Parties want peace, but no consensus on how to achieve it

By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent

With the country once again on the brink of a full scale civil war beginning with the Mavil Aru and Mutur incidents, the problem of displaced persons was the focus of attention during the three days of parliamentary debate last week.

Though mainly it was the plight of the displaced Muslim refugees from Mutur that drew the most amount of concern; the increasing number of Tamils being displaced as a result of the fighting was also not forgotten.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem.

On a motion moved by Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem, parliament had a day long debate on the Mutur issue but again despite the emerging human tragedy, the hugely differing positions held by each party on how best to solve the crisis gave little room for optimism for a resolution of the crisis by consensus.

While it appeared that everyone wanted peace unfortunately the methods of achieving it were at variance.

The JVP and the JHU continued to stress the need for the government to adopt a hard-line stance when dealing with the LTTE while the UNP wanted the government to work harder towards resolving the conflict by negotiations.

With the majority of those affected by the violence in Mutur being Muslims, the SLMC leader called for a cessation of hostilities on both the sides saying it was the civilians who were suffering because of the war.

“All the peace loving people in Sri Lanka have come to realize that both the government and the LTTE continue to make sanctimonious pronouncements supposedly with the objective of respecting the humanitarian needs of the people. In real terms their objective is to pursue a relentless military option totally disregarding the sanctity of life and limb of innocent civilians,” an angry Mr. Hakeem said.

He called for the ceasefire agreement to be reviewed as a means of strengthening it to address the legitimate concerns of all the stakeholders. Mr. Hakeem also accused the LTTE of meting out inhuman treatment to Muslims who were fleeing Mutur to escape the fighting there.

“The thousands of Muslims who left Mutur on an assurance by the LTTE that no harm would be caused to them if they chose to leave were subjected to such harassment and cruelty resulting in the Muslims realizing that as in earlier instances, the LTTE’s assurances could not be taken seriously,” Mr. Hakeem added.

JVP parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa said the LTTE had started building up their strength in Sampoor but despite warnings from intelligence agencies the then UNP government ignored the threat and the consequences of that was the recent LTTE attack on Mutur.

UNP front-liner Rajitha Senaratna said more time should have been given to solve the Mavil Aru issue by way of talks and the war should have been the final option after all other options available to the Government had been exhausted.

Dr. Senaratna also announced plans for a new anti war movement starting next month which would culminate with 100,000 people gathering in Colombo to further the cause of peace with representatives of all political parties standing together.

TNA parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan blamed the government for the escalation of violence in Mavil Aru saying that more opportunities should have been given to negotiate a settlement to the problem.

Later at a news conference in the parliament complex, Mr. Sampanthan questioned why the government was persisting with military action even after the Mavil Aru anicut sluice gates were opened.

“Thousands of Tamil civilians too have been displaced but why are they not being looked after in the same manner the other displaced refugees are,” he queried.

On Friday, the emergency regulations were taken up for debate and passed by an overwhelming majority with the UNP also supporting the government and the TNA voting against.

During the week, parliament also approved the Social Security Benefit Scheme for media personnel and the Sri Lanka Institute of Strategic Studies (Amendment) Bill to rename this Institute as the Lakshman Kadirgamar’s Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told parliament the Institute was being re-named as a tribute to the late minister on the first anniversary of his assassination.

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