Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Sri Lanka

Delivered in Plenary - 11th March 2009

Madam Commissioner

Sri Lanka’s brutal civil conflict is finally nearing its end. Of course it is too early to say whether this will mean the end of terrorist activity by the Tamil Tigers.

We certainly should not support a permanent ceasefire at this stage in case it allows the Tigers to regroup. In my view, their only option now is to lay down their arms or be defeated militarily with more casualties. A long-term ceasefire would be a disaster because – as a suicide attack in Sri Lanka earlier this week demonstrates – the LTTE is ruthless, bloodthirsty and rightly identified as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

We should be resolute in our support for President Rajapaksa in his efforts to end an insurgency that has only brought untold human misery to Sri Lanka and severely retarded the economic development on that beautiful island. However, thousands of innocent civilian IDPs still remained trapped on a narrow coastal strip. These civilians must be allowed to leave so that the army can conclude its offensive. It is reprehensible, but entirely to be expected of the Tigers, that they are exploiting these civilians as human shields. The Tigers have been deaf to appeals from the international community to surrender and establish a temporary humanitarian corridor.

Nevertheless, allowing the UN and other organisations to arrange safe passage from the conflict zone for these civilians is essential to avoid further bloodbaths. Sri Lanka appreciates its own responsibility in this regard and wants to avoid civilian casualties but, understandably, the army’s patience is limited and fears that the Tigers will seek to escape by a sea evacuation procedure, mixing in with the civilians.

Therefore we on this side of the House endorse the establishment of a humanitarian corridor and a temporary and immediate ceasefire or cessation of hostilities, but we also want to see the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE and a peaceful, just and multi-ethnic Sri Lanka established in its place, where there is maximum autonomy to the Tamil majority areas and an equitable sharing of resources and power within a unitary Sri Lankan state.