Rajan Sriskandarajah MD.
23 Tamidan Road, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601, USA.
3 June 2001
Mr. Ariya Rubasinghe,
Director of Government Information,
Government Information Department,
163 Kirulapana Avenue,
Dear Mr. Rubasinghe,
Thank you for your Press Release (# 475) of 26th May 2001, which your embassy was kind enough to send to me.
I am impressed by the thoughtfulness of your embassy staff for taking the trouble to send this to someone who has long relinquished the citizenship of your country. Certainly, Doctor Goebbels, whose tasks were similar to yours in Nazi Germany, would never have sent something like this to a Jewish person living in Germany or anywhere else. I am sure you
directed your ambassador to send this to me, and I wish to sincerely thank you for it.
I wish to also take this opportunity to discuss some matters you have raised in the press release.
The main point of your release is about the LTTE’s insistence on what you have termed certain ‘pre-conditions’ or ‘pre-requisites’ being met before commencement of negotiations with the Government of Sri Lanka. “Velupillai Pirabakaran stated categorically we are not imposing any pre-conditions for peace talks”, you have said, quoting
his Hero’s Day Address of 27th November 2000. The thrust of your press release, if I understood it correctly, seems to be, Mr. Pirabakaran said something in November last year, and is now asking for something different (or something more).
It is apparent that you do not read or understand Tamil. If you do, you would not have this difficulty with what Mr. Pirabakaran had said in his speech.
What Mr. Pirabakaran actually said in his speech [in Tamil] was:
We are not laying any conditions for peace talks. However, we have been stressing the need to develop an atmosphere of goodwill and good attitudes suitable for talks.
For the two sides, which have for over 20 years engaged in a horrible war, with mutual hostility and distrust, it would not be possible to continue fighting, and all of a sudden engage in peace talks. Hence we wish the talks to take place after a gradual de-escalation of the war resulting in cessation of hostilities, and in an atmosphere of tranquility and goodwill. What we
mean by tranquility is the removal of economic burdens and restrictions placed on the Tamil people, and a return of easier life for our people. The talks will be constructive only on firm grounds, with a milieu of goodwill and improved attitudes. We are, therefore, only emphasizing the necessity and the compulsion for an atmosphere of goodwill, but we are not laying conditions for talks...”
Even if the words in this well thought-out speech had been translated to you accurately, I am not sure if you were able to grasp the sum and substance of what Mr. Pirabkaran said. When one reads something with preconceived ideas (or hostility) one fails to grasp what is actually said.
Let me explain what I understood.
Creating an atmosphere conducive to peace talks is not the same as ‘pre-conditions’, as you seem to have understood the term. If the ultimate objective of the talks between the warring parties is ‘peace’, then it is imperative that both parties go into the process with right and proper attitudes. If they go in as belligerents, the process
itself will be one of belligerence. If they go in with peace on their minds, they will achieve peace. Attitudes are absolutely vital for a successful outcome.
Experts in conflict resolution use the term ‘confidence-building’ to connote what I have said above. You will no doubt agree that in Sri Lanka today there is an extreme lack of ‘confidence’ between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people. The mutual distrust and hostility are intense, and sadly, this has worsened over the years. Mr. Pirabakaran not
only called for this trend to be reversed with his speech, but he went further. He tried single-handedly to reverse this downhill slide, with his unilateral ceasefire and other goodwill gestures, as a prelude to the peace talks. You know how your government squandered away this golden opportunity. Your government chose not only not to reciprocate, but actually went on the offensive to
publicly ridicule these gestures of goodwill.
You have said, “The LTTE’s insistence on these ‘pre-conditions’ or ‘pre-requisites’ especially de-proscription, exposes their lack of seriousness in entering into meaningful negotiations.” On the contrary, I think, the LTTE is dead serious, not merely about ‘entering’ the peace process, but more importantly about the outcome. They
are more serious about the outcome or the end-point, which is achieving peace with honor and justice for all, than just entering the process. Mr. Pirabakaran wants the process to be structured in a way that this end-point will be realized.
The rest of what you have stated in your press release is a good example of what is likely to happen if both parties enter negotiations as belligerents. It would be a shouting match, with both parties trading accusations. Your press release is full of such accusations, which the Sri Lankan side will most likely bring to the negotiating table to
What you have forgotten (or ignored) is that the Tamil side has more of this commodity to ‘trade’ at the table. I don’t know if you have done any counting lately. I have. Using numbers provided by your government and international NGOs, I have found the Sri Lankan armed forces to be responsible for a good 88 percent of the killings in this war. The real numbers I am sure will
bring it closer to 98 percent! The Tamil side will have a field day at the negotiations, to what end.
Sir, it is precisely this type of belligerence in the course of the negotiations that Mr. Velupillai Pirabakaran is striving to avoid. He wants to bring goodwill and improved attitudes to the table. He wants the process to be triumphant in the end.
I truly and sincerely wish that you could read and understand Tamil. Mr. Pirabakaran’s speech on 27th November last year is an absolute masterpiece. If you cannot learn Tamil in a hurry, I suggest you get a good translator who could interpret the essence and the spirit of his speech.
With best wishes and warmest regards.
Rajan Sriskandarajah MD