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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 113

Anandasangaree urges Government to take measures to end minorities' frustration to win the war against terrorism

Colombo, 22 October, (Asiantribune.com): One of Sri Lanka’s veteran politician V Anandasangaree when addressing at the International Conference on Countering Terrorism, stressed the need for the Government of Sri Lanka to take appropriate steps to eliminate the frustration caused by racial discrimination, oppression, disparities, deprivations, denial of human rights etc., that is presently prevailing in the midst of the minority ethnic groups in the country. He has also recommended measures to be adopted by the Government and insisted for a solution based on the Indian modelconstitution that would satisfy those who are opposed to the Federal and Unitary type of constitution. He pointed out that the Indian one is neither federal nor unitary and the Indians take pride in saying that they believe in “Unity in diversity”.V Anandasangaree said that  the failure of the Members of Parliament representing the North and the East, made him to take the responsibility to free the people from the LTTE’s subjugation.V Anandasangaree said that the failure of the Members of Parliament representing the North and the East, made him to take the responsibility to free the people from the LTTE’s subjugation.

Anandasangaree spoke on 20th October, on the last day of the 3-day International Conference on Countering Terrorism held at the committee room of the Bandaranaike Memorial Conference Hall, Colombo.

In his address he pointed out that he had written a number of letters to V. Prabaharan, Leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the past three to four years pleading with him to give up his demand for separation and to accept a reasonable solution based on the Federal Concept.

Anandasangaree added that the failure of the Members of Parliament representing the North and the East, made him to take the responsibility to free the people from the LTTE’s subjugation.

He said, “Another reason being that the Kilinochchi Electorate I represented in Parliament for over 14 years is now fully under the control of the LTTE. I feel it as my duty to free the people whom I represented and to liberate the others also from the LTTE’s subjugation. “

“I have offered Mr. Prabaharan, to negotiate and obtain a general amnesty for him and his cadres if he agreed to give up his demand for separation and agree for a reasonable solution. I even offered to obtain for him and his cadres a bigger share in any interim administration, the Government may be contemplating. Neither he nor anyone else on his behalf responded in any way, to any of my offers. All what I got in return were unpleasant and demeaning criticism from the pro-LTTE Print and Electronic media, both of which are only interested in glorifying the actions of the LTTE,” said Anandasangaree.

The full text of the address made by V. Anandasangaree, President of the Tamil United Liberation Front at the International Conference on Countering Terrorism (ICCT) on 20th October 2007 at the BMICH, Colombo, is given below:

I consider it as a great honour for having been invited to address the International Conference on Countering Terrorism. I thank the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) for the invitation. The theme of this conference is “Terrorism – A Challenge to Democratically Elected Governments” and the topic assigned to me is “Transforming Terrorists – Lessons for Sri Lanka,” a subject that is not easy to handle in the Sri Lankan perspective. The problem of transforming terrorists is multi-faced, complicating and peculiar to Sri Lanka. Hence a briefing of the situation in Sri Lanka is necessary.

May I start by saying that Terrorism is not merely a challenge to democratically elected Governments; it is also a greater challenge for electing Democratic Governments. Since I am active in Politics for almost half a century and having contested six local elections and eight Parliamentary Elections, some successfully and some unsuccessfully, I like to share the experience I gained, with you all.

I am a victim of terror politics. Since 1983 we cannot boast of having democratically elected Governments in Sri Lanka. The last free and fair election held was in July, 1977 at which the party that captured power could gain 4/5th majority in Parliament and created history with no prospects for any other party to gain such a majority ever in the future. This massive mandate was given to rectify the wrongs of the previous government which too had a clear 2/3rd majority in Parliament. This 2/3rd majority was made use of to replace the Old Soulbury Constitution with a new one, doing away with the safeguards the Minorities had in the Old Constitution, such as the Senate, Right of Appeal to the Privy Council, Section 29 etc. The New Government ignored the massive mandate it got from the people.

It adopted a new constitution and to amend any provisions in the constitutions made it mandatory for a 2/3rd majority in Parliament and ratification at a referendum. The first past the post electoral system was replaced by the Proportional Representation system under which no government can ever get 2/3rd majority. Thereby, the Government that came to power in 1977 under the first past the post system had bound all future Parliaments in Sri Lanka by preventing them from making any amendment to the constitution without the support of the opposition.

Violating the established convention that “No Parliament can extend its own term of office” the 1977/83 Parliament extended, its own term of office by a referendum. The only occasion the British Parliament, Ceylon Legislative Council and Legislatures in many other countries all over the world, was during the 2nd world war and never after that – the only exception being Sri Lanka. Things were made worse by the amendment No. 6 of the constitution, passed in 1983. It prevented the TULF’s 18 Members of Parliament, including me, who vacated office protesting against the extension of the term of office by a referendum, from contesting to re-enter parliament. Subscribing to an Oath had been made mandatory by the amendment six, of the Constitution to seek election to Parliament. All those 18 seats remained vacant for a full term of 6 years from 1983 – 1989.

The amendment six of the constitution resulted in the Leadership of the Tamils taken away from the moderates and handed over to the armed groups. Many Militant groups took control of all Tamil areas both in the North and the East. Conscription and voluntary recruitment of youths and students took place in large numbers. Kidnappings, extortions and killings took place in Tamil areas at random in the early eighties. The arbitrary killings of the youths and student leaders by the armed forces, had been so common that contrary to suppressing the uprising, it only helped the groups to grow stronger. The arrival of IPKF in 1988 following the implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord made all militant groups other than the LTTE, to return to the democratic stream.

The LTTE not only attacked the IPKF but also either eradicated or expelled all the other Militant Groups that opted to give up arms and join the Democratic stream. It emerged as the only dominant group and gradually took control of two districts in full and parts of six others in the North and the East where Tamils are predominant. The Tamil people living in their areas were subjected to untold hardships and were living like slaves. They were deprived of most of their fundamental, democratic and human rights. The subjugation of the Tamil people was one of the reasons for the easy liberation of the Eastern Province from the LTTE. In the rest of the areas that are under their control in the Northern Province, they have become so unpopular that the peoples want themselves to be liberated early. Two Districts in full and three districts in parts are still under their control.

I had written a number of letters to Mr. V. Prabaharan, during the past three to four years pleading with him to give up his demand for separation and to accept a reasonable solution based on the Federal Concept. Failure of the Members of Parliament representing the North and the East, made me to take the responsibility on my head to free the people from the LTTE’s subjugation. Another reason being that the Kilinochchi Electorate I represented in Parliament for over 14 years is now fully under the control of the LTTE. I feel it as my duty to free the people whom I represented and to liberate the others also from the LTTE’s subjugation. I have offered Mr. Prabaharan, to negotiate and obtain a general amnesty for him and his cadre if he agreed to give up his demand for separation and agree for a reasonable solution. I even offered to obtain for him and his cadre a bigger share in any interim administration, the Government may be contemplating. Neither he nor anyone else on his behalf responded in any way, to any of my offers. All what I got in return were unpleasant and demeaning criticism from the pro-LTTE Print and Electronic media, both of which are only interested in glorifying the actions of the LTTE.

In my last letter of 22 June, 2007 affectionately addressing Mr. V. Prabaharan as “My Dear Thampy” meaning “Brother”, I wrote, “Please understand my concerns, for the Tamil Speaking people in particular and for all Sri Lankans in general. Since things seem to be going out of control, please take suitable remedial measures to bring back peace and tranquillity to a suffering nation, with-out any further delay”.

I further wrote, “The time has now come for you to take full responsibility for the present precarious condition in which our people live. Although unpalatable, please act with responsibility and caution, forgetting all what had happened in the past and work for a prosperous future of all the people of Sri Lanka. Like some others who project the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil people, I will not do so because you are not considered by the Tamil people as such, mainly due to your ruthlessness. You know very well that you have earned the name as the most ruthless person in the world. Are you not aware that you are fast losing your credibility day by day, by causing terror and tension to the people. By your reign of terror you have silenced every Tamil voice except a few of which I am one. If you are not going to help to find a solution for the ethnic problem during my life time, you will never find one. Please give up your demand for separation and accept a federal solution within a United Sri Lanka, which will receive very wide support, surprisingly even from un-expected quarters.”

Repeated initiatives taken by me to bring the LTTE back to the negotiating table failed. I tried to persuade him, pleaded with him and even warned him, but nothing could change his mind. Had he listened to me the entire LTTE cadre would have been transformed by this time and the country would be enjoying full peace, with a solution found. The LTTE did not show any sign of agreeing for a reasonable solution as an alternative to separation. They keep on maintaining through the pro-LTTE media their commitment to a separate state. They were also claiming themselves as the sole-representatives of the Tamil People and therefore have the exclusive right to speak on their behalf. I was the first person in my country who rejected the claim of the LTTE that they are the sole-representative of the Tamils. The LTTE got upset over my rejection of their claim. At the last Parliamentary Elections they could get 22 of the 23 Members elected fraudulently for the North and the East and successfully eliminating me. The election was virtually conducted by the LTTE cadre. Rival candidates were not permitted to get involved in any type of campaign. They were not allowed even to cast their votes. There had been large scale impersonations thuggery and intimidation to the extent of the Election Monitoring Teams recommending annulling and a re-poll in the North and the East.

International Response To Terrorism

Except a few countries that promote terrorism in various states, for reasons best known to them, rest of the countries in all parts of the world shun violence in any form and respect the democratic norms. They will not dare to promote terrorism in any country but will certainly help to eradicate it, if not satisfied with the cause for which the terrorists had grouped themselves. All countries respect human values and will go all out to protect the Human Rights, Fundamental Rights and Democratic Rights of the people. However we cannot expect the International Community to act unilaterally without our responding favourably to solve the problem that we face. No country will be prepared to accept the blame of suppressing a movement when it claims that the problem in respect of which it was formed, still remains unsolved and no reasonable solution is forthcoming.

It may be relevant if I quote form the letter dated 7th May, 2006 addressed to His Excellency the President by me: “The International Community that had thrown its full weight to find a solution to our ethnic problems is gradually getting disgusted with the whole thing and it may not be a surprise if they give up their efforts totally. Each country has its own problems to bother about. The very frequent visits, of the Japanese Special Envoy His Excellency Yasushi Akashi and the Swiss Government’s offer, without any hesitation to host the Peace talks in Geneva and many other good gestures displayed by various countries, clearly show that every country is prepared to do anything to make the talks a success. It is the LTTE’s ignorance that prevents the LTTE to grab the golden opportunity made available to them. They should realize that the attitude of the International Community, the European Union in particular, will not remain the same through out. They should therefore give up making unreasonable demands, with the deliberate intention of dragging on the talks”.

In the same letter I have also said, “The European Union has in one way shown its resentment to the LTTE by imposing a travel ban on them and thereby given a signal that they are not going to tolerate their activities for ever. It was equally a signal to the Government of Sri Lanka that, unless it comes forward with a proposal reasonable enough in their assessment as one that could be recommended by them to the Tamil People or to the LTTE, it is not going to be hard on the LTTE”.

Regional Response To Terrorism

I wish to reiterate that our dealings with the neighbouring countries relating to terrorism and their activities should be very tactful. It is a big relief that our relationship with countries at the regional level is very cordial and their assistance in combating terrorism is very encouraging. I am quoting a paragraph from my letter dated 7.5.2007 addressed to His Excellency the President to prove how our neighbours help us to combat terrorism.

“Although not obliged to do so, the Sri Lankan Government has a moral duty to keep the Indian Government and Tamil Nadu informed of the proposals, in appreciation of the efforts taken by the Indian Navy and Tamil Nadu Police to curtail the activities of the LTTE and causing the arrest of the LTTE cadre and the Tamil Nadu Nationals involved in transporting materials used to make bombs. If not for the Tamil Nadu Police and the Indian Navy, we would have faced grave disaster. To remind what Mahatma Gandhi said, “India and Ceylon can’t afford to quarrel with each other”. Please see that due to our lapses the International Community does not loosen its grip on the LTTE. We always need India’s especially the Tamil Nadu’s assistance to keep the LTTE at bay”.

Transforming “Terrorists” : Lessons For Sri Lanka

The question of transformation of terrorists will arise only when the problem which created the terrorists finds an acceptable solution. Successive Governments during the past thirty years could not offer a tangible solution. Whatever offered did not even come close to what the Terrorists are demanding. Further more what is offered by the Government, although too little is rejected as too much by the opposition and when the opposition takes over the reigns of Government, the same story had been repeated. It is very unfortunate that some politicians are too selfish that they only want power and not interested in the welfare of the suffering people. Merely because the demand of the Sri Lankan terrorist group, also described as freedom fighters by one section of the press, is unreasonable, it does not mean that the Government should reject it even without offering some thing that would come close to what the terrorists demand. As for me I do not accept them as freedom fighters because today the situation is that the ordinary people will have to be liberated from those so called liberators.

The Government is well aware that a larger section of the Tamil people does not recognize the LTTE as freedom fighters and are prepared to accept a reasonable solution within the framework of a United Sri Lanka based on the Federal Concept. It is very unfortunate that the country although ready for a Federal Solution some groups oppose it on the unfounded fear that federalism will lead to a separate state. The Tamils today are totally opposed to a division of the country. The people of the country are left at the mercy of the most ruthless terrorist group which will never agree for a solution, leaving the government the only option of submitting a reasonable proposal acceptable to the International Community.

The EU had now imposed a total ban on the LTTE with the expectation that the Government of Sri Lanka also will fulfil its obligation to the satisfaction of the International Community, based on the Oslo Agreement within a United Sri Lanka. The Government which is committed to find a solution under the Oslo Agreement, if shows reluctance to do so, will certainly lose its credibility in its relationship with the International Community, that is toiling hard through their representatives to bring back peace to Sri Lanka. We cannot forget the untiring efforts taken by the Diplomatic Community, including the Japanese Special Envoy H.E. Yasushi Akashi in this regard.

The arrogant and uncompromising stand of the LTTE, the daily killings by them and the sufferings of the innocent people compelled me on 19th June 2006 to write to H.E. the President thus: “A situation is now fast developing, due to the LTTE’s arrogant attitude, for your Government to act unilaterally by putting forward a reasonable proposal, acceptable to the Tamils and Muslims. I am not unaware of the constraints you have to act arbitrarily. But since the entire scenario has changed during the past few months, in comparison to the pre-election period, I am convinced that your hands should not remain tied. This is the time you should be free to take independent decisions and act, guided by your own conscience. I can provide you with enough material to substantiate my claim that variation in your policy at this juncture is indispensable”.

In the same letter I have said, “What has happened all these years and what is happening in our country every day is more than enough for everyone to realize the urgency to find a solution without delay. When the country is bleeding profusely we can’t take advantage of the situation for political gains. Hence please come out with a proposal assessed as reasonable and acceptable by either the co-chairs or a team of experts nominated by a few countries where Federalism has thrived and offer it to the LTTE for their acceptance. I am suggesting this to avoid any lame excuse the LTTE may find. If the LTTE accepts the proposals, all the other Tamil parties can be persuaded to agree to give to the LTTE majority representation in any administrative set up and make it conditional for them to surrender their arms. If they require security the Government can provide the same.

If the LTTE rejects such a proposal the only option the International Community has is to get together and tame them by various ways, including imposition of strong sanction and such other steps necessary to pressurize them. If your proposal confines to the Oslo Agreement to which the Government is committed, the LTTE cannot justify their rejection. The Indian Government too had very clearly and firmly said that it will go all out to prevent division of the country and also that it will deal firmly with terrorism. Although this remark is made in relation to India, it equally applies to Sri Lanka also because only 28 miles of the Palk-strait separates Sri Lanka from India.

India’s main concerns are its sovereignty and integrity. India is totally opposed to separation and terrorism, more in their own interest than ours. However we can take it as an overall guarantee to allay the fears of some Sri Lankans who think that a federal solution will lead to separation. India’s stand on these matters had never changed with every party that came to power, and will not change in the future as well. The main reason, for my continued agitation for a solution based on the Indian model, is that it satisfies those who are opposed to the Federal and Unitary type of constitution. The Indian one is neither federal nor unitary and the Indians take pride in saying that they believe in “Unity in diversity”.

The LTTE is such a ruthless organization with unyielding character will never agree for a solution other than separation. The Government without any delay should submit a reasonable proposal acceptable to the International Community and Minorities. I do not think that the Government will have any difficulty in soliciting the support of the entire opposition to solve the problem and leave it to the International Community to pressurize the LTTE to agree for the solution that has been accepted by all the other concerned parties. It is only then the question of transforming the Terrorists will arise.

Once an acceptable solution is found what the parties to the conflict should do are (1) The Government should offer a General Amnesty for all those involved in terrorist activities and (2) The terrorists or combatants or the so called freedom fighters should agree to disarm and demobilize themselves and prepare to re-integrate with the people. The Government must educate the people of their commitment towards re-integration with the groups. While transforming the terrorists, simultaneously the general life standard of the people also should be uplifted to win their hearts and minds in order to ensure a long lasting peace.

Knowing the reasons behind terrorism, the Government should take steps to eliminate frustration caused by racial discrimination, oppression, disparities, deprivations, denial of human rights etc, to achieve which the following steps are recommended :

1. State to ensure (a) appropriate action to eliminate racial discrimination and (b) Implement the Language Policy by compulsorily teaching Tamil to Sinhalese students and Sinhala to Tamil students.

2. State to ensure making it compulsory for job seekers to have a fair working knowledge of the Sinhala and Tamil Languages initially and after a specified period full knowledge of both Sinhala and Tamil languages.

3. State should ensure appointments wherever possible in proportion to the ethnic composition.

4. State to ensure enlistment to the three armed forces and the Police in proportion to the ethnic composition.

5. State to ensure admission to Universities for those who have minimum requirements for admission.

6. State to ensure re-settlement of all displaced persons during the past 20 – 30 years back in the respective lands in which they lived.

Government should also take steps to :

1. Re-establish links to the North, East, South and West of Sri Lanka by road, rail and air and also should develop the sea route. Ports in the North and East should be developed in KKS, Pt. Pedro, Mannar and Batticaloa.

2. Start development projects specially in the North and the East with International Funding with the dual purpose of developing the area and providing employment, to impress on the people of the North and the East that the Government is genuinely interested in the development of these provinces.

3. Identify tourist spots in the North and the East and develop them to attract foreign tourist e.g. Casurina beach at Karainagar, Keerimalai at KKS, island resorts in the North, Pasikuda in Batticaloa are some. I would like to reiterate this point because the successive governments in the last 40 year period, during which tourism developed, had no plans to develop tourism especially in the North and in the East. This is an open secret and a severe discrimination against the populace of the North and East.

4. Take steps to erase completely the feeling of minority and majority prejudices and also eliminate all sort of discriminatory feelings in day to day life.

5. Encourage participation in democratic process by conducting political classes to the ex-terrorists.

Encourage frequent visits for the ex-terrorists to get mixed up with all communities freely and friendly in all parts of the country, such as :

1. Conduct inter-school cricket tournaments

2. Through the sports officers, organize Volley Ball, Football and Ella matches for the youths who had left school or had their studies interrupted. The cooperation of Rural Development Societies, Community Centres, Sports Clubs etc, can be obtained on an all Island basis.

3. The Sharvodaya Movement can be entrusted with the task of organizing Shramadana Camps with the participation of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims in the rural areas with the assistance of the Rural development societies and Community Centres.

4. The same organizations can be encouraged to organize pilgrimages to important shrines like Madhu, Nagadeepa, Kataragama, Kandy, Chilaw, Mannar, Trincomalee etc.

5. With the help of the same village level organizations, organize visits to places of historical importance, ruins etc. to understand the culture and civilization of various ethnic religious groups.

The only Sri Lankan group that can now be classified as a terrorist group is the LTTE. They can be brought under several categories and each one differs with the other. They differ in age, education and civil status. There are mentally affected, disabled, those who are satisfied with the solution, those who still stick to their stand with no intention of changing, high ranking leaders, trained combatants and non-combatant volunteers. The movement being over 30 years old, some of them would be married and having children. Each member of the family will have to be rehabilitated and suitable schools will have to be found for their children. The Leader category of the terrorists if interested in politics should be given all encouragement to do so. All assistance should be given to them to rejoin their families.

Depending on the age and their education, each one of the LTTE Cadre should be found admission in Universities, Schools, Technical Institutes and Vocational Training Centres. The married couple’s requirements should be looked into – such as housing, education of their children etc. and also mentally affected and the disabled should be given special attention.

Counselling Centres, Vocational Training Centres, Garment Production Centres, Primary and secondary schools and housing schemes should be started to meet the new requirements.

To prevent the reactivation of the terrorist movement, the following steps should be taken.

1. Protection should be given to the ex-terrorists from those who may seek vengeance.

2. Arrange to send abroad for employment those who do not have the courage to face the society, fearing retaliation for their past conduct.

3. Offer incentives for giving information that will lead to the detection of concealed weapons, illegal sale of weapons and any preparation for revival of armed struggle.

4. Regular subsistence for each individual for a specified period to help them to re-establish themselves without returning to terrorist activities.

5. All concerned persons to be rehabilitated mentally, physically, spiritually and socially, to prevent them from returning to terrorism.

At this point the majority community also to be educated as to why the government is going too far to assist the terrorists and the North and East while their children and some of their areas are still under-developed and are not getting enough. It should be remembered that when we speak about transforming terrorists the number is not that big. If you take the LTTE it maybe around 20,000 and their families and other groups which have returned to the democratic process still carrying arms may amount to another 20,000 (Karuna group, EPDP, TELO, PLOTE,EPRLF Padmanaba, ENDLF etc). Therefore transforming them is not a big issue it is only the genuine will and trust from both sides that is needed.

In conclusion I wish to quote what I heard from somebody. “In a country where all people are equal, we should not say that somebody is giving somebody something and that somebody is there to receive from somebody something which they do not have or which they are deprived of getting. It should be shared according to their need, and then everyone will feel equal and comfortable in the entire country.”

- Asian Tribune -

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