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A Call for Prudent Leadership
The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo
 
CEYLON 061208-1
December 8, 2006

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] The attempted assassination of the Defence Secretary a few days ago in the heart of Colombo stunned the Nation. This senseless act clearly points to the LTTE and must be condemned forthright. Such an attack indicates a provocative agenda that runs counter to a negotiated peace settlement of the National Question, and can cause a major set-back in our work for peace.

In such a provocative situation, the Government must provide prudent leadership and act with restraint, wisdom and foresight. The challenge the Government faces is to certainly take note of such threats and ensure protection for all; and yet rise above the culture of reaction and counter violence, physical or structural. To resort to the same weapons and methods that we condemn is to lose control, feed the cycle of confrontation and jeopardise the peace process.

The decision not to proscribe the LTTE demonstrates this prudent leadership and needs to be commended. Proscription would have closed the door to dialogue and further delayed the long overdue negotiated settlement.

The Government's decision to introduce new regulations on the lines of the PTA is however worrying. Many still have painful memories of the harsh impact of the PTA on the life of the Nation not too long ago. It was political wisdom coupled with political will that finally led to it being suspended. The existing laws under the Penal Code and the Prevention of Terrorist Financing Act passed in 2005, I believe, are adequate to deal with the current threats.

In spite of assurances and intentions, the Government's inability to arrest the deteriorating humanitarian crises in Jaffna, Killinochchi and Vakarai, no doubt aggravated by LTTE intransigence, reveals that in conflicts such as ours it is civilians who suffer most. In this context as well as the serious prevailing culture of impunity demonstrated in the daily abductions and killings of mostly Tamils, the implementation of this decision is likely to further alienate the Tamils of our nation and drive them away from the desire or hope for a negotiated settlement within a united Sri Lanka. What we need to prevent is the silencing of voices and the frustration of the endeavours of indispensable independent Tamils for peace.

Equally serious, these regulations could be used to intimidate alternate and dissenting voices within other communities as well.

As a religious leader I am compelled to emphasise that all our religions teach that an ethos of dialogue with and respect for the other, based on the Ahimsa anti-violence approach to conflict transformation, will finally triumph. This is why the world reveres the Buddha, Prophet Mohamed, the Hindu sages and Christ; and generations respect the Gandhis and Luther Kings and Mandelas. They taught us to sustain and re-endorse these values as the best antidote to recurring provocative acts of violence, and we must be prepared learn these lessons.

Upholding these values will also empower the law enforcement authorities to receive co-operation from the civilian population and so more effectively enforce law, order and security in the face of violent provocations.

Consequently, I urge the Government to demonstrate its commitment to a negotiated peace settlement with justice and dignity for all by reviewing the decision to introduce these new regulations.