Date: 18 May 2005
In his presentation to the Sri Lanka Development Forum on Tuesday (May 17th) afternoon Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala said "there is a complex symbiotic link between peace and development." The Secretary General of Sri Lanka's Peace Secretariat said "the peace process in Sri Lanka has been a broad continuum, it has moved from chapter to chapter and there were lessons to be learnt from each chapter". He said, "the peace process and peace negotiations are not one and the same. Negotiation is only one component of the peace process."
The Ceasefire Agreement signed three years ago by the government and the LTTE is the bedrock of the current peace process he said, "Reconciliation was and is an important aspect of the peace process". Mr. Dhanapala referred to the National Advisory Council for Peace & Reconciliation ( NACPR) set up by the President to make the peace process open, transparent and inclusive. He also referred to the President's apology on behalf of the State to the Tamil people and the grant of compensations to those who suffered in the July 1983 riots.
"If you wish to get a feel of Sri Lankan public opinion, sadly the local press presents a cacophony of views", Jayantha Dhanapala told his international audience. He assured them, that surveys have shown that on the ground there is a strong longing for peace.
The former Under-Secretary General for Disarmament said that UN studies have shown that half of the number of countries emerging from conflict lapse back into conflict after around five years. Dhanapala said the present UPFA Government has spared no efforts in reviving the peace process and has been working intensely to recommence peace negotiations. Referring to the failure to recommence peace negotiations he said it was primarily due to the fact that the LTTE was insisting that its demand for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) should be the sole agenda item in the next round of talks.
The Government was willing to discuss all proposals for an interim authority as a prelude to a final settlement based on the Oslo communiqué signed by the two parties on 5th December 2002 which agreed to explore a solution based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The Government however did not succeed and got the impression the LTTE was not interested in discussions.
Mr. Dhanapala thanked the Norwegian facilitators for their continued assistance. They were first invited by President Kumaratunga in 1999.
The Government has been and still is committed to keeping alive the CFA despite it being a flawed document. Dhanapala thanked the Nordic countries in the SLMM for their yeoman efforts to monitor the CFA and keep it alive under very trying circumstances. Since the Karuna defection in 2004 there have been killings and internecine conflicts making life difficult for the SLMM and everyone concerned in keeping the CFA intact.
He said since February 23, 2002 to date there have been 2,837 LTTE violations of the CFA, of which 55.4% was instances of child conscription. As for the GOSL, there have been 129 violations. 37% of them related to harassments by the security forces at checkpoints.
Mr. Dhanapala said he was encouraged by the interest shown by the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in Sri Lanka. MIGA promotes foreign direct investment into developing countries in order to support economic growth, reduce poverty and improve people's lives. A global insurer to private investors, MIGA advises countries on foreign investment. It has played positive roles in post-conflict situations in Bosnia – Herzegovina, the Gaza and Afghanistan.
Referring to the discussions with the LTTE after the tsunami disaster he said, "Within two days of the disaster, the President through her Secretary wrote to Thamilselvan inviting the LTTE to the high level committee of all political parties to address the massive task of relief and reconstruction. The response was encouraging. Mr.Thamilselvan wrote back on the 3rd of January, thanking the Government for its invitation. The Government began discussions on the directions of the President on the 7th of January with a LTTE delegation. The two teams worked on an administrative mechanism for post tsunami rehabilitation in the North and East."
"This was a largely home-grown formulation. The LTTE withdrew from direct negotiations after one of its senior leaders Mr. Kaushalyan was killed on the 7th of February. From this point the discussions with the LTTE continued through the Norwegian facilitator. There were more delays when the senior LTTE leadership toured western nations for six weeks."
With Norwegian facilitation we have reached some finality to establish a structure to address the post-tsunami needs of the six districts in the North and East. This administrative mechanism will see to the infrastructure needs of the area within two kilometers of the coastline based on needs assessments without any discrimination whatsoever.
This 'mechanism' would comprise three tiers: national, regional and district level. The high level committee will have equal representation from the Government, the Muslim community and the LTTE. The regional committees will have five representatives from the LTTE, three from the Muslim community and two from the Government. The District Committees are already in place.
There would be water-tight safeguards in place to protect the interests of the minorities, whoever they may be in each of the Districts.
This structure will work within a democratic framework. It will make key policy decisions over the optimum utilization of resources and address the reconstruction requirements of the tsunami-hit areas of the six districts. All the finances will be handled by Government agencies.
The structure will be called the 'Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure'.
Dhanapala told the forum that he understands the frustrations of the international community, with the lack of progress in this area. He said "I confess even we in Sri Lanka are sometimes tempted to feel frustrated but we cannot afford to cease our efforts."
Jayantha Dhanapala concluded by quoting a Chinese proverb 'The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war'.