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Democracy only answer for sustainable peace: Sri Lanka

V.S. Sambandan

Subjugation of people by LTTE cannot be tolerated, says Bogollagama

Rohitha Bogollagama

Chennai: The Sri Lankan government will “find only a political solution to a political issue,” and its military engagement was “purely as a means towards eliminating terrorism,” Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has said.

The “subjugation of people by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist organisation cannot be tolerated,” Mr. Bogollagama said in a 90-minute interview to The Hindu at his office in Colombo on September 6. “Democracy is the only answer we have for sustainable peace,” and “terrorism in the hands of the LTTE has to be eliminated in order to sustain that progress for the people of the island as a whole.”

Conflict resolution

On the conflict resolution process since the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the President in November 2005, the Minister said that in the first phase, the government had engaged in talks with the LTTE, “believing that the talks would lead to a negotiated settlement,” but “the LTTE went about on their normal violent ways they were used to.”

The process entered the second phase a year later when the “LTTE prevented farmers in the eastern province from taking water by the closure” of a reservoir, resulting in the government taking control of the Eastern Province. As Colombo did “not see any useful purpose” served by the ceasefire agreement, it annulled it on January 3, 2008, and “simultaneously introduced sustainable measures for restoration of democracy.”

This was “to empower the people when we were countering terrorists, so that we give it as a tangible benefit and a result of counter-terrorism measures.”

Political empowerment

The Minister termed this year’s local bodies elections in the ethnically mixed Eastern Province a “major” and “singular achievement, surpassing all other peripheral successes we have had,” as it had “led to the empowerment of the people politically.”

“Today, that success alone has contributed [to] an accelerated economic development agenda” in the east. “People in the Province are not being subjugated, dictated or held hostage by any terrorist group. We must value that today that itself is an achievement for Sri Lanka. That’s the transformation we are seeking: empowering the people first politically, second economically. That will bring about sustainable peace because people will then decide how they should steer their own expectations.”

He described as “short and interim” the humanitarian situation in the conflict-hit Northern Province. “We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and taking every meaningful step towards minimising the inconveniences that the community is experiencing,” he said.

Pointing out that a similar situation prevailed during the eastern operations, but had now cleared, Mr. Bogollagama said: “We are doing everything in the north to facilitate their daily life. We know it is not normal. But these are interim phases that one has to go through. The government is very mindful of protecting civilian population. We do not want them to be falling into the hands of the LTTE, who take them in order to mobilise, or in order to seek protection out of them for the LTTE-hideouts.”

(To be concluded)

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