Australian Foreign Ministry
to the Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations
6 October 1995
Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations
c/o Vanakkam Postfach 7908
6000 Luzern 7 Switzerland
Dear Mr. Anton,
Thank you for your letter dated 23 August 1995 addressed to Senator Evans
concerning the political situation in Sri Lanka. Senator Evans has asked me
to reply on his behalf, and I apologise for the delay in responding.
Senator Evans met representatives of the Australian Tamil community in
Melbourne on 12 September 1995. The Tamil community's concerns were
discussed in detail, and the Australian Government's position was outlined
on a range of issues.
The Australian Government expressed strong disappointment at the
unilateral decision of the liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to
withdrawal the peace talks and resume armed conflict.
The LTTE's justification for ending the Cessation of Hostilities on 19
April, which had been in force since January and had seen significant
progress towards easing tensions, was not convincing and served to cast
considerable doubt on the sincerity of the LTTE's stated desire for a
peaceful settlement to the ethnic conflict. The ending of the peace process
did nothing to resolve understandable complaints from the Tamil side about
the pace of talks, the level of dialogue, and delays in the lifting of
fishing restrictions and the supply of fuel and other commodities to Jaffna.
Those issues should have been pursued through continuing dialogue, not by
abandoning it. The LTTE's actions have set back the cause of peace and
disappointed not only the international community but also the hopes of many
ordinary Sri Lankans.
The Australian Government firmly believes that a
negotiated settlement requiring patience and compromise on both sides is
ultimately the only logical course to achieving a durable solution to the
conflict. Neither side in this conflict will benefit from an escalation of
hostilities. The Australian Government has never endorsed a military
solution to the conflict, but equally it is not reasonable to expect the Sri
Lanka Government to acquiesce in the face of renewed hostilities by the
Australian Government hopes that the Sri Lankan Government will exercise
restraint in any military response it pursues and has urged both the Sri
Lanka Government and the LTTE to take the utmost care to avoid civilian
casualties. In this regard, the Australian Government expressed concern to
the Sri Lankan Government over particularly tragic incidents where non
combatant Tamil civilians have been killed in military exchanges, including
bombing of St.Peter's Church in Navaly and the
reported deaths of 44 school children when a school was allegedly bombed
at the village of Nagarkovil on 22 September.
The Australian Government has consistently supported a negotiated
political settlement while continuing to recognise the territorial integrity
of Sri Lanka and the legitimacy of the elected Government. Australia
welcomed the announcement on 3 August by President Kumaratunga of
radical and wide ranging new proposals for constitutional reforms, which
would devolve significant powers from the central government to regional
administrations. The proposals address underlying causes of ethnic
conflict and aspirations of the Tamil population. President Kumaratunga's
announcement acknowledged that the Tamil people have legitimate grievances
for which a solution must be found, and rejected the idea that military
action alone could provide a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict.
The Australian Government hopes that the proposals will be seriously
considered by all the people of Sri Lanka as the basis for a durable
settlement to the conflict.
Australia is prepared to consider assisting a genuine peace process in
any way that would be useful and acceptable to both sides, however,
following recent discussions between Senator Evans and the Sri Lankan
Government, there appears to be no obvious role for third party involvement
Acting First Assistant Secretary
South and South East Asia Division,
Department of Foreign Affairs, Australia