,  "They were acting according to the standard guidelines to protect the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the country which has also been identified in the ceasefire agreement. The Navy has not violated any local or international laws or the ceasefire agreement.” He also refuted the claims that the Defence Ministry stood idle over the incident; the Minister said the Navy did not require political consultation to carry out their duty. 

But the ceasefire agreement clearly says that neither party shall engage in any military action. One does not necessarily have to be a professor of law to interpret the MoU written in plain English.  Here is the exact wording of the relevant section:

Military operations

1.2 Neither party shall engage in any offensive military operation. This requires the total cessation of all military action and includes, but is not limited to, such acts as:

 

  • The firing of direct and indirect weapons, armed raids, ambushes, assassinations, abductions, destruction of civilian or military property, sabotage, suicide missions and activities by deep penetration units;
  • Aerial bombardment;
  • Offensive naval operations.

1.3 The Sri Lankan armed forces shall continue to perform their legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka WITHOUT ENGAGING IN OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST THE LTTE. (Emphasis mine)

 

The government is entitled to safeguard the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka,” but it should be done “WEITHOUT ENGAGING IN OFESIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST THE LTTE.” 

Therefore, it is no excuse the attack took place within the exclusive economic zone of Sri Lanka. An attack is an attack and it is an offensive operation. 

Like the government sinking the ship in order to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka; what if the LTTE to maintain military balance resume bomb attacks in Colombo? Will that be all right with the learned Professor? Will that be all right with him under the MoU?

I think the smooth talking Prof.Peiris has taken the LTTE delegation to a ride. Asked about the gift of a coast guard ship by US to the SL Navy Prof.Peiris replied tongue in cheek that   "the coastguard ship offered to the Sri Lankan Navy by the US Government, it was a clear indication of international backing for the Government on the path to peace!"  

The US which says it is interested in the ongoing peace process gifts a coastal ship fitted with all modern radar, guns etc. that will upset the military balance between the LTTE and GOSL! No doubt US is rocking the cradle and pinching the baby at one and the same time!

It appears that Prof. Peiris have learnt a few things from President Chandrika, George Bush and Tony Blair in the conduct of international of diplomacy.  Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush wants to bomb Iraq because both want to effect “ regime change” and “ restore democracy” and they will not be bound by  “an unreasonable” veto!  This is rewriting international law with a vengeance.

The fact should not be forgotten that Prof. Peiris as Minister for Constitutional Affairs and Deputy Minister of Finance in President Chandrika’s cabinet was part and parcel of  the "War for Peace" military operations that devastated and destroyed the infrastructure of the Northeast. 

 

V.Thangavelu

 

 

The rational choice for Lanka

Predictably, critics of the peace effort have reacted to the recent incident off the seas of Mullaitivu with a plethora of queries but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has highlighted perhaps what needs to be considered the country's sole concerns: should Sri Lanka traverse the ruinous path of war or persist on the road to a negotiated settlement of the conflict which could pave the way for economic prosperity? Should young lives be continued to be sacrificed in the flames of war?

True, the sinking of what has been described as an LTTE arms vessel by the Lankan Navy has raised some troubling issues but is there an alternative to the path of peace and reconciliation? These are not rhetorical questions but posers which go to the very heart of the challenges facing Sri Lanka. As we write, the news is out of continuing youth violence and gangsterism in the heart of Colombo. We have with us today a younger generation which has been born and bred amid the horrors of war. For sections of the young, violence and brutality seem to be natural options.

This is so because of our youths' relentless exposure to the blood-curdling realities of war and destruction.

Violence seems to be the only form of emotional release for the bitter frustrations welling within them. Thus has humanity been utterly disfigured by war. Continuing youth violence, however, is just one distortion bred by war. There are, of course, a multitude of others which we have highlighted and discussed in these pages over the years and with which most readers are familiar. The big question is, do we continue on this ruinous path and court absolute degeneration or do we lay the foundation for a better tomorrow by treading the hallowed path of national reconciliation?

There is no doubt that the sane and the rational would opt for the latter course which would affirm man's innate nobility. The path of savagery, on the other hand, would only debase man and make him descend to the lowest depths of degeneration. The latter condition, it need hardly be said, is synonymous with national ruin.

So, as should have been expected, we are up against some pitfalls on the path to a negotiated settlement of the conflict. However, on account of these lapses, do we return to the path of confrontation and strife or do we address our minds to ways and means of rectifying shortcomings in the peace effort with a view to making it work?

In view of the fact that there is no rational alternative to a negotiated end to the ethnic conflict, we need to persist with the current peace effort. It is our hope that Sri Lankans would enhance their humanity by striving on the road to peace and by confronting its challenges squarely.