Sri Lankan community calls for peace

Members of Melbourne's Sri Lankan communities representing Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher groups - concluded a year-long process of dialogue this week by issuing a joint statement on the Sri Lanka conflict.

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The statement (attached) calls for further dialogue among Sri Lankan diaspora communities in Australia and internationally as a positive step towards restoring peace in Sri Lanka.

Facilitated by the Centre for Dialogue at La Trobe University, the Sri Lanka Community Dialogue was a year-long process, starting with extensive community consultations followed by six intensive dialogue sessions.

The Dialogue was convened by the Centre at a time of fierce fighting in Sri Lanka. The conflict is estimated to have killed 70,000 people and displaced thousands more.

The Centre for Dialogues Director, Professor Joseph Camilleri, says the joint statement, unanimously agreed to by all participants, symbolised the new possibilities for dialogue and practical cooperation between Sri Lankan communities in Australia.

The dialogue represented the major currents of opinion among the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities resident in Victoria, Professor Camilleri said.

It was a complex, difficult, at times painful, yet constructive experience, revealing on the part of participants a genuine desire for a just and peaceful settlement to the conflict. The dialogue enabled them to discuss the hard issues, and to open new channels of communication.

We hope this will bear fruit in the coming year.

The Sri Lanka Community Dialogue is part of the Centres broader Diaspora Dialogues program headed by Dr Michális S. Michael, which aims to bring together ethnic and religious diasporic communities in Australia whose homelands are in conflict. Its purpose is to facilitate constructive and respectful communication.

This project is funded by the William Buckland Foundation.

For further information contact

Project Coordinator: Dr Michális S. Michael (m.michael@latrobe.edu.au), tel. (03) 9479-2140, fax. (03) 9479 1997, Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University, Victoria 3086, Australia.

Sri Lanka Community Dialouge

16 December 2008

Joint Statement

Following an extensive series of discussions sponsored by La Trobe Universitys Centre for Dialogue over a period of twelve months, participants drawn from the various Sri Lankan communities resident in Melbourne agreed to the following statement.

This statement, it should be stressed, is not offered as a solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka. Participants in the dialogue continue to hold different views about different aspects of the conflict.

Nonetheless, participants agree that the dialogue in which they have engaged has served a useful purpose, enabling a free exchange of views and a better understanding of each others positions. They believe that further dialogue both among the Sri Lankan diaspora communities in Australia and in other countries is a positive step and should be actively promoted.

The participants also agree that:

1.    The long-term objective is to restore peace in Sri Lanka and to foster a society that nurtures a culture of peace based on mutual respect, mutual understanding and cooperation this would immensely improve relations between the Sri Lankan communities in Australia.

2. A just and durable solution to the Sri Lankan conflict requires each community to develop greater understanding of and support for the legitimate rights, needs and aspirations of all communities.

3. A just and durable solution also requires:

a) respect for the human rights of all the citizens and communities in Sri Lanka, including all the rights outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

b) serious, transparent and free discussion involving all the communities about future political reforms, including the possibility of future constitutional change the overriding aim of such reforms must be to promote good governance and the legitimate interests and security of all citizens and communities in Sri Lanka.

4. Even before peace has been restored, all parties have a responsibility to:

a) bring to an end all attacks on civilians;

b) meet basic humanitarian needs of civilians and to protect them from the effects of the fighting where appropriate, accredited international agencies should be invited to assist in the provision of such services;

c) ensure that any use of force is conducted in strict accordance with international law.

5. Constructive dialogue within and between Sri Lankan diaspora communities around the world can make a vital contribution to the healing of wounds and reconciliation, and help create a more favourable environment for a durable peace.

6. More specifically, such dialogue can:

a) encourage truth and objectivity in the reporting of events and responses to them;

b) promote use of language likely to foster mutual trust and understanding;

c) strengthen forward-looking, constructive leadership that is prepared to take risks in the interests of peace;

d) take small, practical steps towards greater collaboration, including joint educational and social activities;

e) enable new opportunities for inter-communal dialogue in Australia and beyond.

For further information contact:

Project Coordinator: Dr Michális S. Michael (m.michael@latrobe.edu.au), tel. (03) 9479-2140, fax. (03) 9479 1997, Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University, Victoria 3086, Australia.

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