want peace, but no consensus on how to achieve it
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
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
“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.