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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Speeches from Sri Lankan peace talks
For the first time after the start of the Tamil separatist war in 1983, a Sinhala group travelled to the north in 2002 to meet Tamil families
A Tamil girl smiles at Sinhala visitors from the south
Peace talks, sponsored by Norway, started in Thailand between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels with addresses by the chief negotiators of both sides.

The following are extracts from the inaugural speech by Prof GL Peiris, head of the Sri Lankan delegation:

"Together we repudiate today a legacy of rancour and hatred, which has torn asunder the fabric of our nation for decades.

"Our nation has resolved... that a sea change is necessary, now that the tempests have abated.

"During the last few months our people, whatever their ethnic identity, have savoured deeply the fruits of peace and grasped, within the contours of their daily lives, the infinite vistas of opportunity that peace will bring in its wake.

"Above all, the fear which stalked a whole generation has become a thing of the past, heralding in its stead the spirit of freedom and contentment.

"It is inconceivable to us that a people, hovering on the threshold of such exhilarating possibilities, should decide to jettison it all in order to return, of their own accord, to the travails of war.

"It is the endeavour of our government... with malice towards none and goodwill towards all, to consolidate and build on all positive elements... and yet, in all humility, to learn from the mistakes of the past, not to impute blame but simply to avoid their repetition and perpetuation.

These reforms must be effected within the framework of a state whose unity is ensured

GL Peiris - Sri Lanka government

"As we renounce war and embrace negotiation as the key to our island's future, far be it from us to deny or even unwittingly to make light of, the challenges and hazards that confront us.

"A reservoir of suspicion and antipathy, which has filled to the brim over extended periods, can scarcely be wished away overnight. Assuredly, no quick fix is feasible.

"We are convinced that no process of negotiation could aspire to be fruitful in its outcome in the absence of a threshold of trust and confidence between the parties.

"Nothing is clearer, in the interest of national survival... than that this is the time for a fresh point of departure. We, as the government of our country, are equal to this challenge.

"We pay tribute, at the same time, to the foresight of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and their leader, Mr Velupillai Prabhakaran, in embarking on the transformation of their movement into a political organization responsive to the changing nuances of contemporary priorities.

"These negotiations cannot be pursued on the basis that gain accruing to one party involves reciprocal loss to the other. We emphatically reject that premise. We acknowledge that we both have a problem, destructive of the pulsating heart of our nation, which it is in our mutual interest to resolve together.

"We stand unwaveringly for the amplest degree of devolution and for the establishment and strengthening of institutions designed to achieve this purpose. But these reforms must necessarily be effected within the framework of a state whose unity and territorial integrity is ensured in fact and in law by the envisioned structures.

"We are mindful that any substantive structural and institutional arrangements that may be evolved should provide for the rights of all communities. In this context, we have taken note of the apprehensions expressed by the Sinhala and Muslim communities living in the northern and eastern provinces."

The following are excerpts from the speech by Anton Balasingham, the LTTE's political adviser and head of the Tamil Tiger delegation:

"As far as the Liberation Tigers are concerned, I can assure you that we are seriously and sincerely committed to peace and that we will strive our utmost to ensure the success of the negotiations.

"We are well aware that there are powerful political forces in southern Sri Lanka who are irrationally opposed to peace and ethnic reconciliation. Nevertheless, we are confident that the talks will progress successfully because... the principal parties in the conflict as well as the overwhelming majority of the people of the island want peace.

"The last two decades... were characterized by a brutal and savage war. All previous attempts to seek a peaceful negotiated settlement to this intractable conflict ended in fiasco.

"The most encouraging aspect of the current situation is that the cease-fire has held for the last seven months, without any serious violations.

"There is an urgent need for relief and assistance to the war-affected people. Immediate steps should be undertaken... to embark on a comprehensive program of resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction. This monumental task cannot be undertaken without the help and assistance of the international community.

The deepest aspiration of our people is peace, with justice and freedom

Anton Balasingham - Tamil Tigers

"[The people] require immediate relief to resolve their urgent, existential problems. Therefore, the peace process cannot be undertaken in isolation without taking parallel steps towards the economic recovery of the suffering population.

"The leaders of the Sri Lanka government have expressed a desire to transform the island into a successful Tiger economy. We appreciate their aspiration. Such an aspiration can best be released by embracing the Tamil Tigers as their equal partners in the task of economic reconstruction of the country.

"The LTTE is the legitimate and authentic representative of the Tamil people. Therefore, it is crucial that the LTTE should play a leading and pivotal role in administration as well as the economic development of the northeast.

"The deepest aspiration of our people is peace, a peace with justice and freedom; a permanent peace in which our people enjoy their right to self-determination and co-exist with others."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Peace efforts




See also:

16 Sep 02 | South Asia
16 Sep 02 | South Asia
16 Sep 02 | South Asia
16 Sep 02 | South Asia
14 Sep 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
16 Sep 02 | South Asia
06 Aug 02 | Country profiles
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