May 25, 2000 - Issue: Vol. 146, No. 67 — Daily Edition106th Congress (1999 - 2000) - 2nd Session
NEED FOR A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT IN SRI LANKA; Congressional Record Vol. 146, No. 67
(House of Representatives - May 25, 2000)
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[Page H3858] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] NEED FOR A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT IN SRI LANKA The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Shimkus). Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes. Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, for weeks now, the newspapers have carried stories about the recent escalation in the fighting in Sri Lanka, the island nation located just to the south of India. Sri Lankan Government forces have been battling a violent rebellion by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE, commonly known as The Tigers, a separatist organization that the United States has designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Tigers' campaign has gone on for 17 years, at a cost of tens of thousands of lives. Their goal is the establishment of a Tamil Eelam, a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, to divide this small island nation into two ethnic states, a Tamil state and a Sinhalese state. Last month, the Tigers stepped up their campaign in the Jaffna Peninsula in the northern part of the island. The government forces have continued to battle the Tigers. Sri Lanka's president, Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga, has vowed not to surrender to the terrorists and not to stand by and allow the partitioning of the country. Instead, the government is urging the LTTE to put down their arms and come to the negotiating table for good-faith talks aimed at addressing the concerns of Tamil people in a peaceful way. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Sri Lankan people, both Sinhalese and Tamil alike, reject the idea of dividing their nation into two ethnically based, ethnically cleansed homelands. The LTTE by no means speaks for all of the Tamil people. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, there are Tamil political parties and organizations committed to working with the government to achieve a higher degree of autonomy through peaceful means. And the government has had on the table for a long time a Devolution Plan that would recognize the Tamils' legitimate claims. If nothing else, the government's plan offers at least a basis for beginning negotiations. Mr. Speaker, President Kumaratunga, who is elected as the nation's first woman president in 1994, was reelected last December in an election in which 73 percent of the eligible voters turned out. In the final days of the presidential campaign, she was injured in a terrorist attack blamed on the LTTE. That attack took the lives of 22 people and left more than 100 injured. Yet, despite this attack and despite the recent escalation of violence by the LTTE, President Kumaratunga continues to ask the separatists to lay down their arms and begin talks. In this current crisis, Sri Lanka has reached out to the international community to help bring the separatists to the negotiating table. Yesterday, President Kumaratunga appealed to India, Sri Lanka's democratic neighbor to the north, to facilitate the effort to bring the Tamil Tigers to the table. Sri Lankan officials have also been meeting with diplomats from Norway in an effort to resume the negotiations with the rebels that broke off 5 years ago. Next Monday, U.S. Under Secretary of State, Thomas Pickering, will go to Sri Lanka where he will meet with government officials and other leaders of the other Tamil parties. Mr. Speaker, the position of the United States and of India and of other Western nations is that this conflict can only be resolved through negotiations, and that the solution should preserve the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. The campaign by the LTTE to force the break up of Sri Lanka does not have the support of the international community, and it must never gain that legitimacy. As I mentioned, Mr. Speaker, the U.S. State Department has branded the LTTE a terrorist organization. Recently, the parliament of the European Union has urged its member nations to take similar steps. The Tigers maintained their determination for an outright win militarily, but that strategy seems destined only to kill thousands of more people by shattering lives in both the Tamil and Sinhalese communities. Mr. Speaker, I urge Under Secretary Pickering to continue to make clear that this crisis can only be resolved through a political solution. We must step up our efforts to work with other international friends, including India and Western European nations, to maintain the pressure on the LTTE to come to the negotiating table. The Tigers should join with the rest of the Tamil community to promote the interests of their community through the institutions of the united, sovereign, and democratic Sri Lanka. ____________________