|Saturday, 8 February 2003|
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Tackling Human Rights issues
The current round of GoSL - LTTE negotiations in Berlin could, perhaps, be regarded as the most important one we have had in the peace process so far on account of its emphasis on Human Rights. As is well known, difficulties encountered by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in enforcing Human Rights norms in particularly LTTE - controlled areas of the North-East, have exposed the peace effort to criticism, some of it not well-intentioned.
Nevertheless, the perception that the LTTE is fighting shy of respecting the fundamental rights of the North-East people and even violating them tends to discredit the peace process and opens it to ridicule.
Therefore, the importance of the Government openly discussing Human Rights violations allegedly committed by the LTTE, with the relevant party cannot be overlooked. Not only must the LTTE be confronted with these violations, the two sides need to frankly explore the means of seeing an end to them. In other words, a mutually-acceptable mechanism for checking and curbing human rights abuses needs to be installed. We hope this would come to pass in the current round of talks and that the presence of Amnesty International Secretary General, Ian Martin, at the negotiations, would prove beneficial in this regard.
On this question of fostering, preserving and enforcing Human Rights, the words of Unicef Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, needs to be borne in mind: "You are not going to have peace unless you invest in children. We don't believe you can have peace unless you involve children in the process".
There is a tremendous amount of wisdom in these words. If we are serious about bringing peace to this country, a peace culture needs to take firm root in the consciousness of the people - particularly in that of the young, because they will constitute the future generations of this land. For, the perpetuation of ethnic peace and harmony will depend crucially on the mindset and value orientation of the young. If they are schooled into regarding their counterparts in other communities and cultures as enemies and anti-social elements, we cannot expect peace to be established in this country.
For, communal conflicts and disharmony would continue on account of the fact that the seeds of communal enmity and hatred have already been sown in the minds and hearts of the young. If children are turned into murderous combatants and trained to take lives, no plans could be made for permanent peace. This is the reason why the issue of Child Soldiers too needs to be resolved with the LTTE. Children wielding arms and peace efforts are an incongruity which cries out to be resolved.
We do not foresee a trouble-free path to solutions to these problems on account of the fact that the peace process is still in its incipient stages. It is only the progressive advancement of the peace process and the resolution of gut issues which would generate an atmosphere of amity among the main parties which in turn would lead to the successful handling of issues, such as, Human Rights violations and their elimination. This needs to be remembered by particularly the detractors of the peace process.
While there is no denying the fact that concrete progress needs to be made in checking and eliminating Human Rights violations, it must be also remembered that the process of resolving core issues, such as bringing about a suitable arrangement for power-sharing, should also be taken forward for the successful resolution of vexatious questions, such as those relating to Human Rights.
This is mainly because mutual faith and trust between the key parties forms the foundation for the resolution of complex issues. Mutual accommodation and adjustment to each others requirements would not be possible amid continuing distrust.
While vital concerns should be addressed it must be remembered that it is only overall progress in the peace drive which would prepare the ground for the resolution of complex issues for which quick, formulistic solutions are not easy to come by.
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