SRI LANKA PEACE PROCESS RESOLUTION -- (House of Representatives - February 08, 2006)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to ask that my colleagues join me in supporting a resolution I introduced today that urges the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to engage positively in peace talks. I am deeply concerned about the ongoing violence caused by terrorism in Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil, also known as the Tamil Tigers, is a group designated by the United States State Department as a terrorist organization. I hope this body can express its disapproval of the violence and instead voice full support for the resumption of constructive peace talks between both sides.
For over two decades, there has been armed strife between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers, costing an estimated 65,000 lives. In a breakthrough agreement brokered by Norway back in 2002, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers signed a cease-fire. Unfortunately, the Tamil Tigers have committed a number of violations, and the peace process has broken down.
On August 12, 2005, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister was brutally assassinated by a sniper, and it has been widely acknowledged that the LTTE members had targeted him for some time. Though LTTE has denied any involvement, past history demonstrates that the group never claims responsibility for their crimes. There is now clear evidence, for example, that the Tamil Tigers ordered assassinations of India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, President R. Premadasa, and others. These patterns indicate that the Tamil Tigers were likely involved in Mr. Kadirgamar's assassination.
In addition to the death of Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has recorded over 3,000 violations of the cease-fire agreement by the Tamil Tigers. These violations include assassinations and abductions, particularly the forcible abduction of children for armed combat and kidnapping individuals for ransom.
This past December marked the bloodiest month since the cease-fire agreement came into effect in 2002. Nearly 70 people, about 40 of them from the Sri Lanka Army and Navy, have been killed as a result of the Tamil Tigers' guerilla actions. The Tamil Tigers continue to follow their past policy of denying any responsibility for these actions.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that the U.S. continue to reject the actions and violent tactics of the Tamil Tigers and apply international pressure to request that they begin conducting themselves in a responsible and credible manner. We must insist that the Tamil Tigers demonstrate a willingness to change, abstain from violence, and establish their commitment to the peace process.
The recent pledge to continue peace talks in February in Geneva, Switzerland, is encouraging, but it must include positive engagement by both parties. It is necessary that the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers renegotiate a cease-fire agreement and implement the agreement in a productive and successful manner so the hostilities do not resume. Without progress at the negotiating table, there is a real threat of another armed conflict.
Mr. Speaker, Sri Lanka is Asia's oldest democracy and remains a close friend of the United States. As the founder and current cochair of the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka, I encourage the Bush administration to take the steps necessary to support Sri Lanka during these trying times and continue to strengthen ties between the United States and Sri Lanka.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that my colleagues join me in cosponsoring this resolution. Congress must convey the importance of a constructive peace process and urge both parties to cooperative in good faith in order to find a fair and lasting resolution to Sri Lanka's armed conflict. It is time we ensure peace in Sri Lanka as well as greater stability throughout the South Asia region.