Sri Lanka

Print edition : January 02, 1999

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has called a spade a spade in her exhaustive and exclusive interview (January 1, 1999), discussing the festering ethnic conflict that eats into the vitals of Sri Lankan society. She candidly admits that only a humble start has been made in the anti-corruption drive. If Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation can bury their hatchet and join hands, and the Irish Republican Army can patch up with the British, why cannot Sri Lanka be optimistic of seeing an end to the on-going struggle?

Ranil Wickremasinghe, the leader of the Opposition United National Party, is all praise for the Indian Prime Minister's offer of a fast-track negotiation with other SAARC member-states but feels pained that the Sri Lankan Government did not pick up the threads in this regard.

Everyone hopes that peace will return to the strife-torn island soon.

Mani Nataraajan Chennai * * *

Your interview with Chandrika Kumaratunga was a very different interview. Thank you very much, Mr. Ram.

I request you to interview LTTE Leader V. Prabakaran and publish it in your magazine.

Karimbam K.P. Rajeevan Thaliparamba, Kannur * * *

Chandrika Kumaratunga is a brilliant leader with a dynamic vision that will put Sri Lanka back on the track of development. Her farsightedness and courage are evident in her interview to N. Ram.

Irshad Cassim Colombo Waiting to strike

Whether Sonia Gandhi is "reluctant to strike" (January 1) or not, she is waiting for the opportune moment so that she strikes accurately. She has to prepare herself well, to govern and to ensure that the country accepts her.

The results of the recent Assembly elections indicate that the country has no objection to accepting her. Congress(I) leaders such as Sharad Pawar and K. Karunakaran and the Yadavs of some other political parties are in a hurry for their own reasons, but she would not give in. She has to establish her hold on the party and on Indian politics.

A. Jacob Sahayam Vellore Communalism

You devoted considerable space for the alleged persecution of the Christian community since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power ("Targeting Christians", January 1). You chose to interview, Rev. Alan de Lastic, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Delhi, and P.A. Sangma, former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, but omitted to quote from the statement of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Christian Church in Kerala who has rebutted the suggestion linking the BJP with the alleged atrocities as reported in a section of the media.

In the tradition of fair journalism, I trust you will publish interviews with Christians who do not support the view that atrocities on their community have increased since the coming to power of the BJP.

There is a school of thought which subscribes to the view that since Sonia Gandhi became Congress(I) president the Roman Catholic Church has become militant in its outlook. The Roman Catholic Church's record of association with dictators in South America and elsewhere does not speak much of its concern for human rights. Yet, the Roman Catholic Archbishop was seen in the forefront of the procession of Christians held in New Delhi on December 4 alongwith human rights activists and Congress(I) leaders. Interestingly, the alleged atrocities took place in the Congress(I)-ruled State of Madhya Pradesh. Expediency makes strange friends.

K.R. Padmanabhan Mumbai Israel and Palestine

John Cherian's article "Israel starts pullout" (December 18) gives the impression that anything good (rarely) or bad (usually) happening between Israel and the Palestinians is a result of Israeli whim and arbitrariness.

The interpretation of an event may be arguable. But any discussion requires facts, and Cherian simply fails to give them.

He fails to mention that during the negotiations on the Wye Memorandum, which calls for all measures necessary in order to prevent terrorism, Palestinian terrorists carried out three attacks on Israelis, killing one person and injuring 90.

Cherian also does not mention that time and again Palestinian leaders have incited their followers to violence against Israelis, even as they negotiated with their Israeli counterparts.

There are "smaller" mistakes and omissions, such as the claim that "Israel did not keep its promise to release 750 of the 3,000 Palestinian political prisoners it holds." Israel's only commitment, to release women and detainees, was carried out long ago. And the so-called "political prisoners" are in fact persons directly responsible for the indiscriminate murder of dozens of innocent people.

But people do not want to be confused with facts, do they?

Thrice the Palestinians made commitments - in the DoP signed in September 1993, in the Interim Agreement signed in September 1995, and the Protocol Concerning Hebron signed in January 1997. Thrice the Palestinian promises proved hollow. For this reason, the Wye River Memorandum obligations are based on reciprocity: Israel has carried out its initial obligation of a first phase of further redeployments. Now it is up to the Palestinians finally to live up to their promises.

The PLO and the Palestine National Council (PNC) have undertaken to reaffirm the nullification of the Palestinian Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel. The Palestinians were to issue decrees prohibiting incitement to violence or terror, and to make known their "policy of zero tolerance for terror and violence against both sides."

Cosmetic as these commitments may seem, they could have indicated a spirit of reconciliation. But while Israel has taken concrete steps to prove its own commitment to the peace process, the Palestinians, after five years of continuous negotiations, still procrastinate and avoid making even a verbal commitment to end violence and terrorism.

These are facts.

Yael Ronen Spokeswoman Embassy of Israel New Delhi

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