Sri Lanka not to ‘lose cool’ like Israel in search for peace
SINGAPORE: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando said Thursday his government would not lose its “cool” like Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the face of extremism, as it attempted to end 20 years of civil war.
In comparing the Middle East crisis with Sri Lanka’s battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Fernando said his country was tired of war and determined to see through a peace process which began in February.
Although a ship had been stopped since the ceasefire, carrying arms “presumably for LTTE”, the Sri Lankan government would not be taking action, the minister told a gathering of diplomats and journalists here.
When suicide bombers strike in Israel “Sharon loses all his cool, he jettisons everything he has built up and goes back to zero. We are determined that no extremist or no extremist action will divert us from our main purpose,” he said. Despite repeated international efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians appear trapped in a cycle of attack and retribution.
“Good leaders, statesmen, must take the broad picture... and go for the main goal,” Fernando said, noting the Sri Lankan ceasefire had held for nearly six months, with an absence of the Tamil Tigers’ trademark suicide bombings.
The truce, which came into effect on February 23, allows government forces to “continue to perform their legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka without engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE”.
The accord is the first stage of a Norwegian-sponsored initiative to end the decades of ethnic bloodshed that have claimed more than 60,000 lives. The guerrillas are waiting until an August 2 deadline for terms of the ceasefire agreement to come into force before committing to a date for talks which are scheduled to take place in Thailand.
Fernando said Sri Lanka had reached the stage where the people were returning to the once battle-torn north and east of the
country and would not let politicians derail the peace process.
“The dividends of peace have come before the final settlement, and therefore I think the whole process is, I think, safe,” he said.
“Any little thing can spark off another phase, but ... we are determined not to be distracted, not to be hijacked by some madman who wants to hijack it. Unfortunately this is what is happening in the Middle East.” —AFP