I address you as a Buddhist, a bikkhu, in a voice that represents a people and a movement that stands for humanity, for we are motivated in everything we do by the compassion and wisdom that are fundamental to the teaching of Lord Buddha.
I address you as a representative of a people who not only built a civilisation, but a people who treated all peoples with respect and compassion, a people who have on numerous occasions given refuge to and protected peoples from other cultures, peoples with different faiths. Tamils and Muslims, Christian and Hindus, they have all come to us for help and we have closed our doors on them. Indeed, even today, it is among the Sinhala Buddhists that these communities live in peace and harmony.
I address you as a representative of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, a party represented in parliament by 9 MPs, and which constitutes the only voice espousing the hopes and aspirations of the Sinhala Buddhists of this country.
You are gathered here today to help us. To offer us support in a time of tragedy. Therefore I would like to begin by expressing our heartfelt appreciation to the friendly countries and multilateral lending institutions here with us today, and who have assisted our country financially over the past two decades.
At the same time we are hopeful that all of you who are gathered here in this historic city will resolve to expend your energies in offering meaningful advice and strategies to deliver our people from the vicious cycle of indebtedness which has been the net result of the aid we have received during this time.
At the same time, we are hopeful that you understand that we were never and we will never be a nation of mendicants. We are hopeful that you respect that the people of this beautiful country are not only friendly and kind-hearted, but are also proud, that they know the meaning of and treasure their sense of dignity. We are a poor country but not one without resources or ideas. Or resolve.
We understand that you have come with money or the promise of money. We are hopeful that you come with good intention and not with the idea of purchasing our dignity, buying our obedience, for we are not willing to sell our sovereignty or self-respect, without which we would indeed by poor.
We understand that there are plan to prevail on our government to establish a joint mechanism with the LTTE as a precondition for the provision of assistance. On the assumption that you have not been adequately briefed on what the LTTE is, what it has done and indeed continues to do, we would most respectfully present you with the following facts.
The LTTE is a terrorist organisation and that doesn?t even begin to describe them. It is an organisation that has absolutely no regard for human rights or for the practise of democracy. In the pursuit of its political objectives, which include the seizure of the traditional homelands of our people, the LTTE has methodically ethnically cleaned the areas under its control of Sinhalese and Muslims. It has massacred even Tamil parties and groups that have dared show dissent. The LTTE, in contravention of all international norms, abducts and forces them into military service.
The LTTE has time and again stated and proved in practice that it views all ceasefire agreements and negotiations through a military lens, using these to strengthen its armour, intensify recruitment and training, and basically prepare for war. The LTTE has violated many, many times, the ceasefire agreements currently `in force` and has turned its back on the Oslo Declaration. They have even channelled the assistance provided to areas affected by the tsunami to their political and military purposes, so much so that they are now in possession of air-strike capacity. Not a day passes without news of one or more unarmed civilians being either harassed, threatened, kidnapped or murdered by the LTTE.
In this context, we respectfully point out that it would be extremely unwise to force our government to enter into any agreement with respect to aid disbursement with the LTTE. There is little chance that such assistance would reach those who desperately need it, while it would also give legitimacy tone of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world, thereby undermining the global struggle against terrorism. No country or organization that has any regard for democracy and the upholding of human rights would under these circumstances recommend such a mechanism with an organization of this nature. We are certain, for example, that none of you would argue that a join mechanism of this nature should be established between the Government of Iraq with the militant group led by Al Sharqawi in the matter of rebuilding that war-torn country.
We sincerely believe that the people living in areas that have been illegally seized by the LTTE are in dire need of assistance. We believe that one thing and one thing alone stands in the way of the world?s largesse, and indeed the generosity of the fraternal populations in the rest of the country, from reaching them: the intransigence of the LTTE and its callous disregard for the well being the people in whose name they have taken up arms. If the LTTE genuinely wants to help `their` people, then we believe that the most civilised path open to the international donor community would be to insist that the LTTE remove all barriers that prevent local and international organizations from working in these areas.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you come from nations that have known war, that have suffered the indelible sears of war. You or your ancestors have known bloodshed and tyranny. You would not, we are convinced, reward terrorism. You would under the circumstances insist that the sovereignty of this beautiful country whose people are by an large peaceful, be preserved intact, and as such insist that the LTTE dismantle its air force, insist that they put an end to the recruitment of child soldiers, and put a stop to its killing spree.
We are a poor people. We are a proud people. We have not harmed the world. You are here as representatives of the world?s generosity. You have come to a nation that has never been parsimonious. We have give refuge to those who needed it. We even welcomed with open arms those who would invade us, those who wanted to plunder our resources and those who wanted to destroy our culture. We are hopeful therefore that your generosity includes a respect for our laws and constitution, a commitment to preserving our sovereignty and a promise to safeguard our democratic institutions.
You have come to give and in giving you shall receive. We would hope you do not take away in this giving our sense of identity, our self-respect and dignity, knowingly or unknowingly.
May the blessing of the Noble Triple Gem protect you.
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero
Parliamentary Group Leader
Jathika Hela Urumaya