Locke confident of Sri Lanka peace deal

Green MP Keith Locke, who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka, is confident that the peace process will survive in-fighting between the country’s President and Prime Minister.

“I spoke to a wide range of politicians in Colombo and Jaffna and the Tamil Tiger controlled zone, and I am convinced the peace process is well entrenched,” said Mr Locke, the Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“I was present in the Tamil Tiger capital, Killinochi, last Saturday when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) proposal for an interim self-governing authority was announced. While quite far-reaching in terms of land, police, justice and the economy, the head of the LTTE’s political wing, Mr Thamilselven, told me it was negotiable.

“The LTTE is clearly committed to the peace process, as are most politicians in Sri Lanka, including President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

“While I was in Sri Lanka the standoff between the Prime Minister and President was widely discussed, and dismissed as ‘just politics’.

“Destabilising though it may be, the President’s latest action should not be read as a mortal blow to peace.

“President Kumaratunga initiated the peace process when her party, the People’s Alliance, was in power two years ago and from my discussions it is clear that the President, and important elements of her party, are still committed to a peaceful settlement.

“I formed the distinct impression from almost everyone I talked to – union activists, NGO leaders, Buddhist monks, politicians, Norwegian peace facilitators and soldiers – that the mood in the country is very much for peace, after the long and bloody civil war.

“The peace process is two years old, and with confidence building between the Tamil and Sinhala sides it will not be easily reversed. In the Tamil Tiger areas I visited reconstruction is proceeding quite fast, with cooperation between the two sides.

“Most of those I spoke to had a very favourable perception of New Zealand and would welcome any further support we can give for the peace process and post-war reconstruction,” said Mr Locke.