3 June 2001
Mr. Ariya Rubasinghe,
Director of Government Information,
Government Information Department,
163 Kirulapana Avenue,
Dear Mr. Rubasinghe,
Thank you for your Press Release (# 475) of 26th May 2001, which your embassy
was kind enough to send to me.
I am impressed by the thoughtfulness of your embassy staff for taking the
trouble to send this to someone who has long relinquished the citizenship of
your country. Certainly Doctor Goebbels, whose tasks were similar to yours
in Nazi Germany, would never have sent something like this to a Jewish
person living in Germany or elsewhere. I am sure you directed your
ambassador to send this to me, and I wish to sincerely thank you for it.
I wish to also take this opportunity to discuss some matters you have
raised in the press release.
The main point of your release is about the LTTE's insistence on what you
have termed certain 'pre-conditions' or 'pre-requisites' being met before
commencement of negotiations with the Government of Sri Lanka. "Velupillai
Pirabaharan stated categorically we are not imposing any pre-conditions for
peace talks", you have said, quoting his Hero's Day Address of 27th November
2000. The thrust of your press release, if I understood it correctly, seems
to be, Mr. Pirabaharan said something in November last year, and is now
asking for something different (or something more).
It is apparent that you do not read or understand Tamil. If you do, you
would not have this difficulty with what Mr. Pirabaharan had said in his
What Mr. Pirabaharan
actually said in his speech [in Tamil] was:
"We are not laying any conditions for peace talks. However, we have been
stressing the need to develop an atmosphere of goodwill and good attitudes
suitable for talks.
For the two sides, which have for over 20 years engaged in a horrible
war, with mutual hostility and distrust, it would not be possible to
continue fighting, and all of a sudden engage in peace talks. Hence we wish
the talks to take place after a gradual de-escalation of the war resulting
in cessation of hostilities, in an atmosphere of tranquility and goodwill.
What we mean by tranquility is the removal of economic burdens and
restrictions placed on the Tamil people, and a return of easier life for our
people. The talks will be constructive only on firm grounds, with a milieu
of goodwill and improved attitudes. We are, therefore, only emphasizing the
necessity and the compulsion for an atmosphere of goodwill, but we are not
laying conditions for talks"
Even if the words in this well thought-out speech had been translated to
you accurately, I am not sure if you grasped the sum and substance what he
said. When one reads something with preconceived ideas (or hostility) one
fails to grasp what is actually said.
Let me explain what I understood.
Creating an atmosphere conducive to peace talks is not the same as
'pre-conditions', as you seem to have understood the term. If the ultimate
objective of the talks between the warring parties is 'peace', then it is
imperative that both parties go into the process with right and proper
attitudes. If they go in as belligerents, the process itself will be one of
belligerence. If they go in with peace on their minds, they will achieve
peace. Attitudes are absolutely vital for a successful outcome.
Experts in conflict resolution
use the term 'confidence-building' to connote what I have said above. You
will no doubt agree that in Sri Lanka today there is an extreme lack of
'confidence' between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people. The mutual distrust
and hostility are intense, and sadly, has worsened over the years. Mr.
Pirabaharan not only called for this trend to be reversed with his speech,
but he went further. He tried single-handedly to reverse this downhill
with his unilateral ceasefire and other goodwill gestures, as a prelude
to the peace talks. You know how your government squandered away this golden
opportunity. Your government chose not only not to reciprocate, but actually
went on the offensive to publicly ridicule these gestures of goodwill.
You have said, "The LTTE's insistence on these 'pre-conditions' or
'pre-requisites' especially de-proscription, exposes their lack of
seriousness in entering into meaningful negotiations." On the contrary, I
the LTTE is dead serious, not merely about 'entering' the peace process,
but more importantly about the outcome. They are more serious about the
outcome or the end-point,
which is achieving
peace with honor and justice for all, than just entering the process.
Mr. Pirabaharan wants the process to be structured in a way that this
end-point will be realized.
The rest of what you have stated in your press release is a good example of
what is likely to happen if both parties enter negotiations as belligerents.
It would be a shouting match, with both parties trading accusations. Your
press release is full of such accusations, which the Sri Lankan side will
most likely bring to the negotiating table to 'trade'.
What you have forgotten (or ignored) is that the Tamil side has more of
this commodity to 'trade' at the table. I don't know if you have done any
counting lately. I have. Using numbers provided by your government and
international NGOs, I have found the Sri Lankan armed forces to be
responsible for a good 88 percent of the killings in this war. The real
I am sure
will bring it closer to 98 percent! The Tamil side will have a field day
at the negotiations, to what end.
Sir, it is precisely this type of belligerence in the course of the
negotiations that Mr. Velupillai Pirabaharan is striving to avoid. He wants
to bring goodwill and improved attitudes to the table. He wants the process
to be triumphant in the end.
I truly and sincerely wish that you could read and understand Tamil.
Mr. Pirabaharan's speech on 27th November last year is an absolute
masterpiece. If you cannot learn Tamil in a hurry, I suggest you get a
good translator who could interpret the essence and the spirit of his
With best wishes and warmest regards.
Rajan Sriskandarajah MD