Media Release of the National Peace Council
ONE-SIDED CRITICISM OF TRINCOMALEE PEACE CONFERENCE
In its latest Bulletin (No 27), the University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna (UTHR-J) has criticised a peace conference in Trincomalee jointly organized by the National Peace Council in early October. In its bulletin, the UTHR claims that the conference organisers set the tone to give the message that the Tamil people are inseparable from the LTTE. This appears
to have prompted a leading daily newspaper, which serialised the UTHR bulletin in its pages, to cite the relevant extracts and to editorialise that the NPC should be investigated by the government under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The main objective of the peace conference was to bring together civil society activists from the north-east and the rest of the country to share their experiences of peacebuilding and work together in the future. Those invited for the conference came from a broad range of civic groups, including the Council of NGOs of Jaffna. There were Tamil academics
present who were critical of the LTTE and with ties to the UTHR. If the conference was indeed stage managed, we would not have invited such a category of persons. The opinion that these persons expressed were there own, whatever may have been their motivations. We deny that the conference organisers manipulated the conference to orchestrate the message
concerning the LTTE as alleged by the UTHR in their Bulletin. This was neither our intention nor our need.
The UTHR further accuses the conference organisers of not dealing with the issue of recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE. The issue of child soldiers, and many other human rights abuses, was raised by participants at the conference. There was a general acceptance that ending the war through government-LTTE peace talks with foreign mediation was the surest way to end these abuses. As a conflict resolution organisation the NPC believes that its ultimate contribution to human rights lies in contributing to bringing about a negotiated peace.
While the UTHR and sections of society may not like it, at the present time the four party alliance of Tamil political parties contesting the forthcoming General Election has taken the position that the LTTE is therepresentative of the Tamil people at peace talks with the government. In April when the NPC took a group of journalists from the south to Jaffna,and met with a wide range of civic groups, this was also the dominant opinion that came through.
We regret that an effort to bring together civic activists from the north-east and the rest of the country should be singled out for criticism in a one-sided manner. The NPC's efforts to bring people together, to listen and to understand each other, is part of a process of trust building. The deeper the trust that is built, the more possible it will be for citizens to challenge each other about taking their peace work to new levels. The peace conference in Trincomalee was an initial step in much longer-term process of mutual engagement for social and political transformation.
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