NO New Nuclear Weapons... NO New Nuclear Targets... NO New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO Nuclear Testing...
NO Star Wars... NO Weapons In Space...
NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
On Peace Process of Sri Lanka

Minister Karunasena KODITHUWAKKU, M.P.:

 "Instead of fighting a war,
we indicated to the public that we must go for an alternative."

"Whatever their language, whatever their color, whatever their religion, Sri Lankans' march hand in hand towards the common goal to a peaceful, prosperous future."

Minister Karunasena KODITHUWAKKU, M.P.in his office in Sethsiripaya in Colombo.

Another interview ( see Annual Dance Festival of Sri Lanka) with Sri Lanka's Minister of Human Resources, Development, Education & Cultural Affairs Karunasena KODITHUWAKKU, M.P., on "Peace Process of Sri Lanka" at his office in Sethsiripaya Building in Colombo on January 14, 2003.

Interview and phographs by Bircan ÜNVER



I was warned previously that going to Sri Lanka was very dangerous because of the conflicts and civil war between the Sinhalese (Sri Lankan government) and Liberation Tigers of Tamils Eelam (“LTTE” also known as the Tamil Tigers) along with the Sinhalese which has lasted more than two decades.

During my stay in Sri Lanka for 5 weeks, “Peace Talks” were in its fourth round, and already an authorization had been given to the Tamils for FM Radio by the government which is led by the United National Party (UNP). There are several projects, locally and internationally sponsored, in order to develop some of the Northern villages and regions, which is considered all in ruins during the long lasting conflicts.

In particular, the First Annual Dance Festival brought together the Tamils accompanied by 97 dance groups from all over Sri Lanka at the three day parade, as well as on the stage. Which is the very first time after the two decades conflict and since the ‘peace process has began’ that these groups have united peacefully for such an event.

Overall climate of Sri Lanka, --and the dance festival-- has demonstrated a great willingness towards to harmony and peace by the government - the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

* * * * *

A Brief History: Independence of Sri Lanka

"Following WWII, in the wake of independence for India, it was evident that Sri Lanka would be granted independence very soon. In February 1948, Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was still known, became an independent member of the British Commonwealth. The first independent government was formed by DS SENANAYAKE and his United National Party (UNP). His main opponents were Tamil parties from the north of the country and from the tea plantations and communists.

How did the conflict did start?

Nearly 10 years after independence was granted, English remained the national language and the country continued to be ruled by an English-speaking, mainly Christian, elite. Many Sinhalese thought the elevation of their language to ‘official’ status, to be used in government and official work, would increase their power and job prospects.

Caught in the middle of this disagreement (English versus Sinhala, and Christian versus Buddhist) were the Tamils, whose mother tongue was Tamil. When SWRD Banaranaike (Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk in 1959) enacted the "Sinhala Only" law, making Sinhalese the official language of the country. Tamil protests were followed by violence and death. The Tamils began pressing for a federal system of government with greater local autonomy in the main Tamil-populated areas, the north and east." (Source: Lonely Planet - Sri Lanka, 8th Edition.)

A sculpture of SWRD Banaranaike, who inacted the "Only Sinhale" law as a official language of Sri Lanka in 1956. Old parlament building in Colombo Front

- How did this process begin? All the world is going in another direction.

As most people are aware, in the election held in December 2001, the percentage that the United National Party won was greater before the people requested a mandate to find a solution to the ethnic conflict toward political negotiation. Instead of fighting a war, we indicated to the public that we must go for an alternative. We suggested those to negotiate with Liberation Tigers of Tamils Eelam ("LTTE"), and to find the accepted settlement within the united Sri Lanka. The basic power condition was that as long as they are prepared to be in one country, we are prepared to give all the power and to share the power in the center and in the territory. And all their people gave that mandate to us. We immediately, without any delay, signed a memorandum of understanding. The basic features of the memorandum of understanding was a seize fire. And to use the good office of knowledge in government as a facilitator and to start peace talks. About 4 rounds by this time we have come to that and the majority of Sri Lankans who voted and who stressed the values afterwards are still behind the government in the process, not only that, even the international community from the farest place like United States to the far East, to Japan, the European countries, India and the rest of the South Asian countries all of them are backing it. And so far the progress is very satisfactory. This is a very critical problem because many are analyzing it to interfere with war and impact, but my analysis is that this war was really committed in 1956 with the declaration of "Sinhala Only." So that is the beginning of the separation.

- Are you willing to change this law?

- Yes, in fact we have corrected many of those things, thus far.

- What are those?

- The language policy had been changed in 1980’s. Now not only Singhalese but Tamil is a national language. English has been recognized as the ling language. So we have sorted out that problem but the conflicts start with that but the first communal riots were in 1958. The first time, it was with the armed forces and the police forces that went in from the very beginning. But the first time the army camps were set up in early 1960s. Of course that time is when all violence started. But it turned into armed struggle in 1970s.  In 1972 itself, all Tamil political parties formed one party called Tamil United Front. Even the Tamil members of other political parties also joined to this umbrella. In 1976 it was the turning point, because they declared that except separation, no other option is available.

Then, they used the term Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF).  With their separation, the war had began, and arms came later in 1976. For the last 26 years, this armed struggle was there. The only option was given, separation. Of course, some Tamil political parties, with the 13th amendment and establishing provincial council, agreed to share the power in the central and western provinces but not the LTTD, which continued with the war. The first time they gave up the separate state was with the signing of the memorandum of understanding. It is the biggest victory. Now the LTTD principle has agreed to stay in power in the United Sri Lanka. Whatever the power structure has to be that has to be negotiated. And we have to convince the people.

- How many Tamils are in Sri Lanka?

- In terms of population, out of now almost 20 million, about 12% are Sri Lankan Tamils. But of course we have another Tamil group called Plantation Tamil, those who have come to Sri Lanka 2-3 centuries ago. They are Indian in origin. All Sri Lankans are of Indian origin. Singhalese are the descendents of Prince Vijaya who came to Sri Lanka about 2500 years ago. The Tamils also are decedents from India, but of course, most recently they came here and are Plantation Tamils. They total about 6% of the population. So altogether roughly 18% in this country are Tamils. In addition to that we have another 7% Muslims.

The entry floor of the Cultural Ministery office at Sethsiripaya Building in Colombo. On front of the Banagala Library in Colombo.

- Do you have any conflict with Muslims?

- No, not so far. They are also asking for their share in the eastern province. All these Tamil political parties are asking to unite, to combine the north Tamils on the basis of the Tamil speaking, but Muslims are not demanding, it is too young to use Tamil language but ethically we are a different group religious wise. Therefore it's a very difficult, critical challenge. Nevertheless, we are committed as a government to find and negotiate a political settlement. And the Tamil side also believe we are going to form a political solution and leadership within the different Tamil communities. And the general public would also like to find a solution and to be in one country.

A mosque in Colombo 3.

- I read that the government has already given an authorization to the FM radio station for the Tamils.  Thus, I wonder, do they have a radio station now?

- Yes, they have. The argument is that they also must convince their public, because while many other groups object to come to the central parliament, and share the power in the LTTD continued to this war. Suddenly they have also given up the separation. So now they have to convince the Tamil public so the reason they have given is we need some way of communication. The request came in and of course in this present world giving a radio station to somebody will not come even if we refuse. Still they can get a satellite and set up some chips somewhere or go to another country far away and set it up. We know that while we are here we can tune into BBC and to Voice of America. All these things are available so why not for a radio station for the Tamils? Rather then to use very difficult ways it's a good way of building confidence.

- I read in The Island newspaper a comment about the peace process which defines that it needs more transparency. How do you comment on this?

- Of course, at the negotiating table you can't make it 100% transparent. I mean in that case you must keep a journalist with you. The negotiation doesn't mean that anybody will announce the basic principles of negotiation. The final solution has to be transparent. No doubt at all but reaches the goal you have to mix, give and take; so what you are offering and what you are sacrificing. And the other side also have their own ways. Thus, we are going to find a compromise and basically changing the position of the both sides.

- Some people still do not trust the Tamils in Colombo?

- Oh, the suspicion is there. Singhalese have suspicions of Tamils, Tamils have suspicions of the Singhalese. Armed forces also have similar suspicions (Tigers, LTTE's). It is natural. It's in politics; we have to accept these realities. But as I told you the final solution has to be transparent. Whatever we offer, whatever they would agree has to be implemented towards the constitutional amendment.

- So does the constitution change on the way as well?

- Certainly, the agreement has to be implemented and it has to come to the constitution other wise there is no implementation.

- How many years is one governmental term in Sri Lanka?

- Six years.

- So what do you expect to accomplish at the end of these 6 years?

- We have three major challenges. One is finding a solution the this ongoing conflict as a political solution. Second, economically, we are in very bad shape. So we have to regain the economic growth the needed. Then the challenges we face, the poverty, the unemployment, crime, the basic social issues.

Lotus flower is Sri Lanka's national flower. This lotus shape pool was made
during 10th Century in Pollonaruwa, where is second ancient capital city of Sri Lanka.

- How do you think of solving these problems?

- There is no overnight solution.

- What are your basic plans towards these solutions?

- Already plans have been in place. In fact, the plans have now been processing. But not only that, even signals are very positive, even the stock market with investors confidence or even the responses coming from the unemployment bureaus. We need the international corporation to find around Sri Lanka’s neighbors. So in that sense, everybody is cooperating with us.

- Someone commented to me that there is no freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, in the news and television; you cannot write or say everything you want!  Do you have some restrictions or censorship in the media both print and electronic?

- There is no restrictions in media. No restriction at all. It would go to the publishers, the Sinhalese media, various political groups, you can feel that the freedom of expression is there. Television, of course they have their own restrictions. Maybe government, maybe private but to have their own TV station is not an easy thing. But having a newspaper or to issue a tabloid newspaper is not difficult. To test the standard of freedom of expression, you have go into the print media.

Anuradhapura, the first ancient capital city of Sri Lanka - 2500 BC.

- Which channels do you think will make the economical growth shining?

- I think, we are finally getting into the service sector. This will be really the gate way for South Asia.

- What type of services might those be?

- We will be providing the highest caliber labor professionally to the world, not only in this country. In addition to that the local service sector will be mostly on finance, banking, shipping, insurance, tourism, transport, those are the areas of concern.

- What about the agriculture?

- What we have today, that will be much more improved, the productivity will be higher and the agriculture and provisional agriculture both will be ready and more reliable.

- And lastly, technology?

- Absolutely because we are in it now. Even yesterday, I was ready to declare opening a third country training program. A program which sponsored by Japan. Some parts sponsored by Africa and Asia and the Pacific, but with the training program conducted by Sri Lankan research personnel.

Buddist Temple in Colombo

- If I come back and meet with you in 10 years what will be the big difference or achievement you foresee in Sri Lanka's future?

- You will see that Sri Lanka is the most developed over all in South Asia. India will be far ahead industrially and technologically then us, but still India will be with more than 1 billion people who have their own problems. With 20 million population, what Singapore did in East Asia, Sri Lanka will be able to do in South Asia. It will be a service center. Sri Lanka would be the center for finance, center for shipping, insurance, education, health services and tourism.

- Would you like to add anything?

- We hope that the international community will understand the difficulties we are facing and our approach, and the enthusiasm of the public to come out to defeat the challenges. Thus, we need their understanding and cooperation.

- Thank you.

- . -

Related Links:

- The Very First Annual Dance Festival of Sri Lanka
- Dances, Masks and Drums of Sri Lanka

E-mail to Bircan Ünver>: contact@lightmillennium.org

Actual inverview: January 14, 2003, Colombo.
©Light Millennium, Bircan Ünver, March 25, 2003, New York.

This issue is dedicated to the Peace Process of SRI LANKA & prominent Turkish author Yasar KEMAL

If you wish to receive The Light Millennium's media releases, announcements or about future events,
please send us an e-mail to

YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES Global Transparency and YES Lighting Our Souls & Minds.
This e-magazine is under the umbrella of The Light Millennium, Inc., which is
A Charitable, Under 501 (c) (3) Status, Not-For-Profit
organization based in New York.
Established in January 2000, and founded by Bircan Unver
on July 17, 2001
A Public Interest Multi-Media Global Platform.
@ The Light Millennium e-magazine
created and designed by
Bircan ÜNVER
11th & 3rd Anniversary Issue, April 2003, New York.
URL: http://lightmillennium.org
This site is copyright © 2001-2002 and trademarks ™ of their respective owners & The Light Millennium.org.
The contents of this site may not be reproduce in whole or part without the expressed or written permission of creators.
All material contained here in is protected under all applicable international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

If you wish to receive The Light Millennium's media releases, announcements or about future events,
and also for your submissions; please send us an e-mail to
: contact@lightmillennium.org