|Saturday, 10 May 2003|
As a group of agencies committed to durable peace in Sri Lanka, the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies calls upon the parties to the current peace process and the people in positions of leadership to keep firmly in mind the costs of conflict and the necessity for peace. The people of Sri Lanka have suffered immense grief, loss and trauma from twenty years of war. The stalling of the peace talks is a serious setback that is of great concern to us and to the communities with whom we work, a press release from the consortium of Humanitarian Agencies said.
Even though there is a perception that the peace process has not brought adequate results, it is important to acknowledge that the last 14 months of ceasefire have brought substantial benefits for most Sri Lankans. A few such examples are.
- Physical security has improved greatly since hostilities have ceased, and thousands of deaths have been averted;
- Commerce has been rejuvenated in the north and east, and the lifting of the embargo has made a greater variety of products available at lower prices;
- Humanitarian agencies have gained increased access to vulnerable populations, and relief and rehabilitation activities have expanded substantially;
- Tens of thousands of displaced families have returned to their homes and people are able to move more freely between north and south.
These benefits notwithstanding, much more needs to be done to fortify the process. For more sustainable benefits to accrue, there must be a strong commitment to keeping the peace talks on track, to dealing with differences through dialogue, to confronting difficult issues constructively, and to holding both parties accountable for fully abiding by the ceasefire agreement. Respect for the dignity and human rights of each and every Sri Lankan must be the centrepiece of peace negotiations. To the extent that human rights violations are allowed to occur, they undermine the integrity and credibility of the peace process, the consortium added.
We urge both parties to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the current peace process and to redouble their commitment to negotiating a durable settlement. The process must move beyond the interests of the Government and the LTTE, and focus on the interests of ordinary people who yearn to build a more hopeful and prosperous future for their families and communities. We urge the Government and the LTTE to go back to the negotiating table, and to create a more open and inclusive process that will give the peace talks deeper roots among the people.
Produced by Lake House