Cardinal meets Sri Lankan President
posted on 04 January 2006
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor met the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, on 2 January 2006 for an hour-long discussion which focussed on the country’s faltering peace process. The meeting took place after his return to Colombo following a four-day visit to the north-eastern districts of Ampara and Batticaloa.
More than 50 soldiers have been killed by the separatist LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - since the November presidential elections, despite a 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Government and the LTTE.
The Cardinal was accompanied by the Archbishop of Colombo, Oswald Gomis. The Cardinal said he had learned on his visit to the north-east that villagers living in fragile conditions were fearful at the prospect of a resumption of hostilities in the country.
The President expressed his exasperation at the reluctance of the Tigers to come to the negotiating table in order to implement the commitment to federalism in the 2002 agreement. He argued that reforms could not be implemented until the LTTE ceased killing.
The Cardinal urged the President to call together religious leaders to build a broader consensus for peace.
The President in turn urged the Cardinal to persuade Tamils living in the UK not to finance weapons for the LTTE.
Afterwards the Cardinal said:
“I was very happy to meet the President of Sri Lanka. He has only had a month in office, but is already under great pressures. The President has to hold the country together, maintain the ceasefire, and bring together the different parties to the negotiating table. One of the most positive things about the tsunami has been the cooperation between the different religious communities, which assisted each other in practical, human ways. I suggested to the President that he make use of those new close relations. The Catholics are very important to this process because they include both Singhalese and Tamils.”
“The obstacles to the peace process are formidable, but I was encouraged by the fervent desire of the majority of the people of Sri Lanka for peace. The very future of the country depends on it. If civil war breaks out again, this will become a very poor nation just at the time when it has been recovering following the 2002 ceasefire agreement.”
The Cardinal said he would look at ways in which the Church in the UK can support the local bishops in their quest for peace.