Sri Lanka: Stop the war - we have a right to live without fear

People to People dialogue on Peace and Sustainable Development
People to People Dialogue for Peace and Sustainable Development is an initiative that is being built among farmers, urban, rural and plantation workers, fisher people and women’s organizations in the South, North, East and the Hill country.
Its aims are to stop the war and build peace, to work for the rights of the people in the North, South and the rest of the country and to work towards a sustainable development process that is people- centered and acceptable to all of them, while rejecting the efforts made to bring both the South and the North under the domination of global capital.
Following a series of discussions and an in depth analysis conducted among social activists representing farmers, fishers, urban, rural and plantation workers and women of all these sectors, on the present crisis facing Sri Lankan society in relation to the ethnic issue and practical actions to address the present state of affairs, the steering committee of the People to People Dialogue on Peace and Sustainable Development reached understanding and common agreement on the following.
  • The war that has now reached a certain low intensity should be prevented from any further escalation and brought to an end through a negotiated settlement. A vast majority of people in Sri Lanka, belonging to all ethnic communities have come to a common understanding that the war should be stopped.. We represent this very large majority of the unarmed people;
  • Our task of highest priority today is to strengthen the initiatives for peace and to take it forward. It is the responsibility of all of us to work towards preventing the emergence of the war once more and breakdown in the peace efforts, and towards that objective we should take all necessary action;
  • We make a strong appeal that all killings and acts of violence carried out by the Government, the LTTE and Others, should be stopped immediately.
  • All hostilities should be stopped, while the agreements reached on signing of the MOU and at the Geneva round of negotiations should be respected, given effect and peace negotiations be initiated immediately on the basis of these agreements.
  • The mainstream media should act responsibly. The use of media in a manner that increases mutual mistrust and spreads hatred among people while contributing to a war approach should be stopped.
  • We propose the necessity of setting up an Impartial Citizens’ Assembly to investigate into correct and factual information and for disseminating such information.
  • The right of people living in the North, South, East, the Hill country and all other regions of Sri Lanka to decide on their livelihoods, right to the land, the sea and other natural resources and their right to govern such resources in a responsible manner should be granted. A Sri Lankan nation could be built only on an acceptance of such rights.
  • In finding solutions to the ethnic problem, serious attention should be paid to the rights and problems faced by the Muslims. Special emphasis should be given to the just demands made by the Muslim people. They should be provided space in the negotiations towards finding solutions.
  • Similar attention and space should be provided to the plantation people, their human rights and their right to autonomous development, considering the fact that they have worked and lived under conditions of semi slavery for nearly 200 years and have contributed towards the development of the country, working under such conditions.
  • The ceasefire agreement between the LTTE and the Government in 2002 was possible only as a result of official recognition of the LTTE. This recognition should have been strengthened and expanded as a means of further paving the way for LTTE to enter into a process of peaceful political settlement. We feel that the steps taken by the Government to get the LTTE proscribed in other countries, while continuing the efforts to reach a negotiated settlement, as not being rational and wise.
  • As a step towards ending the 23 years long war, the proposal by the LTTE, for setting up an Interim Self Governing Authority as a mechanism of deciding on the control over land, the sea and other natural resources and the right to decide on their own development plans should be accepted. This authority should have the right to rebuild and rehabilitate the destruction caused by the war.
  • Similarly, space should be created, with no further delay, for the LTTE and the people of the North and East to intervene in the administrative structures for the rebuilding of the Northern and Eastern regions that were affected by the tsunami. Such machinery that ensures participation of the people in the administration is a need in the South too.
As a result of the continued unwillingness on the part of Governments and among some groups in the South, to agree on a solution to the ethnic problem acceptable to the people in the North and East, there is a strong feeling of mistrust that has grown among the people in the North and East towards the Southern society.

The challenge before us today, is to dispel this mistrust. We wish to suggest the following steps towards this:
  1. Conditions should be created for the people who have been displaced as a result of the high security zones and the land mines to enable them to return to their inherited land, the sea, and to have access to their livelihoods as farmers and fisher people. They should be able to go back to their homes and live without fear and insecurity.
  2. People who have lived in camps as displaced people for as long as 20 years still live under miserable conditions. Continued bombing displaces more and more people. These people should be given the right to rebuild their lives. Further attacks should be halted to prevent such displacement.
  3. Through maximum devolution of power, the right of the people in the North and East to decide on their development and governance should be ensured.
  4. Peace negotiations towards a political solution should be restarted immediately in order to ensure security of the people who are threatened by the continued attacks and to prevent communities being compelled to move into refugee camps in increasing numbers.
  5. We strongly reject the attempts made by various foreign powers to push through their destructive economic strategies and plans in the name of assisting in the peace building process.
We, the unarmed people living in the South, North, East and in the Hill Country would like to strongly emphasize our belief that sustainable peace can only be achieved on the basis of a sustainable development approach that would benefit the ordinary people and would address their genuine needs.

Stop the War. We have a right to live without fear!

People to People dialogue on Peace and Sustainable Development Steering Committee

There are scholars, academics in the North and South who are in this network and their views have been obtained in formulation of this statement.