Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today on this Adjournment Motion regarding the continuation of Emergency Regulations. The issue is of concern to all of us, and we need to discuss this in practical terms, in a spirit of reconciliation, and determination to work together for the betterment of all Sri Lankans.

For this purpose we need to look into the past, to learn from what went wrong, and ensure no repetition of such wrongs in the future. The history of Emergency Regulations in this country teaches us that there have been two types of Emergency, an Emergency that provides protection to the citizens, and an Emergency that increases violence and suffering. Such violence is used not only by enemies of the State, but by State forces too, which contributes to greater problems. Sadly there have been Governments in the past, though not for the last 20 years, that used Emergencies in a manner that played into the hands of terrorists.
It is not surprising Mr Speaker that the JVP should propose this Motion, it should not be surprising if the UNP also supported this. We know in 1979, when the Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced, there were few terrorists in Jaffna, and the then Government managed to increase the number dramatically. They did not use violence only in terms of Emergency Regulations, as we saw in 1981 when the Jaffna Public Library was burned, and in 1983 when there were attacks on Tamils all over the country. But, whether through abuse of Emergency Regulations or otherwise, they certainly contributed to an increase in terrorism.

They went further. By proscribing the JVP in 1983, unfairly, they drove that party underground, where it thrived on violence. Thus in the late eighties the stage was set for a game of atrocity snap, in which the UNP and the JVP competed to terrorize the population. We live still with the massive number of disappearances of those years. Those who merrily cite statistics about Sri Lanka in this regard should realize that it is with regard to thousands of disappearances, of Sinhala as well as Tamil youngsters, from the late eighties, that we are still trying to clear our name

So we have to be glad that the UNP and the JVP seem committed to limiting the use of Emergency. Like lunatics who have learnt to take the right pills, they know that they both need to be placed under restraint at times. Unfortunately one of the problems with lunatics is that they think they are models for the world at large. But sane people do not need to take pills, they do not need to place themselves under restraint, as is required by lunatics liable to turn violent if they have unrestrained freedom. This government has shown that it can use Emergency Regulations judiciously, to restrict terrorism, indeed to eliminate it from these shores, but without causing through abuses an increase in sympathy for terrorist activity as happened in the late seventies and the eighties.

It would be sad however if members of ITAK supported this motion, when they too were victims of the increase in terrorist activity caused by the antics of the Jayewardene government. Crucial for the future is the question of trust, trust that must be built up after decades in which it was eroded. ITAK members feel their trust in successive Sri Lankan governments was misplaced in the first forty years after independence. They had reasons for this belief, and we therefore need to work hard to restore trust amongst them in elected Sri Lankan governments. But they should appreciate it that this Government has not let them down. And they should recognize that Government too has reason for its own lack of trust, namely the support, implicit and explicit, given to a monstrous terrorist movement by politicians who should have known better.

It is our duty to forgive the aberrations of members of the TNA in the days when they claimed that the LTTE were the sole representatives of the Tamil people, and when they seemed to excuse violence and terror. That terror had been directed against their own leaders who tried to work democratically, and individuals such as the current leader of the TNA group must have been traumatized by the ruthless murder of his former leader Mr Amirthalingam, of his colleagues Mr Yoheswaran, Mr Sam Tambimuttu, Mr Neelan Tiruchelvam, who dared stand up against terrorist tyranny.

It is because of our awareness of the brutality they would have faced had they resisted that we should now work together with them in good faith. But we cannot ignore the courage of those who stood up against the LTTE when they were at their strongest, leaders of the EPDP, the TMVP, the PLOTE, the EPRLF wing that resisted bullying and blandishments, Mr Anandasangaree, Minister Muralitharan. We cannot then accept any suggestion that one group alone represents the Tamils, and I hope my colleagues in ITAK will respect our willingness to talk to all democratic forces, and respect those whose courage under duress was so impressive.

This pluralistic approach is the more important, Mr Speaker, in that we must realize that those who succumbed to pressure once may well do so again. ITAK should realize this, and recognize that they need to be protected from the force that destroyed so many of their colleagues. And, unfortunately, though this country is by and large free of separatist and terrorist forces, we know they lurk unforgivingly in other parts of the world. Though most governments have understood the dangers of terrorism, and are no longer indulgent as they once were, in many countries there are activists with a very simplistic approach to world politics, who believe that terrorism can be excused, that it should even be encouraged, if they have negative views about those against whom terrorism is practiced.

Such people are more naïve than wicked, and we should not get unduly irritated by them. But we must recognize they can be turned into tools of evil in the hands of the dedicatedly unscrupulous. And that unscrupulous evil still exists, indeed flourishes. If I might quote from a recent European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report published by Europol, ‘Although the LTTE has faced considerable setbacks in Sri Lanka, its vast global network and strong control over the Tamil Diaspora and various Tamil associations with structures of fund raising, procurement and propaganda is still very much active and firmly in place. The Tamil Diaspora abroad is still the most important supporting element of the LTTE; the organization has built efficient mechanisms to control Tamils living in the EU and worldwide. One of the core activities of the LTTE in the EU is the collection of funds from the Tamil diaspora on a monthly basis, to finance its organization, activities and military related procurement’.

Mr Speaker, while some European politicians, and I am sorry to say some diplomats, flirted with terror, the security establishments in most countries were categorical in their opposition to terror and we must be grateful to them. But we are still not entirely certain that their political masters have learnt the lesson that you cannot touch pitch and not be defiled. Recently, in Britain, I was horrified to find responsible members of their Foreign Office urging us to talk to members of the so-called Transnational Government. They do not seem to realize, unlike for instance the American Ambassador who is in this country and understands the aspirations of our Tamil fellow citizens, that the agendas set abroad are bizarre and extremist. They do not help Sri Lankans as a whole to move towards the prosperous pluralist future we deserve after so much suffering. Where we will talk to all Tamils who are committed to this country, and believe their views are important, we find even sensible opponents of terror extolling the virtues of Mr Rudrakumaran, who was so central to LTTE strategies in the past. Such indulgence of alien and separatist thinking not only encourages terrorism all over the world, it also takes away from the efforts of Tamils in Sri Lanka to join in developing an inclusive society with equal opportunities for all.

Mr Speaker, the price of liberty is constant vigilance. Whilst such threats remain abroad, and receive encouragement from all sorts of individuals and institutions, we cannot lift the Emergency altogether. We relaxed some of its provisions last year, and I hope more will be relaxed shortly, but my friends in ITAK must realize that we need to protect from further suffering those who have returned to their homes from which the LTTE forced them to move in 2008 and 2009. We have to protect from further intimidation and forced recruitment the youngsters we are now rehabilitating and reintegrating. And we have also to protect from threats and even assassination the Tamil politicians who are fully involved once more in the democratic process.

Unfortunately the forces of evil and terror have unlimited funds, they still have the ears of politicians and diplomats who should know better. We are aware that they continue with efforts to destabilize whilst we try to restore normalcy in the North. We know too that no one will protect the vulnerable except ourselves. We regret how so-called humanitarian agencies remained quiet when the LTTE was forcibly recruiting one child per family, to admit shamefacedly to us afterwards that they had not raised the issue publicly, but only recorded it in private missives. We recall how agencies that had funded an LTTE website remained quiet when that website took to glorifying suicide killers. We remember how there was no public condemnation of the LTTE refusal to let aid workers and their families leave the smaller and smaller spaces into which they were forced.

In short, we know how thin morality is. We know the world at large gives in to intimidation and terror. If we are to preserve our unity and work towards the prosperity of all our citizens, we have to remain vigilant ourselves. We found that Emergency Regulations helped us to stop terrorist activity, and we cannot now afford to allow any disruption of the process of returns, reconciliation and development in which we are engaged. Of course we owe it to our fellow citizens to ensure that there is no abuse of these Regulations, and we must make sure that problems can be raised and remedial action taken in case of abuse. But I think the last few months have made it clear that such abuse does not take place, and that the Regulations are used prophylactically, rather than actively.

Certainly it would be good if the Regulations could be lifted altogether. We must all work towards that end. I am glad in particular that ITAK made clear a willingness to cooperate with government rather than engage in confrontation. The confrontational approach of the main opposition, that seemed to lend support to those elements in the Diaspora that incline towards violence and separatism, is perverse and regrettable. In that regard we have to be more indulgent to members of the former TNA, and recognize they have to be cautious, because of the lessons of history. But I can only urge that they minimize their dependence on their erstwhile friends, that they recognize that Government too has to be cautious, but that in the end we must work together in good faith if we are to overcome the terrors of the past, the continuing threats of just a few frighteningly unscrupulous external elements.

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