Chairman, fellow delegates and friends, I wish to begin by thanking the
Australian Human Rights Foundation and the Australasian Federation of Tamil
Associations for organising this international conference on the conflict in Sri
I sincerely hope that this conference would pave the way for peace with
justice in the island of Sri Lanka.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is committed to a peaceful resolution of
the conflict and is deeply disappointed that the peace talks with the
Kumaratunge Government collapsed in April 1995.
From the very beginning ,the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had their
reservations about Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge's sincerity of purpose. This was
mainly on account of her parents SWRD Bandaranaike and Sirimavoe Bandaranaike
whose anti-Tamil and chauvinistic political actions had a direct bearing on the
Tamil struggle for self-determination. It was under the regimes of the
Bandaranaike-led SLFP governments that the Tamil people were subject to a series
of legislative and administrative acts designed to deny them equal opportunities
in employment and education.
It was Mr. Bandaranaike who in 1956 introduced the notorious Sinhala Only act
Also it was during the SWRD Bandaraianike regime that the state became directly
involved in directing violence against Tamils to suppress Tamil protests. You
may recall that it was the SWRD Bandaranaike Government which in 1958 was
responsible for the first anti-Tamil pogrom. It was under Sirimavoe
Bandaranaike's rule that the Tamil North East came under army occupation for the
first time in 1961. It was also during the Sirimavoe Bandaranaike regime that
the Standardization Scheme which blatantly discriminated and deprived Tamils of
equal opportunities to University education was introduced. In 1972, the
Republican Constitution introduced by the Sirimavaoe Bandaranaike regime ensured
that Sinhala hegemony was made permanent further alienating the Tamil people.
It was these which finally drove the Tamil youth into taking up arms against
the Sinhala regime.
Despite this, the LTTE was prepared to concede that Kumaratunge, unlike her
parents was cast in a different mould. Her Western liberal education, the
influence of her late husband Wijaya Kumaratunge (whom the LTTE trusted and
respected) and her often well articulated appeals to the progressive forces were
matters we could not ignore. We were also cognisant that Mrs. Kumaratunge was
widely perceived as being different from other Sinhala politicians by both
Tamils and Sinhalese alike.
Although she was not explicit about the basis on which she intended
conducting her negotiations with the Tamil representatives, she nevertheless
contested the election on a "peace platform" on a promise to "resolve" the
The peace talks collapsed because Kumaratunge simply failed to conduct them
on an equal basis. I wish to reiterate this point because it is crucial that
this is clearly understood. At no stage did the Sri Lankan Government seek to
negotiate on the basis that the Tamil people are a distinct nation with a
homeland of their own and an inalienable right to self-determination.
This inclination to negotiate on an unequal basis was made abundantly clear
by Kumaratunge's choice of delegates. Whereas, the LTTE's delegation was led by
its Head of the Political Section the Sri Lankan Government side did not include
a single cabinet minister. The "unequal" approach was further evidenced by the
Government's decision to open the Pooneryn causeway unilaterally having refused
the LTTE's request that the Pooneryn Army camp is removed.
There was also the callous disregard on the part of the Government to the
LTTE's request that the economic embargo on the north is lifted. Instead, the
Sri Lankan Government continued to use the embargo as an instrument to pressure
the LTTE during negotiations. The Sri Lankan Government persisted with its
"unequal" and "unilateral" approach to negotiations and was dismissive of the
LTTE's repeated warnings. It refused to review its hard-line position despite
the LTTE having extended its deadline by three weeks.
The Sinhala politician's inclination to treat the Tamils unequally was
clearly demonstrated again by the unilateral announcement of the so called
"peace proposals" in August 1995- almost four months after the collapse of the
"talks". It was clearly demonstrated once again when it was "watered down"
further in the legal draft form in February 1996.
The reason for the Sinhala political establishment to refuse dealing with
Tamils on an equal basis is the product of a chauvinistic mindset which believes
that the entire Island belongs to only the Sinhalese.
The military approach therefore has to be seen as a decision taken well
before the commencement of the peace talks. The "peace talks" were mainly
conducted as part of the Government's war strategy.
One can see this in the commencement of Rivirasa 1 in the wake of the
announcement of the "peace proposals" in August and the introduction of the
legal draft immediately after the capture of Valigamam.
Kumaratunge's actions clearly demonstrate that she is dictated by Sinhala
chauvinistic forces which seek a destruction of the LTTE and the imposition of a
"solution"" of their own choice.It is in fact as part of the "war for peace"
strategy that her uncle Anurudha Ratwatte is engaged in military operations
while GL Peris is engaged in "constitutional engineering" to present a proposal
that would marginalise the LTTE by hoodwinking the Tamils into thinking that the
Government proposals have some merit in them.
Meanwhile, Lakashman Kadirgamer, Kumaratunge's foreign minister is engaged in
the role of convincing the international community of Kumaratunge's good
intentions and at the same time obtaining much needed military and financial
assistance to impose the military solution.
The "White Lotus" movement has been specifically floated to whip up
anti-Tamil hysteria and seek support for the war effort.
One thing is clear. Kumaratnge's strategy of "peace through war" will not
bring peace. Instead it will only escalate the war and prolong the suffering of
both the Sinhalese and Tamil people.
Let us also be clear about the Sri Lankan Government's strategy. The
strategic objective of this war is to beat the Tamils into submission and then
impose a "solution" that will maintain Sinhala hegemony.
This "solution" would call for the destruction of the LTTE because the LTTE
will not permit Sinhala hegemony to be imposed.
Let us assume for a moment that the Government realises this objective. Where
does that leave the Tamil people?
Surely it will not mean the end of Sinhala chauvinism which looks upon even
limited devolution as unnecessary and compromising the position that the entire
Island belongs only to the Sinhalese. On the other hand it can only further
strengthen the hand of the chauvinists. The consequences of which would be the
military occupation of the Tamil Homeland followed by accelerated colonisation
and the eventual destruction of a distinct Tamil identity in the Northeast of
The end result would be nothing less than the complete annihilation of a
distinct Tamil national identity in the Island of Sri Lanka. We will no longer
be a "people". In the long term this war could therefore only be described as a
war of genocide.
What is the LTTE Response?
This military approach by the Government will only escalate the war. The LTTE
will do everything in its power to defend the Tamil people and their homeland
against this onslaught.
The LTTE cannot be pressurised or made to accept under duress anything that
does not meet the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people.
However, the LTTE is deeply committed to a peaceful resolution of the
conflict. There are still possibilities to pursue a negotiated political
settlement provided the Sri Lankan Government abandons its military approach and
creates conditions for de-escalation of the war and the withdrawal of troops.
LTTE calls upon the international community to
(a) persuade the Sri Lankan Government to give up its militaristic
approach and negotiate with the LTTE on an equal basis.
(b) play a mediatory role.
It is only then that we can realise a durable and just peace.