Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home Whats New  Trans State Nation  One World Unfolding Consciousness Comments Search

Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Sri Lanka - Tamil Eelam: Getting to Yes  > UN involvement for a Peace Plan for Sri Lanka

UN Involvement For A Peace Plan For Sri Lanka
- A Continuing Debate

Asian Human Rights Commission - 6 October 1999

During the last week of September, there was a most sober discussion on the involvement of a third party, preferably the United Nations (UN), in resolving Sri Lanka's protracted bloody crisis.

The 16-year-long violent conflict has created an image of the country as one of most violent places on Earth. This is the first time that this issue has received the attention of all sections of the population in Sri Lanka. Four out of the seven Sinhala newspapers spoke on the issue; all English news papers gave a prominent place to the discussion. Tamil political parties - Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - expressed their views on the issue clearly.

The main lines of thought which emerged may be summed up as follows: Tamil political parties strongly support third-party mediation, and are of the view that there is no other realistic alternative; The Sri Lankan government, through its Foreign Minister, has dismissed the need for such a move but the government position is not without ambiguity.

When in opposition, the Peoples Alliance (PA) had strongly called for external involvement on human rights issues, as pointed to by one newspaper. The Government has earlier spoken of the possibility of a third-party facilitator for negotiations.

The National Peace Council (NPC) of Sri Lanka, in a statement, urged the government not to dismiss the possibility of a third party mediation. Many other statements gave cautious support for such mediation.

Outright rejection came from the newspaper The Island, which had tried to popularize the idea of total war for several years. This paper called for the wiping out of terrorism from the face of the world, echoing the mandate given in 1979 to a Brigadier T. I. Weeratunga, chief of staff of the army, by then President J. R. Jayawardene, to stamp out "the menace of terrorism in all its forms from the island and more specifically from the Jaffna district" by the end of that year. This position rather expresses the cynicism of some groups but is not taken in the country as an ideal that should or can be pursued.

It can be said, without exaggeration, that the consensus that has emerged out of this debate is that the issue of third-party mediation needs to be seriously discussed and considered as an alternative to continuing war. All opinion-makers agree that the confidence between the government and the LTTE has completely broken down. The situation is similar regarding the other major political party, the United National Party (UNP).

In fact, the confidence between these parties and all Tamil political parties is at an all-time low, and there is no local initiative that can recreate such confidence in the future. It is this, more than anything else, which makes third party involvement inevitable. Besides, the ordinary folk -- Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, and others -- want to get on with life without fear of accidental deaths, which are frequent due to this conflict and without fear of assassination. There is also the shame that while many countries are making economic progress of one sort or another, Sri Lanka, which was believed to have made a good start many decades ago, is now lagging far behind. The end of war, it is believed, will save a large part of the budget for development purposes and will bring in investment.

Some fears which were expressed regarding the UN mediation was due to a misunderstanding that such an intervention means a military intervention. Given fears arising from an Indian intervention through Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987, the thought of a military intervention can provoke many nightmares. The interventions in Kosovo and similar United States of America (USA) backed interventions also create deep fears in the sub-continent.

However, UN peace-keeping diplomacy has very little to do with military intervention. The UN mission in Cambodia took many years of negotiation among the parties in conflict, before a solution was jointly arrived at. There were prolonged discussions and debates between the parties facilitated by several very experienced diplomats. It was these many years of, often private negotiations, which led to the signing of the Paris Agreement in 1991.

The parties who were engaged in negotiations under UN auspices were engaged in one of the bitterest civil wars known to humankind, which went on even while negotiations were being conducted. Japan and Australia played a major role in these negotiations.

Similarly, East Timor negotiations too had gone on for a long time. These discussions went on even while resistance leader Xanana Gusmao was in an Indonesian jail and the vast scale of the repression carried out by the Indonesian military and militia groups was causing enormous damage to the lives and property of East Timorese people.

In the Asia Pacific region today, there are several countries with considerable experience in peace diplomacy and Thailand, Japan and Australia to mention a few. 1500 Thai soldiers will take part in East Timor Peace-Keeping Forces. Japan has contributed U$100 million to this project mainly to cover the costs of third world countries participating in the peace-keeping forces. Singapore and Malaysia too have contributed to the peace-keeping effort as they did also in Cambodia.

In fact, Sri Lanka can benefit from the experiences of the Asian neighbours and also join in the newly developing peace diplomacy in the region. Asia's two big powers China and India also have considerable experience in this field. Thus those who maintain that "peace-keeping is a Western enterprise" are obviously unaware of the Asian advancements in this field.

The countries, which have gone through peace keeping efforts, have also achieved some economic advantages, as it can be seen in Cambodia and East Timor. Peace-keeping brings the country to greater international attention, thus expanding the possibilities of greater economic and other cooperation. Living at a time when joining the expansion of world-wide communication becomes a vital necessity of survival for any nation, a country that lags far behind, like Sri Lanka, has much to gain by exposing itself to such experiences.

Thus, to look at peace-keeping from a purely military interventionist point of view is a gross misconception. In reality, it can be a much more constructive process where international diplomacy can replace the warfare that is actually going on. And such mediation can bring in many more benefits besides peace.

Asian Human Rights Commission Unit D,7 Floor,
16 Argyle Street Mongkok Commercial Centre
Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel: +(852)-2698-6339
Fax: +(852)-2698-6367
E-mail: [email protected] 



Mail Us Copyright 1998/2009 All Rights Reserved Home