The LTTE's separatist war in Sri Lanka could easily have destabilized the region. The fact that it did not happen is
because of the preventive actions taken by Sri Lanka during and after the war to ensure stability. This is the regional
significance of the current situation in Sri Lanka.
In a wide-ranging address on Tuesday night to a representative gathering of journalists, diplomats and INGO and NGO
officials at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok, the Minister of External Affairs Prof G.L.Peiris dwelt
on the reasons why the Sri Lankan conflict did not spill over and cause instability in region.
Prof. Peiris who is in Bangkok to attend the Asia-Middle East Dialogue (AMED 111) as a keynote speaker, was speaking
on "Sri Lanka: the war and after", said the conflict had the potential to destabilize the region and stressed that countries
in Asia should coordinate their policies and actions to ensure that such conflicts do not endanger stability and therefore
the economic progress of the region.
No country can deal with such a situation alone and needs regional assistance to maintain a stable status quo, he said.
Prof Peiris pointed out that often in long standing wars as the one against the terrorist LTTE, there is a tendency for the
proliferation of small arms and for weapons to find their way into the hands of others not directly involved, as the
Cambodian experience for example, has shown. "We saw to it that in the case of Sri Lanka it did not happen," he said.
The proliferation of small arms that could lead to low intensity wars and insurgencies is a matter of concern to sections of
the international community.
Another crucial outcome was the way in which the Sri Lanka government and its security forces ensured the security of
the sea lanes. These sea lanes are the life lines for several countries in the region. Unlike in some other parts of the
world where pirates disrupt shipping and are known to take hostages, the sea lanes around Sri Lanka have been kept
safe and secure for international shipping, for the movement of goods and people.
Empirical evidence shows that terrorist groups do not act alone, often working in collusion with similar groups helping
each other in various ways for mutual advantage.
"But we managed to contain this," the minister said and hence the LTTE was not able to get the help of other groups to
pursue their terrorist intentions.
The External Affairs minister also pointed out that there had not been a large scale exodus of refugees to neighbouring
Tamil Nadu which could have caused problems in that majority Tamil state especially as elections were due there.
He said the vast majority of people who had been displaced by the war have already been resettled in their original
places of domicile or in new homes.
The Minister said that foreign countries had appreciated the steps taken by Sri Lanka with regard to displaced persons.
Prof Peiris said that Sri Lanka has been vigilant about certain aspects of LTTE operations and there is no question the
Tamil Tigers will be allowed to surface again.
But in tackling a major issue like the long drawn-out war that has now ended Sri Lanka needs the help and assistance of
other nations. He said that Sri Lanka has had the support of Thailand in this regard and the vigorous action Thailand has
taken in recent times to crackdown on human smuggling is a case in point and is highly appreciated.
Answering questions the minister said the government was following a multi-pronged strategy to consolidate the gains
made with the defeat of the LTTE. It was engaged in development work in the north and east that had been hampered
for nearly three decades by the conflict. The settling of the IDPs is only one aspect of the structured strategy in place.
Prof Peiris said that major development projects including huge infrastructure schemes are being undertaken with the
help of several foreign countries so that people in the north and east will reap the benefits of these developments and will
have a profitable livelihood and could live in dignity.
In response to another question he said that simultaneously the government is putting in place a structured political
dialogue. President Rajapaksa is having discussions with Tamil leaders to find a way forward. Shortly provincial council
elections will be held on top of the local government elections that were held previously in Jaffna and Vavuniya. This
would throw up elected Tamil politicians from the north, a process long denied the Tamil people by the LTTE.
Referring to the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, Prof Peiris said it was not a monolith as some believed. Sri Lanka was engaged in talking to some sections inviting them to take a hand in the country's economic and social development and
help improve the livelihood of people in the north and east. He said there had been a positive response from those
sections of the Tamil community who sense the change in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Embassy