PALLONE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ESCALATING VIOLENCE IN SRI LANKA
Washington, DC --- U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr., the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka, gave the following statement on the floor of the House of Representatives Tuesday evening regarding the escalating conflict in Sri Lanka:
"Mr. Speaker, we are on the verge of full-scale war in Sri Lanka. The 2002 ceasefire agreement and the peace process in Sri Lanka between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, LTTE, is non-existent. The violence is escalating and thousands of Sri Lankan civilians are suffering.
"These past few months have resulted in nearly 2,000 deaths, with more than 200,000 displaced persons. The fighting has also blocked access to essential supplies for many parts of the North-Eastern province -- cutting off more than 60,000 Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils from water.
"This sinister cycle of war, ceasefire, and then more war is not effective. Each side blames the other side and the situation is only getting worse.
"Hostilities must end and violence must not be the means for resolving ethnic conflict. All efforts must be focused on restoring and sustaining peace, and both parties must swallow their pride for the sake of their nation.
"Norway and the co-chairs of the Tokyo Donors' Conference, which includes the United States, have called for a return to unconditional negotiations in October. This return to the negotiating table is critical, and I am fully supportive of this effort. Both parties must guarantee the safety of its citizens, aid workers, and peace monitors. Meanwhile, the LTTE must denounce terrorism as a means to its political aspirations.
"Mr. Speaker, I strongly believe the majority of people in Sri Lanka would be in favor of a democratic solution to the conflict. The political challenges cannot be resolved through war.
"In June, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher stated "though we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues raised by the Tamil community and they have a legitimate desire to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies, and to govern themselves in their homeland."
"I echo his sentiment and I support a solution that retains Sri Lanka's unity. Yet, it should grant a level of autonomy to ethnic minorities like the Tamils. We have seen very similar successful situations throughout the world. Places like Quebec in Canada, Wales and Scotland in Great Britain are all a part of their federal nations but have significant autonomy.
"Mr. Speaker, the situation in Sri Lanka is certainly not getting any better. As we have seen over the past few months, international monitors are leaving the country, scared for their well-being. The United Nations has threatened to revoke its international aid. If this pattern of violence continues without pursuit of a political solution, the international community may completely rescind its support.
"I strongly urge both sides to re-commit to the process of sustaining peace in Sri Lanka. The devastating effect this is having on the civilian population of the country is not just. It is up to both parties to find a way to ensure the safety and security of all the people of Sri Lanka.