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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative Geneva Talks & After > Envoy of EU Presidency in Sri Lanka on EU Ban and the Peace Process

Tracking the Norwegian
Conflict Resolution Initiative

Envoy of EU Presidency in Sri Lanka on
EU Ban and the Peace Process

Sri Lanka Sinhala Owned Daily Mirror
3 June 2006

[see also Co-Chairs to pull out unless govt. delivers on Oslo deal and
 Co-chairs Press Release together with Comment by tamilnation.org]

Shakuntala Perera of the Daily Mirror spoke to the Dutch Ambassador in Colombo, Reynout S. Van Dijk, the envoy of the EU Presidency in Sri Lanka to get his opinions on some of the contentious issues of the EU ban and the peace process.

Q: President Mahinda Rajapaksa referring to the EU ban in an article to the Wall Street Journal has said 'words are not enough'. What have you got to say?

A: I would repeat the words of the President; 'words alone are not enough'. We welcomed his positive statement on May 29, where he expressed a very reasonable and pro-peace position but again words are not enough, which is actually the core of the EU and Co-Chairs statement. But I didn't read his article so I don't know in which context the President has said that words were not enough. You might want to enlighten me on that.

Q: He has spoken about 'other' things that the international community can do to make the ban more effective like putting pressure on arms smuggling operations of the LTTE which take place in countries like Afghanistan or Thailand.

A: But once you list an organization you'd try to be effective as possible. There is no use in only making a political gesture. In the first place the political dimension is the most important at this moment in time. Then how to implement a listing and that goes for all in the EU list. You try to do it as well as you can but just like Sri Lanka we have a rule of law, of independent courts, so there is a lot of legal battling going on before you have something done. This is both a strong point and a weakness of a democracy.

But coming back to words being not enough, it's also the core of the EU statement. The LTTE is in a position where the international community called a spade a spade. But the President must make a dramatic move to benefit from this moment in time and share on the ground his commitment to the peace process. There will be political consequences if the civil servants can't deliver what a President orders.

As the Co-Chairs we based our action upon the Oslo agreement. If any of the Parties wish to disengage from previous agreements we should know, because that would re-define our role totally. These are quite concrete and measurable things for the government to do, and which we also expect from them. At the same time we ask the LTTE the same thing and without an answer from both sides we are not in a position to deliver effectively any more assistance.

Q: But how responsible or otherwise would you say the government has been in the face of LTTE provocations in the past one month at least? Would you say they have not been able to contain the violence on ground?

A: Let me look at the facts. Let's establish that both the LTTE and the government are committed to the findings of the SLMM, which include a lot of violations of human rights amounting to over 200. The logical question is how many of these have been solved? A government which has a high moral ground must be able to address effectively violations of human rights, and leave a trace of comments where they can transparently say for what reasons they can't be responsible, if they have done everything in their power. SLMM concludes that this is not the case.

Q: You speak of consequences. What are the immediate consequences we are looking at say three to six months from today if there is failure to comply?

A: Everybody asks us where is this listing why did it take so long to make a statement. If I predict what the consequences would be for the LTTE, they would have been able to withdraw. But by listing them and saying in this brief what the consequences are, we are showing that we are serious. How effective would development cooperation be in a country on the brink of war?

We are not talking about humanitarian aid, because we believe that should go on. But if you can't deliver development aid to the whole island there would be a dilemma to the international community, simply as a matter of fact and not as a political will. If the government can't address the human rights issue all Co-chairs and EU member states have laws in place that would prohibit military support to the government. The Netherlands actively supported Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council, and it is bounded to UN principles about dealing with minority rights, etc. And if Sri Lanka doesn't live up to the standards of democracies, that will be actively addressed. Again this is not a threat, but this happens to any country with similar situations. This is very generally speaking.

Q: We speak about the government's commitments to the UN etc, but where the child soldiers of the LTTE are concerned we have seen little action by the UN for example, except for warnings. In dealing with international pressures you speak of, how far should one go?

A: What steps can one take? You give a series of warnings, and say you will be considered a terrorist organization, which has consequences in financing etc. Apart from these resolutions I don't think one could apply much pressure. I don't know what kind of pressure would be expected. A military option is not what every body is thinking about.

Q: Then how effective are bans like yours on terror organizations like the LTTE?

A: Lets take Europe where instances like the IRA, show that banning helps by making life difficult for terrorist organizations. But at the same time all European countries who had this problem had to work at the root of the problem. To say that one is evil and sit and wait for the problem to resolve itself is simply not the answer.

Q: The Karuna faction maintains that EU 'inaction and indifference' has contributed to the violence existing today and maintains that it is unfair for you to expect them to disarm if the same is not expected of the LTTE?

A: First LTTE when it included Karuna was considered 'the Tamils'. The EU has a track record of standing up for the legitimate rights of the Tamil people, which is different from a faction or a political party that says they represent all the Tamils. There is a huge difference between a terrorist organization and the Tamil people. I don't think Mr. Karuna has been informed of the actions of the EU in the past if you look at the humanitarian aid that went to the areas. I would say that was quite impressive. The question to him should be what his responsibility should be in this conflict. As he understands it's taking up arms and going on the same reflexes the LTTE does. We believe this mindset is not the answer. And if he wants to be taken seriously he must come up with a peace agenda and not a war one.

We don't exclude him from being a terrorist organization. And every entity that can be established as being accomplice to him will also be held responsible. This lays a very heavy responsibility on the government who has been alleged from supporting the Karuna faction. The international community is looking forward to traceable proof that this is not the case. So far there have been indications that he has been tolerated. We are talking of civil servants who have commanders and if they are not in command there should be political consequences. And there should be personal consequences. We are looking forward to a government response to what we feel about him.

Q: Karuna further makes some serious accusations against the EU saying these countries provided shelter and let the group smuggle in arms?

A: But he was very comfortable with it when he was an LTTE member, so he knows what he's talking about. At the time LTTE was not banned it was a legal organization, like it is not listed in Sri Lanka now. So when such organizations with its means and allies operates, it's hard to accuse the EU for using the same standards like Sri Lanka is still using today.

Another element is the one of being victim because it is easy to do that than take responsibility. We see both sides taking this role, and there is a certain fatigue in the international community of being used as a referee, when we never committed ourselves to being a referee. We do what is necessary by calling a terrorist a terrorist, but that doesn't exclude another party from responsibility.

Q: Speaking of victims how do you see the plight of the Muslims who have been threatened to evacuate within 72 hours or the Sinhalese massacred by the LTTE? Yet the assurance that war has not started?

A: The war has started. I think itís naÔve to think that a war is defined by semantics. I think all the bloodshed of innocent civilians should be a wake up call to the parties to return to talks. But it seems to give an excuse for parties to be more harsh on their enemies. The worse the situation becomes the more the sense of urgency.

Q: Why did the ban take so long?

A: The thinking behind not banning was we thought it was helpful to keep an open line of communication with the LTTE and encourage them to come back to a political process. But of course we thought that the more political they would be the more positive incentives could be expected from the EU.

Q: Would you still call the LTTE freedom fighters?

A: I never called them freedom fighters in the first place.

Q: But the international community continued to refer to them as such for a long time?

A: I appreciate your question. We think the Tamil population as a whole has grievances. We still think justice has still to be done. That makes it understandable why a group takes up to arms. If you look back to history the LTTE had a point, every community has a point now. But apparently everybody sees their own point. Would I call them freedom fighters no, but do they have a point yes. Be it, Tamil, Muslim, Sinhala or Burgher everybody has a point, but what is the point in only saying I have a point and not acknowledge the others


Co-Chairs to pull out unless govt. delivers on Oslo deal
4 June 2006 Sunday Leader

The Co-Chairs will withdraw from Sri Lankaís peace process unless the government and the LTTE recommit to the agreements reached during peace talks from 2002 including the Ceasefire Agreement, top level diplomatic sources said.

A withdrawal will also result in all development aid except humanitarian assistance being halted, these sources said.

They said the Co-Chairs have come to the end of their patience and the statement issued after the Tokyo Conference tantamounts to giving notice to both parties, the diplomatic sources said.

"We represent 85 per cent of the GDP of the world and we have responsibilities to our own countrymen. If there is no proof that both parties want to take the peace process forward, we no longer have a role. Good intentions alone will not suffice," one top diplomat said.

It was pointed out that if the international community cannot disburse aid equally to the north and south, it will not work.

The diplomatic sources said they would want both the government and the LTTE to recommit to the agreements reached including the Oslo communique and that the recommitment must come in the form of proven action.

The government, one source said must prove by action and not mere words that it is not dealing with the Karuna Group. Meanwhile Netherlands Ambassador Reynout S. Van Dijk who holds the presidency of the EU in Colombo said they do not want to be used by any party as a scorecard holder. "There should be no confusion about our role. We only want to promote peace," he said.

Ambassador Van Dijk also said the human rights situation in the context of reports submitted by the SLMM is a matter of serious concern and should be addressed effectively. Referring to the Kayts massacre the Ambassador said there were no political consequences for those who failed to perform their duties despite an order by the magistrate. "We expect the government to come with good answers why allegations of SLMM are untruthful and the government has to be transparent or held accountable," he said.

"I cannot imagine if a police officer does not follow orders of the magistrate, there are no consequences. Countries that are democratic have to maintain high standards. It has personal consequences for civil servants. If a minister does not deal with it effectively, he is also fired. That is if he does not show results. That is how democratic partners perceive other democratic partners" the Ambassador said.

Ambassador Van Dijk further said the EU will maintain contact with the LTTE if the LTTE is willing to do so. "We do not want to isolate the LTTE. We want to help them arrive at a peaceful solution," the Ambassador added. The Ambassador told The Sunday Leader, the EU laws unlike in the US do not preclude maintaining contact with the LTTE and they would be happy to do so.The Ambassador further said LTTE members will be free to travel within Europe to promote peace provided they are not listed by name as terrorists.



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