Sri Lanka peace group urges negotiations

“We can only pray and hope that this period of war and terror will soon come to an end”, said National Peace Council (NPC) in a press release today. Expressing regrets, dismay and fears for the future over the announcement of the abrogation of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, NPC added that the government is following the path repeatedly advocated by Nationalist parties such as the JVP. The Colombo based group is urging the “conflicting parties back to the negotiating table”.

Full text of the press release:

The government has announced that it will abrogate the Norwegian-facilitated Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) signed with the LTTE in 2002 on account of the ground reality where conditions of continuing war and terror prevail. For the past two years the government and LTTE have been engaging in a high level of hostilities tantamount to war, including the overrunning of forward defense lines, capture of territory, artillery, sea and air bombing, and large scale displacement of people and violations of human rights.

The government’s decision follows repeated demands by the JVP and other nationalist parties for the abrogation of the CFA. Government members have said that the peace process and political talks will continue with non-LTTE Tamil parties. While there is a need to include non-LTTE Tamil parties in political talks, it cannot be done at the cost of eliminating the LTTE from the dialogue. The danger inherent in the government’s position, especially in the event of a total rejection of the past peace process with the LTTE, is that it is paving the way for a fight to the finish where the costs can be terribly high, success is not guaranteed, and no fall back position will be available.

It is also likely that the role played by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) established under the CFA will also come to an end with the abrogation of the Ceasefire Agreement. Although the international monitors of the SLMM were unable to prevent acts of war and human rights violations from taking place, they were able to be physically present in the conflict zones and record incidents and report them to the conflicting parties and the international community. The Government’s rejection of a UN Human Rights field presence, the inability of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) to make meaningful progress in discharging their mandates, and the recent downgrading of the National Human Rights Commission, combine to place respect for human rights in Sri Lanka in further jeopardy.

The National Peace Council regrets that the abrogation of the CFA in the present circumstances will deprive the hapless civilians within the conflict zones with a credible authority to lodge complaints. This will also reduce the flow of credible information to the world outside. This lacuna will constrain the work of human rights and peace groups who have been pressing the conflicting parties to address the issues of impunity and end the violations of human rights.

The National Peace Council is dismayed and deeply concerned at the situation in the country at the beginning of the New Year which has included the assassination of an opposition politician belonging to the largest opposition party who spoke of the agony of the Tamil people, the bombing of an army bus in the heart of Colombo that killed civilians and now by the abrogation of the CFA and the negation of the institutions it set up. We can only pray and hope that this period of war and terror will soon come to an end, and rationality and concern for human rights takes the conflicting parties back to the negotiating table and to end all armed hostilities, political assassinations

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