Co-chairs get tough with LTTE, Lanka | india | Hindustan Times
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Co-chairs get tough with LTTE, Lanka

The Co-Chairs have asked the warring parties to pull back from the present crisis, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2006 14:26 IST

The Co-Chairs of the 2003 Aid Lanka Conference, who met in Tokyo on Tuesday, called upon the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to pull back from the present crisis, take immediate steps to reverse the deteriorating situation, and put Sri Lanka back on the road to peace.

The Co-Chairs, comprising Japan, US, EU and Norway, represent the "international community" in the Sri Lankan peace process.

Their call came a day after the European Union's Council of Ministers took the decision to ban the LTTE.

Japan had convened the meeting at Tokyo, three years after the original Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka, to decide whether the Co-Chairs, could help address Sri Lanka's crisis, when the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE did not seem to be able to prevent a slide back into violence.

Addressing the LTTE first, the Co-Chairs said: "The LTTE must re-enter the negotiating process. It must renounce terrorism and violence. It must show that it is willing to make the political compromises needed for a political solution within a united Sri Lanka."

"The international community will respond favourably to such actions; failure to do so will lead to deeper isolation of the LTTE," they warned.

Addressing the Sri Lankan government, the Co-Chairs said: "The Government must show that it will address the legitimate grievances of the Tamils. It must immediately prevent groups based in its territory from carrying out violence and acts of terrorism.

It must protect the rights and security of Tamils throughout the country and ensure violators are prosecuted."

"The Tamil and Muslim peoples of Sri Lanka have justified and substantial grievances that have not yet been adequately addressed," Co-Chairs pointed out.

They encouraged the Government of the Sri Lanka to further develop concrete policies for addressing the grievances of minorities and for building mutual confidence between different communities.

Call for "dramatic" changes

The Co-Chairs asked the Sri Lankan government to show that it was ready to make "dramatic political changes" to bring about a new system of governance which would enhance the rights of all Sri Lankans, including the Muslims.

"The international community will support such steps; failure to take such steps will diminish international support," they warned.

The Co-Chairs recognised that both parties had responsibilities, which they had failed to deliver upon, including the commitments made at their meeting in Geneva in February 2006.

"The LTTE is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks. The Government has failed to prevent attacks of armed groups, including Karuna and violent elements of EPDP," the Co-chairs pointed out.

Civilians terrorised

"The violence that has resulted is no longer confined to the parties to the conflict but has spilled over to ruin or end the lives of innocent civilians. This has led to a breakdown of law and order and the terrorisation of the affected population," the Co-Chairs said.

Abuses of human rights had been assessed recently by the UN and others. The Co-Chairs called on all parties to respect human rights and pursue human rights' abuses.

Even though the situation caused "grave concern", the Co-Chairs concluded that the ingredients for a peaceful settlement remained.

"The majority in Sri Lanka still seek peace," they noted.

Role for India?

The Co-Chairs renewed their commitment to do all possible to help Sri Lanka in a manner that promoted peace and to support the current Norwegian-facilitated peace effort.

Perhaps alluding to India, they said: "Other countries and organizations share this view and wish to support the Co-Chairs' effort.

To this end, the Co-Chairs will explore interest for allocating tasks to other groups of countries to improve the efficiency of work within the areas defined by the participants in the Tokyo Conference three years ago."

Onus is on Lankans, not outsiders

Asking Sri Lankans to make efforts to solve the problem the Co-Chairs warned that outsiders could not solve their problems.

"Three years of work since the original Tokyo Conference shows the international community can only support but cannot deliver peace. Peace can only be delivered by Sri Lankans themselves."

"The solutions to the problem cannot be brought through conflict - the history of Sri Lanka shows that war is not winnable for either side and simply causes immense suffering to the citizens."

"Finding solutions requires political commitment, imagination and spirit of compromise and the responsibility for this lies solely with the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE," the Co-Chairs said.

The Co-Chairs' role could be meaningful only where those parties wanted to help themselves in bringing peace with commitment and honesty, they stressed.

Commitment to unity of Lanka

The Co-Chairs said that they would support any solution agreed by the parties that safeguarded the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, assured protection and fulfilled the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people and indeed of the Muslim people, guaranteed democracy and human rights, and was acceptable to all communities.

Norway had prepared a number of initiatives for the parties to return to talks, which would be issued shortly. And the Co-Chairs endorsed these initiatives, the statement said.