"Ceasefire Between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE"

NJ Congressman Frank Pollone (Indian and Sri Lankan Caucas chairman) made a speech on the Congress Floor.

March 6, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I come to the House Floor this evening to bring to the attention of my colleagues a historic peace initiative between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

On February 22, 2002, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, the Honorable Wickremesinghe and the leader of the LTTE, Mr. Prabhakaran, signed an agreement that established a long term ceasefire by both sides that signifies the beginning of peace talks and simply, a new era of peace for war torn Sri Lanka.

For nearly two decades now, there has been a civil war taking place between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, one of the world's most dangerous guerilla groups. The ceasefire was negotiated by Norway and will be overseen by Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

I am optimistic about this movement towards peace and feel that the United States should extend its support for this agreement to end years of violent bloodshed. Indeed, the LTTE will have to show great will to bring an end to its violent attacks that have claimed tens of thousands of innocent lives, however, the current global situation has provided a glimpse of hope that this ceasefire will be a successful endeavor.

Since the September 11 attacks, there has been a desire throughout the world to move away from senseless violence and clearly, we began a new campaign against terrorism. This new atmosphere may potentially foster improved relations between Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Additionally, the LTTE may have been more apt to agree to this peace agreement since their popularity and financial support was waning throughout countries that formerly favored them or provided support.

We see this hope for peace in Sri Lanka is already coming to fruition. Since December, medicine, supplies and other goods are being shipped to Tamil Tiger controlled areas. Shipment of goods to these areas has been under the control the Sri Lankan government, but the controls have been relaxed for the past several months.

Mr. Speaker, I note that President Kumaratunga has been outspoken in her criticism of the terms of this pact. As President, Mrs. Kumaratunga has the power to suspend Parliament and dismiss the government. If she is not satisfied with certain provisions within the peace agreement, the deal may be canceled.

The differences between the President and Prime Minister must be worked out so Sri Lanka can proceed with dealing with this deadly conflict between Sri Lanka and the LTTE. In any case, the Prime Minister has announced that any peace agreement would have to be supported by a referendum, which ensures that the people of Sri Lanka would be participating in the peace process.

In the upcoming months, it is important to watch closely how this peace process unfolds in Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister is willing to negotiate all forms of settlement with the LTTE, except for establishment of an independent homeland for the Tamil community. I agree that the LTTE should not have an independent state within Sri Lanka. Lastly, I encourage this group to shed its terrorist negotiating tactics and to come to the table with the Sri Lankan government ready to engage in a substantive debate that I hope will lead to a permanent ceasefire, peace in Sri Lanka and greater stability throughout the South Asian region



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