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Ceasefire offer highlights crisis of credibility

A statement released by the National Peace Council follows

(July 29, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The LTTE has announced its intention to declare a unilateral ceasefire from July 26 to August 4 to cover the duration of the SAARC Summit in Sri Lanka which brings together the heads of state of the eight South Asian countries. This is not the first occasion on which the LTTE has made such an offer. The Sri Lankan government has rejected the LTTE's offer as a ploy to gain a respite from the government's military operations and to obtain the sympathies of the international community. The government has recently said it is ready for talks only if the LTTE lays down arms which the LTTE has rejected outright.

As the host of the SAARC Summit, it is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government to take all steps within its power to prevent any form of violence during the course of events in which several Heads of State will participate. The presence of the Heads of States of SAARC countries in Sri Lanka in the days ahead is a good occasion for both government and LTTE to show their intention of resolving the ethnic conflict through political negotiations. It also provides a platform to showcase regional cooperation and integration, which has been lacking in the past years. The fact that the LTTE has extended its support, for whatever reason, is an indication that it too places strategic importance on this Summit.

Whatever its motivations, a ceasefire offer is not to be lightly rejected as it offers a new space and a new opportunity for peace. Small steps can lead to forward movements that build trust and the possibility of a new peace process.

The absence of positive responses by the international community to the offers of talks and ceasefires is indicative of a credibility problem that accompanies such offers and points to the need for both the government and LTTE to reassess their past behaviour and to find ways to rebuild their credibility. The LTTE's unilateral ceasefire offer, for instance, would have had more credibility if it had been accompanied by clear and convincing evidence of a change of heart and approach in the direction of a political and negotiated process of conflict resolution. It would have been even more encouraging if a proactive stance had been taken by the LTTE directly with the government and its representatives, instead of an indirect effort through the media.

However, the National Peace Council believes that the positive aspects of the LTTE's unilateral ceasefire must not be discounted and could be built upon. The international community has an important role to play in creating the conditions for a new ceasefire agreement in the future. We call on the government to relax its embargo on peace emissaries going into the Wanni to meet with the LTTE so that this effort can be made both internationally and locally as well. It is disappointing that the visiting EU parliamentary delegation was unable to visit the east, as this could have created a concrete opportunity for international representatives to evaluate with goodwill the efforts taken by the government to restore normalcy in that area.

The ongoing war is creating tremendous human suffering and violations of human rights. The quest for a peaceful solution is a humanitarian obligation, and the right to life, and to live peacefully is now a necessity.

( Governing Council : The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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