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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1718


Mr ALEXANDER (12:18 PM) —The people of Sri Lanka have endured the pain and suffering of conflict for over 26 years, with estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed and nearly half a million people have been displaced. The world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the fighting finally concluded in May 2009. As with all conflict, it is only when the shelling ceases and the bullets stop raining down from the rooftops and across the tea fields that accusations of inappropriate conduct during war can be analysed. However, there are dangers in such a process. The victims deserve to have their memories protected. The victors are often victims themselves. In an island as small as Sri Lanka, every member of the population will have friends and relatives who are civilian casualties of war. All will carry scars of the conflict, whether they are physical or emotional. All will embrace the virtue of justice but will understand the need for reconciliation—for bringing a divided people back together to embrace common goals, to live together in peace and security, to reach their full potential as individuals and as a united community, and to have the will of the majority represented and the needs of the minority protected.

It is with this backdrop that we have been witness over the past 20 months to claim and counterclaim of human rights abuses. United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has established a panel of experts to investigate accountability processes with a view towards a durable peace and reconciliation. The Secretary-General is on record during the final stages of the conflict condemning the:

… reckless disrespect shown by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the safety of civilians.

As we have seen in ethnic based conflicts around the world from Rwanda to Spain to Kosovo, the only positive end result is a strong peace. The coalition agrees with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who said through a spokesman that a durable and lasting peace will only be achieved through a political solution that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all of Sri Lankan communities.

The Sri Lankan government is a democratically elected institution that deserves our diplomatic cooperation and respect. The Sri Lankan government must engage with those Tamils who do not promote violence or terrorism to further their agenda. It is important that discussions on legitimate power-sharing arrangements and the strengthening of the workability of the 13th amendment are pursued in the hope of achieving a lasting peace and reconciliation.

A political solution is essential for long-term peace to be developed in this long-suffering nation. And whilst serious allegations of human rights abuse anywhere in the world deserve to be aired and investigated, Sri Lanka is at a point in their development where they need the support of the international community to forge a real political solution to continue their process of reconciliation and rehabilitation. As strong local representatives of that international community, we must ensure that opportunities for further turmoil and conflict within Sri Lanka are not given oxygen. A sustainable peace, with all major parties achieving a seat at the table, must be the first priority during this delicate time in this nation’s history.

Sri Lanka is a country of immense natural beauty, with a unique wealth of cultural history that beckons to be explored and enjoyed again. As a member of this parliament I express the sincere hope that all the people of Sri Lanka can be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential, to live in peace and to share the wonders of their nation with the rest of us.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.