Jean Ziegler, Professor at the University of Geneva
Rev. Alexander Reid, Ireland
We, a group of scholars with extensive research experience in South Asia and/or inter-community relations as well as human rights activists from different European countries, are deeply dismayed over the recent decision of the EU (26th September 2005), to impose a travel ban on official delegations of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and, moreover, to actively consider their proscription as a ‘terrorist organization’.
With one stroke the EU has given up the equidistant and impartial position that is imperative for a facilitator or intermediary in a conflict. This is all the more regrettable since the EU is not only the co-chair of the Tokyo Donor Conference but has strong economic connections with Sri Lanka through the export market, tourism and as a creditor and a donor.
Instead of using these means to exert pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka to seriously revitalise negotiations with the srilankan Tamil movement, which have been stalled for two years now, the EU has simply taken sides with the Government, encouraging those political forces in Sinhala society who are calling for a military solution to the Tamil question.
Thus, the newly elected president of the country, Mahinda Rajapakse, and the party coalition backing him have publicly declared their total opposition to any form of decentralization and power-sharing with the Tamils insisting that all power remain vested in the Sinhala controlled unitary state.
Thus Mahinda Rajapakse has negated all the political steps of compromise made during the 4 year long, Norwegian facilitated Peace Process. He has even gone to the extent of tearing up the agreement made by his predecessor for sharing the desperately needed Tsunami aid with the Tamils. The essential preconditions for the cease-fire as much as the peace negotiations, namely to search for an interim solution to the conflict based on internal autonomy in a federal state, have thereby been called into question.
The EU appears to have forgotten the causes of the conflict, i.e. the collective discrimination that the Tamils have been subjected to for decades, and which manifests itself prominently in the dismal human rights record of successive governments. They include bloody pogroms, numerous extra-judicial killings, disappearances and torture perpetrated by the security forces during the 25 years of almost uninterrupted state of emergency. These massive human rights violations predate the civil war and cannot be justified as a reaction to the armed violence of the LTTE.
Whatever the critique of the policies and methods of the LTTE, the majority of the Tamils feel that the LTTE represents the aspirations of the Tamil people. In view of these facts the EU decision falls short of providing external support to a bilateral peace process and amounts to an attempt at creating an imbalance that may well set off renewed hostilities on a large scale.
We, the undersigned, have come together to provide differentiated and balanced information to the European institutions, and to encourage the EU to work on gaining credibility as an honest intermediary by urging the warring parties to move along the arduous long road towards a just peace. Our purpose is to inform and to lobby, and our target groups are political parties and decision makers both on a national level and in the institutions of the EU or other international organisations based in Europe, as well as the European public. Travel bans and proscription of one party are utterly unhelpful in any negotiations. The strategy for peace making is dialogue. The EU cannot be allowed to neglect this simple truth. Our objective is, therefore, to have the ban against official visits of LTTE delegations to the EU lifted and to exert pressure on the EU to not to take the extremely destabilising step of banning the LTTE in Europe. This will certainly push the situation further into turmoil in Sri Lanka as well as force a considerable number of the hundreds of thousand of law abiding Tamil refugees living in Europe into illegality.
We call on all like-minded people to contribute to our task to join us in this endeavour.
‘European Initiative for a Negotiated Peace in Sri Lanka’- Prof. John Neelsen (Germany) and Prof. Peter Schalk (Sweden) – 22.12.05