Saturday, 15 February 2003  
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President urges re-opening of Jaffna Library

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga yesterday called for the re-opening of the Jaffna Public Library, saying it would be an "important step in bringing reconciliation and healing in our land".

In a news release issued yesterday, President Kumaratunga regretted the cancellation of the reopening of the Jaffna Public Library.

"It is regrettable that at time when the Government and the LTTE are engaged in talks aimed at resolving the ethnic conflict and bringing healing and reconciliation amongst our peoples, that the reopening of the Library which would be an important milestone in rehabilitation and reconstruction is being obstructed by the LTTE. This demonstrates the fallacy of the notion that rehabilitation and reconstruction should receive priority," the President added.

She said: "The burning of the Jaffna Public Library in 1981 was a watershed event which contributed significantly to deep divisions in our country. The reconstruction of the same, commenced after the writ of government was reestablished in Jaffna in 1995, was with the intent, to right the wrongs committed in the past, an act of wanton destruction for which the then government was clearly complicit.

"The current peace process is deficient in its lack of safeguards for democratic rights and freedoms. This totalitarian act is sadly symbolic of the current trends in the North and East to curtail independent thinking, dialogue and critical analysis. The Jaffna Public Library has long been a symbol of learning and liberation for the people of the North. The wanton destruction of which was symptomatic of a totalitarian state two decades ago and the prevention of its reopening is a totalitarianism of another kind."

The People's Alliance said yesterday that the government had bowed to the threats of the LTTE betraying democracy.

"We want to emphasise that the cancellation of the re-opening was done at the instance of the Government. The Government has advised the TULF and its Leader Ananda Sangaree to bow down to the LTTE and cancel the meeting," PA media spokesman Sarath Amunugama said at a news briefing.

Dr.Amunugama said:"When we must strengthen the political establishment of people who are freely and democratically elected in the Jaffna peninsula, the Government is encouraging violence and stopping public events which had been decided upon by the elected representatives in Jaffna."

He recalled that the PA initiated the book and brick donation programme to restore the Jaffna Library.

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